ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF GIPPSLAND – PRESIDENT’S ADRESS TO THE FIRST SESSION OF THE 37th SYNOD OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF GIPPSLAND

As we come together for synod this year, uppermost in our deliberations together must be the future directions we look to under God in the life of our diocese for the next five years. For the last five years we have sought to focus our endeavours in ministry and mission through a diocesan strategic plan, Jesus Christ, Here and Now, for Gippsland. I think it can be demonstrated that the plan has given greater intentionality to what we have done as churches over those years, and that significant new ministry initiatives have resulted from the plan being in place. In contemplating a new strategic plan, I have become aware that more than a common plan, the role of the diocese as a whole is to agree on common strategic directions. Each congregation should then be encouraged to develop their own particular plans for ministry and mission in light of the directions on which we have all agreed. To introduce our discussion on strategic directions, let me reiterate what I said in calling the diocese to prayer earlier this year. At that time I said, ‘In a year when we are looking to launch new strategic directions, remember prayer is vital. In our planning we may come up with all kinds of good ideas and innovative schemes. But without prayer they will come to nothing’. The focus of the vision to shape our strategic directions for the next five years is to discover in Jesus Christ what it means to be fully human. Being human is what we have in common with every other person in the world and most human beings are on a journey to discover the full potential of their humanity. This gives opportunity for us to engage with others on common ground, as people who point to Jesus Christ as the one in whom the humanity in which all people share finds its fullest expression. If we are to do that well, we must be absolutely intentional in pointing to Jesus Christ in all we are, do and say. Otherwise, how will people see him or how will people be given opportunity to respond to him in faith, or to join us in following him together? The capacity of our churches to be healthy primarily depends on our willingness to take up the challenge of constantly pointing to Jesus in ways that are accessible to others. I refer you here to the reflections on the strategic plan you received as part of your synod papers. They contain a draft of suggested priorities for new strategic directions for The Journey Inward, The Journey Outward and The Journey Together, as well as the rationale that lies behind them. I hope you have read them in preparation for our discussions as in this synod session we move to adopt strategic directions for the next five years. I do not intend to rehearse those reflections at this point but there is one matter I wish to highlight from them, and that is the critical need for change if the bulk of our congregations across the diocese are to have a future, let alone to grow. In those reflections I noted, ‘Change in the way in which we express what it means to be church, and in the ways in which we point others to Jesus Christ, will only arise in a context where as Christians we are each prayerfully open ourselves to being changed or transformed by God. New insight will only

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come as we deliberately seek to be open to God’s Spirit in our reading of the Bible and in reflection on our faith. Only as each of us takes the risk to go to the new places to which God is taking us will the things of God be born in us; in our worshipping communities and in the communities in which we worship’. This is why The Journey Inward remains a vital component of our new strategic directions. Any changes we contemplate in The Journey Outward and The Journey Together will inevitably only come to fruition in light of our willingness to ourselves be changed by God, and so in turn to be open to the changes necessary to further our ministry and mission as church. The changes we must contemplate are certainly challenging. They require us not to think of ourselves and our own needs but to respond to the call to follow Jesus Christ in first serving the needs of others, despite the cost to ourselves. As we contemplate these realities I am reminded of the wisdom of the former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple who says, ‘The church is the only voluntary organisation that exists for the benefit of non-members only’. We need to make this a reality in our life as church in every dimension of our ministry and mission. I look forward to our discussion in this synod session of the new diocesan strategic directions for 2013-2017. A matter which continues to test us in the life of the diocese is our capacity to sustain the financial viability of Aboriginal Ministry. The Aboriginal Ministry Fund still does not attract substantial sustained giving, except by a few. One suggestion I would offer to address this vital need in our diocese regards the sale over recent years of various lands in parishes across the diocese. In some cases, this has been by decision of the parish to divest itself of a no longer utilised branch church or other lands. In other cases, the people of the parishes in which these lands were located were not even aware the land was there. In yet a few further cases, even when parishes were made aware of these lands, they failed to act and the registry staff has completed the sales to the benefit of those parishes. We are especially indebted to the registrar, Brian Norris; to our archivist, Tim Gibson, and to my former PA, Kerrie Schmidt, for the work they have done in this regard. The combined value of the lands sold from 2004 until 2011, now realised and held in trust, is over $1.5 million. Since then, further lands have been sold or are about to be sold in other parishes. It is true that some of this capital may have since been spent on capital works by those parishes for which it is held in trust, but a substantial amount would still remain held in trust. I suggest this synod resolve to ask Bishop-in-Council to establish a working group to explore viable ways of ensuring the ongoing financial sustainability of Aboriginal ministry into the long-term future based on these land sales. It could well be that the parishes for whom the realised value of sold land is held in trust would be willing to contribute all or some proportion of the capital held in trust for them to an investment fund for the support of Aboriginal ministry. In line with diocesan investment policy, 80% of the income earned from this fund would then go into The Aboriginal Ministry Fund, with the remaining 20% being capitalised to build the investment fund. Furthermore, those parishes which have significant investments due to bequests made to them from the sale of lands could also be invited to participate in the scheme. I think this proposal has the potential to establish a solid foundation for the financial sustainability of Aboriginal ministry in the diocese.

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An attractive aspect to the current proposal is that it is tied to land. Perhaps the greatest impact we have had on the indigenous peoples of Australia was unjustly to deprive them of the lands of which they are the rightful custodians, and on which by tradition they have been dependent for survival, sustenance and cultural identity. Wealth derived from land is a most fitting way of supporting Aboriginal ministry and one way of giving back from that which in the first place was wrongfully taken. I commend this suggestion to you. If after examination it proves not to be viable, however, I think we have no other choice than to include the full support of Aboriginal ministry as a line item in the annual budget; a possibility I suggested in my address to synod last year. I am delighted the development application for the Abbey has finally come through after nearly three years of hard work by those involved in this ministry, people both within our midst and from the wider community, who have offered assistance in so many ways. The huge challenge that now lies before us is to raise the capital needed to build what has been approved. Our plan is to seek donations and grants from a range of sources beyond our own resources, as this is the only hope for the project to be advanced. The Abbey is very much both a model of a new way of being church and also of engaging with those outside the church around issues we share in common, in this case environmental concern. It is the lead ministry of the diocese in line with the 5th Mark of Mission of the Anglican Communion, which relates to our environmental responsibility as Christians. It is, furthermore, a whole diocesan response to the suggested second priority in The Journey Outward in the draft new strategic directions, which is ‘Being open to new ways of engaging with our communities around their needs’. While the Abbey is very much part of the ministry and mission of the Paynesville Parish, to which they have strongly committed, they see this also as their contribution to a whole diocesan ministry and mission. For them, and for the Abbey Priest Edie Ashley, encouragement, commitment to the vision and willingness to contribute to its development from others across the diocese is essential to the success of this ministry. I encourage you and your parish to consider ways you can join this endeavour to establish a centre for spirituality and the environment in our diocese. It is an opportunity too good to miss and a gift not just for Gippsland but potentially for many people from far beyond our borders. To date, the weight of responsibility for this ministry, approved each step of the way by this synod, has largely been borne by only a few from within the diocese. If the next steps forward are to be taken successfully, we will all need to share the load. But it is not all about work. Another vital way to support the Abbey is through attendance at its varied and exciting program, which looks at issues of spirituality and the environment through the use of all kinds of media and activities, from music and art through to writing and dance, as well as providing for retreat and contemplation. Building up attendance at the various events at the Abbey not only builds its life but also provides income vital to its growth. And beyond all that, I have yet to meet the person who has not been blessed simply by being present in the glorious godly space that is the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park.

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On matters in the wider church, it is clear to me that we may never in the Anglican Communion find agreement on the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church. At the same time, it is also clear to me that an enormous amount of time, energy and resources have been poured into local, national and international attempts to find a common way forward on this matter. We simply cannot afford to keep going this way, largely because those who bear the pain of our lack of resolution are those same-sex attracted people still struggling to find full acceptance in our church. The impasse we have reached suits those who do not want to give a full place to same-sex attracted people in the life of the church because it continues the status quo that excludes them. This is entirely unacceptable as a matter both of compassion and justice. The debate on the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church is not a simple matter, partly because of its own complexities but also because it has focused a range of other issues in the life of the Anglican Communion, not least how we read the Bible. But it is even more complex than that. Underlying currents to the debate include the dynamics of power and control in the life of the Anglican Communion, as well as within the various provinces of the communion, including our own in Australia. This debate has become for some an occasion for attempting to assert control in the life of the church. This has a sinister dynamic to it. There are those who seem to think that if they can gain control of the church they can ensure its purity. For those who think this way, the quest for purity of the whole is essentially the quest for their own salvation. With impurity comes the threat of damnation. The purity of the whole demands the purity of every part of the whole. The impurity of one in their midst threatens the purity of the whole. That in turn threatens the salvation of the whole. Because those who seek control of the whole to ensure its purity ultimately seek their own salvation, they have no choice but to exclude those they consider impure. In the end, the quest for control to ensure purity is a quest that is by definition self-concerned. It is the antithesis of the teaching of Jesus who says, ‘Those who want to save their life will lose it’. In other words, if your intention is to ensure your own salvation, you do not understand the truth which Jesus speaks, and you lose out on the life he offers. These same dynamics were present in the confrontation between Jesus and the religious authorities of his day and are addressed in a number of his parables. Perhaps most potent is the Parable of the Father and his Two Sons, the younger of whom is prodigal and the older of whom is diligently dutiful with a view to his own future security. The older son is highly indignant with the father who in grace forgives and includes his brother, whom he considers immoral. He refuses to join in the celebration where his brother is not only included but is the guest of honour. The message is clear to the self-righteous religious leaders of Jesus’ day, whose prime concern is to maintain the purity of the whole for fear of losing their own salvation. With passion and intensity they oppose all that Jesus stands for in his welcome of those they

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consider to be sinners, largely because they see their own salvation to be at stake if they are made impure by consorting with them. It strikes me there are quite a few older brothers and sisters in our church today. Their presence contributes to the intensity of the debate on the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church, and to our incapacity to find a way forward together. Having said this, I do recognise the need to seek the truth and to affirm the ministry of those whose responsibility in the church is to seek the truth in humility and with meekness. And I recognise I am among those who bear that responsibility. We are under authority to do this, not only for the sake of the church but for all to whom we minister in the name of Jesus Christ. I acknowledge those who continue to take that responsibility with the utmost care and seriousness, for it is a serious vocation and a grave responsibility. I recognise also there are conscientiously held views on both sides of the debate we need to have on human sexuality, and that those views are held with integrity. The problem I see is that we limit our capacity to find a way forward when we get caught up in a battle for control. Complicating matters further is the way in which the debate about the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church has become the issue chosen by the Global South members of the Anglican Communion, particularly those in Africa, to challenge the power and control of the Global North in the life of the communion. I have a lot of sympathy with the anti-imperial and anti-colonial sentiments of the Global South, but I think it a tragedy that the lives of same-sex attracted people are sacrificed on the altar of their aspirations for liberation from our ongoing cultural imperialism. This complex picture militates against genuine debate and the hope of finding a way forward in the life of the communion that does not further divide us but rather brings hope, especially to those most adversely affected by our exclusion of them. If we are to find a way forward together in the communion, I suggest we need only to look to our Anglican roots in the birth of the Church of England. When we do, we discover that much of the cause for the divisions in the emerging Church of England had similar dynamics to the current context. Certainly there was a genuine quest for truth in the mix. The Reformation had unleashed a whole raft of new possibilities for understanding Christianity. Certainly there was intensity and passion in that quest. Protagonists on either side of the debate even gave their lives in the quest for truth as they understood it. There was also a battle for control going on. The eventual struggle for control was between those who yearned for the past glory of the Holy Roman Empire, the Mediaeval Papists, and the most extreme of those emboldened by the new reforming theologies, the Puritans. There was a complex mix of agendas to do with the rise of nations eager to rid themselves of the shackles of empire, mingled with the quest for truth and the desire for control and purity. It was at least as complex a picture as the situation we face in our own time; a mix of motives good and bad, and of passion and intensity. The solution lay in the historical genius of Anglicanism, common prayer. Through the Acts of Uniformity, leading to the 16th Century Elizabethan Settlement and ultimately to The

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Restoration of 1662, common worship for all was established by the law of the land. Those who disagreed vehemently with each other on all manner of things were required to worship together with an authorised liturgy and no other. This became the basis for a unity grounded in Jesus Christ worshipped together, and not based on agreement with each other on all matters of faith and practice. Theological reflection on this leads us to the grace which lies at the heart of all we believe. In worship we sit together under the grace of God. Not one person present is accepted by God on the basis of right doctrine or practice, and certainly not on the basis of who they happen to be. Each person is accepted alone by the grace of God through the response of faith. When we acknowledge that grace alone is the basis of our own inclusion by God, and that grace alone is the basis of every other person’s inclusion by God, then we must acknowledge that grace alone is the basis of our necessary inclusion of each other. We cannot be anything other than an inclusive church. Grace, then, is the theological foundation of the unity in Christ affirmed in common worship. On this foundation lies the hope that we might love and acknowledge the integrity of one another. On this foundation lies the hope that none will seek to root out those with whom they disagree on matters of faith and practice, but acknowledge that to live by grace is to include all and any. That not all remained in the unity first established by common prayer in former times is sadly true. Those who could not abide the fact that there remained in the church so established those whom they believed to be wrong, refused to enter it or later left it. They excluded themselves. Essentially, they in their day were the older brother of Jesus’ parable, who refuses to go into the feast. Today we do not have the equivalent of a Head of State who has the authority to impose legislated demands on the church from outside the structures of the church. What we do have, however, is the heritage of the key elements of that solution by which we might discern how we can express our unity in Jesus Christ in current times. Those principles begin in common worship and in our acceptance in grace of each other in Christ. This enables discourse on common ground that is commonly affirmed; faith in Jesus Christ. It enables comprehensiveness; the inclusion of all those who wish to be included and who accept their own inclusion is by grace alone. It gives no room for judgement of others, also accepted by grace alone. It does not demand agreement on every matter of faith and practice because it recognises unity is a gift of God in Jesus Christ, not a product of agreement achieved by human endeavour. It requires trust of each other to be true to Jesus Christ in the different contexts in which we find ourselves. It accepts that no-one dictate to another and that authority is dispersed, not centralised. It affirms diversity as godly. It demands humility and a gracious recognition of our own failings, and of the limits to our own understanding. It promotes listening to each other with respect and acknowledging the integrity of those with whom we disagree. It is not exclusive or excluding. In fact, these principles cannot be imposed from without. To implement them requires a discipline of life as a communion that can only come from within. Historically the Anglican

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Communion has sought to live by these principles grounded in grace through its so-called ‘Instruments of Communion’, more recently known as ‘Instruments of Unity’. These are the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the one with whom we are all in communion; the Lambeth Conference, held every ten years and comprising all the bishops of the international Anglican Communion invited to attend by the Archbishop of Canterbury; The Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, which as well as bishops, includes clergy other than bishops and lay people as its members. A Joint Standing Committee, made up of members of the Primates Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council, also meets to assist the good working of the instruments. None of these bodies lays down law. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, suggests that what they do is ‘resolve to confer and confer to resolve’, even if the final resolution of a particular matter is not reached! This he suggests is ‘due to the very provisionality of the Anglican tradition’. Last year at its meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council received a report from the InterAnglican Standing Commission of Unity, Faith and Order which emphasises this provisionality and revisits the rationale behind the instruments of the communion, while acknowledging their need for renewal. In its conclusion, the report recognises the instruments as a gift to the life of the communion by which we express our koinonia or communion with each other. It suggests a return to the original terminology of ‘Instruments of Communion’, rather than the more recent terminology of ‘Instruments of Unity’. This better emphasises their role is to maintain communion with each other through relationships, and that their role is not to attempt to enforce unity, as though they were mechanisms of legal devising. Finally, using the analogy of an orchestral symphony, the report suggests the renewal of the instruments will only occur when there is a move towards a greater harmony of working between the instruments, made possible by better relationships between all those who participate in the life of the instruments, and indeed of the whole communion. The emphasis in the report is on relationship and discourse as opposed to legal instrument and debate. This seems to me to be consistent with the heart of historical Anglican polity. If the Anglican Communion moves in this direction, trusting and respecting one another, and mindful of one another in all we do and say, it strikes me that even when we do differ strongly on some points of faith and practice, we can continue to be in communion with each other. This is true for any number of issues, not least how we understand the place of samesex attracted people in the life of the church. Our responses to issues will be different, but no one response to any one matter will dominate the whole. Certainly we should never seek to establish mechanisms to impose uniformity in the communion. Were we today to embrace our historical Anglican heritage fully, I believe we would go a long way to removing the unnecessary conflict and division in the Anglican Communion caused by the current debate about the place of same-sex attracted people in the life of the church. It would set us free to affirm the significant presence among us of same-sex attracted people, both lay and ordained; with some living in faithful life-long relationships. In grace, we would openly welcome these sisters and brothers in Christ into our churches and celebrate their presence among us as part of the God-given diversity of our communion in all its richness. I have no doubt this would enhance the whole of our ministry and mission as a

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church. Our loving acceptance of each other, across significant differences in faith and practice, would be a sign in our communities that points to Jesus Christ, the one who affirms the humanity of all people, and in whom we are, each and every one, transformed into the fullness of our God-given humanity; and the one who gifts us with a unity that transcends all our differences and affirms our diversity. Moving now to matters in the life of the world, the most disturbing ongoing aspect of Australian politics is the recalcitrance of both major political parties in their hard-line approach to the plight of asylum seekers. Thousands of people are still fleeing persecution in their own lands and seeking asylum in safe places around the world. International law says it is not illegal for them to do so. In contrast to many other parts of the world, the number seeking asylum in Australia is extraordinarily small. Even so, we still struggle to accommodate them, largely due to ignorance and fear and the complicity of politicians in using these people as opportunity for electoral gain. Unless and until there is genuine commitment to a long-term regional solution to this matter of life and death for so many people, this issue will continue to fester among us. But far more importantly, innocent people will continue to die. It is hard to deny that Australians are complicit in these deaths so long as we turn a blind eye to their needs. One very troubling matter in regard to our policies on asylum seekers involves that group of people now living in Australia who have been granted asylum as refugees and yet remain incarcerated, in some cases for up to four years, because ASIO will not give them a clearance. These people to date have no right of appeal regarding decisions made about them behind closed doors, with no requirement for those decisions to be justified in any public context. They are doomed to remain locked up for the rest of their lives unless something changes. They cannot be returned to their countries of origin because, in being accepted as refugees, it has been determined it would not be safe for them to do so. And yet in Australia they have no freedom because they are presumed guilty without redress to justice. It is beyond imagining that we are not up in arms about this. If it is really supposed they are guilty of crimes that would prevent their safe release in Australia, why are they not being charged and tried? That would at least give them recourse to justice. But worse is the very real possibility that innocent people remain incarcerated on the presumption of unproven guilt. This of all issues is surely a ‘no-brainer’ for Christians. How can we not speak out against such cold-hearted injustice and lack of compassion? In writing recently on this matter, former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser says, ‘Ever since the Tampa incident in 2001, government ministers both Liberal and Labor, have sought to demonise boat people and make Australians fear them’. He goes on to ask, ‘Are we prepared to allow our government to establish a regime so brutal that the terror it creates would rival the terror from which these people fled?’ And highlighting our mutual complicity in hypocrisy across political and religious divide, he reflects in the same article on Tony Abbot’s suggestion that all Australians should be taught about Christianity. He says, ‘Since Abbot has introduced the question of Christianity into public debate, it may be worth asking ourselves where he can

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find any justification for Australia’s refugee policies within Christianity or any other religion.’ Perhaps that is a question we Christians should be answering. You will be aware that exploration for Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is now very much on the agenda in Gippsland. The reversal of fortunes with regard to the availability of gas for consumption in the Unites States of America (USA) is very much a driving force behind the quest for CSG in Australia. Up until quite recently, the USA was looking down the barrel of expensive imports to maintain their gas supplies. Now because of CSG, they are exporting gas. This kind of possibility is certainly a key economic driver in the search for CSG here, both for oil and gas companies and for those responsible for Australia’s economic future. Clearly, if a safe way of extracting CSG could be found, it would bode well for companies and for the country, as well as for Gippsland. Add to this the fact that burning gas is far more environmentally friendly than burning coal, as well as the opportunities for new jobs, and you have what for some is an unassailable argument for CSG exploration in Gippsland. The critical question, however, is in regard to the safety of extraction methods. Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) is sometimes required to extract CSG. Fracking involves large amounts of water mixed with sand and 1-3% of various chemicals, of which chemicals only 60-80% is recovered from the coal seam. Industry points out that many of the chemicals used appear naturally or as additives in products used in everyday life in common household goods. What is not known, however, is the potential for contamination when these chemicals are present in amounts not controlled or targeted for their use in household goods. And unanticipated seepage into groundwater and the food chain is a real possibility for those chemicals not recovered through the extraction process. Accordingly, the impact of potential contamination on people, livestock and the environment is largely unknown. Evidence from other parts of Australia where CSG extraction is underway certainly reveals that impact is not good. We have been told that Fracking may not be required in Gippsland due to the quality of the coal, thus averting these particular potential contamination problems. Nevertheless, any extraction of CSG also raises the possibility of the release of toxic chemicals and heavy metals already present in the coal seam. Whichever way you look at it, exploring for and extracting CSG is a potentially risky process. The Victorian Government has committed to hastening slowly on CSG exploration and has put a limited moratorium on Fracking for the time being. In fact, it finishes very soon. Both State and Federal Governments have responsibility also to maintain guaranteed safety for water supplies, groundwater being most at risk in the exploration for and extraction of CSG. There is no doubt water security is a critical issue for Gippsland, especially in those parts dependent on aquifers for their water supply. I acknowledge the issue around CSG are complex, but I think for Gippsland they can be reduced to one important question. Why, in one of Australia’s most productive agricultural regions, would anyone even think of putting our water supply and agricultural lands and livestock at risk, not to mention people lives, no matter how small that risk is said to be? I do not think it possible for any company to give a 100% guarantee there will never be a risk to

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our water security were CSG exploration and extraction to take place in Gippsland. And 99.9% is not enough. If there is a genuine desire to reduce the environmental impact of the burning of coal, and a real concern to find alternative employment possibilities for those impacted by a reduction in mining and power production in Gippsland, why not consider the possibilities of developing new sources of power generation from renewable resources? People still need to be employed for these new industries to be developed, and they do not produce carbon dioxide. In regard to employment opportunities for people in Gippsland, and especially those living in the Latrobe Valley, traditionally dependent on the mining and power industries, I have been interested to learn there has been a significant growth in the number of Fly-In-Fly-Out (FYFO) workers in the valley. The valley is a sending community for these workers going to other parts of Australia to earn a living. While there has been significant research into communities on the receiving end of FYFO work forces, there is not so much known about the sending communities. The Gippsland Trades and Labour Council has identified this issue as a matter of concern for a growing number of families in the valley. It is not difficult to see the potential issues, especially for young families, that would arise from the bread-winner being away for significant amounts of time, only to return for extended home time before disappearing again for a long time. It strikes me that this gives great opportunity for us to find ways of responding to the needs of these families on our doorstops in ways that provide support to them and build community among them in their special circumstances. Working with other partners, such as the trades and labour council and other service providers, this is surely one way in which we can fulfil our commitment as churches to our communities. As we are all required to vote in Federal elections this year, the question arises as to how best we ascertain the policies of each party and by what criteria we make our assessment of them. As Christians, I suggest our criteria are concern for truth and a commitment to justice and compassion. Access to the detail of party policies is a challenge, and for most of us what we glean will be from the daily media. That in itself is an issue when the media is so easily distracted by trivia and their reports interpreted within the constraints of their editorial policies. In the first place, discernment in what we read and what we watch or listen to is vital in gaining a real appreciation of the issues at stake, and the significant differences between the policies of the parties. One key measure often proposed, and almost universally agreed as a measure for good government, is the capacity of a government to govern for all Australians. From a Christian perspective, I suggest the best indicator of this measure is what favours those most vulnerable in the community. Jesus’ clear preference was for the poor, and along with the ancient prophets, the wellbeing of the poor and vulnerable is his litmus test for whether there is justice and compassion for the whole of society. Where the poor and vulnerable are treated with justice and compassion, it is guaranteed the same will be true for the rich and powerful. But where the rich and powerful are treated with justice and compassion there is no guarantee

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the poor and vulnerable will be included. Hence their condition becomes the true indicator of the health of the whole. On the matter of the recently proposed disability levy, then, both major parties have withstood the cries of ‘unfair’ and determined they will support this levy on all Australians as a means of ensuring that those among us who are disabled are better able to engage in and contribute to the communities of which they are a part. That is encouraging. Nevertheless, there are clear differences in relation to other policies of the various parties. On education, for example, the Gonski Report has identified a clear and growing divide in Australia into a two-tiered, unjust education system that favours the rich over the poor. The report has led to proposals for reform in education funding to redress that divide. A party’s response to Gonski is therefore another measure of how well it will govern for all Australians. And so it goes for a whole range of policies. To name just one more example, the Coalition proposal to lower the tax threshold from $18,000 to $6,000 would bring more than a million low-income earners back into the tax system and increase taxes for 6 million Australians earning less than $80,000 per annum. Against a background where a recent report reveals large number of those earning over a $1million per annum pay absolutely no income tax, while paying out millions of dollars to the accountants who advise them on tax avoidance, it is a troubling policy. These are just some examples and I am certainly not here to tell you how to vote. What I do suggest, however, is that each of us should think seriously about the effect of any proposed policy on those most vulnerable and poor in our communities. Don’t be tempted into supporting simply what may work best for you. Unfortunately, much political rhetoric and commentary focuses on how voters themselves are personally affected. A Christian response is to ask a far more significant question. What gives the greater opportunity for all people, beginning with the poor and vulnerable, to have access to services and to be able better to contribute what they have to offer to the whole? I commend this matter to your prayer and reflection as the election approaches. I move now to people matters in our diocese. Among the clergy, Brian Turner has come out of retirement to take up ministry as Priest-in-Charge part-time in the Parish of Avon. Brenda Burney has moved from the Parish of Westernport to become Priest-in-Charge of the Cooperating Parish of Churchill/Boolarra/Yinnar. And recently, Jo White has accepted my offer to be licensed as Priest-in-Charge part-time in the Parish of Yarram and will take up her duties of office there in June. Sadly we will soon farewell Don Saines as Dean. In what has been a short incumbency, Don has offered us much in ministry, not only as Dean and Parish Priest in Sale but also in what he has given towards training in ministry for both ordinands and in lay ministry development. Pene Brook also departs with Don, having offered her resignation as Ecumenical Chaplain at the Churchill campus of Monash University. We will miss them both and their contribution in ministry to us, and we wish them well in their future ministries in the Diocese of Melbourne, Don as Dean in the United Faculty of Theology and Pene as Chaplain at Overnewton Anglican School. Michael Hough has finished his time in the Episcopal District

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of Bunyip. I have appreciated the time and energy he has put into exploring with the local people news ways of being church. Malcolm Wilson has recently resigned for personal reasons from the Episcopal District of Nar Nar Goon. We pray for him and Frankie as they look to the future. Janet Wallis resigned in the last year from her duties as Regional Dean of the Southern Region. I thank Janet for her faithfulness in ministry in this role. Geoff Pittaway has stepped into the breach to serve as Regional Dean of the Southern Region and is already making a great contribution to diocesan ministry in that role. We continue to depend heavily on retired clergy to assist us with locums, both when clergy are on leave and also between the ministries of permanent clergy in parishes. Those who have acted in these longer ministries over the past year have been Brian and Ann Turner at Avon; Marilyn Obersby at Churchill/Boolarra/Yinnar; Roger Jackman at Croajingolong; Fred Morrey at Newborough; Elwyn Sparks at Westernport, and Ken Peters and John Grace at Yarram. I thank them all for their commitment to these ministries. I acknowledge also the ongoing willingness of others among our retired clergy who continue to give of themselves in ministry in other ways around the diocese, too various to mention individually. Thank you. We continue to be blessed with those who answer the call to ordained ministry within our diocese. In this last year, Pene Brook, Fran Grimes and Katie Peken were ordained Deacon and Heather Cahill as Priest. Over the past year, Maryann Ashton and Von Dubbeld have been in discernment for ordained ministry, and Sharlene Asmus, Richard Lanham and David Perryman are our ordination candidates. Pene Brook and Katie Peken will be ordained as Priest this month. Among our Stipendiary Lay Parish Workers, Amanda Ballantyne resigned as Children and Family Worker part-time in the Parish of Bairnsdale and John van Merel was commissioned as Youth Worker part-time in the Parish of Neerim South. At Gippsland Grammar, Mike Clapper resigned as Principal to go to a position in Canberra with the Mathematics Foundation, a very fitting role for him. Mike made a great contribution to the school in every aspect of its life and will be greatly missed, as will his wife Jo, a friend to many of us and a valued community worker in Sale. We welcomed David Baker as the new Principal and look forward to the contribution he will make to the school. He, Jane and the girls have settled in well and under his leadership the school is looking to the future with great optimism. Throughout the past year, various people among us have received awards for their contribution to the life of the communities of which they are a part. On Australia Day 2013, Robert Fordham AM, from the Abbey Parish of Paynesville, was a made a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia for significant service to the Parliament of Victoria, to education, to the Anglican Church in Australia, and to tourism and economic development. Mark Woods, from the Parish of Traralgon, was announced as the 2012 recipient of the Law Council of Australia President’s Medal. The President’s Medal is an annual award that recognises an Australian lawyer’s outstanding contribution to the legal profession. Mark was cited as one of the professions most valued members with a reputation
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of excellence in the profession. Alan Price, from the Parish of Wonthaggi/Inverloch, was awarded the National Medal for his long and outstanding service in the CFA. Keith Chenhall, from the Parish of Traralgon, received a Latrobe City Australia Day Award for his service to the community of Traralgon as an active member of the Traralgon Apex club, Traralgon Chamber of Commerce, and Cemetery Trust; as the creator of his own Keith Chenhall Charitable Foundation, and for providing financial assistance to many community events. Congratulations to these people for their outstanding contributions in the community. This is very much their ministry in the life of the world. Their contribution as church members is a witness to the faith we together express as Christians and a valued means by which the faith we profess is expressed to others in the community. After 15 years of faithful and significant service to the Parish of Leongatha, Elizabeth and Russell Conway have relocated to Melbourne. The parish Certificate of Appreciation given to them says, ‘Thank you for undertaking these and other duties and responsibilities Warden, Parish Councillor, Bishop-in-Council Member, Chair of Parish Council, Chair of ChancelSanctuary Sub-Committee, Chair of Community Kitchen Sub-Committee Member of Clergy Appointments Board, Photographer, Sound Adviser, Technical Adviser. Thank you for being generous, encouraging, inclusive, caring, welcomers, mentors, hospitality team members, small group members, people of sound counsel, and people with suggestions for development’; a fitting acknowledgement of their contribution both to parish and diocese. As always, each year sees the death of beloved and valued members of our parishes. We note in particular the death of Deaconess Nancy Drew in August 2012. With her death came the passing of an era in the life of our diocese. The deaconesses of this diocese were significant pioneers of ministry and Nancy was very much a leader among them. The attempts of Bishop-in-Council to have Nancy included in the list of significant Australian ministers noted in the Australian lectionary was foiled by a technicality requiring action by General Synod, but it is indicative of the high regard in which Nancy was held right across the diocese that the attempt was made. Determined to find a way to honour Nancy’s contribution to the life of the Australian Church through her ministry in Gippsland, Bishop-in-Council has recommended an inclusion in our own Diocesan Prayer Cycle remembering with thanks the ministry of the deaconesses of the diocese and in particular Nancy’s life and ministry. Others sadly missed in parishes across the diocese since their deaths over the past year include, from the Parish of Churchill/Boolarra/Yinnar, Betty Reid and Jean Brick, a member of the first congregation in Churchill and a tireless worker into her 90s, especially for missions; from the Parish of Korumburra, long time parishioners Eric and Doris Billing; from the Parish of Leongatha, Dianne Appleyard, a long term Parish Councillor and Lay Reader who was responsible for the congregations at Meeniyan and Dumbalk, and Nancy Embleton, Gail Wisdom and Madeline Graeley, who were all very involved members of the parish and its ministry teams; Joy Grimshaw, a well-loved member of St. Mary's Mirboo North, a gracious and simple-hearted lady of 94 years who confidently faced death knowing that she was "going home" to her Lord; Denis Gardener from the Parish of Bass/Phillip Island; Norman Stuckey, Ulla Rathjen, Ian Radford and June Ross, all committed members of the Rosedale Parish, both within the life of the church and in the wider community; from the Parish of Warragul, Elizabeth Crighton, who had an active interest in Cursillo and the

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Rwandan partnership, and Norman Tolley, a parishioner for more than 50 years and a former churchwarden of St Paul’s, and from the Parish of Wonthaggi/Inverloch, my old sparring partner, Ted Rock, a passionate advocate for economic justice for all, a position steeped in his faith and profoundly Christian values. We acknowledge their priceless contribution to the life of our diocese through faithful parish and community ministries. In conclusion I return to a simple appeal to each and every one of you, as we look to future directions in the life of our diocese, to be open to the changes God is working among us; changes in ourselves as we are transformed by God’s grace into the fullness of our humanity, and changes in the way in which we express our life as God’s people in worship, ministry and mission as God’s Spirit takes us to new places. Grace and peace be with you all.

Bishop John McIntyre Gippsland

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