Statement on Synod by Matthew Anstey
General Synod 18 was a watershed moment in the life of the Anglican Church of Australia.
Several things are particularly significant regarding the debates on human sexuality:
• 40% of GS members voted in favour of affirming that same-sex marriage is “a moral good, a gift to the church”. This accords with the growing number of Anglicans holding this view.
• For the first time, Anglicans (conservative and progressive) could be openly gay or lesbian.
• The defeat of the Sydney Statement on marriage was an important ballast against the unrepresentative encroachment of the conservatives against the diversity of the ACA. Note that laity were 57% in favour, 43% against, contrary to the spurious claims of an “overwhelming majority”. The criticisms moreover of the “twelve bishops” showed an ignorance of their episcopal responsibilities (let alone a degree of disrespect and unpleasantness).
• The so-called “middle ground”– traditionally a large portion of GS – is diminishing. No one spoke to oppose same-sex marriage and maintain fellowship with those who support it.
GS18 brought a much clearer presentation of two alternative narratives, each claiming to represent the heart and soul of the ACA, articulating for their community who they are and what they hope for, and including a rich repertoire of emotional responses and behaviours, an “ethos” as it were.
In this light, our narrative is one of a comprehensive vision of God and God’s people, preaching and enacting Christ’s affirming, generous and open-hearted love, grounded in Scripture and the historic Christian creeds. This creates space for and celebration of difference, including matters such as human sexuality. Our story evokes hope and joy, bound to an ethos of affirmation and welcome and ongoing dialogue.
Moreover, we don’t believe in asserting one’s so-called “orthodoxy” over all others who disagree with us, be it in speeches or petitions or social media. Rather, we seek to listen and learn, in light of the testimony of Scripture, Anglican formularies, and human experience. Imposing unilaterally one (highly contested) view threatens to end the productive and nuanced discussions across the church regarding LGBTIQA+ Christians and their allies and families.
Looking forward, I believe GS18 will be a catalyst for conservatives and progressives to articulate their visions more clearly and engage more proactively with those who identify with it.
And who knows how this might play out in the years ahead.