The Right Rev’d Dr Tim Harris
Administrator (Sede Vacante)
Welcome to the First Annual Session of the Forty-‐Third Triennial Synod. As we gather as the Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide, we acknowledge that we are meeting on the traditional country of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. We recognise and respect their cultural heritage, beliefs and relationship with the land. We acknowledge that they are of continuing importance to the Kaurna people living today.
We are mindful also of all those who have gone before us within our Church, and whose responsibilities of leadership and governance are now entrusted to us. As we expressed our farewell to our former Archbishop Jeffrey and Lindy and gave thanks for their ministry in our midst, we are also mindful that we are moving into a new season in the life of this Diocese. This Synod will meet again in just over a month’s time, and we pray that, God-‐willing, we will discern and elect a new Archbishop as a shepherd after God’s heart. Before and above all else, let us commit ourselves to sustained prayer, with an expectancy and trust in God’s promise to hear, guide and provide ‘a leader of vision and a teacher of your truth’ (APBA, 212).
There is much an Address such as this might touch upon, and I have chosen to be selective, highlighting areas of particular concern or relevance. More could, and perhaps should, be said, and many other issues are worthy of mention. However, I have sought to keep a sharp focus on the matters I have identified, and ask that this address be heard in that spirit.
Sunday afternoon: preparation for the forthcoming Bishop Election Synod
It is not the business of this session of Synod to canvas possible names for our next Archbishop, nor to pass comments in that direction. However, it is indeed the work of this session to bring a focus on the hopes, needs and opportunities that are before us within the Diocese. The Bishop Nomination Committee (BNC) has been greatly assisted in this through the very productive consultation process, and this will shape our particularly important session this Sunday afternoon. It is the work of Synod not only to express and advocate for concerns and hopes arising from our own particular interests, but especially—vitally—to hear carefully the mix of needs, hopes and thoughts across the diocese. We approach this significant responsibility on behalf of the diocese as a whole, and I strongly urge you to engage with and contribute to the session led by the BNC on Sunday afternoon, drawing on the very well received facilitation by the Rev. Sandy Jones.
Seeking reconciliation: writing history and righting wrongs
The writing of history is a powerful exercise in shaping our perception of experiences, and in the attitudes, assumptions and policies that have influenced much of past practice as well as present realities. The writing of history invariably springs from particular perspectives and cultural stances, and much of the history we have heard has come from European perceptions. As such, it has all-‐too-‐often ignored or underestimated the severe impact of European settlement on indigenous peoples. We need to hear other historical narratives, especially coming from indigenous voices, and in doing so, own the responsibility of the present generation to hear and address wrongs of both past and present.
There is little doubt that many European accounts of the treatment of indigenous peoples has airbrushed away the realities of injustice, brutality and a profound disrespect for culture. Sadly, this is too often as true of the church as it has been of governments, bureaucracy, education, health and welfare systems.
Reconciliation is a profound gospel affirmation, and we are called to seek reconciliation in a spirit of repentance and contrition. Reconciliation may have significant and powerful moments of apology, but it will invariably be more profoundly expressed as a commitment to a process. Inequities and questions of justice continue to characterise the circumstances of many indigenous peoples, and the statistics of the gap between both indigenous and non-‐indigenous Australians, across a whole range of measures, currently shows little sign of closing.
There is urgent and profound work to be done here, and it starts by listening. A significant amount of time has been set aside for this as the major focus item during this Session of Synod. We should not assume we are as informed as we need to be, nor that we have any real understanding of the wrongs that have impacted Aboriginal life, identity and culture. I look forward to hearing Bishop Chris on this later in Synod, as well as some invited guests. Our commitment in this session of Synod to listen, reflect and discuss possible Reconciliation Action Plans, is but the start of an ongoing process, and one that needs to connect with our life as a church at many levels. On behalf of our Anglican Church community, as reflected in our Diocese, I commit us to listen carefully and respectfully, and to seek to truly hear of any issues that inhibit our living rightly alongside our indigenous brothers and sisters, and an undertaking to seek further reconciliation as best we are able, in God’s grace.
Back to the Future
It is stating the obvious in observing that the world around us is changing dramatically. This is more than a transitional period of history, but change has become the new normal, and drivers of change are many and varied. Change can be exhilarating and filled with anticipation: equally it can be disorienting, disruptive and stressful. In reality it is all of the above and more, both personally and in terms of our experience of church. As we seek solid ground, guidance and sanctuary in navigating the uncertainties of what lies ahead, we find ourselves sharing much in common with the ancient prayers and hymns contained in the Psalms. What a treasure to draw on in our Christian faith tradition. We are also well served in the reminder from one of our distinctive Anglican collects to trust in the presence of a merciful God, ‘that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in God’s eternal changelessness’ (from the BCP Collect of the Evening). I am sure many will join me in saying amen to that!
However, we should take comfort in the knowledge that this new world that is forming around us shares much in common with the first century world that Christ entered, loved, redeemed and transformed. The world of the first century was a world of superpowers, fear, terror and shame. It was a world of many faiths and loyalties; a social world where elites determined values and identities, and attributed worth according to their own value system. The vulnerable and weak were told they were a drain on society, and religious versions of honour and shame were employed to justify self-‐interest, whether personal or civic. The questions we now ask ourselves as disciples and as a church are not that different to the questions being asked by believers in the first century.
We may take great comfort and encouragement that in this first century world, faith in Christ quite literally resulted in global change—and it continues to do so. God’s love and mission was, and is, expressed in and through many weak and under-‐resourced minority groups, gathered locally in the name of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We can be encouraged and challenged in learning that the greatest areas of growth around the world are very often where the cost is greatest, and persecution all too real. It is sobering to witness the faith and commitment of those turning to Christ in Iran and Afghanistan, to hear stories of mission and evangelism in many of the poorest nations on earth, to see gospel revival and profound joy in the midst of adversity across Africa and Asia; and to see the resolute determination of those meeting in house churches across China, mindful of the potential cost of obeying the biblical call to not give up meeting together (Heb. 10:25)
What might this look like in our own context, with reduced resources and without the privileges of past times? As Anglicans, we have inherited quite costly forms of ministry. There is little doubt we will need to do with fewer buildings and facilities, but that was certainly also true of early centuries when the church grew rapidly. While Anglican buildings may be expensive to maintain, and in some cases only used for a few hours a week, our strength lies in being local churches. I like to think of our Anglican ecclesiology as ‘ground-‐ cover’ church. To continue the metaphor, while we value our grander trees and shrubs, we should never undervalue the local presence in and through smaller churches across our social landscape. Smaller churches have much going for them missionally, and just like hardy ground-‐cover plants, they can adapt and fill significant gaps. We are seeing in examples such as St Barnabas Croydon and elsewhere that where there is a willingness, goodwill and support, smaller churches focusing on engaging with their neighbourhoods and exploring ‘being church’ more than ‘doing church’, significant growth is possible, in God’s grace. It is in this spirit that we need to think less in terms of “if only…”, and more expansively along the lines of “what if…?”, and even “why not?”.
Just as we would be mistaken to underestimate the mission and ministry potential of our local churches, we also need to give greater attention to the significance of chaplaincies. Just as the final words within our eucharistic liturgy are expressed by the deacon at the exit point of the church gathering “go in peace to love and serve the Lord”, to which we respond “in the name of Christ, amen”, so our focus needs to be on what it means for us to ‘be church’ out in the wider community. In this ‘diaconal’ sphere of the church dispersed, chaplains are at the coalface of ministry, the face of the church in areas of society we would otherwise have little contact with. As our previous Archbishop Jeffrey Driver expressed it, chaplains and diaconal ministry are the ‘boundary-‐riders of the church’. Integrating and connecting our chaplains as part of regional ministry teams will increasingly become one of our most strategic avenues for engaging with many people who will otherwise have little contact with the church. Again, there are rich historical precedents being revisited as we look to the future.
Renewing our gospel confidence
Whatever strategies and plans we may explore as we look to the future, our hope is grounded in something much more enduring and proven: our gospel hope. At one level, this is of course stating the obvious. However, we need to be ever-‐mindful that we do not take the gospel for granted, or assume we have exhausted our understanding of what it means to live and minister out of a gospel worldview. Put bluntly, our version of the gospel is too small. It cannot be reduced to dot points, and while clear summaries are helpful as a starting point, there is so much more to be explored and glimpsed.
As originally employed, the term ‘gospel’ was not a religious one. The gospel was the news brought by a messenger into the forum or marketplace and announced by the town crier. It was sometimes good news of a victory, or some other news item designed to evoke the praise and loyalty of the civic community. Much of the gospel proclamation reflected in the Bible has a sense of “you think that’s good news? Let me tell you some really good news!”, and goes on to tell all who would listen about what God is doing in Christ, empowered by the Spirit. That draws us into a profound narrative, as extensive as the God of creation hovering over darkness, to bring light and order. It is a narrative of creation as an ongoing project, designed to see growth, fruitfulness, and the flourishing of this world in every way. It is a story of the in-‐breaking of a new creation, all that we are called to be, and to become. The gospel needs to be expressed and seen in both word and action, in faith matched with works. And central to it all is the unique life, teaching and work of Christ, his death, resurrection and ascension; the mystery of our faith affirmed in every age: “Christ has died, Christ is risen: Christ will come again”.
And so one of the great legacies of our Anglican liturgies, however expressed and enacted, is a constant reminder of the gospel tradition in which we stand. The gospel of grace is communicated through our liturgical patterns of grace, shaping and transforming our lives, both personally and as communities of faith and ministry. Connecting this faith with the whole of life, the basis of our hopes, identity, and sense of purpose, is the pathway to discovering the fullness of life promised by Christ. We need to renew our confidence that the gospel is life-‐giving, just as our God is the source of life, salvation and such love as we can only begin to glimpse.
We believe, and so we speak and pray
As Anglicans, we profess our faith. It is the faith of our liturgy. ‘Faith’ is one of the most misunderstood words as commonly used in the media and some debates. Faith is not what you resort to when reason stops. We are called to express our faith with grace and reason, but faith is ultimately a quality of relationship. We have faith, trust and confidence in people, and to disavow faith is to miss out on so much of what it means to be human. And as a church, our faith is grounded first and foremost in a God whom we believe to be worthy of faith and trust. Of course, God does not promise us immunity from the harsher realities of life. Indeed, quite the contrary. For the God in whom we place our faith is the God ultimately revealed in Christ, a God who suffers, who loves at great personal cost, a God who takes justice seriously, and a God who forgives. Most profoundly, we see a God who is rich in compassion and mercy, and a God with a track record of love in action unlike any other.
We believe, and so we speak (2 Cor. 4:13): This is our faith: we believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As we co-‐exist in society with people of many faiths, and of none, we owe it to our community to be willing and able to articulate who and what it is we do believe in, and why. As we engage in dialogue and conversation as members of our wider community, we do not assume widespread agreement, but we do need to speak humbly, honestly, with integrity and coherence. Yet our challenge is not only to speak of our faith clearly, but also to inquire and listen to people of other faiths, and those who do not identify with a position of faith. There is much to learn in developing our ability to converse well, and it starts with a conviction that God’s love for this world is not limited to any one culture or grouping.
The heart of our calling: baptism, confirmation, reception, and the hospitality of God
Of all the things we might busy ourselves with as a Church, from fund-‐raising efforts through to making a difference in our communities, what are the core responsibilities we as a Church are called to do uniquely as members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ? As Fiona and I have been privileged to travel across the diocese and join with a great cross-‐section of our parishes and ministries, we have been struck with many wonderful ‘under the radar’ areas of ministry that reflect God’s grace in and through our churches. People are coming to faith, growing in discipleship, and ministering to our communities in Christ’s name.
A key responsibility entrusted to us is baptism. As we are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, we do so through baptising and teaching (Matt. 28:19-‐20). It is an expectation that every church will offer baptism to all inquirers, and to do so in association with instruction in the Christian faith. And may I remind you that we also have provision for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows, and there is much to commend in making that the focus of deepening faith formation on a regular basis.
Confirmation is also proving to be a significant and important avenue in encouraging faith, both personally and within the context of the wider church community. At an experiential level, confirmation is a significant rite and opportunity, and I especially commend integrating this into a regular pattern in the ministry of parishes, schools and potentially in other contexts. Prepared well, it informs, enacts and brings into focus the heart of our gospel convictions. I will use more of this below as I reflect on how this framework informs our responsibilities as a church, and especially together as members of Synod. However, two other related areas of ministry are relevant at this point.
For some, Reception into the Anglican Church of Australia may be seen as a requirement to be ticked off on a form. I want to suggest to you that it is potentially much more than that. While the extent of denominational identification may be questionable in some contexts, this practice has good theology in support of it. The naming of our home faith community is important (lest people flit in and out of several communities), for we then accept the accountabilities and responsibilities of being family. It takes us beyond a consumer driven attitude to church participation, and comparison with the attractions of the church down the road. We are reminded that presenting ourselves publicly as a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ is a solemn responsibility, for which we are accountable. It is well-‐recognised that individualism and a desire for independence are characteristics of contemporary western culture, but the Bible expects stronger ties than that. Together as all believers, we affirm that we are one people and family of God.
However, as expressed more locally, a more specific identity is not only inevitable, it is necessary. In the New Testament, we have the Church at Corinth; the Church at Philippi, and so on. It is in identifying with a specific church community that we are become accountable to others in our ongoing life and faith.
There is great value in encouraging new members to understand and identify as Anglicans, part of a global communion and an extended family, with all the joys and challenges that brings.
Just as baptism is one of the two Sacraments ‘ordained of Christ’, the Supper of the Lord is the other Sacrament of the Gospel. I was reflecting recently on why Anglicans are not renowned for our ‘altar calls’, when of course we are: we just call it an invitation to the Lord’s table. The gospel truths reflected through this are rich and many-‐faceted. However, it is good to be reminded of some core elements. The biblical imagery associated with the Lord’s Supper is intrinsically tied to the hospitality of God, and is a liturgical expression of the gospel itself. God invites us to come regardless of social status, ethnicity or achievements in life. We are invited in our brokenness, our sinfulness, and in our spiritual poverty. Yet as we participate in the life and work of Christ, and remembering his death and resurrection, we are redeemed, transformed, re-‐created. And as we step back from the Lord’s Table, we are called to give expression to this hospitality of God, both as faith communities and personally.
As we believe, so we speak, pray, and live. And in this we are wonderfully blessed in the faith, liturgies and practices of the Anglican Church.
So how does this understanding of the gospel guide our work as Synod, as representatives of the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide? Let me use our baptismal responses to bring things into a gospel-‐shaped focus.
We turn to ChristWe are not only people of faith. We are people who stand in the name of Christ. There may be little to commend us in human terms, but everything to affirm by way of the name of Christ. In our historic baptismal liturgy, this is a ‘turning’. For some, it may be a returning, and for others it may be accompanied by more questions than answers. Yet our trust and loyalty is firm and well-‐placed, whatever the future may bring. In a western world where the worldview is increasingly one of meaninglessness and primary allegiance to the needs and well-‐being of oneself, to encounter the example, depth of love and world-‐changing achievements of our Lord Jesus Christ is to discover a quality of life and hope unlike any other.
We repent of our sins
As a Church, and no less as a community, we have much to confess. We have failed the vulnerable entrusted to our care. We fail to love our neighbours as ourselves. We take God for granted, use and too often abuse others, including God. We live for ourselves, hold on to our idols (whatever they may be), and take our relationship with God as a matter of convenience.
To the survivors of abuse, we state again our apology as a Church, and commit ourselves never to forget the painful lessons learned over our failures. We commit ourselves to turning away from such neglect, wrong-‐doing and institutional self-‐interest, and undertake to employ rigorous accountability and transparency of process. We commit ourselves to placing the well-‐being of survivors as our top priority, recognising that theirs will be a lifelong journey with no quick or easy solutions. As much as we may want to move on and put this past season behind us, that is not an option for those who carry the scars and bruises, and to such survivors we commit ourselves to continue to listen, to learn, to grieve, and to repent in the truest way, as the BCP prayer book expresses it, “with full purpose of amendment of life” and turning from past failures.
To our aboriginal brothers and sisters, we recognise there is much work to be done to deepen a spirit of reconciliation. As a nation, and as a church, we have wronged the indigenous people of this country, and for that we repent. We commit ourselves to being informed by you, to listen attentively to you, and to respect Aboriginal culture and identity.
We reject selfish living, and all that is false and unjust
It is all too easy to point out others who we believe embody selfish living. In our culture we live out of a consumer-‐driven perception of life. In Australia, we underestimate the extent of our wealth and comforts. Our generosity is too often limited to our budgetary leftovers, both personally and as a nation. Yet we know this is no way to live, or to find satisfaction. As humans, we are at our best when we are generous. As Australians, we see this quality blossom in the face of adversity or following some catastrophic event. In recent times, our South Australian community has risen to the occasion in the face of bushfires, floods, drought, storms, and even the failure of our State-‐wide power grid. Through the lens of social media, we share images of courage, bravery and sacrifice.
Such moments have something profound to teach us of the human spirit, and the value of community where we look out for our neighbours. As Christians, we affirm that this understanding of how we are to live is not limited to crises, but part of our God-‐given DNA as humans, exemplified par excellence in the life and ministry of Christ, and testament to the work of the Spirit. This is no less our calling as a Church, if we are to be worthy of the name of Christ.
Just as we affirm that the gospel is to be lived out personally and as a community, so too we are called to be advocates, agents and workers for all that embodies right living. We are called to be ‘righteous’ people, understood as relating rightly (to God and neighbour), dealing rightly, and having right ambitions, values and hopes. For such righteousness Christ died for us, and to living rightly we are called. As God abhors injustice, abuse and neglect, especially of the vulnerable, the refugee, and those otherwise cast aside or shamed by society, God expects us to show mercy and concern for justice.
We renounce Satan and all evil
There was a time when such language dropped out of western rhetoric. Now it is hard to view the news without describing actions and attitudes in such terms. There are more unseen forces at work in our world than can be explained by mere chance and mechanical cause and effect. As well as those human dimensions we describe in terms of our spirit and soul, there are also dimensions to this world and its many experiences that may be attributed to a realm we barely glimpse through Scripture. We see enough to be horrified. Such evil is consistently destructive and abusive. Satan is identified as a force in the spiritual realm, named as ‘the accuser’ and ‘the destroyer’.
We cannot understand the betrayal, injustice, brutality and spiritual horror of the death of Jesus without reference to his encounter with evil. And the victory of Jesus was not achieved by resort to great armies, or of retaliation. The power reflected on the cross was of quite another order. Our great Easter affirmation is as much a way to confront evil, as it is of personal hope.
As a Church we state clearly, soberly and defiantly: we denounce acts of terrorism, bullying, abuse and violence. We denounce all such actions and those worldviews seeking any form of religious sanction for such acts. We denounce it no less in domestic contexts, and express our horror at the statistics of domestic violence, crimes against children and women in particular, and of related cultures of “locker room humour” which diminish the dignity and safety of the vulnerable.
We renounce them all.
We commit ourselves, in God’s grace, to strive to live as disciples of Christ, loving God with our whole hearts, and our neighbours as ourselves, until life’s end
To believe and follow Christ is to live rightly—in God’s grace. The ‘we’ in this statement is significant. We are in this together, with all that that brings. God is a gathering God, and as the gathered people of God, the family of God, we are called to exercise the grace of God towards one another, and the hospitality of God to the world around us. The gospel is personal and communal, but never individual. By this I mean we never relate to God in isolation from how we relate to those around us. To love God is to love our neighbours. We have sisters and brothers in Christ, and the Spirit of God is at work in and through the whole body of Christ.
It has been said—rightly I believe—that the biggest challenge and obstacle facing us in our mission and ministry is ourselves. We need to remind ourselves that our relationships, one to the other, matter to God. A good proportion of our gospel traditions, reflected in the
New Testament, are addressed to this very question, and our familiarity with the word ‘love’ should not blind us to the richness, power and challenge of such a word, especially as exemplified in the love of God for this world, resulting in the mission of the Son, and the transforming work of the Spirit.
The exhortation of 1 John 4:7-‐8 applies to us as a diocese no less than anyone else. Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.
If you take nothing else out of this address, I encourage you to read this whole passage (1 John 4). This is our mission, our calling.
Talking of God: reclaiming ‘theology’
One of the great needs of the moment is to reclaim the richness of theology: ‘talking of God’. This is not just an interest for an elite few, but no less profound in the context of the proverbial ‘water-‐cooler conversations’ (or perhaps to update things, of the nature and tenor of café conversations). Stripped of its jargon and nuancing, and despite the protestations of vocal proponents identifying as ‘new Atheists’, the world around us has as much interest in questions of belief, purpose and hope as ever. Questions of “where is God?” in the midst of the whole range of life’s experiences, is as real as ever. We need to be reminded that our faith traditions have profound answers to the question: “what on earth is God doing?”, an answer that leads us directly to what God is doing in Christ. Does God care about injustice, about the well-‐being of our homes, neighbourhoods and workplaces? Does God have expectations over how our economy is shaped, how we are governed, how the banking system functions, how development impacts on the environment and communities?
Space to explore ‘talking of God’ is a vital element in our desire to revitalise our worship, mission and ministry in equal measure. If we are to grow as vibrant and energetic churches, we need depth in our understanding of the things of God. As a Diocese, we have a commitment to theological education at every level, with pathways in learning as readily available to our average church members as to those preparing for ministry.
In recognition of this, our Education and Formation Ministry Unit (otherwise known as EFMU), has been hard at work creating a framework to provide pathways in learning. You will find information on the newly created ‘Bishops’ Certificate’, designed to provide grassroots theology at a level beyond what can be achieved through Sunday ministry or home groups. I commend it to you. And as a brief note for grammatical pedants, the apostrophe is correctly placed, after the ‘s’– this is a Certificate designed to be offered provincially by the Bishops of the Province, and we are working in that direction.
Alongside this significant new initiative, St Barnabas College has also been undergoing a thorough review of how to best identify and name the core ministry of the College. This is so much more than an exercise in rebranding. It speaks to the very nature and calling of the
College to encourage faith, learning in community, and for preparing and equipping students for service in whatever avenue God calls them.
This is education that seeks to address God’s purposes and call upon all of life. It seeks to cater for equipping students in whatever context of life they find themselves: whether as carers, parents, as part of the workforce, or in other occupations and endeavours. This is a commitment to bring theology down to earth, connecting with all of life. Again, I commend the information available at this synod for distribution, and I am sure the Principal Dr Matthew Anstey will be very ready to explain more of the opportunities now available through St Barnabas College.
The Church as responsible citizens
There are some who would wish the Church to be silent in public debate. A superficial understanding of notions of secular society are employed to call the church to retreat from political discourse, including education and issues of social wellbeing. It is healthy for us to realise we have no privileged voice in such debates, and that we need to earn the right to contribute through our capacity to genuinely listen and be informed by others.
It is increasingly apparent that a significant difference of worldview is opening up between those of a Judeo-‐Christian tradition, and the many other worldviews reflected in our community. It is also a common fallacy of those advocating particular secular worldviews to assume that they speak for society as a whole. We all live out of a belief and value system of some description. It is incumbent upon all who would speak within our democratic society to identify and own the belief and value systems that shape their outlook on life, with reference to the well-‐being and good order of our society. We have the richness and challenges of living as a multi-‐cultural society -‐ no single culture owns what it means to be Australian or the values we hold in common. Just as we view being human in a holistic sense, respecting the spirit, values and beliefs that shape our sense of self, so too our society needs to allow for a diversity of belief systems and outlooks. We need to avoid the dangers of an overly contrived cultural conformity in matters that may be morally indifferent, or at least capable of accommodating a socially responsible diversity.
If the church, both leaders and members, are to be socially responsible citizens, we must speak up. And we must continue to do so. While as a church we own our own painful and shameful failures in historic cases of child sexual abuse, and with our commitment to more robust and conscientious practices in ensuring safer church communities and ministry, we must express our deep concern at apparent systemic and cultural failures in State agencies trusted with investigating, responding and intervening in matters of child and family well-‐ being. We join the wider community in calling our State Government to do better in such a critical area of responsibility. We recognise that this is not solely a government responsibility and will play our part in enabling South Australia to become a child-‐safe and child-‐friendly community.
So too, we call on the Commonwealth Government to do better with regard to policies and practices in the handling of refugees and those seeking asylum. We are alarmed and disquieted by policies seeking to minimise due scrutiny and avenues of reporting, especially with regard to offshore detention centres. Concerns over mental health, safety and reports of abuse of men, women and children are profoundly disturbing, and systemic failures to acknowledge and respond to such reports, if true, are an indictment upon us as a nation. As a community, we ask for greater transparency and accountability. As a church, we also commit ourselves to work at seeking to provide hospitality and services to providing a new home and renewed hope within our local communities. AnglicareSA brings expertise and capacity in responding in such areas, and our various faith communities are similarly willing to provide hospitality and local faces to befriend and support. This is an all-‐of-‐community responsibility, from all tiers of government through to neighbourhoods, schools and community groups.
In terms of being responsible global citizens, we also recognise concerns for our environment. Again, this is an all-‐of-‐community responsibility. Good government policy, informed by the best of scientific analysis and modelling, and accompanied by community consultation and participation are all needed if the warnings of possible catastrophe are to be heeded. Such concerns need careful attention within our urban and metropolitan contexts, as much as those factors that impact on our vital rural economy and primary industries. We need to be mindful of widening gaps between the very rich and all the rest, between urban and rural communities and services, and between Australia and our regional neighbours. We do not often hear the cries of concern from those impacted by rising sea levels, but our lack of awareness of such cries does not diminish the realities many communities face, and are already experiencing.
Continued accountability, careful listening and respondingrightly
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse continues its important work on a number of fronts, and we uphold the Commissioners and staff in prayer, along with all who have survived abuse and are willing to share their story in such a context. It takes considerable courage, and for many, it stirs up very real and raw memories. Areas of ministry and activities relating to the Anglican Church of Australia have been a focus in a number of case studies, and a more general Anglican ‘wrap up’ Case Study is likely to be held in March, 2017. The Commission has written recently to myself as Administrator, and Mr Keith Stephens as Registrar, requesting a supplementary statement addressing any changes or updates we may have made since (then) Archbishop Jeffrey’s response in January 2016. Since 2013 the Diocese has provided substantial material to the Commission on a number of occasions, and we can appreciate responding to and working with the Commission has been a significant focus for key diocesan leaders.
Reports on Case Studies are ongoing, and increasingly, and rightly, the Anglican Church of Australia is being called upon to be more consistent in approaches to responses and redress across our 23 dioceses. The Diocese of Adelaide is committed to working with the wider Anglican Church, and especially in participating in a General Synod ‘National Redress Forum’ process, where we believe our Diocese has much to offer coming out of our experiences and learnings. The key principles underlying such a scheme are that it be ‘survivor centred, just and fair, independent and accountable.’
We continue to review our policies and practices. The Diocese as a whole has a significant role to play in observing the safer ministry check requirements, and to take responsibility as church communities for the principles and best practice requirements addressed in the ‘Ensuring Safer Church Communities’. The ‘Child Safe Environment’ training unit has been updated, and is required for those in the various ‘Level 1’ ministry fields. I thank the team of trainers and presenters involved in these programs, and cannot stress highly enough how important it is that we remain committed and focused to our calling that our churches safe place, a place of sanctuary.
The work of Synod: participation and respect
At the start of a new synodical Triennium, we are gathered at a significant time of life as a diocese. After the words of our Prime Minister, it is an exciting time to be an Anglican! It is good to be reminded that the word ‘synod’ means ‘on the way together’—especially appropriate as we continue in this transitional season. Much of our diocesan life and ministry happens outside of Synod, but this gathering is the most significant cross-‐section of who we are as a diocese. It is not too much of a stretch to say that Synod is as much about the conversations over refreshments outside our business sessions. I encourage you all to introduce yourselves to others, and if you are stuck for an opening question, why not start with “tell me about your faith story – when did you first hear about Christ?” It is as we recognise and respect who it is we place our trust in, that we recognise each other as sisters and brothers in Christ. And if this is your first time to Diocesan Synod, we say a special welcome to this side of our Anglican family life.
It is indeed an exciting time to be an Anglican… and even more so, to be a follower of Christ!