Sydney Synod – Presidential Address

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Sydney’s synod has opened, with the presidential address from ArchBishop Peter Jensen [pdf].

Presidential Address 1 – Society from Sydneyanglicans.net on Vimeo.

The address dealt with a number of the general issues facing Anglican Christians in Sydney and Australia today…

The philosophical point in favour [of euthanasia] could not have been expressed more clearly than by the ethicist Dr Leslie Cannold writing in the Sun-Herald. ‘Opponents of dying with dignity will tell you that the core moral principle in a civilized society is respect for life. This is outdated tosh. The central moral value in a modern multicultural society is autonomy, the right of individuals to determine the course of their own lives and deaths according to their own needs and values.’ This chilling statement has so much tendentious about it that it is hard to know where to begin dissecting it. But note this. Its basic expression, that the central moral value in a modern multicultural society is autonomy, is a boldly sectarian and secularist assertion. It is based on the denial of original sin and it leads to a denial of the full humanity of others, since it asks us to be self-centred.

From the very beginning of the colony, Christians have been in the forefront in the provision of education especially education in God’s word the Bible. Those 300 hundred healthy new Australians required holistic instruction. It was very clear when the Protestant churches gave over their schools to the state that there would be access to teach their religious doctrines during the normal course of the school week and that parents and children would never be put into the unfortunate situation of having to choose between SRE [Special Religious Education - a weekly voluntary class taught by churches and other religious organisations] and some other subject. That is the point at issue: the existing guidelines say that parents and children should not have to make this choice. Secular schools are not secularized schools. Anyone familiar with how schools work knows what a sensible arrangement this is. You cannot pit language and sport against each other for example, or say the student must choose either or maths or English.

Let us be careful not to exaggerate here. The inheritance of our Diocese through the two great Endowments, the Diocesan Endowment and the Endowment of the See is still very strong in terms of assets. Between them they amount to almost $200 million on current market values. There is much for which to be thankful, much to preserve and much to renew. Our immediate problem is that much of these assets are now significantly underperforming and not producing the cash-flow that we want. We have ‘lazy assets.’ We need them to get out of bed and start performing for us. Our major task in the next decade is to preserve the assets while growing the cash-flow. And, humanly speaking, that is going to require prayerfulness, skill, wisdom, patience and self-control. It can be done, but it is what we do here in this Synod and in the next two years which is going to set the foundations for the future.
We are going to need prayerfulness, skill, wisdom, patience and self-control.

Matthew Henry, wrote about King David that, ‘When he was at his wits’ end, he was not at his faith’s end’ The financial issues are grave, but I am not despondent and I hope that you share my confidence in God and the word of God and the Spirit of God. The things we planned last year in order to keep fulfilling our Mission, prosper. We are here in the great arena of the Diocese of Sydney to make Christ known and to help make men and women human. The tragedy which is optimistic secularism, continues to deprive men and women of their proper humanity. God has not left us without resources to make him known, although our resources now will come to us in different ways. Our adversities have given us an opportunity to rethink what we are doing and to be generous. God is our strength, and his people are the conduit of his mercies. The good news is that there is evidence that the Lord is at work through us bringing many of his children to glory. Let me tell you about it…

For there is a better and truer way than this age has ever found. It is this: to recognise that we are indeed the lords of the world, created in and as the image of God to care for the world and sustain, not pillage and destroy it. It is to recognize the dignity and worth of the human person, no matter how young, how old, how corrupt, how decayed. It is to recognize that we are the beloved creatures of the living God. But it is also to recognize that we are inherently sinful; that we are not as bad as we could be, but we consistently fall short of the law of God in word, in deed and in the thoughts of our hearts. That beneath every glittering work of our hands there is envy and greed and prejudice and other works of ugliness. Our prisons, our hospitals, even our schools, cannot bring the changes which will perfect human beings. Only the gospel can bring the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and the true glory which ennobles humanity, which brings us to our true identity and purpose.

We know these things because one perfect human life has been lived among us which demonstrates it all. The burning love of God for men and women has been demonstrated for all time by the willingness of his Son to take our nature upon himself permanently, to become the head of our race in place of fallen Adam, and even to die for us in a sacrifice which has made the heavens ring with glorious praise ever since. Even the most savage and depraved of men is one for whom the Saviour has come and has died. But then, too, we know that our greatest hopes for a Jerusalem are never going to be met in this life and in this world. Our city is a snare and delusion if we think of it as heaven. We are born and born again to hope, the hope of the new Jerusalem, the real Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is yet to come. It is there that we will see him who was slain and it is there at long last that we will attain that glory which is promised to us, the glory which is not glitter but which is the glory of freedom from sin; and life and joy in the presence of and in the likeness of the true man, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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