The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia met this week in Melbourne to discuss the growing crisis in the national church precipitated by the decision of the synods of Wangaratta and Newcastle to legislate for a liturgy of blessing for those in same-sex marriage. At the conclusion of their meeting they issued the following communiqué:

The “one-and-a-half-day conference” is more than likely to be superseded by another “special session” of General Synod called by conservatives members in order to not just discuss questions of human sexuality but to pass motions.

davidould.net has been told tonight (but not yet confirmed) that the Standing Committee of the General Synod, which originally called a “special session” to deal only with legislation around child protection (thereby avoiding motions on human sexuality), has decided to rescind that decision and revert to a general session. We will confirm that decision if we can.

update 22 November 2019

We can now confirm that the General Secretary of the General Synod has written to bishops and registrars to tell them that next year’s meeting will be a full meeting, not a restricted “special session” as first planned. In her letter she states that,

Standing Committee chose to review the planned arrangements in response to developments in the Australian church in recent months.

The urgency of the matter (the Wangaratta & Newcastle synods having being conducted since their last meeting) and the strategy of conservatives to call another “special session” at the same time seem to have both combined to force u-turn.

Next June’s General Synod is shaping up to be a critical moment in the life of the national church.

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12 comments on “Australian Bishops issue Communiqué: “testing times”

  1. I am in the western part of Canberra & Goulburn. I disagree with same sex marriage. While 80% of the Anglican clergy in the area support it. it is destroying the Anglican Church. please pray for us as we look to rebuild the church

  2. The Bishop’s (undated) communique is particularly dense, as one would expect from life-long drafters of cant, but I think the “one-and-a-half-day conference” refers to their conference which commenced on 20/11/19 at which they considered the range of issues & priorities outlined in the communique. I don’t think the 1.5 day conference refers to a future meeting. The communique states the Bishops will meet again in March 2020 to continue their conversations.

    It is pleasing to learn that next June’s General Synod will be a full meeting, not a restricted “special session” as first planned.

  3. Hi David

    For those of us in NZ watching these events unfolding in Australia there is a real sense of Daja vu. In your favour, you appear to have a reasonable number of Biblically orthodox Bishops whose influence cannot be discounted. Conversely our Bishops were generally in favour of synod proceeding with a vote to legitimise SSB.

    The weakness of the synod system here in NZ is that smallish liberal churches have just as many votes as larger thriving evangelical churches (that tend to be more theologically orthodox). Second, the synod system is likely to attract activist delegates, as many believers simply cannot be bothered engaging in the theatre of church politics. Consequently synod is considerably more liberal than the church generally.

    I have no knowledge of the Australian system however.

    Finally, LGBTQ+ ‘rights’ are now a ‘thing’ in Anglicanism, just as they are in the wider culture. Because it’s perceived as a straight forward ‘justice’ issue for many Anglicans it will simply never go away. Never-ever-go-away. All of which is very wearying for the entire church regardless of where you stand in the debate. It is also a great distraction.

    As you know, a number of Anglican churches in NZ have now left the province and re-established a new diocese under the Gafcon structure. This was relationally painful and came at considerable financial cost for clergy and their congregations as they walked away from buildings and trust funds. On the positive side, it has put the issue to bed for this new expression, while it still drags on in the Province where SSB is viewed as falling well short of the requirement for SSM.

    Prepare for the long haul.

    • Hi Brendan. It could have been easily been put to bed here if the ACA leadership had made the distinction between sacramental & civil marriage ceremonies, as soon as our Parliament re-defined marriage as the union of “2 people”. Combined sacramental/civil ceremonies were fine when the Marriage Act defined marriage as “the union of a man & a woman” which is the Church’s definition also,as per the Holy Matrimony service. When Parliament changed the definition in December 2017, the ACA should have instructed its ministers to offer HM only. There would be no calls today for same-sex blessings if our “leaders” had stepped up to the mark two years ago.

      What was the sequence of events in NZ? How does your present law define marriage? LN

      • Hi Linda, the present law in NZ defines marriage as follows: “marriage means the union of 2 people, regardless of their sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity”. More details here:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_in_New_Zealand

        Not sure what you mean around ‘sequence of events’, but this ‘issue’ has been rumbling along in the Anglican church for more than a decade. SSB’s were ratified by synod last year.

        • Brendon, by “sequence” I mean what happened after the NZ Parliament changed the legal definition. Did Anglican leaders there instruct their ministers to offer Holy Matrimony only or were they as spineless as ours? i.e. do ministers there continue to combine sacramental & civil solemnisations in one church service?

          If so, it is no surprise that conscientious congregations & ministers have set up a new diocese there. We are on the way to a similar split here. I, for one, would be sorry to leave but if ACA clergy do not cease administering the Marriage Act, I will not hesitate to join a new diocese here. LN

          • Hi Linda

            In the lead up to the synod vote, the Bishops / synod decided that two ‘integrities’ existed within the Anglican church of Aotearoa . One that embraced same sex relationships, and one that did not. One that saw them as an extension of natural justice, one that believed they were sinful.

            Second, they forbade any theological examination of these two ‘integrities’, (presumably on the basis that it would be divisive) but instead set up a working group headed up by the only really ‘conservative’ bishop to find a ‘way forward’ for Anglicans to ‘protect’ both integrities within the one Anglican expression.

            That was a smart political move/appointment by the Arch Bishop. How could the only conservative bishop object to the working groups report that he helped to formulate? In my (not so) humble opinion the conservative bishop should have smiled and walked away from such an appointment, but it is what it is. Arguably if he had not been there, the outcome could have been worse, possibly.

            The net result of the working group report was the ability for clergy to engage in SSB, if approved by their Bishop (to my knowledge they are all approving with the exception of the Nelson diocese who has a newly appointed orthodox Bishop) and the establishment of religious ghetto’s for orthodox Anglicans. (I forget what they are called now) to huddle together in their bigotry while the rest of the church gets on with it. These ghetto’s still have to submit to their local Bishop regardless of how liberal they are, but can have the ‘support’ of an orthodox bishop if they choose. Note support, not oversight. No marginalisation to see here, move right along please.

            And of course that’s what many (but not all) orthodox believers and clergy within the Anglican province did. They moved along and have eventually established a new extra-provincial diocese. May God in his mercy and grace grant you a different outcome.

            • “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!” (Walter Scott 17th century poet).

              Thanks for the background, Brendan. Right from the get-go setting twin “integrities” against each other was/is deliberately misleading. “Natural justice” v. “Sinfulness” was never the issue. The Church’s public backing for Christ’s definition of marriage v. the State’s definition is the issue & it has been disgracefully handled here.

              It is no surprise that our Primate is stepping down before the next General Synod (in June), where the Church’s perfidious embrace of Caesar will likely top the agenda. LN

  4. My family believes that God judges no one on there sexuall orientation has he created them and it is not a choice as it is not for me. It is time for our diocese to except all without question and also expect woman as equal standing in the church Jane Cordina

    • Hi Jane, have you ever read the different stories about Jesus in the New Testament: in the books of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John? I remember reading them through myself some years ago. I had the feeling, at times, that God was actually speaking to me, personally. It was really strange.
      All the best.

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