General Synod Day 3 – More bills, less lunch, less Jesus

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As Day 3 draws to a close it feels like we’ve got lots done, but missed the most substantial issues.

As on previous days, we’ve continued to pass important bills including dealing with the remaining child protection issues, in particular setting up the means by which we can engage with a proposed federal redress scheme that the government will soon publish details on.

It’s becoming clear that we might run out of time to get all our business done, so towards the close of the day we voted (electronically, which synod seems to enjoy asking for now and again!) to reduce lunch from 90 minutes to a round hour.

As the afternoon kicked in we turned to considering issues surrounding future ministry, particularly two related debates around future structures and what are being called “pioneer ministries”.

The pioneer ministries debate was particularly engaging for me. As we heard about the need to being doing ministry beyond the Sunday service it seemed like some people were, for the first time, grappling with what many of us simply call “evangelism”. But even then the struggle to actually be clear on the overall aim was soon going to manifest itself. The motion itself was fairly exciting:

Pioneer Ministry

The General Synod:

a) acknowledges that patterns of faith and belief in Australia are changing and that the Anglican Church of Australia’s capacity to participate in God’s mission is diminishing when too many congregations struggle with vitality and outreach;

b) notes the ten-year anniversary of “Building the Mission – shaped Church” report in October 2006 and its call to build capacity for church planting and developing fresh expressions of church as strategies for mission and evangelism;

c) commends dioceses for undertaking a diverse range of initiatives at revitalising parishes, planting new churches and pioneering different forms of church for people who live in a changing culture;

d) recognises that the development of pioneer leaders capable of planting new churches or developing different forms of church remains problematic when little consensus about expectations for ordination and lay ministry exists nationally;

e) requests that the Mission and Ministry Commission:

i. convene a national network of pi oneer leaders engaged in revitalisation, planting and fresh expressions to meet annually;

ii. convene a national research network to foster the theology and practice of evangelism;

iii. examine how community-based chaplaincy and pioneer ministry intersect to create fresh opportunities for mission in a changing society;

iv. explore ways to provide for coaching and training support for lay and women pioneer leaders; and

v. seek to engage the annual Bishops’’ Conference in discussion about mission and evangelism in a changing Australia.

All fairly good stuff, but I felt that it could be even better. So I moved the following amendment:

after the words “The General Synod”, add:

“, captivated by the declaration of Christ that repentance for the forgiveness of sins be preached in his name to all nations”

Readers will recognise the language as being a direct citation from Jesus’ final charge to his disciples in Luke 24.47. Not controversial, surely? Well they were immediately passionately opposed by Rev Dr Dorothy Lee who essentially argued they were a reductionistic summary of the gospel. Perhaps she was persuasive, perhaps some elements of synod wanted an excuse to vote down something that came from Sydney, but either way the amendment was narrowly lost by 124 to 114.

It doesn’t bode well when a large segment want to vote down what many would think is a pretty reasonable summary of the gospel that motivates us to ministry. Or, at least, what Jesus himself thought was a reasonable way to summarise the gospel.

We cut lunch. And we cut Jesus too.

Tomorrow will most likely see debate of the marriage motions I foreshadowed yesterday. They’ll be heard by a synod where the atmosphere has perceptibly shifted.

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  1. Ben

    Intersting read, I think it is good the that Church is considering the value of Pioneer ministries and that it is not being limited to just church planting situations. So much can be achieved if we place the current parish ministry into Gods hand and see what he has planed for them in new and exciting ways.

    It is good that we are really engaging with the issues of the past. This is not going to go away and we need to do the right thing.

    I am really disappointed that certain sections of the Church feel the need to push an agenda when it is not really the time for it. Surely something as important as SSM should not be wedged between other issues. It is something that needs to be considered not just reacted against. I find it hard that people are like a dog with a bone with this.

  2. Tim Harris

    Greetings David. Let me give you some candid feedback from an older brother in Christ. Let me assure you, and your many readers, that the you are in good company in GS in your love of Christ and proclamation of the gospel. The push back wasn’t over Christ (and a post with ‘less Christ’ as a heading is frankly offensive). The matter is more relational with our Sydney friends: it gets quite irksome when it appears that at every opportunity Sydney rep’s seem to feel the need to either correct us or remind us of the gospel. I know that isn’t intended, and nor was that what you intended. But that is how it comes over – and it does make it more difficult for you to be heard on other issues, where your voices is needed.

    1. David Ould

      hi Tim,
      Thanks for commenting here. I’m surprised by your comment since last night you told me you were broadly supportive of the amendment.
      As for the intention of the amendment, as I explained in my speech I was genuinely excited by the various opportunities you were holding out in front of the synod and wanted to capture what I understood to be the genuine gospel excitement that underpinned them. I didn’t criticise either you or Bishop Stephen. On the contrary I thought I made it explicitly clear in my speech that I only wanted to have synod clarify and affirm the gospel love and urgency which has catalysed the Pioneer Ministry motion.

      In terms of the title, I think it perfectly expressed what happened. A head of a theological college stood up and passionately urged Synod to reject Jesus’ own words which he uses to summarise the gospel mission.

      Here’s the entire thing:

      Luke 24:45    Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

      We vote that down, we’re voting for less Jesus. We could have had a motion that sought to joyfully capture that vision with which Jesus first commissioned his disciples and propelled them in pioneering ways from Jerusalem to all nations. But we decided we didn’t want it. We went from a synod that might have been thought of as assuming Jesus’ charge lay behind your motion to one that explicitly rejected Jesus’ charge as the impetus for the work laid out in your motion.

      In my reckoning that’s “Less Jesus”, and then some.

  3. Tim Harris

    Sure. I did indeed support your amendment. Just giving feedback on how it is *perceived*, not how it was intended on your part – which I happily accept in good faith. My one additional reflection for you is that there was much reference to our Lord throughout the day, from beginning to end, over which you have been quite silent in your post, which may be quite misleading to your readers who were not present. And I hope you will note and affirm a thoroughly Christ-centered and incisive Gospel bible study by the said Professor this morning which makes quite clear her profound and heartfelt commitment and devotion to Christ.

    1. David Ould

      Thanks Tim. Yes I did note it this morning.

      I found myself, however, frustrated that this morning she told us that this account from Luke’s gospel Jesus’ mercy and free forgiveness lay at the heart of the gospel and yet last night she stood up to passionately insist that we not assert Jesus’ own summary at the end of Luke’s gospel ought to be a fitting preamble as we think about creative ways to reach out to our communities.

  4. Craig Benno

    David, to be fair to the Greek rendering the other MSS, that passage can be translated as saying, Repentance and the Forgiveness of sin. The gospel message is all about what God has done… the repentance is our response to what God has done.

  5. Neil Payne

    very interesting hope the message gets to the pews

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