Archbishop Philip Freier’s opening address at the Australian Anglican General Synod has stressed the theme of lament, acknowledging “the pain and shame of our history” while steering well clear of speaking to the most contentious issues facing the gathered room – a number of referrals to the Appellate Tribunal of conservative bishops and dioceses.
Freier opened, calling Synod to grapple with the most pressing business before us – passing the required legislation to respond to the failings exposed by the recent Royal Commission looking at institutional responses to child abuse.
He moved to the question of reconciliation with indigenous Australians, spoke clearly against euthanasia, set out a “moral imperative” to deal with climate change and a deep concern over current refugee policy and poverty in Australia.
On the question of “same-sex marriage” Freier said,
I intend to vote “no”!
The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.
The Church also understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice to each other. Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should. It is undeniably true that LGBTQI people have felt judged and rejected, even ostracised, inside the Church and that we must be more attentive to pastoral sensitivity.
On domestic violence Freier repeated his call for an apology for where the church has failed victims referring to a motion on our papers.
After considering the changing demographics of Australia, including declining number of self-identifying Anglicans in the 2016 census and shifts in rural and urban populations Freier concluded with these remarks, returning to his theme of “lament”.
There are many things that I have spoken about in this address that give no cause for pride or satisfaction. Indeed, I suggested lament as the appropriate response to our failure to protect children. I encouraged you to frame your response to a range of issues in the shape of this ancient response to the dual realities of human failure and God’s sovereignty and providence. John 16.20 tells us that our lamentation will often be at odds with the world, with its desire to get on and not look at the hard and contradictory facts of our human existence. “You will weep and mourn but the world will rejoice.” Let us spend the time to hold these painful realities closely in our attention, to hold our lamentation before the Lord Jesus Christ who is the measure of all things. And holding lament in commitment to journey on, we trust in the Lord’s hands alone for pain to be resolved and joy to emerge in its place. Our Saviour’s journey through the desolation of the cross and the tomb are sure signs that this is no light thing. As hard and troubling as the journey is we are always held in the truth of Resurrection as we await the coming of the new heavens and new earth where there is ‘no more death or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21.4). This is our hope, this is our future. May we walk towards it together in these next days at Maroochydore.
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