Kanishka Raffel is currently the Dean of Sydney, serving at St Andrews Cathedral. He has been married to Cailey for 32 years, and they have two adult daughters.
Born in London of Sri Lankan parents, he arrived in Australia as a 7-year-old. His father died soon after the family arrived in Australia and his mother and siblings moved back to Sri Lanka for a couple of years before returning to Australia when Kanishka was 9.
Raised a Buddhist, a friend gave Kanishka a copy of two Gospels when he was at University. At the age of 21, Kanishka was convicted by the inescapable words of Jesus in John’s Gospel: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:44). This personal experience has not only meant that Kanishka is passionate about spreading the Good News but it also means that he happily rests on the unchanging truth that God brings people to himself through his Son.
Kanishka is a compelling preacher who has a deep insight into the Scriptures and a natural gift for communication. From the pulpit and in person, he speaks with both warmth and clarity about Jesus Christ. He invites unbelievers to consider Christ with gentleness and grace, and believers to a deeper discipleship. His Bible teaching is widely sought-after around the globe.
Kanishka has served the Australian church widely. After graduating from Sydney University with English Honours and Law, he trained at Moore Theological College. His subsequent parish ministry has been in Canberra-Goulburn for 3 years and then in Perth for 17 years.
As Rector of Shenton Park, Perth, he oversaw growth of the parish from 280 people to 750 people. He encouraged innovation and risk-taking for the gospel in his team, planting five congregations, some of which have become separate churches.
Since coming to St Andrew’s Cathedral as Dean in 2016, he has rebuilt the ministry team and improved the financial stability of the Cathedral. He has overseen the renovation of the Chapter House, particularly taking the role of fund-raiser. He has developed a team of lay ministers and made the most of our connections with the city. He has pioneered the ministry to Rough Sleepers.
When asked about his approach to leadership, Kanishka said, “What are the biggest problems? What are the best solutions? Let’s work this out together. That’s how I lead.”
He is a leader who sees the great benefit of surrounding himself with very good people, lay and clergy alike, and equipping them for works of service alongside him.
Kanishka’s 20 years outside of Sydney have given him an appreciation for the dynamics of the national church scene. He was active as an evangelical leader in the Perth synod, where he often stood bravely for gospel truth. He has since taken the lead in a number of critical matters at our own Sydney synod.
The powerful and deep reflections he offered at GAFCON from Ephesians 2, still ring true today: 2021! Kanishka has the qualities that it takes to lead the Sydney diocese as Archbishop. He can build good relations with his diocese and other fellow bishops in the growing and challenging non-western communion. He will also give opportunities for others to encourage Sydney diocese as it does the same to other dioceses within the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Kanishka is first and foremost a godly and humble friend. His genuine warmth, deep personal interest and vulnerable clarity on the things that really matter stand out, and make him a man I trust implicitly. Personally, I value Kanishka’s counsel and consistent support enormously. As a pastor, Kanishka’s passionate commitment to the Scriptures, tender love for people and sharp strategic insight are a gift to Christ’s church, and yet he wears all this lightly. Quick to ask questions of and listen to the insights of others, whether in conversation or as they preach or speak, Kanishka maintains a clear focus on seeing people come to Christ and being formed in Christ, and so whatever other responsibilities he may bear, he has continued to pour himself into preaching Christ clearly and richly. in his wider responsibilities, particularly as part of the Gospel Coalition Australia Council, Kanishka embodies a gospel-shaped concern for the church of Christ, leading courageously and unflinchingly, and yet with a keen insight into the challenges we are facing, and a soft-hearted compassion for those who may disagree with him.
I have known Kanishka for more than 20 years, including being a member of the church he pastored in Perth for 17 years and serving with him on committees within and outside the church. Kanishka is a humble servant of the Lord Jesus and his life and work centres on making Jesus known to all people. Kanishka is a gifted teacher and orator; it is always a rewarding, instructive experience to hear him expound the Scriptures. He has been creative, organised and disciplined in leading the church family of which I was a member. His ministry among us was inspiring and very fruitful. Kanishka engages with the joys of life but also shares in the sorrows too. He is kind and compassionate. He cares deeply about people and I know he always looks to Jesus to lead, guide, sustain and direct him in all he does. I recommend Kanishka wholeheartedly for the role of Archbishop of Sydney.
I had the privilege of having Kanishka as my pastor, boss, and fellow labourer in the Lord for over a decade. His gifts in teaching, theological reflection, and pastoral wisdom are obvious to everyone, and immediately impressive. However the more lasting impression has been his character, integrity, and devotion to Jesus. There are few people I know whom I trust more, respect more, or whose relationship with God I'd more like to imitate than Kanishka. He is the real deal. Working alongside him has been one of the most formative experiences of my life.
I have known Kanishka since he was a student at Moore College in the early 1990s. Throughout that time he has been a thoughtful, faithful brother. He is extraordinarily capable, able to transform his own rich theological insight into faithful, accessible and edifying Bible teaching that is appreciated around the world. He has a very fine mind and a warm, generous heart. He has proven himself to be a leader with remarkable courage in difficult situations. He is a man of wisdom, integrity and compassion who would make a fine Archbishop of Sydney.
In his Langham Preaching ministry in Sri Lanka, Kanishka demonstrates his God-given strengths. These include his ability to relate well to ministers and encourage them; his remarkable gift in preaching the Scriptures; his theological clarity; his ability to inspire and encourage others; and his desire to train and equip others in ministry. We praise God for him.
For the past five years Kanishka has been invited to serve the gospel in Sri Lanka with Langham Partnership. He is an excellent preacher and teacher, yet able to simply and patiently apply the scriptures wherever the context. I am deeply encouraged that Kanishka has such a passion and commitment to global church. I commend his nomination as Archbishop of Sydney.
Kanishka’s prayer for the Sydney diocese for the 2020s is:
“That God would be pleased to grow – in love, knowledge, service and numerically – local churches that are open to all, welcoming of the hurting and ministering God’s love, serving their communities and being an adornment to the gospel they preach.”
“The local church is a sign of the power of the gospel of Christ crucified and risen – an outpost of heaven, where people know they are loved and held by God. In the local church, Christians seek to be transformed by the gospel and to persevere in affliction. Our task is as simple – and as difficult – as that. The diocese, the ‘centre’, must serve the health and the needs of the local church. We need our local churches to be, under God, places where people find a greater love”.
“We need to evangelise and disciple young people for a future we can only dream about – such is the pace of social and cultural change. But we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the endeavour. Rather, we hope in Jesus, in whose hands the future lies – and so recommit to the task of strengthening our Youth and Children’s ministry throughout Greater Sydney
“We have a shared commitment in the Anglican diocese of Sydney to the primacy of the Word in the fellowship of the local congregation. Our strategy has always been to seek to cover the city in local church communities. For that we need to develop and sustain mature leadership. We need a renewed call to parish ministry; and we need to support Moore College as it seeks to recruit and train men and women for leadership in the local church.”
Canon Phil Colgan, St George North, Canon Simon Flinders, Northbridge, The Rev Dr Michael Jensen, Darling Point, Dr Stephen Judd, Roseville, The Rev Al Lukabyo, Croydon, The Rev Tom Melbourne, Lawson
Mrs Emma Penzo, Part 8, Miranda, The Rev Gavin Perkins, Bowral, Canon Craig Roberts, Part 6, Roseville, Dr Laurie Scandrett, Centennial Park and Miss Alicia Watson OAM, Darling Point.