This last weekend saw synods in the dioceses of both Brisbane and Perth.
Brisbane debated Dean Peter Catt’s motion to ask for blessings of same-sex marriages (as previously reported here). In what was as well-run debate, carefully moderated by Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Catt’s motion was considered in an amended form that made what was at stake even clearer (image: SynodSQuawker).
The debate was adjourned for orders of the day and then resumed on the Saturday evening. Opponents argued that the issue was already the subject of a number of processes including reports from the Church Law Commission question and the General Synod Doctrine Commission; to act now would be to preempt those national processes. Others made the expected theological arguments and also noted that what was being proposed here was exactly what had led to the current crisis in the Anglican Communion.
As debate continued opponents then moved that the motion “not be put”. That vote was won by a margin of 151-138 and so the motion lapsed.
The Perth Synod opened with no similar motion on the order paper but there was a late addition of the following:
While a softer motion than that debated in Brisbane, it was put forward by those who would be considered supportive of further revision on this topic. Synod ran out of time and the motion was not put.
Back in Brisbane, Archbishop Aspinall’s presidential address [pdf] contained an intriguing section. The majority of the speech, as expected, was given over to consideration of the Royal Commission. A later section, however, saw Aspinall speak of a “drift from classical Anglicanism” characterised by a movement away from liturgy that “spread into other parts of Australia” from Sydney in the 1990s. Drawing on Peter Corney’s analysis of the 2nd half of the 20th Century he noted,
…that moderate and Anglo-Catholic Anglicanism has been left hollowed out, lacking energy, motivation and passion and without a compelling vision or message for the wider community.
Meanwhile ascendant conservative evangelicalism continues to grow in influence domestically and internationally.
What response does Aspinall propose?
…generous Anglican comprehensiveness is one of our greatest treasures and one of our most prized gifts to the church universal. We should cherish and guard it.
But for this precious gift to be retained, the moderate and Anglo-catholic expressions of Anglicanism need to be vital, imaginative, energetic contributors to the overall life of the church. This may well be a most significant responsibility that falls to a diocese like Brisbane in the current times and seasons and a critically important contribution we can make to the life of the national church.
Interestingly, Aspinall contrasts this style with both “evangelical” and “liberal” expressions of Anglicanism. While Aspinall’s comments might be interpreted as a gentle shift away from a more liberal position it’s worth remembering that all his appointments to senior positions in recent years have been of those with a progressivist ideology. Those I contacted over the past few days expressed their disappointment to me that traditionalists were still spoken of in overwhelmingly negative terms.
At the Perth Synod the following question was included on the business paper [pdf]:
6.4 Mr John Ewing (Darlington-Bellevue)
With reference to legal expenses for the appearance of Bishop Roger Herft before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission), would the President advise Synod:
a Was the expenditure funded from the principal funds of Bishop Hale Trust or incomearising from the Bishop Hale Trust;
b what has been the effect of this expenditure on the total income arising from theBishop Hale Trust;
c has any further expenditure been made since the previous sitting of Synod and, if so inwhat amount and by whom was it authorised;
d has the Archbishop, Bishop Hale Trust, Diocesan Council or Perth Diocesan Trusteesreceived any request for funds for legal expenses for Bishop Roger Herft’s appearancebefore the Royal Commission or his anticipated appearance before the Episcopal Standards Commission, and, if so, what was the response to that request;
e has Bishop Roger Herft been asked to repay any funds used for legal expenses for his appearance before the Royal Commission?
Synod was told, in response, that reimbursement of Archbishop Herft’s fees came from a diocesan trust fund (the “Bishop Hale Trust”) in the form of a loan for A$498,000. There was no elaboration on how that loan might be repaid or when any repayment would be made. davidould.net suggests that recoverability of almost half a million dollars is likely to be low and further questions might have to be asked of what the trustees were doing. We understand there is considerable disquiet in the diocese over this matter.
feature image: Archbishop Goldsworthy entering Perth Synod (@PerthAnglican)