This months Evangelicals Now Article
At the beginning of May the Sydney Anglican Diocese voted for their new archbishop. It was an interesting, if at times puzzling, process to observe. People are nominated to make speeches for and against each candidate. But the result is good news.
The Sydney Diocese is large – over 400 churches with the vast majority of them being what is usually termed ‘conservative evangelical’. They have schools, a care organisation (Anglicare), youth work and Moore Theological College. Unusually in the Western Anglican world it is complementarian, evangelical, and largely Reformed. As a result, it is detested by many in the world and, sadly, in the Church – but so far they have stood firm. Sydney Anglicans have a considerable influence in the worldwide Anglican communion, not least in GAFCON. Therefore it is of great interest to the rest of the evangelical world who will be the new archbishop.
All four candidates, three bishops and a dean, were excellent. It was the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, who was elected after what was a harmonious and non-contentious election. Kanishka has been the dean for the past six years and before that was the leader of a large Anglican church in Perth. He was born to Sri Lankan parents in London, trained as a lawyer and is a convert from Buddhism – some 35 years ago. He is married to Cailey and they have two adult daughters.
His appointment is good news for the worldwide church in general and Sydney in particular.
Firstly, Kanishka is a fine Biblical preacher and leader. As one friend told me: ‘He will be a huge help in presenting the Reformed faith in a gracious manner.’ I can entirely concur with that assessment. I have met Kanishka several times, heard him preach, and even had the privilege of preaching in his cathedral. I remember one Sunday evening listening to him preach with considerable courage and grace a challenging sermon to our culture – so challenging that I noticed some people leaving – but he just winsomely carried on.
He is the first archbishop from a non-Anglo background. This reflects the ethnically diverse and increasingly multi-cultural church. Kanishka pointed out that ‘I’m glad that our Diocese reflects the changing ethnic make-up of our cities and values the participation of Australians of all backgrounds in our church life together. Our team of bishops is almost equal part Asian-background and Anglo. That is contemporary Australia’.
He will lay a considerable emphasis on evangelism. As someone who works as an evangelist with Sydney Anglicans, I am deeply conscious of, and grateful for, his support.
Kanishka will face many battles and difficulties. There are those in the media and wider church who can barely conceal their contempt for a Diocese which seems (and is) so out of step with ‘liberal’ Anglicanism. Like every church, Sydney Anglicans do not have their troubles to seek. There are pressures from within and without. As they come to terms with an increasingly hostile and open world, tensions can arise as how to best move forward and reach out. Different ‘tribes’ have different solutions. There is a danger that some will react defensively and retreat into a conservative ‘bubble’. There is an equal and opposite danger that others will try to have a more ‘broadly’ evangelical approach – which will inevitably end up in compromise with the world’s agenda.
Kanishka Raffel is an ideal leader to steer the ship between those two rocks (and others that await). But he will need our prayers.