Until now, Sydney has pretty much played by the rules of Anglican churchmanship, even as it has staked out a position at one end of the accepted Anglican theological polarities. It has professed loyalty to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Articles of Religion (the latter, at least, being a rather more natural fit than the other two). The diocese has always been a "player" on the international Anglican scene.
It has for years been no secret that there was a critical mass of opinion and desire within the diocese to authorize lay persons to preside at celebrations of the Eucharist (in the local parlance, "administer" Holy Communion). This is consonant with an ultra-Reformed understanding of the nature of the Church, the nature of the sacraments, and the nature of ordained ministry. Anglican Evangelicals may wish to make a case that it is consonant with the nature of Anglican religion itself. But it is manifestly dissonant with the formularies (Prayer Book, Ordinal, Articles) that even Sydney would agree somehow circumscribe Anglican identity.
This past weekend, Sydney finally stepped off the reservation. Its synod voted to authorize deacons to preside at the Eucharist. This isn't the whole deal. This isn't all they would want. But it steps over the line nonetheless, and "Lay Presidency" is only a matter of time, it would seem. From an Anglo-Catholic perspective, this is so unspeakable as to scarcely even merit refutation. But even from a classic Evangelical perspective, it is a serious breach of good order.
Of course, in the present climate of Anglicanland, it takes irony and raises it to an unprecedented level. Sydney Anglicans have been in the forefront of the chorus of voices critical of the "progressive" position of the North American provinces in the area of sexual morality. They have been members of the choir singing the repeated refrain, "You have not adequately consulted. Your actions have breached the bonds of affection. For the sake of the unity of the communion, please do not do this. Show appropriate restraint."
I have also sung in the same chorus, and I continue to do so. This is precisely why I am horrified--not surprised, perhaps, but horrified--by what Sydney has done. The members of the synod cannot have been unaware how their action, as much as it may "make sense" for them, will be seen as an egregious breach of Anglican norms by the vast majority of other Anglicans, even Evangelicals. But they allowed their own local convictions to trump the universal discipline of all the churches that share in the gift of the historic episcopate.
Some might contend that Sydney should get a pass on this because they are "orthodox," while the Americans and Canadians are "revisionists." But in doing what it has done, the Diocese of Sydney has utterly forfeited any claim to orthodoxy. Its offense is every bit as serious, every bit as much an abrogation of Anglican orthodoxy, as anything the American or Canadian churches have done. Sydney is no less culpable than New Hampshire in rending the fabric of the Anglican Communion.
The larger onus now lies on GAFCON to exercise whatever influence it may have over one of its very own key players to desist from implementing what the diocesan synod has approved. Whatever integrity GAFCON hopes to maintain in the eyes of the rest of the communion will evaporate if they do otherwise.
And the smaller onus lies on the members of the Covenant Design Group. Even though the impetus for the development of an Anglican Covenant comes from the (mis)behavior of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, the disciplinary reach of the covenant needs to have sufficient range to encompass Peter Jensen (the Archbishop of Sydney) as well as bishops like Chane, Bruno, Andrus, and other would-be bad actors.
There can be no distinction between orthodox moral theology and orthodox church order. One is neither more nor less important than the other.