Bishop Peter Stuart Opens Synod with Presidential Address

The Right Reverend Dr Peter Stuart has opened the Third Session of the Fifty-Second Synod this morning with his Presidential Address. You can download a full copy of the address here. Or reads some of extracts below…

The Bishop recognised the survivors of abuse in the Cathedral

We recognise that [the Cathedral] is significant to the Diocese and to the City. We know the Cathedral as the spiritual home for many including the congregations who gather here. With deep lament, we also recognise that the Cathedral and its environs has been a place where harm was done to some. Today, we acknowledge them and affirm our sincere apology to them.

Impact of child sexual abuse

Our society and our church are more aware than ever before of the life-long impact of abuse on children. Survivors show enormous courage and bravery when they speak of their experience.

[The Diocese engaged] to help it get a better understanding of the potential liability facing the Diocese in relation to Parishes and Diocesan bodies which have ceased to operate. The actuaries looked at the data we have available together with data from the Royal Commission and other institutional bodies working with children.

Looking forward Finity have presented scenarios which outline a potential future liability ranging from $15.7 million to $32.2 million over the next two decades. Our actuaries reminded us of the provisional nature to the data because the experience of each institution is different. Our forward planning is based around projected liabilities of $21 million over 20 years with planning also underway if the responsibility for redress is higher than projected.

The Board and its actuaries have never lost sight of the reality that each journey of redress represents an individual who should never have been exposed to harm. They understand our commitment to redress. The responsibility to make redress is a significant part of our mission.

 

Photo: Members of Synod stand for a minute’s silence to recognise survivors.

Archbishop Glenn Davies

By the time this Synod next meets, Archbishop Glenn Davies will have retired as Metropolitan of New South Wales and his successor will have been installed. When I drafted this address at the beginning of September I wrote,

The increased rapport among the bishops of New South Wales is a result of Glenn’s leadership. He has guided us in staying in the difficult conversations as fellow disciples.

Archbishop Davies comments to his own Synod, just over a week ago, did not reflect the rapport that he has created among the NSW bishops. He and I have spoken frankly with each other in the last few days. I have previously invited the Archbishop to the Diocese before he retires. I affirmed my invitation to him, and he intends to be amongst us.

LGBTIQ+ people

 In the 1970s, Australian Synods grappled with the best way of responding to a person who had been divorced and wished to marry again with the blessing of God expressed through the church. From the 1980s through to the early 2000s, Australian Synods explored the ministry of women as deacons, priests and bishops. Since the late 1990s, Australian Synods have been called to reflect on the church’s engagement with LGBTIQ+ Christians. Our Synod has before it business which will reflect on our engagement with LGBTIQ+ Christians.

Faithful Christians within the church who recognise the authority of Holy Scripture do not have a consensus view on how LGBTIQ+ people, especially LGBTIQ+ Christians, are to be engaged, embraced and supported.

Nobody can predict the outcome of any of the Synod votes and much will be said about whatever we decide. To be a Diocese that affirms comprehensive Anglicanism means that we are willing to live with the fact that there are people with whom we disagree. The complex question centres on which perspective should dominate what occurs in diocesan life and how we will respond graciously to conscientious difference.

I am very conscious of the harm that has been done by the church to LGBTIQ+ people and those who love them. Our conversations have often come over as demeaning. In each LGBTIQ+ person, as in all people, we see the image of God – God bearing himself to us. That simple fact should shape our discourse.

 

Photo: The Right Reverend Professor Stephen Pickard, a guest of the Synod, presented a paper about framing conversations at Synod called “Anglicans and human sexuality: finding a way in uncertain times”.

Aboriginal Reconciliation

In a few weeks time, a number of clergy and lay people will be meeting with representatives of one of the aboriginal nations in our Diocese. Just before that all of the clergy will be engaged in cultural awareness training as part of clergy professional development.

I raise this because as we address culture, I believe we are being called to address the beliefs and practices in church and community life which frustrate the voice and contribution of aboriginal people. We do not engage in vibrant storytelling which allows us to honour the people on whose land we now undertake ministry. We have not been confronted by their experiences nor acknowledge the role that Anglicans played in dispossession. I feel we have been offered a [significant] moment of healing for white and aboriginal people. There can be no doubt that as we listen deeply to experiences of the aboriginal nations we are going to be confronted by the ravages of colonisation and the way that harm continues to be done today.

Contemplative Action arising from Stillness – Solitude – Silence

In an era of ever-increasing communication and the influx of artificial intelligence powered by mind blowing algorithms, we are invited to live in a different way. To embrace regularly times of stillness and reflection through which we are attuned again to the movement and wishes of God.

Solitude is a holy practice of deep listening. The discipline of solitude is about moving into this sacred territory in order that we might listen well. With profound vulnerability we open ourselves to affirmation and confrontation. We meet with God who makes himself known in the hungry, the thirst, the lonely, the ill, and the prisoner. We meet with God in unexpected places.

One of the reasons to be silent is to listen. How often do you find yourself listening with a view to what you will say next? Whenever we are forming our next sentence in our mind, we are only half paying attention to the one who is speaking.

[I hope that] deep contemplation is the basis for rich gospel proclamation and holy action in which we live out the counter-cultural teachings of Jesus.  Action that

  • sees, loves and serves Christ in the poor and oppressed,
  • challenges the church when it becomes stale and institutionalised,
  • is ready to be with another person in their suffering,
  • envisions and works for communities and nations in which there is justice, mercy and peace

It has become very clear to me is that the journey of contemplative action is shared by people of much faith, little faith and no faith. In a society where there are many people who say they are spiritual but not religious – the practices of contemplation and justice making create a common ground.

I think that one of the things we need to do as Christians in this common ground is to be more generous in our conversation. To live patiently with people as they explore their value, ethics, and beliefs.