Standing Committee speeches in appreciation of Archbishop Glenn Davies

Posted on March 28, 2021 
Filed under People, Sydney Diocese

The meeting of the Standing Committee of Sydney Diocese on Monday 22 March 2021 was the last presided over by Archbishop Glenn Davies before his retirement.

Canon Sandy Grant and Dr Karin Sowada proposed the following motion.

“Standing Committee, noting that this is Archbishop Glenn Davies’ last meeting as President of the Standing Committee, records its gratitude to God for the Archbishop’s significant work and ministry over many years, including –

  1. his ministry in the parish of Willoughby between 1981 and 1982,
  2. his service, as Lecturer at Moore Theological College from 1983 to 1995,
  3. his ministry in the parish of Miranda between 1995 and 2001,
  4. from 2002, his ministry as Bishop of North Sydney until 2013, and
  5. from 2013 his ministry to us as Archbishop, including his presidency of the Synod and the Standing Committee, his leadership of the Sydney Diocese at General Synod, his ministry and leadership as Metropolitan of NSW, and to the global Anglican church through GAFCON and the Global South Anglican Fellowship (GSA).

The Standing Committee gives thanks in particular for his faithful service, including his willingness to postpone retirement in a time of exceptional need, his commitment to good and godly order in the business of the Diocese, his pastoral heart, sense of humour, and ability to foster and maintain relationships.

The Standing Committee sends its best wishes to Glenn and Dianne, and prays for God’s continued blessing on them and the new ministries they will exercise in future.”

With thanks to Sandy and Karin, here are the notes from their speeches to move and second the motion –

Canon Sandy Grant:

I first met Glenn Davies as a 21 year old Moore College student, who had the blessing of being assigned to his chaplaincy group in first year. Aided by a lovely mix of more senior students, it was in no small measure due to Glenn’s energetic, friendly and caring ministry that this chaplaincy group was the best of my four great years at Moore College. I recall a personal, pastoral visit he paid to my room in single quarters, well after hours. I have no idea of the substance, but I knew he cared.

It is about 30 years later, and it is a mark of Glenn’s profound Christian character that someone like me has been asked to move this motion of appreciation, since I have sometimes been a critic of a decision Glenn made, or some policy move he pushed. (Other times it is just pedantry of a lesser standard, or should I say, more precisely, a grasp of intricate detail that is less gifted and less incisive that may have irritated!) But Glenn has always engaged with feedback and criticism, even when it must have been a pain to do so amongst the enormous weight of meetings and correspondence that lands on an Archbishop’s desk. More than that, he has never made anything personal and has always given generous encouragement to keep contributing. Thank you.

I also mention my deep appreciation for Glenn and Dianne’s prayers for the children of clergy and lay ministers, while they have been sitting the HSC exams, from which my own three daughters and many others benefitted.

Now I have spoken to a number of clergy on the Standing Committee, and in what follows, I am often paraphrasing them or quoting them directly, as I express our thanks to God in appreciation for Glenn’s ministry especially as Bishop and Archbishop.

One rector from the Northern Region said, “I’m grateful that Glenn seized opportunities to proclaim Christ and so supported a local church in their ministry…including a time while as Bishop of North Sydney, he agreed to baptise some young adults in the harbour just near Neutral Bay wharf.” (By the way, as an editorial comment from a fellow stickler for process, it must have given that rector great comfort to know that the bishop judged that the circumstances of that particular outdoors baptism met all the canons, ordinances, regulations and protocols that we operate under!) Anyway, I’m told that as Glenn waded out in his episcopal ‘boardies’, a group of 30 partygoers on an overlooking balcony fell silent, and Glenn used the baptism liturgy as a framework to unashamedly preach the gospel to all within earshot.”

Moving on to the context where many of us have experienced Glenn most often in recent years, to the arenas of Synod and Standing Committee, fellow clergy mentioned these attitudes and attributes. And the first is to underline what I already said:

One last thing to note is that Glenn has worked so incredibly hard through the Coronavirus pandemic, going more than an extra mile, but rather a whole extra eight months in what I consider was the hardest year I can recall in my own 27 years of ordained ministry.

Just in the last month, he led a delegation of various faiths to meet the Education Minister, led the meeting, and secured significant gains for SRE in our public schools. So  right to the end of his tenure, Glenn’s passion to advocate for the gospel is undiminished.

In the two ordinances I have carriage of tonight, even in the last week, Glenn has worked behind the scenes for a breakthrough on one where things seemed intractable even on Friday, and to grasp and support the re-working of tricky detail of the other.

And lastly and preciously to me and so many, Glenn has been fighting tenaciously for the fair treatment of our churches during COVID and most recently for a lifting of what now seems like unreasonable restrictions on singing inside of churches.

I am very tempted to end by asking Glenn what his favourite hymn is and suggesting we sing it acapella together, since I believe we are in a secondary educational institution here, and there are no restrictions on singing in schools.

But suffice it to say, we give thanks for you, Glenn, dear brother in Christ, along with all that Dianne has meant for you and done for us, in supporting you in your ministry.

And because this is not the end, and only the closing of a chapter, we look forward on the basis of Christ’s triumphant resurrection from the dead and paraphrase Paul to say:

Therefore, our dear brother, continue to stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.  (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Sandy Grant
St Michael’s Cathedral


Dr Karin Sowada:

I second the motion and in doing so extend my personal thanks and appreciation for your leadership over the last 8 years. We first met when you joined Standing Committee as Rector of Miranda in 1996 – 25 years ago – when Harry Goodhew was Archbishop. Even then you were keen on lay administration and the finer points of English grammar. 

Relative to some of your predecessors, 8 years as Archbishop and chair of Standing Committee is a short period but we have seen so much social change during that time, change that has required steady, consultative, yet decisive leadership.

To a degree we saw this coming in 2013, but who would have thought same-sex marriage and transgender issues would so challenge religious freedoms to the point where policies were needed for our schools & organisations to protect them from legal action and the ability to live out the Scriptures? Your leadership inside the Diocese and in the public square has enabled the church to meet these challenges through godly wisdom and judgment, and by bringing the best minds to bear on matters of policy, doctrine and through extensive consultation, evidence of which is on our business papers tonight.

Glenn in so many ways you have shown us this measure in good and difficult times. On speaking with some of the laity on Standing Committee, the same themes emerge. Repeatedly, your chairing of meetings and your participation in other entities – Standing Committee, Synod, General Synod Standing Committee – is characterised by many qualities. ‘Steadiness in controversy’, ‘a humble listener and non-interventionist, willing to hear all the voices even if it takes a long time and you have a strong view on the matter’, are words that resonate with many in this room.

Impartiality in the oversight of meetings has been a hallmark of your leadership. One member observed that despite what is said, you never hold a grudge (you can ask me later who said that). But seriously, behind that comment is trust on the part of those in the room because it speaks to your capacity to bring fairness and balance to all the issues before you, and ultimately act within the rubrics of good order, what’s best for the Diocese, and what’s best for the gospel.

Others reflected on your sense of humour and your desire to get the words right. One member even described your humour as cheeky and disarming. Well it definitely diffuses moments of confusion. We have all witnessed you juggling many amendments to the same matter, having to assist said movers with finding the correct words or standing orders, and bringing order into chaos in how to frame decisions for the meeting. In such times I am sure even the Committee Chairs were glad it was you doing it and not them. If that wasn’t enough, you then corrected all the loose grammar, including where to place ‘dangling modifiers’ in the text … someone else’s words not mine!

Others named your sense of humour as helping the business flow, with your disarming laugh and quick wit, especially in moments when humour as encouragement helped dissolve nervousness on the part of a first-time speaker or staff member about to take the microphone.

One final reflection made by a member of the laity was this. You set an expectation in word and deed of courtesy as a value. In this, you treat others with courtesy, and by extension expected that behaviour of others. Indeed I think we have all learned from this model at Standing Committee, an example which has resulted in very few occasions when adverse remarks made during a speech have had to be withdrawn by the speaker. Such an approach produces effective working relationships even in the face of disagreement. This is one of the reasons why you are so widely respected in the halls of political power, the national church and global Anglican church – despite the rifts in theology and ideology.

In closing, I appreciated the way you always finished our meetings with the words of The Grace, delivered with gusto and a smile, despite having endured a tiring night. Tragically, I can hardly hear The Grace now without thinking of these meetings. But in this moment as we say farewell to you and Di, the following words from Numbers 6 seem right –

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”