Doers of good

I have often been struck by the summary of Jesus’ earthly ministry that the apostle Peter provides for Cornelius.

You know the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), the word which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.    

Acts 10:36-38    

We all recognise that Jesus was foremost a preacher, proclaiming the kingdom of heaven and gathering disciples whom he baptised, just as John had done (John 4:1-2). However, we do not so readily recognise that Jesus’ ministry was also that of ‘doing good’. Yet this is at the heart of our Saviour’s work. The greatest good, of course, was his act of sacrifice on what we appropriately call Good Friday. Yet Jesus’ good works were not limited to his redemptive act. His care for the poor, his compassion upon the afflicted, the diseased, the blind and the lame, and his concern for his mother’s welfare after his death are all elements of his ‘doing good’.

Of course, God is the author of all that is good. This was his declaration at the end of each day of creation: ‘He saw it and it was good’, culminating in the sixth day’s declaration: ‘Behold, it was very good.’ When we are doers of the good, we reflect God’s character and the example of Jesus, who said: ‘Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16).

At the end of last month, we held a special session of Synod called to consider a merger of two of our great diocesan organisations, Anglicare and Anglican Retirement Villages (ARV).

This was a very important decision in the life of our Diocese, as each organisation has its own history, each having been established to provide care and assistance to the most vulnerable in our society, which is often beyond the reach of local parishes or Christians generally. Yet when Anglicare seeks to bind the broken hearted, provide food for the impoverished, housing for aged care, accommodation for refugees, second hand clothing for the needy and much more,  they are doing the good — and doing the good in the name of Christ. Likewise, ARV’s provision for the elderly and frail of our community, especially those in necessitous circumstances, is an expression of Christ’s love, whether it be in retirement villages, residential aged care facilities, respite care, home care services or shelters for homeless men, they too are doing the good in the name of Christ.

We are blessed by having these two organisations whose mission statements include their proclaiming the gospel alongside their seeking to do good to all people, but especially the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).

Yet the world is rapidly changing and new government regulations are affecting the delivery of these community services. Moreover, there is unnecessary duplication between these two organisations, each with residential aged care services and home care services. For the last couple of years both organisations have been considering how they might work together in partnership with parishes and with the same Diocesan vision of wanting to see Christ honoured as Lord and Saviour in every community. A compelling case for the merger was presented to our Synod members and it was an historic moment in the life of our Diocese when they voted in favour of the merger. Not only will it strengthen the work of ‘doing good’ in our communities, but it will strengthen the presence of Christ’s love in word and deed to the most vulnerable in our society. 

This is an edited version of the 'Archbishop Writes' Column which first appeared in the Diocesan magazine, Southern Cross, in April.