Newcastle Anglicans joined with Anglicans in Ballarat and Willochra in signalling strong support for LGBTIQA+ Australians. The Synods of each Diocese met over the weekend.
Newcastle Anglicans gave strong support for changes to church rules that would allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages and protect clergy in a same-sex marriage from church discipline.
Bishop Peter Stuart, the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, spoke at the conclusion of the Synod to remind the Synod that these decisions were still to be considered by the church’s highest tribunal, the Appellate Tribunal. He indicated that no change would be permitted in the diocese until the Appellate Tribunal made its ruling.
Bishop Stuart said, “The Synod debate was measured and highly respectful but also indicated significantly different views. Synod members spoke personally and profoundly about their life experience and decisions. They reflected on the bible, church law and the pastoral needs of parishioners.
“We are going to have to be diligent in finding good ways of working together with competing views.”
Bishop Stuart gave a formal address to the Synod on Saturday saying,
“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.
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.”
Archbishop Glenn Davies
Bishop Stuart briefly commented about recent remarks by Archbishop Glenn Davies, the Archbishop of Sydney. He noted that for many years, “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.”
Significant Statements on Social Justice
The Synod made some significant statements on social justice.
Uluru Statement from the Heart
The Synod acknowledged and celebrated the Uluru Statement from the Heart and called on the Commonwealth Government to introduce a Bill for a referendum to bring about constitutional change to enshrine a First Nations’ Voice in the Constitution.
Welcome and Care of Refugees
The Synod recognised the ever-present theme in Holy Scripture of welcoming and caring for the stranger and called upon the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia to develop more humane and life enhancing policies to meet the Refugee crisis.
Newcastle Anglican Schools
The Synod commended the governing body of the Newcastle Anglican Schools for recognising that every person is created in the image of God and for being welcoming of families from all backgrounds while helping students to build respectful relationships with one another. It celebrated that students will experience our schools as a safe place to explore their identity, vocation and purpose.
160 lay people and 63 clergy gathered with the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Peter Stuart, in Christ Church Cathedral Newcastle for the Anglican Synod.
Bishop Peter’s Presidential Address to the Synod can be downloaded here.