Discernment Synod Eucharist
Diocese of Grafton
4 February 2018
Here today we begin the process of discerning the person who will serve as the next Bishop of Grafton.
Here in this service we seek the guidance of God in that process, and we commit ourselves to be the kind of persons God can guide.
Leadership as ministry
The ministry of leadership within the community of God’s people has often challenged both those called to leadership as well as the members of the Church.
There is no singular biblical specification for leadership, despite periodic attempts to promote one model or another as ‘the’ biblical template.
At different times in church history various models of leadership have been developed in response to the missional needs of the churches at those times. Even within the New Testament we find many different models of pastoral leadership, and that diversity is expanded even further if we include the Old Testament.
A reasonable case can be made that every model has its advantages and disadvantages.
As Australian Anglicans we embrace episcopal leadership exercised within a Synodical governance framework in which clergy and lay people have substantial authority and shared responsibility for the well-being of the Church. This differs from some other provinces of the Anglican Communion where Bishops may exercise more authority and where the powers of the Synod may be somewhat curtailed.
Beginning here today, this Synod embraces its responsibility for the appointment of a new Bishop, a responsibility that we exercise as we follow a series of careful steps:
First of all, here in the Eucharist, we seek God’s guidance. I shall return to the significance of that in just a moment.
Secondly, we shall then spend the bulk of today listening to one another carefully, intentionally, with spiritual ears attuned to hear not only one another but also the God who is within us, among us, and between us.
Finally today, we shall elect the Bishop Appointment Board. Those chosen to serve on this Board are being entrusted by us to choose and appoint our new Bishop, informed by our discernment process today and guided by God.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider that.
What a profound act of faith.
We not only seek God’s guidance, but we are delegating 12 of our members (along with 6 reserves) to make a decision of immense significance for us as a Diocese, and for many of us as individuals.
We trust those 12 (18) people to act in good faith.
Our trust in them is a tangible instance of our trust in God.
We are indeed stepping onto holy ground as we undertake this task today.
Let me now return to stage one of that process: what we are doing here in this Eucharist in the Cathedral this morning.
As I mentioned earlier, here in this service we are seeking God’s guidance not only on our discernment Synod today, but also on the whole process of choosing our new Bishop.
In our case and at this time, we need to discern not only the qualities needed in our new Bishop, but also the qualities needed in us as we form the Synod of this Diocese and work in partnership with our Bishop.
Our prayers are not for others to be touched by God, but for all of us and each of us to be touched by God.
Let me put this in stark terms.
Unless we are reformed and renewed we can sabotage the ministry of our new Bishop
For sure we need wisdom to find the right person
But getting the right person is not a silver bullet to resolve the real challenges we face.
We also need to be the right people, the people God wants us to be.
We need a deep and continuous conversion of the Diocese, and that means us (not the Registry office).
It is for that blessing that we pray this morning.
As I try to unpack what that blessings might look like, let me recycle some words of St Paul, and suggest that we are seeking the gifts of faith … hope … love …
- faith: an attitude of trust rather than pretending to have the answers
- hope: genuine confidence that God has work for us to do and will enable us to do it
- love: authentic concern and goodwill that subverts theological tribalism
Yes, we seek wisdom to identify the right person to serve as our Bishop.
But we also seek grace to become the kind of people with whom that new Bishop can serve.
That way—and only in that way—can we engage in the mission to which we are called and develop the ministries that will authentically communicate the heart of the gospel to our families, our neighbours, and indeed our own selves.
May God grant us our prayers.