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Melbourne Synod 2019, and beyond

“The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and you will not see it.”
“Remember Lot’s wife.”
Melbourne Synod met this week, and I along with the other parish stipendiary clergy, and parish reps Peter Sherlock and Sandra Treadwell-Monk joined several hundred others at the Cathedral. With the exception of one matter, it was probably the most boring session of synod in living memory. Three minor legislative pieces were passed, virtually without debate, and a series of motions on the usual social questions passed formally and without controversy or any real enthusiasm; notwithstanding an excellent motion on indigenous reconciliation with which the synod began its debate.
It had originally been my intention tonight to spend some time commenting on the Archbishop’s charge to Synod which, at one level, said nothing useful in terms of providing the diocese with vision or leadership, but at another level made some really quite useful points about process. P…

Synod Speech on Conversion Therapy

Motion 24: Melbourne Synod, 20 October 2018 Conversion Therapy 
That Synod  a)  acknowledges that all people are made in the image of God, regardless of sexuality or gender identity  b)  acknowledges the position of the Australian Psychological Society that “strongly opposes any approach to psychological practice or research that treats lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people as disordered, and any approach that attempts to change an individual's sexual orientation”  c)  calls upon Church members to be sensitive to, and to listen to, diverse expressions of sexuality and gender identity, to accept, validate, support, and encourage those in our churches who are seeking to live in accordance with biblical teaching and to live out their identity in union with Christ and his calling, and to not recommend “Conversion Therapy" to anyone; and  d)  calls on the state government—through the Healthcare Complaints Commissioner (HCC) Inquiry into Conversion Therapy/Practices in Victoria—to ban t…

Synod Speech on Blessing of Civil Marriages

Motion 13, Melbourne Synod 20 October 2018  Form of Blessing for Civil Marriages 
That Synod  a)  acknowledges the widespread national and local support for the recent changes to Australian marriage laws, to include same-sex couples; and  b)  commends the pastoral value of the Archbishop authorising a revised Form of Blessing of a Civil Marriage, which may include marriages between two persons of the same sex, for optional use within the Diocese of Melbourne alongside, or in addition to, a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant. 
Mr President, members of synod, I rise in support of the motion standing in my name. Craig D’Alton, St Mary’s North Melbourne and Archdeacon of Melbourne.

I stand to move this motion very reluctantly, but for two reasons.
My first reason is that I believe that the church, and this synod, needs to acknowledge that society at large has made a clear decision in favour of marriage equality, and that that decision has now been legislatively enacted. Whether individual sy…

Whoever is not against us is for us

A sermon at St Mary's North Melbourne 30 September 2018 Text: Mark 9:38-50
It is probably one of the most mis-quoted texts in the new Testament – “Whoever is not against us is for us.” How often have I heard instead, “Whoever is not for us is against us.”
The grammarians amongst you will understand that this is one of those occasions in English where word order matters. Let’s start with a secular example.
Let us say, for argument’s sake, that I am an indigenous politician, and I am arguing for a change in the law to improve the health outcomes for members of my community. I lobby, I give speeches, I get the matter in the public eye and on the national agenda. 
I discover that the people with a parliamentary vote on this question fall into a number of categories in response: 1) Those who stand to benefit directly from the success of such a policy are in favour. They are “for us.” There are two of them. 2) Those who have nothing to gain personally, but who actively believe in the justice of…

An alternate statement on marriage equality, which could have been made by the Anglican bishops of Australia, but wasn't ...

“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” 

These words from 1 John 4, which begin the marriage service in A Prayer Book for Australia, undergird the doctrine of marriage as it has been received by Anglicans.
We the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following:
1) The injunction to love is the greatest of the commandments, and any discussion of marriage ought to begin with the principle that marriage is a sign of God’s love in the world.
2) All people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other gender identifying people, are children of God, and created in God’s image.
3) The law of the Commonwealth of Australia has changed to allow the marriage of persons who previously could not marry one another, and this Church has not yet come to a clear view on how this change effects the doctrine of marriage of this Church, nor has it yet formulated a uniform liturgical response.
4) We are committed to working in de…

The danger of Jensenism

Commemoration of John Keble (14 July), preached at St Mary’s North Melbourne, 15 July 2011

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness

In 1833 John Keble preached a sermon from a very high pulpit to a group of legal and civic luminaries in a university city. Keble’s sermon, in its substance and context, holds almost nothing of relevance for the Anglican Church in Melbourne in 2011. It is, like most historical documents, so grounded in its own time and place that its purpose and cares have long been left behind. The notion of the Christian state, let alone the notion of that state becoming apostate in the manner of Saul in 1 Samuel 12, is an irrelevance to us here today. (I could here make a quip about CRI and School chaplaincy, but that is a story for another time.)

Keble’s sermon is irrelevant – but not entirely. Two points, I think, bear repeating and revisiting, even in Melbourne in 2011.

The first is Keble’s realisation that the church was in danger, and his reference…

Some further reflections on Access

It’s an interesting experience; being a temporary minor media personality. The sermon immediately below in this blog was picked up by The Sunday Age, a Melbourne-based broadsheet, and turned into an article with the rather disarming title “Priest urges end to ‘forced’ religious education”. I had been contacted by Jill Stark from The Sunday Age, who had read my sermon, and having realized that she had some pretty basic facts incorrect, I decided that it was better to speak to her than not. As always, what comes out in print is never exactly what you would have written yourself . . .

Nonetheless, although I was initially annoyed by the newspaper report, as time has passed I find myself much less so. I think that there are two reasons for this. First, because of the quite astonishing level of support for what I said both on this blog and in the newspaper. Apart from one rather intemperate phone call from someone involved at the senior level in Access and one pretty mild rebuking email fr…