General Synod Wrap-Up – The Anglicans Who Don’t Want to be Anglican?

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Friday saw day 5 of General Synod as we wrapped things up and then made our way to the airport and began the long trip home to our various dioceses.

I’m sure each of us will have had our own thoughts as the plane lifted into the early evening sky. Is it too melodramatic to suggest that as a beautiful sunset washed across the horizon we had also witnessed the sunset of the Anglican Church of Australia?

I wouldn’t go so far myself. But one burning question would not leave me be:

Why did some Anglicans not want to be Anglican?

One debate on the last morning crystallised much of what we had experienced over the week. Bishop Matt Brain of Bendigo moved, with Professor Dorothy Lee seconding, a motion titled “Being the Body of Christ”.

That this General Synod

a)  acknowledging that there are several theological and spiritual cultures within The Anglican Church of Australia,

b)  recognising that the persons within each culture adhere to it for reasons of belief conscientiously held in adherence to holy scripture as well as social identity, and

c)  welcoming the strengths that our diverse unity brings,

therefore calls on all Anglicans regardless of their cultural identity to:
d) respect one another’s cultures,
e) build on what we hold in common,
f) affirm that the separation of any one of us diminishes us all, and
g) where we differ seek, ‘in the spirit of Philippians 3:13, “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead”, to discover each other’s faith as it is today and to appeal to history only for enlightenment, not as a way of perpetuating past controversy’*

so that the gospel we proclaim may be attractive to the widest range of Australians to whom we seek to minister.

*From the aims of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC I) accessed 6 March 2022 at

23.1 Being the Body of Christ – Business Paper Day 5 GS18

The intent of the motion was pretty clear, as Bp Brain explained in his speech telling us it invited Synod to say, “I count you in before I count you out”. Rising in support, Professor Lee told us “we have a huge amount of things in common” going onto set the figure at “at least 95%”.

So, in essence, we were being asked to affirm a proposition that, as The Anglican Church of Australia, despite our acknowledged differences, there was much (at least 95%) that we agreed upon and so we ought to work hard at unity despite those (5%) differences.

And then someone did something crazy. They suggested we dare to include our core unifying agreements in the motion. Of the 95% that we agreed on, what might be a central 1-2%? So the following amendment was put up:

Delete the words “theological and” in the current clause a)

Following the words ‘”That this General Synod” with consequential renumbering:
“a) rejoices in the Christian Faith professed by the Church of Christ from the time of the New Testament, and in particular set forth in the Creeds;

b) joyfully recommits to respectful and reverent reading, teaching and preaching of the canonical Scriptures as our ultimate rule and standard of faith, inspired by God and containing all things necessary for salvation;

c) and humbly re-expresses its determination to obey the commands of Christ and teach his doctrine as these are given to us in Scripture.

It also”

20.3 Being the Body of Christ – Motions Amendment Sheet for Day 5

And immediately people rose to speak against as “restrictive” and even “divisive”. Where did this suddenly disunifying language in the amendment come from? What was it that could cause Anglicans from across Australia to protest would actually undermine our common call to live together? What is it that is so far on the fringe that it falls outside the 95% the we hold in common? Well, here’s the source of those three paragraphs from the amendment:

So consider for a moment what is happening here. We are presented with a call to unity since “we have a huge amount of things in common”. An amendment seeking to include the absolute foundation of what we have in common is put up. You can’t get more foundational than Part 1, Chapter 1, sections 1-3. It’s even got the title “Fundamental Declarations”.

So could Synod gladly agree to agree upon and unite around what our Constitution says are the things we simply must agree on – our defining core identity as the Anglican Church of Australia?

The amendment was narrowly passed, 119 for and 113 against.

Immediately Assoc. Prof. Anstey rose to ask that “we move to the previous question”. This is a technical motion that essentially asks Synod to not progress any further on a motion. Also expressed as “move that the question not be put”. Faced with a motion that we seek to hold together charitably based upon our fundamental declarations of belief synod decided not to continue to talk about it. Anstey’s motion was passed on the voices.

And so here we see the real (dare we say the Fundamental) issue that the Anglican Church of Australia is facing. The revisionist wing of the church insists that it wants unity. It tells us that we hold so much in common. Yet almost every time this synod was asked to affirm or clarify basic constitutional matters, let alone rejoice in them, the very same wing would protest.

They didn’t want our church services to be “constrained” by “any principle of doctrine or worship referred to in section 4 of the Constitution

They opposed the willing embrace of chastity as set out in Faithfulness in Service.

Their Bishops rejected the teaching of Christ and the doctrine of the Church on marriage.

And finally we refused to stand on our constitutional foundations.

Anglicans who don’t want to be Anglican.

That’s really the problem with the Anglican Church of Australia. There are many, even some bishops, who don’t actually want to be Anglican. Despite some of them promising before God the exact opposite.

image: flag of the Anglican Church of Australia

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. Peter Carroll

    Synods, diocese, parishes, can pass all the motions they like. If those motions are contrary to God’s written word, given to us clearly in the Bible, it is the height of ignorance, arrogance and even rank stupidity, to even dream that God is going to abide by those motions or accede to their wishes.
    The Bible tells us that God doesn’t change, will not change, and certainly is not going to listen to motions contrary to His laws, passed by a synod, in Queensland, in the year 2020.
    It is also a grave insult to God, to claim His blessing, on something he has called, “detestable”!

  2. Robert Bruce

    It is all very, very sad.

    The Word of God, which is supposed to be what unites us as Christians, is distorted and twisted by sophistry to make it seem that it now divides us.

    Bishops who have promised before God to uphold His Word now seem comfortable with denying what most Christians believe, certainly most Bible-based Christians.

    Where will it all end? That much, at least, is obvious.

    How sad. Jesus must be weeping as He did over Jerusalem in Luke 19, vv 41-44.

  3. Tim Anderson

    We have lots in common. We are all made in God’s image. We all breathe the same air. We all love our children. We all enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. We just have completely different understanding of what it means to worship God.

    1. Jill England

      I’d say we have a different understanding of who God actually is.

  4. Ron Johnson

    David, you said that you wouldn’t go so far as to suggest:?
    “…..that as a beautiful sunset washed across the horizon we had also witnessed the sunset of the Anglican Church of Australia?

    Since Lambeth ’98 we have witnessed ever widening cracks in the Anglican Church world wide and it was obvious twenty odd years ago that it would happen sooner or later in Australia too.

    Will it be the sunset period for the Church?
    Well, the problem is still there today that we had two decades ago.
    Firstly, evangelicals back then were not doing the things, or being the people God has called us to do and be.
    Michel Griffith even prior to that, called the church “Cinderella with amnesia”.

    The time to act was back then, but it seems little has changed today, so why wouldn’t the cracks keep widening and the sun keep setting?
    Secondly, except for a few, evangelicals have been too afraid to enter the fight that is before us. Guarding the Gospel by entering the public square and defending the faith is the furthest thing from their minds.
    And that has been and still is, a failure of leadership.

  5. B.Wood

    God will not honour a church that puts Dagon beside The Holy Spirit. God said “I share my glory with no other”, and ” I never change”. To try to legalise sin by man’s legislation is taking us one way – to punishment and hell. I suggest that ALL those who supported the 12 bishops in legalising sin, seriously consider their position, and resign from all positions in the church of God.

  6. Alan

    The ACA, like many Christian churches in the West, but frankly Christianity in general, has been under ‘attack’ by increasingly progressive and secular forces, for many decades now and one only needs to see the reduction in numbers of people either attending church regularly, or calling themselves Christian, to understand the importance traditional Christianity now holds in the community.

    Yes evangelicals show a bulwark against this general trend, but they are a small minority and the Church has to recognise that they have become an institution that no longer has the cultural influence or significance it once had. Which in itself is rather ironic, given the energy being expended in attempts at Synod to have the ACA undermine its central beliefs and effectively commit liturgical suicide.

    There is no reason to believe that the ACA can withstand cultural change anymore than other cultural foundations have over the last few decades. ‘The long march through the institutions’ isn’t just about Marxist ideology seeping through academe or a purely academic, but non-threatening exercise in identity politics, but a recognition that ‘progressive’ orthodoxy is and always was going to challenge more traditional concepts of living ones life, particularly those lives based in faith which are a contradiction and perhaps even perceived as a threat towards other ways of living.

    Lives therefore, based in the Christian faith are considered at the very least ‘judgemental’ and by holding certain precepts that are unalterable and God given are directly challenging to ‘modern’ lifestyles, that seek to elevate personal choice, self-actualisation and non-judgemental relativism under the guise of its own Creed…Diversity, Inclusivity and Equity…an appropriate acronym if there ever was one!

    1. Jill England

      Well said.

  7. Helen G.

    Thanks so much David for persevering with these posts for the entire week. I’ve looked forward to them every day. Your comments have been helpful in understanding just where we are up to and how we need to be informed. It must have been fascinating, gruelling, frustrating, inspiring and very tiring. We realise the importance of each individual Christian knowing what we believe and why we believe it as we go forward in Truth and trust in our Sovereign God. The Anglican Church in Australia is certainly at a crossroads.

  8. Paul Nolan

    “It (the Brain/Lee motion) also”. Also what, please?

    The writer describes the language of the amendment to Brain/Lee as ‘disunifying’, he suggests the source of (a) (b) & (c) in the amendment are the fundamental declarations of the Church’s constitution, & concludes what exactly?

    Anyway, the amendment was carried 119 for, 113 against. Immediately Anstey called for an end to the discussion which GS agreed to ‘on the voices’. (That Parliamentary term of phrase reminds me to ask what was the outcome of the Chair’s investigation into the use of ‘House of Representatives’ rules, which arose on day four?).

    So what goes into the record books? I think it is (Rev Ould to confirm please) that GS rejoices in the ACA’s embrace of the Christian faith, that it recommits to reading, teaching & preaching the canonical Scriptures & re-expresses its determination to obey the commands of Christ & to teach His doctrine as set out in the Scriptures.

    Deceptively bland, the carried motion nonetheless ensures the ‘progressives’ can carry on with their own interpretations of Christianity, of what the Scriptures say, of which Christian commands are to be obeyed, & which of His scriptural doctrines are to be taught. And (my words), yippee exclaimed the progs, Synod is saying we are still Anglicans!

    Real Anglicans have waited five years between General Synods postponed & postponed again to see the progressives kicked out of the ACA. What a disgraceful let down this has been.
    Paul Nolan

    1. Matthew Anstey

      Hi Paul, I would like to provide clarity.

      I didn’t raise a point of order in order to request a vote “on the voices”. Such a point of order is not allowed under Standing Orders.
      I did raise a point of order, namely “that the previous question be put”, after the amendment was voted upon. I foreshadowed that I would do this irrespective of the outcome of the vote for the amendment.
      As with any procedural motion, people can speak for or against the procedural motion. Peter Sandeman spoke for the procedural motion.
      The synod then voted on the procedural motion, voting clearly in favour of “move to the previous question”.
      Debate is then allowed to continue, and I can’t remember if it did or not tbh. However, no more amendments can be moved and when debate ceases, no vote is taken on the motion in its final form, in this case, amended by M Thompson.

      So, in effect, the Synod voted to not vote on the motion.

      All I did was to move the procedural motion, which anyone can do at any time. If Synod wanted to vote on the motion, they could have voted against my procedural motion.


  9. Lucy Barry

    Why do those who don’t wanted be Anglicans stick around? They want the property and the pay check. They’d never make it out on their own.

    1. Jill England

      And they are worshipping an institution rather than God.

  10. Jill England

    I don’t support Dorothy Lee’s assertion that what we disagree on is around 5%: sexuality is foundational to our human existence as designed by God, and marriage points to the union of Christ and the Church – that shouldn’t even be quantified as a percentage, it’s reducing our faith to a mental calculation – a utilitarian approach.

    I wonder whether those who put unity above all else are actually making an idol of the Anglican Church – it’s culture, traditions, institutions, relationships and yes, property and money.

    Well, I know what it is to walk away from my family home after 33years of marriage. I know what it is to walk away from the Anglican Church (admittedly, easier for a layperson than a priest or Bishop), and I know what it is to have my job taken from me by an unjust, authoritarian government. Yet I can testify that in all three areas – my home and my singleness, my new church and my enforced retirement – that God has blessed me over and above what I could have imagined.

    We should not let fear of the unknown hold us back from the blessings God is waiting to pour out when we put Him first.

    1. Rhonda C. Merrick

      Well said.

  11. Tim Tunbridge

    The Bishop of Bendigo’s Motion said in effect that, if you are sincere, you can believe whatever you like and still call yourself an Anglican. The successful amendment blew this revisionist heresy away and affirmed the orthodox position of the ACA that Anglicans are bound to obey the commands of Christ as revealed in the Bible. The revisionists then went into panic mode and decided that the matter not be put to a vote. So much for unity in the ACA !

  12. Paul Nolan

    I’m not so sure Tim. David Ould has yet to tell us precisely the wording of the motion which was passed 119 for, 113 against.Until we know that, we (certainly I) are not in a position to move onto what Anstey intended by “we move to the previous question”.

    I asked David that question on 14/5/22 at 7:33pm but no response. Over to you David.
    Paul Nolan

    1. David Ould

      hi Paul,
      if you read the article you’ll see the full text of the amendment in question.

      1. Paul Nolan

        Does the full text of the amendment include the Fundamental Declarations or not?

        Does the 119 to 113 acceptance apply to the amendment only or to the whole Brain/Lee motion “Being the Body of Christ” as amended by the “someone (who) did something crazy?

        Please advise.
        Paul Nolan

        1. David Ould

          The amendment was narrowly passed, 119 for and 113 against.

          It was the amendment.

  13. Paul Nolan

    You could be practising to be a lawyer David!

    OK. It was the amendment which was passed but readers have yet to learn if the amendment included in its wording the Fundamental Declarations or not.

    Plus you have yet to report if the Brain/Lee motion was passed.

    (New question). If the Brain/Lee motion was not passed, please advise if its non-passing is what Anstey meant by “move(ing) to the previous question”?


    1. David Ould

      I’m sorry Paul. At this stage I have to ask you, respectfully, to please read the article a little more carefully. Every question you’ve asked so far is actually answered clearly there.

  14. Paul Nolan

    And equally respectfully, I have to observe that you are obfuscating. There has never been, in my seventy-odd years of being an Anglican, a meeting more vital to the future of the ACA than the GS just concluded.

    You have taken it upon yourself to report upon it.

    If you cannot answer the three simple questions I pose at 2:11pm above, please so say. I’m not asking why you cannot answer but your answer must consist of more than doubting my ability to read English.

    If you will not answer, in my humble opinion as a long-time member of the ACA congregation, you are abusing the privilege extended to you to attend the meeting & to vote in the House of Clergy.
    Paul Nolan

    1. David Ould

      No obfuscation here, just a respectful request to read the article. As I’ve already sought to point out, each question you ask is actually addressed in the article and I don’t want to spend my time simply quoting what I’ve already written.

  15. Tim Tunbridge

    Hi Paul, the text of the original motion is cited by David (italics in bold print). The text of the successful amendment is also cited by him (italics in bold print). The effect of the amendment was to delete certain words in the original motion and to add others. The motion as amended then becomes the new motion. At that point the revisionists decided to abandon their motion and ask that it not be voted upon.

    1. Paul Nolan

      Many thanks for this Tim & thanks also to Prof. Anstey for his clarifying post of 16/5/22 at 6:54pm. It is clear to me now that Rev. Ould’s musing on the Fundamental Declarations was allegorical, not a reporting of events. That’s ok, it’s his blog.

      The upshot, for me anyway, is that the progressive’s (or revisionist’s) flurry of activity on Day Five came to naught, that the Day Three Statement put forward by Archbishop Raffel stands, & that the Synod Petition of Day Four stands. These are very positive achievements from an orthodox Anglican’s position.

      My only regret is that the GS ran out of time (thanks to the revisionist’s) to debate whether or not the revisionists should be permitted to call themselves Anglicans. That debate now awaits the next GS meeting, absent their declaring themselves a new denomination before then. I don’t think that’s likely.
      Paul Nolan

  16. Verity Murray

    Thank you David for your helpful reports from Synod

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