This Sunday, 12 January 2020, Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world will be praying for the Anglican Church of Australia as part of the Anglican Cycle of Prayer. From Monday to Saturday each week, the Anglican Cycle of Prayer lists different dioceses in the Anglican Communion for prayer. On Sundays, it is usual for a whole province to be the focus of prayer. In this second post of a new weekly series, Archbishop Philip Freier introduces his province and provides some specific prayer pointers.
The Province of Australia faces a testing 2020, with challenges inside the church and from without, but I believe we are well-placed to meet them thanks to our strong desire for unity and to carry out the work of the Kingdom.
External challenges include ongoing drought and the horrific bushfires – scores of them burning out of control for weeks and months, with millions of hectares burned, loss of life and huge property damage – which bring consequences for the Church requiring both compassion and practical help. Climate scientists suggest the 2019-20 experience is the precursor to longer and more intense fire seasons.
We share challenges with much of the church in the West: declining attendance, ageing congregations, lack of finances, and rural decline. Yet many parishes are thriving, including new ethnic congregations catering to the highly multi-cultural population of our larger cities.
Same-sex relationships and marriage will be an important focus for the church, with a day and a half of the three-yearly national synod in May set aside to discuss the Church’s response. Some Anglican dioceses in Australia have expressed a desire to bless same-sex marriages, and others are resolutely opposed. Please pray that good will and unity prevail, and that the Church finds a way forward while being a safe place for people of differing experiences and views.
Australia’s bishops met in November and identified the highest priorities in their shared leadership of the national church as “working on a mixed economy and discerning boundaries of unity”; “responding to LGBTIQA+ people and their needs”; “further theological work on the doctrine of marriage and blessing”; and “building trust as a college of Bishops”.
The bishops will meet again in March, before the General Synod, to reflect further on these issues. We will be blessed by the presence of Bishop Ric Thorpe, the Bishop of Islington (London), who will speak to us about church planting.
As Christianity’s long cultural legacy slowly begins to fade in Australia, it is essential for the Church to provide a coherent and generous moral voice, to continue its advocacy, social endeavours and community building which have been so valuable over more than two centuries. Please pray that many of those who come to church seeking community – be it worship services, play groups or other pursuits for which church buildings are often used – may be touched by the Spirit and brought to salvation in Jesus Christ. Pray that the Church will hold fast to its vision, and grant us the energy and desire to serve the Lord as we should.
By the national synod in May, I will have concluded my term as Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia. I have decided not to seek re-election for another three years, and am therefore stepping down on 31 March to allow my successor to prepare for the synod. I will continue as Archbishop of Melbourne.
Please pray for God’s guidance in the election process of the new Primate and for God’s wisdom and blessing in the exercise of that role.
Grace and peace,