Transcript of the Bishop of Truro’s Intervention at the Synod on the Family

Intervention from the Right Reverend Timothy Thornton, Anglican Delegate to the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 16 October 2015

Most Holy Father, brothers and sisters in Christ

I bring greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury who is praying for you and for us. I ask that you remember him and the meeting he has called of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in January 2016. I will take back to him a small gift from this Synod of Bishops and that is the suggestion that every participant only speaks once and for no more than three minutes. I think he will appreciate this gift.

Archbishop Justin wanted me to tell you that the Anglican Communion sees the family as foundational to and in our society and hasn’t changed its understanding of traditional marriage. Within the Anglican Communion we share the same issues as you do and many of the conversations and interventions I have heard here are identical or similar to conversations with my fellow bishops within the Communion. I use the word issues not problems not only because of English understatement and irony but also because, as has been said by many of the Synod Fathers, the first part of the Instrumentum Laboris is too focussed on the negative aspects of family life. There is much joy in families and family life and much to celebrate. On a personal level my daughter announced her engagement whilst I have been here , not as a result of the Synod you understand but forgive me if I haven’t been giving every intervention my complete attention my mind has been on how on earth can we afford it!

That’s an example of what I want to say, a point which hasn’t been fully considered in all the words we have heard. A key part of families is that they change. Whenever you’re privileged to be a part of a family in its journey as a pastor you’re seeing a snapshot, a moment in time which has both a history and a future. We see a glimpse and don’t always fully understand, nor should we be given the privilege of being with the family throughout its journey.

All families change. When a couple announce their engagement they’re already looking to the future with hope, joy and some concern. When a couple marry they‘re full of plans about the future. When a baby is born the parents enjoy the moment but immediately they look to the future and wonder. We don’t want the baby to stay a baby that would be very odd. We hope and pray it will grow, develop and mature.

Change is a key part of the Christian faith. It’s at the heart of who we are and what we believe. Just look around this Hall and see all the change that’s taking place all the time. Every day we’re called to be converted to Christ, turn away from sin and turn to God. Every day we open ourselves to the possibility of transformation. That’s why all Christians are full of joy and hope every day. I was thrilled when I read Evangelli Gaudium, the joy of the gospel. That is what we all need to put before people. I’m sorry to say the biggest problem that faces my denomination is that we, as Christians, appear irrelevant to many people. We appear dull, boring and lacking in any sense of joy or hope.

Holy Father, brothers and sisters in Christ, I am not a prophet but I tell you this Synod will end. It will end and when it does we will all be older than when we arrived. We will all have changed. How will we have changed and how open will we be to the daily conversion that is crucial if we are to be alongside families as they change, grow and mature? St Paul calls us in Ephesians (ch.4) to be mature Christian disciples. I would add the world joyful. If we are joyful, mature Christian disciples we will not be afraid or over anxious about the changes which are happening to each one of us as well as to families all around the world.

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