Strengthening the ties that bind

Over three days from the evening of Australia Day over 380 people from the seven Dioceses of NSW (and ACT) gathered at Canberra Girls’ Grammar School to consult, confer and consider our heritage and our challenges as Anglicans in bringing the good news of the gospel not only to Australians but into all the world.

An initiative of the Bishops of the Province, it was recognised that such a convention had not taken place for some time and that the triennial gatherings at General Synod were not conducive to conversation and encouragement, with their full agendas of legislation and attendant  adversarial argument!

The Convention was to be different. Moreover, it was to be a mission convention with an outward focus of how best to engage the churches in the task of gospel proclamation. The Archbishop delivered a powerful address on what binds us together, what lies before us and how we need to work together in unity for the cause of Christ. With characteristic winsomeness and humility, the Archbishop spoke of his own shortcomings and the need to put aside stereotypes of each other for the sake of the gospel.

The Bible studies were led by the Reverend Mike Raiter, formerly Principal of Melbourne School of Theology and a very able Bible teacher. Mike set the scene with five talks around the theme of the gospel, expounding its character, breadth and power to save. Canon Phil Potter from the UK was the other keynote speaker addressing the ways in which churches need to adapt and re-create themselves for ministry and mission in the 21st century. His engaging talks were well presented and challenging, reinforced by his own experiences in a parish church which have seen significant change and significant growth.

Workshops on a number of relevant themes were conducted by leaders from around the Province, which provided opportunity for interaction and understanding of wide-ranging themes from apologetics to fresh expressions of church.

The success of the Convention was the interaction of people with people. The Archbishop challenged us all to meet new friends and not talk in familiar huddles.

From my observation this was taken to heart by the participants, with the result that there were calls for another convention within 12 months!

It remains to be seen when the next convention will be held, but the success of 2012 has begun a new way of relating for NSW/ACT Anglicans, which augurs well for the future of gospel proclamation.