Facing the challenges of 2021

Our Diocesan Bishop, Dr Peter Stuart, addressed the Anglican Synod on Saturday about the challenges and opportunities facing the Anglican Church in the Hunter and Central Coast regions of NSW. The address can be found here

The Synod looks at the Diocese as a whole and considers the present and future challenges.

The Diocese is seeking to support people flourishing recognising that over 240000 people in the region identify as Anglican.

Voluntary Assisted Dying

Bishop Peter Stuart said that envisages that in the next term of the NSW Parliament there will be legislation about assisted dying, identifying a clear trend of acceptance in the broader community.

He pointed out that Anglicans, in good conscience, hold differing views about voluntary assisted dying . He called on Anglicans to reflect deeply on the scriptures and theological tradition of our church in helping our government form an appropriate response.

He is profoundly concerned that there will not be appropriate resources applied to palliative care recognising the hugely significant work that people do as they face their death. Observing, with the Archbishop of Brisbane, that if good palliative care is available, the choice for the great majority of people is very different and many of their concerns and fears can be allayed.”He is profoundly concerned that we will not afford appropriate dignity to the gift of God we see in all people.

Aged Care Royal Commission

Commenting on the Royal Commission report into Aged Care, he said “The current Aged Care system is neither fair nor just and needs radical change for which the Commonwealth Government must lead. I hope that in the May 2021 Budget we will see its commitment to a system that provides our older citizens with the services they need and the capacity to make real choices about those services. I hope that service providers will be properly resourced to undertake this important work.”

Reconciliation with aboriginal people

Bishop Peter called the Synod again to the work of reconciliation identifying the deep connection of the Anglican Church with the impact of colonisation.

Challenges for the Diocese

Setting an optimistic tone, he reminded the Synod that around 4 in 10 Australians are likely to accept an invitation to a church activity.

He affirmed the work of parishes, recognising that COVID has meant that our parishes have been unable to demonstrate many of their strengths and it has been hard to undertake many of our ministries.

He spoke about the changes in Diocesan governance and the work being done to meet and exceed community best-practice expectations in our school and agency work. He observed that there will be further change sometimes we will not be the organisation best equipped to deliver a service and we should be ready to pass that on to other organisations with similar values. At other times we will acquire new areas of work because we are ready and able to do so within our vision, mission, values, and core practices.

Each year around $18.4 million is raised from parishioner giving, parishioner fund-raising and investing activities for the work of the parishes and diocese. He emphasised that our recurrent income is insufficient to meet the breadth of responsibilities we have for the ministries we undertake, noting a drop in investment income in both 2020 and 2021 and the need to increase property maintenance.

In response to an assessment of the progress and risks in implementing the child protection, safe ministry and professional standards systems, he reminded the Synod that the Diocese will be rolling out our Safe Ministry Audit and review process as well as significant volunteer framework in the coming months.

Blessing same sex marriages

He outlined to the Synod that following the decision of the Anglican Appellate Tribunal in 2020, the legal and pastoral fact is that a member of the clergy of this Diocese may bless a civil marriage including a civil marriage where both people are of the same gender. Anglican Clergy cannot solemnise a marriage where two people are of the same gender. He indicated that no member of the clergy is required to offer this blessing.

The vote in the 2019 session of Synod made it plain to us that there is a significant difference of opinion in the Diocese about same gender blessings. He said, “It is my hope and prayer that, under God, we can engage in dialogue about these differences in ways which affirm our common faith and trust in Jesus Christ.”