Bishop Stuart opened the first session of the 46th Synod, after a reading from Colossians 1:1- 14, by stating that he can say with great confidence that his dream, our dream, to see the love of Jesus transforming people and communities, has become a reality in so many contexts. He noted that, in accord with Colossians 1:6, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing then shared many stories of personal transformation and conversion from across the Diocese.
Bishop Stuart also acknowledged the hard work of parish ministry, that great endurance and patience is required (see Colossians 1:11), and in recognition of the ground being so exceedingly hard in so many places he reminded the gathered Synod of his simple strategy of 3 Ds that has been brought to the three sessions of the 45th Synod – deployment, debt and development.
We heard of the 56 clergy ordained throughout the last five years who have grasped the truth that God has ‘rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son he loves in whom there is redemption and the forgiveness of sins’ (Colossians 1:13) and are actively promulgating this, as evidenced in the stories of transformation shared. Bishop Stuart then provided a sobering overview of the debt owed to the survivors of historic abuse and the measures underway to address it, including the creation of the Property Development Commission to generate an income stream from the development of historic assets.
Following the Bishop’s Charge, Trevor Ament, Registrar of the Diocese, presented the Bishop-in- Council overview and report of the ADS operations, focussing on professional standards and the work being done in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission, the work underway to identify and assess the various risks facing the Diocese and the mitigation strategies in place, the consideration being given to the need to expand the pool of those willing to serve on Diocesan Boards and an update on the Anglican Diocesan Services and its activities.
Bishop Matt then elaborated on the theme of bearing fruit in his section of the Bishop-in-Council presentation, and how the Diocesan dream is progressed in the parishes, chaplaincy units, exploratory ministries and community chaplains throughout the Diocese with each of these diverse agencies collaborating to reach a great number of different people. He outlined some of the ways people are being nurtured in the Diocese through training to maintain safe communities and in the ways that we might move beyond viability to growth through the development of leaders, by maintaining presence in areas where ministry is difficult to sustain, by exploring new models of ministry, addressing debt and making our structures work for us. Synod heard stories of the parish partnership between Lanyon Valley Anglican Church and Anglicare, the strength of collaboration in Arawang and of parish renewal in Temora, as examples of how fruit is being borne in our diocesan life.
In the final section of the Bishop-in-Council presentation Archdeacon (Emeritus) Anne Ranse spoke on the Episcopal Task Force on Older People and Ministry, informing Synod that the work of the task force has heightened the awareness of the needs of our older people both in the gathered faith community and in our parish community around us and across the diocese.
From Ven (Em) Anne Ranse:
‘Just as God asks us to be his means of hearing the cries of the poor, so too he wants us to hear the cry of the elderly. We must reawaken the collective sense of gratitude,
of appreciation, of hospitality, which makes the elderly feel like a living part of the community …’.
Anne reported to Synod that for future action, in response to the main recommendation of the task force, a person will be appointed by the Bishop to convene a team of people committed to this ministry. This team will continue to work on those recommendations that still require attention and to safe guard the work of the Episcopal Task Force on Older People and Ministry and progress the awareness of the needs of us all to be welcoming places of community that offer to all spiritual support, care and love.
In recognition of the ordination to the Priesthood of a those women who were ordained to the Priesthood 25 years ago, The Reverend Canon Gill Varcoe preached the sermon at the Friday evening Synod Service. The sermon text was Colossians 1:15-29, and Canon Varcoe shared the wonder that God himself should bend to come among us, that we have been rescued from the power of darkness and welcomed into the Kingdom, invited into relationship with this King of kings and Lord of lords who holds all creation together, and challenged the congregation that what Jesus, who doesn’t get to be our Saviour unless he’s also our Lord, is seeking from us is deeper trust and dependence. We were further exhorted that God invites us, reconciled to him, to join Him as he works to reconcile others to himself.
Two recently-Priested women, The Reverend Judy Douglas and The Reverend Emma Street, led the bible studies on Saturday and Sunday morning. The Reverend Judy Douglas taught from Colossians 2:1-9 and highlighted that Christian maturity is two-fold and seen in a growing knowledge and understanding of Christ and his gospel and also in bearing fruit in good work and character, in lives abounding in thanksgiving. The Reverend Emma Street shared from Colossians 2:8-15 and reminded us all that the life of the disciple centres primarily around fellowship, expressed in word and deed, principally with Christ and, flowing out of that relationship, with one another, and urged that we forsake false teaching and pale imitations of spirituality for the wonder of the ‘real thing’ in Christ.
In line with the resolution passed at Synod 2016, a new Episcopal Election Amendment Ordinance 2017 was presented to Synod and a new process for electing a Bishop was agreed to by this ordinance. This and other Synod ordinances, as well as other material referenced in this story and yet to come can be found on the website at https://anglicancg.org.au/our-diocese/governance/synod/synod-2017/
Compiled by Alison Payne