Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Torres Strait Islands

Since the last Bishop’s Bulletin I have continued travels around the Diocese, including a week in the Torres Strait. The Anglican Church in the Torres Strait is a very important part of the Anglican Church of Australia and especially of this Diocese. There are challenges in the Torres Strait: most of the Islands are almost devoid of teenagers as they need to leave their homes to go to High School on Thursday Island or further south. Likewise there are few people in their twenties or thirties as they continue study or follow employment opportunities down south. However the ministry units are resilient and faithful and are strong in the culture of the Torres Strait Islands: as a church and a broader society we have much to learn from the people and culture of the Torres Strait Islands. There are also moves towards reconciliation with our sisters and brothers who left the Anglican Church over twenty years ago: with patience and love I pray that such reconciliation and reunion may come about with the grace of God.

Tougher Blue Card Laws
The Blue Card System is being changed from early 2020. A larger number of convictions for violent crimes against both adults and children are going to be included as grounds for disqualification for a Blue Card. Perhaps most importantly for clergy and lay ministers, a person “will not be able to commence paid employment while their blue card application is pending”: in other words, No Card, No Start. Where a new minister has been appointed they will need to obtain their Blue Card before arriving in Queensland, rather than the current system of applying for a Blue Card upon arrival.

Art & Craft in the Tropics
At St James Cathedral, daily from 25 July to 4 August 2019 from 10 am to 2 pm. All are welcome to the opening night, 24 July at 5.30 pm. Please find attached a flyer, feel free to distribute to anyone who might be interested.


Books needing a good home
The book collections of Canons Hoog, McAlister and McGregor were left to the Cathedral and some of the books have been given to local ordinands and newer clergy, and to the Melanesian Brothers.
However a number of good books are still available and will be found on book shelves near the north door of the Cathedral. Please feel free to visit whenever the Cathedral is open – including on the Synod weekend – and take any of the books that might be useful or edifying for you. We give thanks for the life and works of these Canons which continues on as these books find new homes and benefit new people.

One question that has arisen repeatedly in my initial travels across the Diocese is in relation to the appropriate age for Confirmation.

The rite of Confirmation is an ancient rite of the church, which some trace back to the laying on of hands by the Apostles Peter and John to “confirm” those baptised by Philip (Acts 8.14-17). The Book of Common Prayer makes clear the role of confirmation: “to the end that children being now come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their Godfathers and Godmothers promised for them in Baptism, they may themselves, with their own mouth and consent, openly before the Church, ratify and confirm the same”. Theologically, Confirmation is the completion of the sacrament of Baptism. For a person baptised as an infant, Confirmation gives them the chance to take as their own the promises made on their behalf at Baptism and to be fully received into the communion of the Church. When an adult is baptised, this is often immediately followed by Confirmation and again part of the intent is to show that they are fully received into the communion of the Church. So the two important elements of confirmation are these: the ability to make an informed decision about confirming the promises of Baptism; and being received into the communion of the Church as an adult member.

For these reasons a person who is to be confirmed undergoes a course of instruction so they understand the promises they are making; and after being confirmed are encouraged to take the sacrament in both kinds (both bread and wine) and to also take part in the wider ministry of the Church.

So what is the right age for Confirmation, especially for those baptised as infants? Clearly the person must be able to answer on their own behalf but there are also important cultural issues. For example in modern Western culture the age of adulthood is widely considered to be 18 years, with slightly lower ages (such as 16 for consent to sexual relationships and 14 for consent to medical procedures) marking the gradual acquisition of adulthood. In other cultures the passage to adulthood occurs at a younger age – such as the Jewish Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13 or initiation rites in Oceanic cultures which often happen at about the same age. There has been a tendency in Western Anglicanism for young people to be confirmed at about the age of 15. However in this Diocese cultural issues also come into play.

In the Torres Strait the rite of Confirmation is part of the way in which a young person is received into adult membership of their community and is a marker of their growth in church and community together. Unlike Western culture, there is no strict division between church and community. A problem has emerged in that most Torres Strait Islander teenagers leave home to attend boarding school either on Thursday Island or down south, in order to undertake High School. This means they leave their home and community and local church at the age of about 12. Accordingly it is desirable that they are confirmed whilst in the last year of Primary School while they are still at home, so that they can be instructed appropriately in their faith and be received into the full communion of the Church whilst still in their own community. They can then set off for High School as instructed and communicant Christians.

Therefore the policy of the Diocese is that a young person should normally be aged 14 or above when confirmed, but where the young person is required to leave home to attend High School as a boarder then they may be confirmed in their home church whilst in the final year of Primary School, provided they are at least 11 years old. In all cases confirmation should be preceded by a course of instruction by a Priest, Deacon or Catechist. Any exceptions to this policy require prior approval by the Bishop.

Extended Communion
Another question that has been frequently raised is that of Extended Communion. The sacrament of Communion is an essential part of our faith and ought to be available to all members of the Church. The best way of doing this is when we are all together for worship and all ministry units are encouraged and enjoined to celebrate Holy Communion on a regular basis.

But for many reasons Communion is not available in some places on a regular basis. This is especially so with our remoter and smaller churches which do not have a priest attending on a regular basis. There are also many of our people who for reasons of ill-health or advanced age are unable to attend their local church. It is appropriate that the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is set aside for them, so that deacons or lay ministers may take communion to them. This might be done in a formal liturgical setting, for example by holding a service in a remote church or an aged care facility using the approved liturgy based on A Prayer Book for Australia (first authorised by Bishop John Noble). Or it might be done more personally by a deacon or lay minister visiting the aged or sick at home or in hospital. This is a good thing and much commended.

Clearly the Body and Blood of Christ to be used in Extended Communion has to be stored somewhere prior to use, and a special place such as an aumbry in the sanctuary of a church is the obvious choice. Some churches will choose to keep a supply of wafers permanently on hand and clearly any of the Sacrament that is retained should be treated with respect as it has been especially consecrated and set aside. Any other unused Sacrament that is not required for use should be disposed of reverently.

Discernment Panel
Thanks be to God that a number of people inside the Diocese of North Queensland have indicated that they feel called to ordained ministry in the Diocese! It is important that calling is tested by the Church, so that the true calling can be better discerned.

To this end a Discernment Panel is being set up, under the leadership of the Reverend Dr Kenneth Lay. It will consist of at least five clergy and lay members from all over the Diocese. All those seeking ordination will have their calling discerned by the panel. Usually about four members of the panel will be involved in considering the discernment; and another one or two will journey with the person seeking discernment. The process will usually take at least six months. At the end of the process the Panel will make its recommendations to me. I will discuss this matter at some greater length at Clergy Conference and Synod, and in a later bulletin which will be devoted to this issue.

Please continue to pray for Renee Wills, her husband Cameron and all who are supporting her at this time. We also pray for Brother Robin at Charters Towers. Later this year we will celebrate his 90th Birthday and 70th Anniversary of his taking his vows as a member of the Bush Brotherhood of St Barnabas – but he is currently recovering from a fall.

Clergy Conference and Synod
Every year the Diocese gathers together at Synod, and this year a short clergy conference will be held in conjunction with Synod. The theme of the clergy conference is “Future Directions”: we will review the strategic plan 2015-19 and start on planning the next strategic plan. There will also be a session on retirement planning – money aspects, social aspects and how to continue in ministry.

Thursday 13 February
• First day of clergy conference, all day in Suite 10 at St James Place. Evening free.

Friday 14 February
• Second day of clergy conference until lunch time. Afternoon free.
• Synod Eucharist for opening of Synod at 6 pm at St James’ Cathedral, followed by election of Synod Officers and Presidential Charge. Clergy vesting for Synod Eucharist should wear alb & red stole; the Dean, the Archdeacon, Canons and Area Deans are invited to wear copes. Vesting will be in Suite 10.

Saturday 15 February
• Synod all day at The Cathedral School, including lunch and a fellowship dinner in the evening at the end of the day’s proceedings. It is hoped that Synod will conclude by Saturday evening, but if required will reconvene again next day at 11 am at The Cathedral School.

Sunday 16 February
• Celebration of Trinity Sunday at the Cathedral; if required Synod reconvenes at 11 am.

Those clergy who have not yet responded to the invitation to attend the clergy conference are asked to contact Shelley Thomas on (07) 4771 4175 or as soon as possible. Likewise, if you have any queries on Synod, please contact Shelley.

Synod is the Diocese truly coming together, and I look forward to seeing as many people as possible at both events. May God give everyone travelling to Townsville safe travel!

The Right Reverend Dr Keith Joseph

Bishop of North Queensland


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