The future of the Australian Anglican Church – with Kanishka Raffel, Richard Condie and Jennifer Hercott

“The unity of the Australian Anglican Church is hanging by a thread.

Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie, Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, and Jennifer Hercott from St Luke’s Church in Emerald in Queensland all serve on the Board of GAFCON Australia, a group within the Anglican denomination who are committed to upholding biblical and historic Christian faith, within Anglicanism.

In 2019 the Wangaratta Diocese in Victoria voted to go ahead with blessing same sex unions.  That decision was followed by a vote in the Diocese of Newcastle in New South Wales.

The issue was expected to come to a head at the Australian General Synod in June 2020. But COVID put everything on hold, delaying the gathering till June this year…”

A very sobering and important edition of The Pastor’s Heart.

Plans for Bishop of Armidale’s Consecration and Installation

From the Diocese of Armidale:

“Our new Bishop, the Reverend Rod Chiswell, will have his consecration and installation service at St Peter’s Cathedral Armidale on Saturday 27th February 2021 at 10 am, followed by a reception at the Armidale Ex Services Club.

The Metropolitan of NSW, the Most Reverend Dr Glenn Davies, will be presiding.

Unfortunately COVID-19 restrictions mean that numbers at the service and reception will be limited, and so attendance will have to be by invitation only. However there are plans to make a live stream of the service available.”

Photo: Rod and Jenni Chiswell.

Blayney’s new Anglican minister

“Reverend Wally Cox is the iteration of Bishop Calder’s plans to bring new life and energy into the Bathurst diocese parishes, and Reverend Cox is under no delusions as to the difficulty of the task in front of him as he begins his life as Blayney’s new Anglican minister…”

– Report and photo Mark Logan, The Blayney Chronicle.

Challenges and opportunities in rural NSW

In the Summer 2020 edition of Moore College’s Moore Matters, Mark Calder, Bishop of Bathurst, shares:

“… I am surprised and delighted and sometimes terrified to find myself in a new role in the Diocese of Bathurst. It is an extraordinary privilege. Having been here a year (on 23rd November) – and a very unique and challenging year at that – I know that I am only just beginning.

My oft repeated line, when asked how things are going, has been ‘the challenges are great, but so too are the opportunities’. So let me tell you a little about both. …”

Read, be encouraged, pray – and – perhaps – go!

Bishop Mark Calder’s Christmas message for 2020

The Bishop of Bathurst, Mark Calder, has released a brief Christmas message.

Click this link to watch the video – and the text is below.

Can you imagine the conversation Mary had to have with Joseph?

“Joseph – we need to talk”. (Long pause while she gathers the courage.) “I’m pregnant”.

What a shock! Mary knew she hadn’t slept with anyone. Joseph knew it wasn’t him!

Joseph was a good guy and decided not to make a fuss but simply walk away.

But God had other plans.

“What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”, an angel told Joseph in a dream. What a dream!! There would have been comfort in that dream – Mary had not been sleeping around. But confusion too – whatever does “conceived by the Holy Spirit” mean?

Put simply, it means that in this baby, God was stepping into our world. He had an earthly mother, but a heavenly Father. God turned up – not in a majestic palace – but as a small, vulnerable baby, laid in a food trough and needing his nappy changed. Astonishing!

The two names given to this boy help us understand something of the significance of his birth.

The first: ‘Jesus’. It means ‘God saves’. Saves from what? The angel explained to Joseph, “You are to give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. “Sins” is not a word we use today. Ultimately it means shutting God out and living as if he doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter. That attitude breaks our relationship with God. Jesus’ whole mission was to mend that relationship. By his life, death and resurrection, he makes it possible for anyone, should they want to, to be forgiven and come back into relationship with him, now and forever. That is pretty wonderful and overwhelmingly generous.

The second name: ‘Immanuel’. It means ‘God with us’. “What if God was one of us?”, Joan Osborne mused in her hit song. Christmas reminds us that God did in fact turn up as one of us. That means he gets us. He knows life! And he’s still with us – by his Spirit. In all our joys and laughter. In all our pain and grief. God is with us! This too is pretty wonderful.

COVID may dent our plans and indeed may have caused us grief this year.

But it is not so powerful that it can change the meaning of Christmas.

God saves. God with us. Revel and enjoy. (Even if your plans have had to change.)

Watch our traditional Christmas service here: https://tinyurl.com/trad-service
Watch our more contemporary service here: https://tinyurl.com/mod-service

And do pray for the churches right across Bathurst Diocese as they seek to share the saving news this Christmas.

Responses to the Appellate Tribunal Opinion

Essential reading on the 11 November 2020 Opinion issued by the Appellate Tribunal:

Armidale’s The Link introduces their new Bishop

The latest edition of The Link from the Diocese of Armidale leads with an article about Bishop-elect Rod Chiswell and his wife Jenni.

Most encouraging.

Read online or download your copy here.

Latest from the Northern Territory — Top Centre Issue 20.3

From David Ray, Registrar of the Diocese of the Northern Territory –

“Dear friends of the Anglican Diocese of the Northern Territory, please enjoy reading the latest edition of ‘Top Centre’, featuring the ordination of Craig Rogers to the Order of Deacons and our new Dean at Christ Church Cathedral, Darwin!”

And from Bishop Greg Anderson’s page –

“We are close to the end of another year – and most of us will hope that next year is very different from this year.

But although 2020 has been challenging in many ways (and very much more challenging for people in other parts of Australia and in the wider world compared with the Northern Territory), so much has remained the same. God is still God, and he is doing his work in the world. Jesus still reigns and the good news about his work of rescuing the world still builds the church. The Holy Spirit still works to transform and empower Christians, and to soften hard hearts. …”

Plenty of encouraging reading and fuel for prayer.

Gafcon Australia Statement about Wangaratta

Gafcon Australia has released this statement:

“The Board of Gafcon Australia notes with regret that a blessing of a civil marriage of two men has taken place in the Diocese of Wangaratta. This is inconsistent with the teaching of Christ that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Anglican Church of Australia has no other doctrine of marriage. Actions of this type in other Anglican jurisdictions around the world have deeply impaired fellowship between Anglican provinces and resulted in the most serious, and in some cases, formal and ongoing breaches of unity within and between Dioceses.  Gafcon Australia remains committed to supporting faithful and orthodox Anglicans wherever they may be, and invites any who are concerned about these recent developments to contact us for prayerful encouragement and support at info@gafconaustralia.org.”

Rod Chiswell elected Bishop of Armidale

The Rev. Rod Chiswell has been elected as the next Bishop of Armidale at today’s election Synod.

Rod is the Minister of St. Peter’s South Tamworth.

Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Glenn Davies, says in a statement:

“I welcome the news that the Rev Rod Chiswell has been elected as the next Bishop of Armidale. Rod is a faithful pastor, a fine preacher and one who will hold fast to the faith once for all delivered to the saints. He is an answer to many prayers.”

(Image from the St. Peter’s South Tamworth online service for 6th December 2020.)

Update from the Diocese of Armidale.

Sydney Diocese Response to actions in the Diocese of Wangaratta

Here’s a media release from the Diocese of Sydney, in response to actions by the recently-retired Bishop of Wangaratta:

Anglican Church Diocese of Sydney
Public Statement 

Response to actions in the Diocese of Wangaratta

We are deeply distressed that the previous Bishop of Wangaratta should take presumptive action by blessing a same-sex marriage.

In doing so, he must be aware that this is a deeply contentious issue which will be the focus of the General Synod when it meets next year.

We continue to work to preserve faithfulness and unity in the Australian Church as we navigate these issues, guided by the clear voice of Scripture. That remains our hope, but this action prior to the 2021 General Synod creates a serious breach in our national Church life.

It would be naïve to think that mutually contradictory views on same-sex marriage can co-exist within our national Church. Pronouncing God’s blessing on a same-sex marriage is contrary to the teaching of Christ. It is therefore untenable to have some members of the Church purporting to declare God’s blessing in such circumstances. To pursue this course will not bring healing but will only lead to a collapse in the fellowship that binds us together.

One need only look across the Tasman, let alone around the Anglican world, to see that the issue of same-sex blessings has created an irreparable tear in the fabric of our fellowship.

While General Synod will address these issues next year, any further breaches of fellowship will only lead to the alienation of Anglicans who wish to remain faithful to the teaching of Scripture. Furthermore, alternative pathways will need to be provided for them to retain their Anglican identity, as outlined in Gafcon Australia’s document, Commitment 2020.

The Most Rev. Dr Glenn Davies, Archbishop of Sydney
The Rt Rev. Peter Hayward, Bishop of Wollongong,
The Rt Rev. Chris Edwards, Bishop of North Sydney
The Rt Rev. Peter Lin, Bishop of Georges River Region
The Rt Rev. Dr Michael Stead, Bishop of South Sydney
The Rt Rev. Gary Koo, Bishop of Western Sydney
The Rt Rev. Malcolm Richards, Bishop for International Relations

10 December 2020.

Source.

See also:

First same-sex marriage blessing conducted after Tribunal decision – Melbourne Anglicans.

All good things come to an end

“ ‘All good things come to an end’ is an expression of an earthly truth.  At the end of this week I leave my position as the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale. Sadly I must also lay down my pen as the writer of articles for the Extra and Express. My guess is that this news will be greeted with a range of responses.

Over nearly a decade I have written many articles, some controversial, some fun, some just expressing disappointment or a communal grief. Whether you have appreciated the articles or not, it is interesting to consider the past decade of Australian history as captured in some of the ‘Faith Matters’ articles. …”

– Bishop Rick Lewers, shortly to leave Armidale to become Rector of Shoalhaven Heads, writes his last article for the local papers.

Please continue to pray for Rick and Janene, and also for the saints in the Diocese of Armidale as they begin to seek a new bishop.

Unanimous resolution: The Sydney Standing Committee regarding References to the Appellate Tribunal (Same Sex Blessing) – Wangaratta and Newcastle

Essential reading:

Here is the text of a Motion passed unanimously by the Diocese of Sydney Standing Committee at its meeting on Monday 23 November 2020.

It concerns the Opinion released by the Appellate Tribunal relating to Same Sex Blessing:

_________________________

Diocese of Sydney Standing Committee – 23 November 2020
References to the Appellate Tribunal (Same Sex Blessing) – Wangaratta and Newcastle

Motion passed unanimously:

Standing Committee of the Diocese of Sydney entirely rejects the recently released majority opinion of the General Synod Appellate Tribunal. We stand with brothers and sisters all over the world who have resisted the attempt to bless what God does not bless and to ignore the teaching of Scripture on the extreme danger of the behaviour endorsed by the proposed services of blessing. We are deeply saddened that the delivery of this opinion further disturbs the hard-won unity of the church.

Moving speech (The Rev Dr Mark Thompson)

As we’ve heard, on Remembrance Day this year the Appellate Tribunal published its opinions, both a majority opinion and a minority opinion. The bottom line was a majority decision that the Diocese of Wangaratta’s proposed service for the blessing of same sex unions is authorised by the Canon Concerning Services and is not inconsistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. This despite the fact that the Fundamental Declarations make clear that the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments remain ‘the ultimate rule and standard of faith, given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary for salvation’.

The long document which unfolds the reasons for this opinion makes very disappointing reading. That’s a mild way of saying it really. The handling of the Bible is irresponsible, regularly throwing dust in the air and suggesting either that the key biblical passages do not say what they appear to say, or that there is diverse and equally weighty opinion about the meaning of key terms or the passage as a whole, so we can’t be sure. That is just not true — on either count. As I’ve said in another place, the tactic of casting doubt on the meaning of a word or a statement in order to persuade a person to reject it, is an old debating tactic. It goes back to the Garden of Eden: ‘did God really say?’

The majority opinion cannot seem to grasp that the seriousness of this matter, which takes it beyond previous disagreements between us, is indicated by Scripture itself: ‘those who do these things will not inherit the kingdom of God’. That is actually said twice in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. Not inheriting the kingdom of God — that makes it a salvation issue. And yes, that is true of sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, theft, greed, drunkenness, reviling and swindling too — and we need to beef up our warnings about those things too if we take this passage seriously — but that list does include ‘anyone practicing homosexuality’ as the Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it, or ‘men who have sex with men’ as the NIV (2011) puts it.

It is an extremely serious matter, which is why we consider the embrace of this behaviour, or the attempt to pronounce God’s blessing on behaviour that is spoken about in these terms in 1 Corinthians 6, as a line in the sand that we must not cross. We cannot bless what God refuses to bless but instead warns us to avoid at all costs.

The other Bible passage that is mishandled is Matthew 19, where in answer to the Pharisees’ question about divorce, Jesus appeals to God’s creational intention: ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”.’ The reason why Jesus answers the Pharisees on divorce the way he does, is because this creational purpose of God, bringing a man and a woman together as one flesh, as a new family unit, still stands. But the Opinion dismisses this as ‘an inference not a command’.

There is more that could be said at this point, including the way an illustrative legal maxim is misquoted in order to make it say the very opposite of what it means in the general construction of legal statutes. The principle that ‘the expression of one is the exclusion of the other’ points to the significance of Jesus speaking first of male and female (echoing Genesis 1:27) and then of ‘a man and his wife’ (quoting Genesis 2:24) and not of any other kind of ‘marriage’. However, once again attempts are made to avoid the straightforward reading of the biblical text in the service of a predetermined conclusion.

But not only is the Bible irresponsibly handled, a series of theological assertions are made which are simply insupportable. First, the constituent elements of marriage as understood in Scripture and in the Anglican formularies are listed as ‘maturity, an intention of permanency, and consent’, neatly ignoring the biblical and BCP language of ‘man and woman’ and ‘forsaking all others’. Second, when the Book of Common Prayer is cited, and its three purposes of marriage quoted — the procreation of children, living a chaste and holy life, and mutual companionship — it is asserted that same sex marriages are capable of meeting all these three desiderata and the scriptural teaching on which they are based. The procreation of children, though, is not the natural outcome of a same sex sexual union. It requires of necessity—in every case—intervention from outside of the marriage, which is a massive difference to the conception of a child through the sexual union of a man and a woman in marriage. Third, an almost absurdly narrow definition of ‘doctrine’, itself a minority opinion of a previous iteration of the Tribunal, allows this Opinion to insist that the statements of Scripture and the Prayer Book about marriage do not fit the definition and so the proposed service and all that is involved in it, does not constitute a breach of doctrine.

There is a great deal of intricate legal argument in the majority opinion which is neatly and persuasively unravelled in the minority opinion of Ms Gillian Davidson. In many ways, given the gravity of the situation and the potential consequences of the their decision, the majority opinion really reads like shoddy work at points. It is very obviously a preconceived conclusion in search of an argument, which it attempts, unsuccessfully, to manufacture. It reveals a fundamentally different doctrine of Scripture and of Christian discipleship.

For these reasons we need to voice the strongest possible rejection of this majority opinion of the Appellate Tribunal. Already, as we have seen, some of the Australian bishops are preparing to act upon it. We need to make clear that we have not moved from where we have always stood. We stand on the authority of Scripture and the teaching of Christ, given to us during his earthly ministry, and through the subsequent ministry of his commissioned spokesmen, the apostles. We are not moving away from the rest of the Anglican church. We haven’t moved at all. Instead, this opinion and the actions proposed to be taken on the basis of it, constitute a walking away from us and the majority of Anglicans worldwide who have risked everything to take their stand on the teaching of Scripture on this issue.

Brothers and sisters, many of our brothers and sisters, Anglicans in other parts of the world, are looking to see how we will respond to what has been done and is about to be done as a result of this Appellate Tribunal opinion. David Short, who, with the congregation of St John’s Shaughnessy, lost their church campus and the house he and his family lived in, who had his license to minister withdrawn — we made him an honorary canon of St Andrews Cathedral in the wake of it all — David is watching. And we want to be able to look David in the eye and say ‘we are with you, we stand with you’. Jay Behan, David Clancey and hundreds of others in Christchurch New Zealand, were compelled to leave their church buildings behind and eventually to form a new diocese because they could not turn a blind eye to their General Synod’s decision to bless same sex unions. Jay, David, Costa and all the rest — they are watching too. And we need to be able to look them in the eyes and say: ‘the test came, and we stood firm with you’.

So I am asking you to pass this motion. It needs to be strong and it needs to be clear.

But one last thing: it is important, as a friend reminded me last night, that we distinguish between those in responsible positions of authority who teach and promote these things, and those who are broken and hurting and need to hear of the possibility of forgiveness, restoration and new life. To those who teach these things and overturn the teaching of Scripture in doing so, we need to speak in the strongest possible terms, as this motion does, as Jesus did to the religious leaders of his day. But without ever backing away from that, we need to keep reaching out in love, compassion and grace to those trapped by the devil’s lies and who live in the midst of a broken world. To people like that Jesus came — to call them to faith and repentance, but also to healing and new life. So remember to whom this motion is addressed: those who published this Opinion and synods of the Anglican Church who will respond to it. For that reason it needs to be strong and clear.

Once again, I commend this motion to you.

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