Archbishop Glenn Davies has delivered his first address as President of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, covering areas such as the next diocesan mission, regionalism, the Royal Commission into child abuse and ethical challenges faced by Christians in Australia.
The 2013 Synod of the Diocese of Sydney meets from Monday 14th until Wednesday 16th October at the Wesley Theatre in Sydney, and Archbishop Davies, in the role for just two months, gave his address on the first afternoon.
“My vision for the next five years is to see the name of Jesus exalted in the city of Greater Sydney and beyond, and to see his body, which is the church, gaining greater honour and respect among the communities in which we live” the Archbishop said, referencing the third chapter of the book of Ephesians.
In a rallying call to mission, Dr Davies said “Our Saviour left a final command to his apostles: to make disciples of all nations. This Great Commission, so aptly named, has not been superseded. It has not run its course, nor lost its energy or its urgency.”
The new Archbishop said the Synod would consider, in 2014, a new phase of the diocesan mission first adopted more than 10 years ago. “In the next stage of our life together as a Diocese, our mission needs to be refreshed and sharpened, as we learn from the last ten years” he said.
The Archbishop referred to the plans for a united mission under the banner ‘Jesus Brings’, which will be unveiled during the night session of the Synod.
Archbishop Davies acknowledged significant challenges with the changing cultural face of Sydney. “Our own churches are sadly no longer a reflection of Sydney with its current multi-ethnic mix and we are in danger of becoming Anglo outposts in a multicultural city. This is a challenge that is not to be relegated to the Department of Evangelism and New Churches, but is our responsibility as a whole Diocese—our parishes, organisations and schools who live within the multi-ethnic stream of Greater Sydney and the Illawarra” he said.
On the Royal Commission, the Archbishop said “The suffering of those who have been abused can never be overestimated. We must face any failures of the past with integrity, honour, repentance and compassion.” He spoke of the progress since the issue was raised in the 1990’s, including a complete review of diocesan files and a comprehensive ‘safe ministry’ regime.
Referring to the same-sex marriage debate, Dr Davies said “While we can mount strong arguments from the experience of human society, we also have a clear mandate from Scripture that recognises marriage as God’s design, not ours. It is his plan for the procreation of children, his ordinance for the mutual comfort that a man and a woman might have in their union of one flesh.”
“Even if the law regarding matrimony were to change in this country, we can still declare such a union as contrary to God’s law, or perhaps we should describe it simply as ‘unholy matrimony’” the Archbishop said. “We shall need great courage to stand against the tenor of our society as it slips further and further away from the tenets of scriptural authority and biblical morality, whether it be ‘same-sex marriage’, abortion or euthanasia.”
On Asylum seekers, he said “Questions of on shore or off shore processing are important issues, which may divide us as Christians; the number of refugees that Australia can support may identify areas of difference among us; but we should all be united in our affirmation of the dignity of human life, regardless of a person’s ethnic identity, religious affiliation or economic circumstances. That God’s image bearers should be allowed to deteriorate behind wire mesh enclosures without effective opportunity for work, or occasion to give expression to their God-given gifts of creativity and imagination for productive output is a tragedy which we should all deplore”. Despite this, Dr Davies told the Synod he had received criticism for speaking out. “Yet even to make this stand will invite criticism from within the community, as I myself have experienced in recent days, having being labelled both a communist and soft-hearted libertine!”
Dr Davies pointed out that the second Global Anglican Future Conference would start in Nairobi on October 21st. "We are again well represented by Sydney Anglicans and it is my desire that we might strengthen our contacts with like-minded Anglicans from around the world, whose commitment to the authority of Scripture is resolute and whose passion to see souls won for Christ is unwavering."
The Archbishop, who was on the statement drafting committee for the first conference in 2008, said "GAFCON 2013 will not be merely devoted to matters of human sexuality, but is built around the theme of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, with separate mini-conferences on gospel proclamation and culture, theological education, economic empowerment and the church, marriage and family, and engaging with Islam. I commend this conference to your prayers that God might bless the gathering and that tangible outcomes might be produced that will benefit God’s kingdom world wide with both the making and maturing of new disciples."