Leading in truth

I am regularly humbled by the number of people who say they are praying for me as Archbishop.

I am also often asked what an Archbishop’s job entails.

An intriguing question, whether out of genuine interest or the general scepticism that sometimes accompanies questions about the work of parish clergy beyond Sunday services.

Like any clergyman, one is tempted to justify the work spent in one’s study in prayer and the preparation of sermons. Yet no minister of the word of God should be defensive about the time spent in praying or studying the Bible so the saints can be well taught in the things of God.

This is true for bishops as well as parish clergy, for we are called to be both teachers of God’s word and pastors of God’s people. This dual function requires time and diligence. In fact the challenge for rectors, in particular, is managing the twin temptations of overwork or underwork.

The dangers of workaholism or laziness are constant as rectors, not being employees, have no immediate supervisor.

Managing the weekly delivery of sermons and Bible studies can be relentless amid the ever-present pastoral situations that arise requiring not only wisdom, but courage and grace for the faithful discharge of the God-given responsibilities to be a shepherd of God’s people. Moreover, the minister with wife and children who neglects his own family neglects these other God-given responsibilities and denies the very faith that he seeks to proclaim (1 Timothy 3:4; 5:8). That is one good reason for us all to pray for those who minister God’s word to us.

A bishop is first and foremost a teacher of God’s word – this is as true of the Archbishop as it is of any parish minister. True leadership is exercised by persuading, encouraging and exhorting people to bring their lives under the lordship of Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God changes lives, and it is a great honour for leaders to be messengers of God’s grace as we proclaim the word of God.

As our Mission 2020 vision expresses it: to see Christ honoured as Lord and Saviour in every community. As Archbishop my chief role, therefore, is to lead the Diocese by word and example in making Christ known through the proclamation of the word of God.

Thus much of my time is spent in preaching sermons and leading Bible studies as I move around the Diocese and visit parishes most Sundays. A highlight of my week is to meet with the regional bishops for Bible study and prayer, followed by discussion and decision-making about mission and ministry. Although I do not pastor a particular congregation, certain pastoral difficulties have a way of working themselves up to the Archbishop.

My predecessor, Peter Jensen, used to say that by the time such problems had arrived at his office they were well-nigh insoluble! I have found his observation to be true, even though such problems still have a tendency to consume significant amounts of time.

The other important and unique role of the Archbishop is in ordaining and licensing men and women for ministry. I share this task with the regional bishops. With more than 30 ordinands each year, the number of deacons continues to grow and I seek to meet with each of them during the process of their candidature and progress through Moore College, so that I can get to know them as they embark on ordained ministry.

Although I am blessed to share the task of pastoral care of clergy with the regional bishops and the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry the limitations of time and opportunity are very real. Yet I do believe every member of the clergy should be able to have access to the Archbishop as part of their diocesan oversight, even though the first port of call is the regional bishop.

However, some pastoral issues uniquely require the presence of the Archbishop. I am thinking in particular of the role I play in meeting with victims of abuse by church workers and offering them an apology on behalf of the Church. I have seen the therapeutic value of this ministry, which can be quite arduous for these survivors as they relate their stories, and yet a receptive ear and an apology from the chief representative of the Anglican Church in Sydney is often received with a sense of relief and closure, notwithstanding the horrors that they have experienced at the hands of unscrupulous church workers.

The Archbishop is also president of a number of Anglican schools and diocesan organisations and here opens up another vista of my role in the great mission of the Diocese – although I am still only halfway through my quick tour of an Archbishop’s life!

I will continue this theme next month, hoping that in the meantime I have outlined enough for those who pray for me regularly to do so with more insight as we work together for the honour of Christ’s name.

This article first appeared in the August edition of the diocesan magazine, Southern Cross. There is a follow up article in the September edition.