Synod: crunch time?

At this time last year our synod had to come to terms with the reality of significant financial losses arising from the Global Financial Crisis. Many were hurt and disappointed. Some were angry.

The rest of the world are still dealing with the fall out of the Global Financial crisis and, to a certain extent, so must we.

As one flicks through the pre-synod papers, there are a number of agenda items to do with Governance type issues. Also, the sale of Bishopscourt is on our agenda. It would be a little surprising if such items were on our agenda if we did not sustain the losses that we did.

Tightening up procedures is not necessarily a bad thing (though it can be if they inhibit what one is trying to achieve - perhaps this is why established organisations can struggle to climb out of a plateau). But, at the same time, I hope that we have moved beyond dealing with past disappointments and hurts.

We must look to the future, and in particular how to reach the millions who do not know Jesus. In this light, the opportunity for discussion about the new direction of Evangelism Ministries to facilitate 'New Churches' has the potential of great significance, as we consider the flexibility that will be required to reach more people for Jesus. Another such item relates to the newly formed Mission Areas (the Senior Ministers in my own Mission Area will be having lunch before synod one day, so keen were they to continue our stimulating discussions).

Someone posted a comment after my blog last week, asking what the fundamentals are that we should be focussing on. It is a great question, which I will respond to in this way. There is an important place for accountability, and synod is part of that process. However, any organisation that focuses on the past is destined for decline and, if it continues, extinction.

We must focus our energies on the future. In God's kindness, our Diocese still has been entrusted with incredible resources to use to reach the lost. I hope we have (or catch) the vision of the opportunities before us, and that this will embolden us to make the tough decisions that one sometimes must.

My question for this week and synod is this: Will we dwell in the past, or look to the future?

The Rev Raj Gupta is the senior minister of Toongabbie Anglican Church, member of Standing Committee, and Mission Area Leader of the Parramatta Mission Area. He is also a partner with the 'Exploring Effective Ministry under God' team, and currently undertaking a Doctor of Ministry at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDs).

Comments (10)

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  • Robert Denham
    October 11, 10 - 1:52am
    Hi Raj,
    As you mentioned the New Churches venture, I have to say that it is a sad day for me personally, for our diocese not in the formation of the new churches group, but to have dismantled the old Department of Evangelism to do it.
    For me it sends the message that the only good way to evangelise or the only effective way to evangelise is to plant a new church. I know that that is not what is intended. I pray that that is not the unintended outcome.
  • Sandy Grant
    October 11, 10 - 2:05am
    Raj, thanks for blogging. It's hard to argue of course. However, on the finances, I am not sure it's that simple. We have dealt with past losses. But there are present financial challenges. In particular, is our current expenditure sustainable even after the previous downsizing? If we fail to address this properly, then we are also failing the future.

    Rob, you make a good comment about what I am sure is an unintended message some might read in the new approach with New Churches.
  • Jeremy Halcrow
    October 11, 10 - 2:15am
    If you read the report on the New Churches ordinance, you will see some quite pointed comments about the differences between 'new churches' and 'settled churches'. (p235-6)
  • Allan Dowthwaite
    October 11, 10 - 2:53am
    Thanks for the link, Jeremy. I read the list under 'Why we need new churches' (p235) as, "the old thing isn't working so let's leave them to their own devices and start again".
  • Andrew Mackinnon
    October 11, 10 - 9:58am
    This is a pretty random thought so I'm just going to throw it out there:

    Would it be viable for churches in the Sydney Anglican Diocese to establish classes held on their church properties to teach ESL (English as a second language) to people in Australia who need these classes?

    The benefits would include the following:

    > These classes would be a source of funds for the churches since they would attract an appropriate fee.

    > These classes would constitute a form of outreach to the community which would very likely result in people deciding to attend church regularly.
  • Raj Gupta
    October 11, 10 - 11:47am
    Andrew - many churches do exactly this as a ministry, intending to reach new arrivals with the Gospel.
  • Raj Gupta
    October 11, 10 - 12:08pm
    BTW - a number of people are twittering using #sydsynod
  • Jean Marlow
    October 12, 10 - 10:30am
    Andrew, I work at one and worship at another Church where ESL is available-they do attract a lot of people which is a great service, but we pay to run the classes and we don't charge for them, so it's not a fund-raiser.
    From my experience, particularly where I work, a few people who attend our Arabic service also attend ESL, but most of the students are either already attending a service elsewhere in their first language, or are of different faiths.
    There are huge advantages in holding ESL classes-they do fill a huge need in the community, but it costs us to hold the class, and they are not a direct outreach.
  • Luke Stevens
    October 12, 10 - 12:19pm
    Those that don't learn from the past...
  • Luke Stevens
    October 12, 10 - 12:48pm
    I have to say I find this post rather odd:

    At this time last year our synod had to come to terms with the reality of significant financial losses arising from the Global Financial Crisis.

    Well, lets not sweep everything under the GFC rug. It was a catalyst which exposed severe flaws in a system.

    Tightening up procedures is not necessarily a bad thing

    No, I imagine it isn't, if it means ensuring the diocese doesn't face financial ruin. Why did you qualify such a statement?

    I hope that we have moved beyond dealing with past disappointments and hurts.

    Huh? It's not like someone was mean to someone else, & hurt their feelings. The diocese lost extraordinary amounts of money, which isn't a "hurt" or "disappointment", it's a "reality" that must be "dealt with."

    We must look to the future, and in particular how to reach the millions who do not know Jesus

    Is ensuring your long time financial health & reaching others somehow mutually exclusive? I would have thought one somewhat depended on the other.

    Why all the vague "We must move on..." motherhood statements? If you've got a problem with something in particular, why not just say it? Must we sweep such "unpleasentness" under the rug, and act like Officer Barbrady "Move along people, nothing to see here...".

    However, any organisation that focuses on the past is destined for decline and, if it continues, extinction.

    Or, not go bankrupt.