TGCA was delighted by the recent appointment of Kanishka Raffel to the post of Archbishop of Sydney. Akos Balogh took the opportunity to talk to him about his faith and ministry.
TGCA: How did you become a Christian?
When I realised I had no good explanation for my rejection of Jesus, I surrendered to him.
I was saved by the Lord after a friend gave me a copy of John’s Gospel. As I read the opening lines—“In the beginning was the Word … ”—I felt comforted that it sounded like a fairytale. But as I read on, I was first convicted and then compelled by its historicity and the inescapability of responding to Jesus. John observes on more than one occasion that, in response to Jesus, “the people were divided.” I found myself trying to answer the question “why am I against Jesus?” When I realised I had no good explanation for my rejection of Jesus, I surrendered to him.
TGCA: What are some of the ministries you’ve been involved in prior to becoming Archbishop?
I have served as a local church minister for 25 years. I was an assistant at St Matthew’s Wanniassa, ACT, for 3.5 years, then rector of St Matthew’s Shenton Park in WA for 16.5 years. Most recently I have served as Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney for 5.5 years.
TGCA: For those that aren’t familiar with the Anglican system, what is the role of an Archbishop?
The Archbishop is the champion of gospel mission in the Diocese, preaching the “whole counsel of God”—to the churches to encourage and equip; and to the community to inform, challenge and call for repentance.
The Archbishop is “guardian of the faith” within the Diocese. A crucial aspect of discharging this responsibility (through his delegates) is the selection, training and deployment of godly men and women to exercise ministry within the Archbishop’s jurisdiction, “the Diocese”. This is crucial for fostering the mission and caring for the congregations.
Similarly, the Archbishop exercises a disciplinary role so as to maintain standards of biblical conviction and conduct amongst those he ordains or licences; and he has a pastoral role, offering spiritual encouragement and care on a wide front.
The Archbishop also exercises his “guardianship” through the oversight of the governance of the Diocese ensuring that policies, procedures and structures serve the mission of the gospel.
TGCA: What are the opportunities for the gospel that you’re hoping to make the most of in your new role?
I love the local church and the Archbishop receives invitations to speak at churches throughout the Diocese as well as in schools and Anglican agencies and organisations. The Archbishop has the opportunity to engage “in the public square” through media appearances and statements,and to speak at civic events. These can be challenging occasions, but provide a rare opportunity to speak to the wider public about the gospel and its implications. The Archbishop has a role that is wider than the local church and includes the denomination nationally and other Anglican bodies internationally, including GAFCON and the Global South.
TGCA: What are the particular challenges both within the Church, and within culture, that you hope to address in your new role?
The temptations that confront the people of God are always the same.
The temptations that confront the people of God are always the same—to allow our first love to grow lukewarm; to fear the world and crave its praise more than we fear God and desire to please him; to neglect the means of grace (Word and prayer, fellowship and service); to sleepwalk into a comfortable apostasy so as to avoid a demanding discipleship.
Our late modern secular western culture is collapsing under the weight of its own internal inconsistencies, but at the same time, it opposes the same gospel that is the origin of many of its treasured values—equality, liberty, social justice. Western secularism fails to appreciate that hearts are not changed by law but grace.
TGCA: How can TGCA readers be praying for you?
I’d love your prayers for wisdom in the many “buck stops here” decisions that the Archbishop has to make, and for deepening trust in God’s Word and purposes, praise for his mercy and grace, and dependence upon God’s Spirit in every circumstance.