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Back to the page on Lay Presidency

Statement from the Most Rev Harry Goodhew, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney concerning the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney vote in favour of diaconal and lay presidency - October 20, 1999

'On Tuesday October 19, the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney gave a strong affirmation to an Ordinance that would allow deacons and lay persons to preside at services of the Holy Communion in the parishes of our diocese. This vote was a secret ballot. There were majority votes for the legislation in both the House of Clergy and the House of Laity. The ordinance allows diaconal and lay presidency (administration) for an experimental period of five years, after which the Synod would need to vote again on the issue.

'As the Bishop of the diocese, under the provisions of the 1902 Constitutions Act of the State of NSW, section 5(c), I have a period of one month "to signify assent thereto in writing."

'In considering this matter I need to reflect on it from every aspect before I take my decision. I cannot ignore the strength of support for the matter in the synod, but at the same time I must keep in mind my constitutional responsibilities as a diocesan bishop of the Anglican Church of Australia. I must also consider the implications for this move for the Anglican Communion throughout the world, and the strain which this might place upon our relationships as a diocese with other parts of the Anglican Communion. It may also have implications for our ecumenical relationships.

'I am also mindful of the fact that the practice of diaconal and lay presidency could open the parishes of the diocese to actions against them in the courts.

'It is, of course, a fact to be noted that when major change occurs within our worldwide Anglican family, it is usually through one part of the Communion acting unilaterally and then the Communion follows. I instance, for example, the first ordinations of women to the priesthood and the consecration of women as bishops.

'I have recently returned from consulting with ECUSA [the Episcopal Church of the United States] over the reaction of some dioceses and bishops to the Lambeth Conference rejection of the ordination of practising homosexuals, and the blessing of same-gender unions. This is more of a challenge to order and spiritual continuity than who might pray the prayer of Thanksgiving in the service of Holy Communion.

'As I myself pray and reflect on the implications of this synodical decision for the life and ministry of our parishes, clergy and people, I would seek the prayers of all who are concerned. I am not unmindful of the widespread interest focussed on me and my diocese at this time.'

The Most Rev Harry Goodhew
20 October, 1999
Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of NSW

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