Newcastle (Aust.) bishops counsel: Inclusive Gospel

As an important counter move to the Diocese of Sydney’s recent threat of parting from the Australia Provincial Anglican Church if General Synod goes ahead with its intention to accommodate Same-Sex Blessings; the bishops of the Newcastle Diocese have written a ‘Pastoral Letter’ affirming their commitment to a more open and pastoral approach to the situation. Here is a quote from their recent Letter:

“Anglicans affirm that LGBTIQA+ people are deeply loved by God. We affirm that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. Sixty years ago we affirmed decriminalising homosexual activity and have been involved in reforms ever since.

“In our present age LGBTIQA+ people and their allies have spoken fully and openly of their continued sense of rejection by cultural, family, and religious communities as a direct contributor to their sense of poor well-being leading to self-harm, suicide risk, and suicide. We are listening to this. We can take practical action in our communities to minister with genuine welcome, care, and partnership in the Gospel. We can commit ourselves to ensuring that none of our ministry and mission is a cause of further alienation and harm. We must also acknowledge that there are attitudes, behaviours, and practices in churches which, have led and lead to long-lasting harm because of the way spiritual and pastoral power is used or perceived to be used.”

From the above extract from the Newcastle Bishops’ Letter, it will be seen that Sydney’s predictably fundamentalist attitude to most changes in the Church does not resonate with at least one other major diocese of the Province of Australia. Nor will Sydney – despite its inherited financial resources which have funded many protests against the decriminalisation of homosexuality (including the funding of a massive campaign against the Australian Government’s Bill to legalise Same-Sex Marriage in Australia which failed to prevent the legislation from being enacted) – necessarily prevent the other Australian dioceses from going ahead with the voting for the projected Same-Sex Blessings approval.

If other dioceses of the Australian Anglican Church take the trouble to issue their own compassionate Pastoral Letters like this one from the bishops of the Newcastle Diocese; then Sydney’s threat to leave the Anglican Church in Australia would clear a way for them to consolidate their relationship – already palpable – with Churches of the Global South (notably excepting the Province of South Africa) that have chosen to boycott the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops called to meet in London and Canterbury later this year by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It was a former Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, an alumnus of Moore College, Sydney, who helped to found the conservative organisation of GAFCON, which has now fostered the schism of several quasi-Anglican Churches around the world which operate in direct competition with their local Anglican Churches, and now having no direct link with the worldwide Anglican Communion – except through their sibling relationship with the GAFCON Provinces which, however, have ceased Eucharistic Fellowship with their Canterbury Founders – having constructed their own Constitution under the title ‘The Jerusalem Statement of Faith’, which they claim to be more orthodox that the Constitutions of the Anglican Communion and its loyal member Provinces.

Whether Sydney’s bluster – against the pastoral provision proposed in General Sydney for LGBTQ+ rights and Same-Sex Blessings in the Church – will prevail at the upcoming General Synod of the Australian Anglican Church, requiring all dioceses to accept and follow Sydney’s continuation with their outdated ethos of institutional homophobia and misogyny; is soon to be hotly contested. One can only pray that Holy Common Sense will prevail; with most Australian Anglicans continuing with the charism of a more pastoral ‘Inclusive Church’ theology.

(n.b: The leading bishops of Sydney and Tasmania came to New Zealand to try to persuade our bishops to vote against the Blessing of Same Sex Marriages in our Churches – a ploy which failed to bear fruit here. As a result, these same Australian bishops helped organise the schismatic severance of a small number of ex-Anglicans here who now operate under their own bishop outside of the jurisdiction of ACANZP. Perhaps the same schismatic breakaway could happen in Australia?)

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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2 Responses to Newcastle (Aust.) bishops counsel: Inclusive Gospel

  1. Kieran Crichton says:

    Thanks, Fr Ron. Coming as I do from the Diocese of Wangaratta, there’s a lot at stake at next week’s General Synod. The long gap between meetings means there will be a lot of pressure around this issue.

    One small clarification about ecclesiology. The Anglican Church of Australia is a national church with provinces organised along state lines. This is the structure we accepted when Archbishop Fisher wrote our constitution on his journey here in the 1950s (yes, it really was like Moses coming down the mountain!). Arguably that’s the origin of present problems, and a discussion for another day.

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