Most of the news in the secular press and various religious media from the Anglican General Synod has focussed on one motion and one issue. Indeed, General Synod did consider an important motion seeking to affirm the traditional understanding of marriage. The context for this was the Appellate Tribunal decision in relation to same sex blessing in the Diocese of Wangaratta. The Tribunal had indicated that if the General Synod wanted to make a statement on marriage it was should do so. The motion to affirm a statement on the doctrine of marriage was moved by Archbishop Kanishka Raffel in a thoughtful and sensitive speech and seconded by Natalie Rosner (Melbourne) who spoke to the pastoral challenges of upholding the Bibles teaching. While it was solidly supported in both the house of laity and the house of clergy, the house of bishops narrowly voted not to support it. It is worth noting that Sydney delegates accounted for roughly 50% of the lay and clergy support. There was therefore strong support from people from a wide range of dioceses across the country.

For those present there was significant upset at the outcome of this motion. While disappointing, it doesn’t change anything in any Diocese, nor does it change the previous statements of General Synod which have consistently upheld an orthodox doctrine of marriage. The reality is that since the Appellate Tribunal decision in 2020, Dioceses have been free to make their own decisions in relation to same sex blessings.

Another important motion did pass which clarified a definition of unchastity as sexual intimacy outside of marriage, with similar levels of support in each house, the only difference being that the house of bishops very narrowly supported it.

From an EFAC perspective there are two things to note. Firstly, the bishops of our church are now clearly out of step with the lay and clerical representatives at Synod. How this will play out is uncertain. The Diocese of Melbourne will be a focal point given the unexpected action of its bishop at General Synod!

Secondly the Synod reflected the fundamental shift that is taking place in the ACA. The majority of those elected or appointed for both the Standing Committee and the Primatial Election Board (except for the House of Bishops) are evangelicals from across Australia. During the Synod there were wonderful speeches from evangelicals from across Australia and many people from many places made great contributions. There was a high level of cooperation between evangelicals at Synod from across Australia.

EFAC Australia ran an evening session at General Synod with around 80 people present. Bishop Mark Short led an interactive panel of Kara Hartley (Sydney), Kate Beer (NT), Bishop Matt Brain (Bendigo) and Bishop Richard Condie (Tas). It was a great session and we spent time in prayer for the Synod.

General Synod reflects the life of our church in many respects. However, it doesn’t reflect the day to day reality of people serving our great God in and through the parishes, church plants and agencies of our church.

Stephen Hale is the former Lead Minister of the St Hilary’s Network and a Regional Bishop in the Diocese of Melbourne. Stephen is the Victorian Director of Overseas Council Australia and Chair of EFAC Global and EFAC Australia.