​Synod members gathered at St Paul's

​Melbourne’s Anglican Synod has passed landmark legislation covering its more than 200 parishes stretching from Geelong to western Gippsland and from the Great Dividing Range to the Mornington Peninsula.

Synod overwhelmingly passed the Parish Governance Bill 2013 and a complementary bill dealing with transitional provisions at its final day of sitting on 19 October – ending more than two years of work and diocesan-wide consultations.

The legislation was carried on the voices in separate votes in Synod’s House of Clergy and House of Laity. The announcement by Archbishop Philip Freier, who chairs Synod, that “I declare that the Parish Governance Bill of 2013 is now passed” prompted sustained applause among Synod members, meeting in St Paul’s Cathedral.

The final vote occurred at 2.45pm, about 45 minutes before Synod adjourned for the year.

For the first time, the Diocese of Melbourne has legislation providing for disqualification from holding parish offices, annual assessments (the Diocesan tax on parishes), parish budgets and periodic reviews, the concept of “supported parishes” (those unable to sustain themselves in areas identified by the Church as needing an Anglican presence), discontinuing parishes and mediation in parish disputes. It replaces the 1987 Parishes Act and 1950 Representation of the Laity Act, amends other canons dating back as far as 1878 and is designed to consolidate and update measures ensuring good governance and management in parishes while retaining some distinctive and treasured Anglican ways of operating.

A member of the Diocesan Council, Mr Colin Reilly, and the Vicar Emeritus of St Jude’s Carlton, the Revd Canon Dr Peter Adam, successfully moved that Synod thank the committee that had brought the legislation before it and commended the thorough consultation process as a model for future legislation. In 1987, Mr Reilly, a parishioner of Christ Church Brunswick and Lay Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, and Dr Adam were involved in drafting the Parishes Act that was repealed this year.

Mr Reilly said the new measures were “an outstanding outcome” and paid particular tribute to the Diocesan Advocate, Dr Ian Gibson, who drafted the new legislation and steered it through the long committee stage, in which it was considered clause by clause, this year. In his work outside the Church, Dr Gibson is General Counsel at the Victorian Government’s Solicitor’s Office and has held leadership roles in Amnesty International.

On its final sitting day this year, Synod passed the Diocesan Budget, watched and heard presentations on the Diocesan Vision and Strategic Directions program and the Reconciliation Action Plan and passed motions on issues including the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the ministry of chaplains in Anglican schools and called for a working group to review how Archbishops of Melbourne are elected. In one of its traditional final acts, it also expressed its condolences for former Synod members, ordained and lay, who had died in the past year, including a former Dean of Melbourne (1953-62), the Revd Canon Dr Stuart Babbage.

See the forthcoming November edition of TMA (The Melbourne Anglican) for detailed coverage of Synod.

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