Bishop David Robinson
The Challenge of Transition
The Anglican Church of Australia is in a time of transition. Last year the Viability and Structures Task Force opened its report to General Synod with the words 'The Anglican Church of Australia is at a crossroad. For over 30 years it has been slowly declining and the time has come for a revolution if it is to be a strong and sustainable church for the future.' These are strong words pointing to an urgent need for change.
In this Diocese we too are faced with a number of challenges if we are to remain a strong and sustainable church in Central Queensland. We too are in transition as we seek to discover God's next stage in our journey together.
For Jan and I there are the transitions to being in a new place and of constant travel, most weekends see us on the road visiting different parts of the Diocese. This has been a good experience giving us the opportunity to experience the warmth and hospitality of the many parishes in the Diocese, to hear stories of hardship and of hope, and to worship and pray together. It has helped us to see the diversity that exists across the Diocese and the willingness of so many people to try new things - to enter into transitions that will help bring people to Jesus.
The Bible tells us that faith in God is filled with transitions. Abram leaves his father's home to travel to a new and unknown destination. The Israelites leave Egypt for the land of promise. The story of salvation, of the fall in the Garden of Eden, of the forgiveness made possible in Jesus' death, of new life promised to all who repent and believe, a life empowered by God's Holy Spirit, is the ultimate story of transition.
While all of us are familiar with the idea of transition and a new beginning - starting school, commencing work, meeting that special someone, the birth of a child or grandchild, moving home, retirement, illness, the death of a loved one - we know times like these are difficult. All transitions present their challenges. As Jesus reminds us, in Mark 2:22, 'no one pours new wine into old wineskins, otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined'. Transitions are a bit like putting new wine into old skins, they are tricky, they can burst and make a mess. Transitions need new wineskins - a revolution perhaps - and so they come with a mix of fear and excitement, pain and joy.
As God's people we, like all those who have gone before, are called to transition - to new beginnings - to change. Many people are already experimenting with new ideas - Mainly Music, Messy Church to name but two. Some people will be concerned about the change - some will want to hold on to the old wineskins that are familiar and comfortable, some will embrace the new skins and wonder why they didn't try this years ago. When I think about myself and my role I wonder - am I an old or new wineskin, am I willing to change myself in order to better serve God or would I rather keep things the way they've always been?
As Christians I think we face this challenge in a number of ways - as individuals, as parishes and as a Diocese - will we be old or new wineskins? My prayer is that we will be open to the transitions that God lays before us, open to new ways of being Christ's presence in the world around, open to the Spirit of God who calls, guides, strengthens and sustains us.
With every blessing
Bishop David Robinson
What Church does God now require?
I've been thinking about this question for a good while now and, especially over the past few days, have begun to focus on three key themes.
First, the church is both ancient and modern. That is we have a history and that history is important. It tells the story of who we are and shapes what we are to become. At the same time, as a modern church, we are called to change and to be in mission. Being disciples of Jesus is to be open to transformation, both at a personal level and corporately. Since the beginning of creation, God has been calling people into relationship with him - he calls you and me, and he calls the people around us too. The fact that many in our society do not recognise the call of God does not mean that God is not calling them. Nor should this become an excuse for our (the Church's) failure to adapt, to make the message of Jesus recognisable to those who do not yet know him.
Second, we are both diverse and unified. Diverse in the variety of traditions found in our diocese where we span catholic and evangelical traditions in our liturgies. Unified in that we are all called to the same mission, by the same Jesus Christ. We recognise that different people respond in different ways to what happens in our Sunday services and, while many are comfortable with a more traditional style, we recognise there is a need for variety and experimentation if we are to connect with our families, friends and strangers who have long since given up on church. The trick in doing this is grace - being willing to listen, to share and to encourage one another even when we don't see eye to eye. We do well, at this point, to remember that the church does not exist for itself but for those who as yet do not know Christ - our focus is outwards and not inwards - we are to be all things to all people by all possible means so that some might be saved (1 Cor 9:22).
Third, we are a people filled with the Holy Spirit journeying and learning together. If there is one lasting impression I bring away from Texas it is the need for continuing education. It didn't matter where people came from, they all stressed the importance of education and training for ministry for all members of the church. Discipleship and ministry require a commitment to God and a willingness to learn. I have seen both of these things evident in many people since coming to the diocese along with the desire to see others come to faith in Christ. The challenge that lies ahead of us all is how best to provide opportunities for learning, for growth and for mission in a diocese where great distances separate us.
Please pray that God would give us wisdom as we seek to become the church that God requires for mission in the many places that we live and work and play.
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