Presidential Address to the 1st Session of the 39th Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta
Welcome to Country
I acknowledge the Bangerang/Pangerang people, the traditional owners of the land on which we meet for this 1st session of the 39th Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community.
I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging and the Elders from other communities who may be here today. I acknowledge Auntie Betty who will welcome us to country at the Synod Eucharist and bless us with smoke according to the ancient way.
l bid you all a very warm welcome to the 1st Session of the 39th Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta. I offer a special welcome to our Metropolitan, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia Archbishop Philip Freier and Joy and acknowledge the other guests of the Synod who are with us tonight or who will join us tomorrow:
• Francis Lynch, Maria Connor and Tanya Grant from Anglicare;
• Diocesan Investment Adviser David Ritchie;
• ASC Principals - Adrian Farrer, Steve Gale and newly appointed Principal of Trinity Anglican College Justin Beckett who joins us for the first time;
• From our Aged Care Facilities - Glenn Phelps from St John’s Village and John Sharwood and Donna Walsh from Kellock Lodge;
• Suzie don Leonard from the Social Justice Committee;
• Brad Bohun from our auditors Crowe Horwath; and
• Lesley Lewis, a member of this Synod but who will present on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
This is the ninth time I have addressed the Synod, the first time without Advocate David Parsons at my side. It is a bittersweet day for me, and I suspect for many of you. It is a great joy to welcome the new Advocate Ms Rachel Ellyard of Counsel. Rachel has already been a great contributor to the life of the Diocese and I am grateful that she has accepted my invitation to continue to serve in this new capacity. At the same time I am deeply saddened that our good friend and loyal servant David Parsons has been called by God our Father into his closer presence. David has given a lifetime of service to his church and to the wider community. He was held in the highest respect in his profession, by the Provincial Legal Committee and in the General Synod of our Church. This Diocese and its recent bishops have been graced by his presence and we will miss him. Our prayers continue for Jenny, Nathaniel and Amy.
I also want to pay tribute to Canon Emeritus Lyall Turley. Loved and respected throughout the Australian Church and remembered with great affection in Papua New Guinea, Lyall gifted the final chapter of his ministry to this Diocese. He not only developed and implemented a rigorous vocational discernment and selection process for us but assisted me and a significant number of the clergy in many and various ways. His forthright love of the Lord, his deep spiritual insight and his total unwillingness to take himself too seriously made him a wonderful friend, spiritual director and resource. He too is greatly missed. Our prayers continue for Lauris, Ben and Steve.
This will be our 2nd Synod here at St John’s Village and we are grateful for the generous hospitality offered to us. Whilst it remains our first priority to be respectful of the residents for who this facility is their home, if you have not already done so the next couple of days may offer you an opportunity to have a look around this excellent facility.
Again our catering will be largely provided by the caterers here at St Johns, Paul and his team always work hard to provide culinary quality and variety.
We are blessed this year not to have any legislation to consider. We had intended to revisit professional standards in the light of the formation of a Provincial Corporation to deal with such matters at arms length and also episcopal standards. In the light of the decision of the Appellate Tribunal in the matter relating to Keith Slater former Bishop of Grafton and the Anglican wash-up hearing at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse we have resolved to wait and see what if anything the meeting of the General Synod of our Church resolves in September before we take any further steps.
The absence of a legislative program will give us more time to consider the ministry and strategic life of the Diocese. There has been considerable progress on many fronts since we met last year, and whilst the way ahead for us is not yet absolutely clear, I am pleased to say that the position is much less challenging than it appeared. Let us take a little time to review where we have been.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
Life in the Diocese of Wangaratta is rarely dull and every year of my episcopacy has offered a wide range of challenges and new possibilities.
Our Internal organisations have worked hard to stay relevant within an ever changing landscape. Mothers Union (MU) faces new complexities. Mary Muntz the Diocesan President has retired after many years of faithful service. To this point no successor has emerged to take up that role. We must therefore ask whether in the light of this, the MU has a future in the Diocese.
Cursillo continues to struggle and we watch as similar groups disband over the country. In Wangaratta a small but tight knit group has maintained the machinery of Cursillo and has attempted to offer Cursillo weekends but as with all these things there is a balance to maintain and we have to consider where best we place our efforts.
Anglican based organisations that are led from outside our Diocese continue to build on existing relationships. I am pleased to be able to report that Anglicare Hume has found fresh inspiration with direction coming from St Luke’s in Bendigo. I am delighted with the local relationships that are growing with Maria Connor, Tanya Grant and the local team under the regional leadership of Francis Lynch. Today we celebrated the signing of a new MOU between the Diocese and Anglicare Victoria. We are in the process of re-establishing the Diocesan Advisory Committee and I am delighted that our schools through two students will be represented on this new body.
The Anglican Board of Mission has always been a valued part of the life of this Diocese and remains an important vehicle through which our Parishes can offer the blessings of God’s love, grace and providence outside our immediate context.
It is pleasing to see that both Anglicare and ABM now include regular updates within our own publication the Advocate so that we can gain a greater understanding of their work.
Over the last couple of years, the Diocese has moved forward on a journey to establish an action based Strategic Plan and that initial plan was presented at last year’s Synod. It encapsulated a range of thoughts, ideas and directions that had been drawn from around the Diocese.
We were mindful that the most important part of the implementation of a solid Strategic Plan was in putting it into action. The Strategic Planning Operational Team (SPOT) was originally formed to assist in finalising the Strategic Plan and then with the assistance of some additional members has moved forward into a new role to coordinate the implementation of the processes. This group has reviewed the planning information and we now have 6 committees that are focused on operationalising the actions from the strategic plan.
Those groups are -
1. SOCIAL JUSTICE
2. PARISH ANALYTICAL DEVELOPMENT
3. TRAINING - (Initial & Ongoing)
4. THE ADMINISTRATION REVIEW TASK FORCE
5. SAFE CHURCH
6. DIOCESAN PLANNING
These teams are all active and moving forward at various stages of development, some of them with very few people but we are already seeing some wonderful initiatives coming forward. Our biggest threat as church is in doing nothing and that is certainly not the case in this Diocese.
To assist this process further we have appointed Clarence Bester as the Archdeacon for Ministry Development bringing his broad experience to this area. His knowledge and understanding will assist in lifting the work already being done out of the strategic plan to a higher level, engaging with Parishes and individuals to work towards growth and sustainability across the Diocese.
Tomorrow Fiona Tinney and others from the various committees will share with you a little about their progress and initiatives for the future. I encourage you to walk with them, to join them in the process. I do want to make some particular observations about child safety.
I do wish to make some observations about strategic object 5, Child Safety. Nikki Collins will offer a more detailed report tomorrow.
You will all be aware of the proceedings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and know that a series of hearings have occurred specifically looking into past and current practices of the Anglican Church. You will also be aware that these hearings have revealed the sad truth that the Anglican Church of Australia has not always met its duty to keep people safe and respond to issues appropriately.
Governments in Australia have responded to the Royal Commission proceedings with a series of legislated requirements that are intended to enforce more rigorous frameworks and practices on institutions that regularly involve or have responsibility for children. The Anglican Church has already implemented many systems over a number of years to address the issue of abuse but these new legislated requirements provide clear direction to enable us to refine our systems further.
I want to be very clear that this diocese does not condone any form of abuse. As leaders of the diocese, each and every one of us has an obligation to ensure this diocese, our churches, are places of safety and respect. Every one of us has a role to play in making sure good practices are maintained and all the standards and laws that apply are upheld.
On 1st January this year church organisations in Victoria became subject to Victorian Mandatory Child Safe Standards. All churches must now comply with the elements of the standards or be actively working towards achieving compliance. In this diocese we have chosen to incorporate the Child Safe Standards into a broader Safe Church framework. This is a systemic approach which looks at governance and leadership, policies, public commitment, codes of conduct, recruitment, supervision and training practices, communication, clear processes for reporting and responding, risk management and empowerment of children in a coordinated and comprehensive way. A recent audit conducted against the child safe requirements showed that this diocese has most elements in place already or well underway.
We are registered with the National Council of Churches in Australia Safe Church Training Agreement program that supports rollout of accredited training. We are providing professional development opportunities through attendance at relevant conferences, workshops and briefings. We are utilising the resources made available by the NCCA and VCC to assist with achieving best practice. We have staff responsible for monitoring any further developments in standards or legislative requirements such as recent changes to Working with Children Check rules and introduction of the Reportable Conduct Scheme that will apply to churches from 1 January 2018, and advising on how these can be incorporated effectively into our systems. We are systematically reviewing our current systems against the Child Safe Standards and have a number of committees dedicated to this process. And we maintain an ongoing strong relationship with the Office of Professional Standards to ensure all requirements and processes relating to reporting are met.
Be very clear that this Bishop, and this diocese, will not condone, ignore or accept abuse. And be very clear that making our diocese safe is not just a response to legislation but is a moral and ethical imperative that applies to every person in the diocese.
Our three schools continue to be among the jewels in the crown of the Diocese. Each is excellently led, and all are growing from strength to strength. The strategic value of the investment by the Anglican Schools Commission is clear as the West Australian economy cools. Our schools are among the best performing of all the system schools. This is truly good news.
Last year I spoke of our fledgling relationship with the small Anglican School in Samoa. I am glad to report that Peter Laurence, Adrian Farrer and I will travel to Apia later in the year to see whether we can grow this partnership in mission.
The Aged Care Facilities
Last year I advised that I had given over the chairmanship of St John’s Village to Glenn Phelps. It did not last long. On the departure of Rob Hankins, Glenn took over as CEO and I resumed the chairing of the Board. We are working with our consultants Australian Strategic Services to secure quality aged care into the future in a sector which is undergoing massive structural change. Kellock Lodge continues to perform well. We will hear detailed reports from both organisations in the course of this Synod.
The United Nations Commission for the Status of Women.
It was a great coup for the Diocese to have our own Lesley Lewis selected to represent the Australia Anglican Church at the recent gathering of the United Nations Commission for the Status of Women, held in New York.
The Commission brings together women from around the world each year to advocate for the mitigation of gender inequalities. The theme in 2017 was ‘Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work’, recognising the significant contribution women make to economies whilst also being disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation. Delegates worked together to develop an agenda to promote gender equality, resolve inequalities and empower women.
The Anglican Church through its UN offices and the annual Anglican Communion delegation to the Commission intentionally provides a public voice and presence on this significant international social justice and human rights forum.
Lesley will provide a full report on her experience during this Synod.
International Anglican Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM)
In 1966, Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsay made an official visit to Pope Paul VI. His was the first official meeting between Canterbury and Rome since the Reformation. Out of this meeting the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) was established to work on the theological differences between our respective churches.
In 2000, then Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, called a conference of Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops at Mississauga in Canada to discern the progress made in theological conversations, and whether closer co-operation could be developed between the two traditions. The result was the International Anglican - Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which has been meeting since 2001.
It was the 50th anniversary of the landmark visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey to Paul VI which refocused the energy of our bilateral dialogue. 19 pairs of IARCCUM Bishops at Large from around the world, under the co-chairing of Bishop David Hamid (Anglican) and Archbishop Donald Bolen (RC) were invited to a Pilgrimage in Canterbury and Rome between 30 September and 7 October 2016. I was the Australian Anglican Bishop at Large, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra Goulburn my Catholic counterpart.
We prayed together in Canterbury Cathedral at Augustine’s Chair, at the Parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, at St Peter’s Basilica at the tomb of Peter, St Paul’s Outside the Walls at the tomb of St Paul, San Grigorio al Celio and Caravita, as well as in the chapel at our lodging. As relationships deepened, the pain of our inability to share in the Holy Communion reminded us both of the obstacles to our full unity as well as the urgent need to work together to overcome them.
We shared deeply from our own contexts. These included environmental degradation; mass migration; war and persecution resulting in refugees, displaced populations, and post-conflict trauma; societal decisions eroding the dignity of human life from beginning until natural end; human trafficking and modern slavery. This ‘ecumenism of the Cross’ unites us as we bear together the plight of our people who face the challenges of our troubled world. We reflected on an ‘ecumenism of humiliation’ lamenting our failures and sharing the brokenness of our church communities. We failed to protect vulnerable people: children from sexual abuse, women from violence, and indigenous peoples from exploitation.
As part of our reflections on the theological progress already made and the pastoral opportunities that lie ahead, we participated in a symposium at the Pontifical Gregorian University on current relations between the churches and the possibilities of future co-operation and dialogue.
Significant papers on receptive ecumenism were presented by Roman Catholic Professor Paul Murray from Durham University and Anglican Dr Paula Gooder, a theologian with the Bible Society. I will circulate them shortly and warmly recommend them for study at Deanery and parish levels. They represent the cutting edge of contemporary ecumenical thinking.
During the symposium Cardinal Koch the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity presented the final report of the second phase of ARCIC. This volume entitled Looking towards a Church Fully Reconciled details over 20 years of theological work aimed at reconciling the two traditions. The report was presented to Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin by ARCIC’s co-chairs at an audience the following day. It was launched formally in Australia at Trinity College Melbourne last Wednesday.
While we were in Rome, Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby signed a common declaration which affirmed and emphasized that difference in our respective Churches “cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ”, nor should they lead us to a lessening of our ecumenical endeavours. They encouraged us to continue to walk together as bishops on our pilgrimage.
…let the message go out from this holy place, as the Good News was sent out so many centuries ago, that Catholics and Anglicans will work together to give voice to our common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, to bring relief to the suffering, to bring peace where there is conflict, to bring dignity where it is denied and trampled upon.
The highlight of the Pilgrimage was the mandating of the bishops by Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at a service they jointly led at the church of San Gregorio al Celio. The service was rich in significance. Canterbury Cathedral Choir had come to Rome to sing with the Sistine Chapel Choir. The music - Gregorian chant and Anglican chant, Parry and Palestrina, Tallis and Tye, plainsong and Stanford - told a story of interweaving cultural relationships. Three Anglican ordinands, on placement at Roman Catholic seminaries in Rome, served for the Pope. We IARCCUM Bishops were commissioned in pairs, an Anglican and Catholic representing countries and regions where the two communions exist in significant number, and were sent out “as our Lord sent out his disciples in pairs” to preach the gospel “in word and deed” and to serve “those who are most vulnerable and marginalized.”
When Michael Ramsay visited Paul VI in 1966 the Pope presented the Archbishop of Canterbury with his episcopal ring. The symbolism of Pope Paul VI’s gift of his ring continued. Pope Francis presented Archbishop Justin with a copy of the head of the crozier of Gregory the Great, in the place from which he, Gregory, sent Augustine to evangelise the Anglo Saxons. Justin took off his Coventry Cross of Nails that powerful sign of resurrection and reconciliation and gave it to His Holiness, who kissed it and put it on. The warmth of their personal relations is powerful testimony to the value of the work both of ARCIC, IARCCUM and in our context AUSTARC.
During the Vespers at Caravita presided over by Cardinal Parolin with Archbishop Welby as preacher, each IARCCUM bishop was presented with a Lampedusa cross. Each cross is made by an Italian carpenter Francesco Tuccio from the wreckage of boats carrying refugees across the Mediterranean. These visible signs of the humanitarian crisis were received as reminders of our common mission as Anglicans and Roman Catholics to respond to suffering with the death defying compassion of Christ. More of this in a moment.
At the end of the Pilgrimage, the Bishops issued a common Declaration. The final paragraph encapsulates the hope of our time together and provides the missional framework for the journey ahead.
On the last morning of our pilgrimage, we gathered at the Basilica of St Paul Outside-the-Walls where Archbishop Michael Ramsey and Pope Paul VI signed a common declaration in 1966, launching a new stage in Anglican-Roman Catholic relations. Mindful that Jesus sent his disciples forth in pairs, we as pairs of bishops walked together through the Holy Door marking the Jubilee Year of Mercy. We go forth now motivated by our commission to continue our pilgrimage to unity and mission, developing plans of action, spreading the vision we have shared among our episcopal counterparts, our clergy, and our lay faithful. We go forward together summoned to extend the mercy and peace of God to a world in need.
I have reported at length on this important ecumenical endeavour because I believe that it is a strategic matter for our Diocese. Increasingly small communities are struggling to maintain ministry. It is long overdue that we should seek cooperation with other Christians irrespective of denomination to ensure that the mission of God is carried forward in the face of the challenges of rural demography. The work I have undertaken in the Roman Catholic and Uniting Church dialogues represents my commitment to the overarching priority of the missio dei which transcends the boundary of denominational specificity. I quote my early theological mentor Bishop Bruce Wilson, Christian first and foremost, Anglican second, Anglo-Catholic third.
Clergy Retirements & Change
We are seriously depleted at the level of senior clergy in the Diocese. In the last year Archdeacon Alan Jarrad has retired from Wangaratta West and the Warbys. We are blessed that in retirement he continues his ministry of chaplaincy at St John’s Village. Kim Benton has retired from Kilmore and returned to New Zealand. Michael Jones has retired from Yarrawonga but will continue to live in the Diocese and serve as Chair of the Finance Committee. Peter McKeague and Christine Page have retired from Northern Albury. We are blessed that their retirement home will be in Wodonga. Bethley Sullivan has retired from Beechworth. I thank each of them for the significant ministry they have offered to the Diocese and wish them well in retirement. I am grateful that Kim Benton apart, they will continue to bless us by refreshing the team of retired clergy we can call upon.
Clarence Bester has moved to Wang West, and I am delighted to report that he has taken to his role as Archdeacon for Ministry Development as a duck takes to water.
Andre du Ploy has joined us from South Africa and already has settled into the life of the Diocese.
I have been pleased to appoint Glyn Rees to the Parish of Shepparton.
Discernment continues to fill the vacant parishes, and this presents a significant strategic challenge.
Thanks to Senior Staff, Bishop in Council & the Diocesan Team
As I said last year we continue to be well served as a Diocese by our Registrar Tim and his staff. Julie Torpey and Fiona Van Bree work tirelessly to keep the motor of the Diocesan administration in good shape. They give of themselves above and beyond the call of duty and I thank them for all that they do. Fiona Tinney oversees our coms a day a week and is invaluable. Our Diocesan Treasurer Norm Kenny continues to give freely of his time and talents to manage our finances.
I want to say a special word about my executive assistant Nikki Collins. She has become indispensable to me and to the Diocese. She brings a rich mix of skills and experience, and her gentle but determined and focused personality has greatly expanded the Diocesan team, and made this old bishop sleep better at night.
I am well supported by my Senior Staff. I acknowledge the work of the members of Bishop-in-Council together with the members of the Finance and Property Committees. I recognise the work of the various Boards and Councils of the Diocese and its agencies. I am also deeply grateful for the wise advice of my Chancellor Justice Croft, and the Diocesan Advocate Rachel Ellyard. We might be small in size, but we deliver beyond our capacity!
I reported last year on the financial challenges facing the Diocese. After its visit the General Synod Financial Advisory Team reported during the year. Their advice was helpful, in that it confirmed the position as we understood it. We have limited levers we can pull to affect the finances of the Diocese. Minor changes have been made by Bishop in Council to the rate of Parish Contributions.
I have continued to pursue strategies to achieve financial security. I had hoped to be in a position to make a significant announcement to this Synod. Circumstances have made this impossible at this time, but I am realistically optimistic that we will achieve financial viability before we meet again in Synod. I can say no more at this time.
I spoke passionately last year about our treatment of those fleeing persecution and terror who arrive on our shores seeking asylum. I regret to say that nothing seems to have changed other than for the worse.
There is a quote from Voltaire's 'Candide', often used in the context of political punishment and persecution. "Dans ce pays-ci, il est bon de tuer de temps en temps un amiral pour encourager les autres" ('in this country, it’s good, from time to time, to kill an admiral, to encourage the others'
Is it really necessary to keep people in inhumane conditions condemned by almost all independent observers on Manus and Nauru, to watch their mental health deteriorate, to see acts of self-harm and suicide in order to convince ourselves that we are protecting our borders? Is it really necessary to de-humanise and persecute already traumatised people so that we can fool ourselves into thinking we can sleep safely at night? Are these the figurative admirals we kill to persuade others fleeing terror to stay away from our shores.
I call on politicians of all parties to stop immediately ramping up fear, hatred and prejudice and to work cooperatively to find just and humane solutions to what are admittedly complex problems. The ends never justify the means when the means demean our humanity and make us lesser rather than greater.
This Lampedusa Cross fashioned from the wreckage of refugee boats in the Mediterranean is a vivid symbol of the desperation of refugees and the cost of their flight to freedom and security. For too many, escape means death. For those who survive, it should not mean further persecution.
We meet at the end of the National Reconciliation Week. On 27 May 1967 over 90% of Australians voted in a Referendum to remove clauses from the Australian Constitution which discriminated against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. The Referendum also gave the Commonwealth Government the power to make laws on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 50 years later representatives of first Australians gathered at Uluru in a National Constitutional Convention, and issued a Statement from the Heart, seeking not only Constitutional recognition, but also a voice in the democratic structure of our Nation. They said, ‘In 1967 we were counted, in 2017 we seek to be heard.’
My hope and my prayer is that we may honour this call. It is time to be generous to the First Australians, and not just offer tokens, crumbs from the table. We will grow as a nation when we fully acknowledge those who tended this land from time immemorial and welcome them fully into the structures of our democratic process.
THE BISHOP OF BENDIGO
Our good friend and colleague, The Rt. Revd. Andrew Curnow AM has advised his Synod that he will lay up his staff on St Andrew’s Day this year. I want to pay tribute to the enormous contribution Bishop Andrew has made, in his Diocese, in the Province of Victoria and in the National Church. He has been one of our best strategic thinkers, forthright in his opinions and wise. On behalf of the Diocese of Wangaratta I thank him for all he has achieved in our Church and wish him and Jan every blessing in retirement.
We turn now to the business of the Synod. May we do so counting our blessings. It is always easier to thinks about what we lack, or what challenges us. Lamenting what we do not have blinds us to the multitude of blessings we share. And so with the Apostle Paul, may we:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18