General Synod Day 1 – Dealing with the Past

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As the first day of the Australian General Synod draws to a close delegates have spent much of their time thinking about some of the tragic lapses of the past and putting their mind to rectifying matters in the future.

The President’s address (given by the Primate) began the theme of retrospection as he asked us to reflect upon the lessons learned from the Royal Commission that has spent the last few years looking at institutional responses to the abuse of children. The Commission has made a large number of recommendations, including a national redress scheme, but even without those prompts it is clear that General Synod is generally of the mood that some form of united response and agreed standards are required.

This feeling was amplified by the presentation given after lunch by Commissioner Robert Fitzgerald who spoke with passion about the work he had been involved in. As we moved to discussion groups (that spanned the various dioceses present) there was a sense of common purpose. Yet, at the same time, there are serious questions being asked about the individual requirements of dioceses.

The Anglican Church of Australia is far less centralised than other provinces, operating on something akin to a federal structure. One of the outworkings of this is the requirement that any major legislation designed to impact upon individual dioceses must be passed by those dioceses also.

Believe it or not, we still don’t have every diocese accepting a common version of our national framework Faithfulness in Service so the job of getting common standards (and even guidelines) on the protection of vulnerable people is no easy feat. The lawyers are asking important questions about wordings and implementation.

So much of the day has been spent working through these issues and we go to bed with no final resolution. But we want to get it done. And we’re closer to it.

Along the way we’ve also made some decisions about electronic voting (we like it, but have some questions about implementation) and, most of all, seem to have managed to avoid addressing the really controversial issues that hover around. But tomorrow will be different. We will be considering a motion affirming the Biblical view of marriage and there may even be some discussion of the events surrounding the recent ACNA consecration of Bishop Andy Lines and the precipitating decisions of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

If you’re a little weary after reading this, then you know how many of us feel. A good night’s sleep and we’ll be ready for tomorrow.

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