Australian General Synod 2020 changed to “Special Session”

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In a move clearly designed to avoid an open conflict over the question of blessing same-sex relationships, the Standing Committee of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia have decided to postpone the 2020 General Synod and replace it with a “Special Session” that will deal solely with necessary legislation arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Special Session will be held at the previously scheduled time for General Synod, 31 May to 5 June 2020.

In addition to the Special Session there will be a “conference” where delegates can discuss the “range of issues this Church is facing in relation to human sexuality, same-sex relationships and marriage, and possible ways forward for this Church”.

The letter to bishops, administrators and registrars outlining these changes adds,

The Standing Committee will oversee the design of the conference. Conference papers will include ‘Marriage, Same-sex Marriage and the Anglican Church of Australia: Essays from the Doctrine Commission’. This publication of essays is provided in response to resolution GS48/17 at the Seventeenth Session of the General Synod which requested the Doctrine Commission to “facilitate a respectful conversation in our church by means of a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships that explores scriptural and theological issues….

The conference program is yet to be confirmed but it is anticipated that the duration of the conference shall be at least 2 days.

The decision to defer all other business is a clear attempt to avoid a crisis over the pressing issue of same-sex marriage. As we reported yesterday, the bishops’ meeting has referred a number of questions about the issue to the Appellate Tribunal, specifically whether any blessing of same-sex marriage would be consistent with the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia but it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to prevent open conflict.

One bishop has told the bishops’ meeting that he will bring an ordinance to his synod this year to allow blessings of same-sex marriage. That bishop is almost certainly John Parkes of Wangaratta. He is about to retire and will therefore not be as fearful of disciplinary action as others may be.

It may, therefore, very well be that this matter comes to a head long before the “Conference” gets to its discussions.

The full letter explaining these changes is below:

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