Australian Deans Conference discusses Covid-impact, calls for urgent Climate Crisis Action, and commits to continued collegiality in the light of threats to church unity
Cathedral Deans of the Anglican Church of Australia met for their first in-person conference since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Following two years of virtual tele-conferences, the Deans met at St Boniface Cathedral Bunbury, Western Australia, at the invitation of the Very Revd Darryl Cotton, Dean of Bunbury.
During their four-day conference, Deans reflected on the impact the Covid pandemic had had on their cathedral communities. Many cathedrals had successfully transitioned to a hybrid model of worship, maintaining the video-streaming systems they introduced during lockdowns, which now enable vulnerable and older members of their communities to access worship regularly from their homes. Dean of Sydney, the Very Revd Sandy Grant, said: “It was encouraging to hear how cathedrals were making good use of technology through and beyond COVID to make the gospel of Jesus known”.
As in previous years, the Deans’ conference provided an affirming and collegial environment for sharing and exploring together the unique challenges of Cathedral ministries. Senior Dean, the Very Revd Dr Peter Catt, said: “Over the years the Deans have developed a community characterised by deep trust and collegiality. This allows us to support one another despite some significant differences in theology and approach to ministry. This is rare commodity in the church”.
The Conference welcomed seven Deans appointed since the last in-person conference held at St John’s Cathedral Brisbane in 2019: the Very Revd Michael Davies (Ballarat), the Very Revd Sandy Grant (Sydney), the Very Revd Mark Hawkes (Willochra), the Very Revd Keren Terpstra (Gippsland), the Very Revd Dr Kenneth Lay (North Queensland), the Very Revd Thomas Leslie (Riverina), and the Very Revd Rob Llewellyn (Darwin). Dean of Gippsland, the Very Revd Keren Terpstra, said: “The Deans’ Conference was an excellent opportunity to connect with the wider community of national deans and to learn from the rich experiences of others”.
During their conference, Deans addressed the urgent need for positive climate action. As businesses, homes and churches across Australia face the impact of a changing climate, faith communities have responded by providing relief and practical support. Many Cathedrals have implemented measures to mitigate the climate crisis by sourcing energy from renewable sources, and harvesting solar and thermal energy.
The Anglican Deans affirmed their call to government leaders to implement the recommendations of climate experts to reduce carbon emissions to ensure a safe and sustainable future, by halving carbon emissions this decade, transforming energy supply to 100% renewable sources, and investing in programs that mean that no community is left behind. This should include foreign aid for mitigation of any deleterious effects and sustainable energy security for developing nations.Australian Anglican Deans call for urgent climate action
As the Deans met in Western Australia, many bishops of the Anglican Communion also gathered in Canterbury for the Lambeth Conference. Deans discussed the divisions facing the Anglican Communion that also threaten the unity of the Anglican Church of Australia. Deans recommitted themselves to respectful listening of different viewpoints and to support the ministry of Anglican Cathedrals across Australia; recognising especially the challenges facing regional cathedrals and dioceses. Dean of Newcastle, the Very Revd Katherine Bowyer, said: “The strength of our gathering is in the diversity of understandings we bring to our shared experience. In this way we support, strengthen, and resource each other for ministry.”
Reflecting on the success of the first in-person conference since the Covid pandemic, host Dean Darryl Cotton said: “This has been an historic conference, as the last time Deans visited Bunbury was thirty years ago. Seeing the College of Deans come together after three attempts to meet in person has been a blessing both for the attenders, the Cathedral community and Diocese of Bunbury as St Boniface Cathedral celebrates its Diamond Jubilee in 2022.”
The Cathedral Deans of the Anglican Church of Australia will meet again next year, at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne, from 27-31 July 2023.