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AUSTRALIA: Three-way struggle to lead Anglicans

AUSTRALIA: Three-way struggle to lead Anglicans

By Vanessa Walker and James Murray

19 January 2004

Peter Carnley's surprise resignation as head of the Anglican Church will prompt a fierce 15-month leadership struggle between conservative and progressive Anglicans.

For the first time in history, the nation's 23 bishops will join the five archbishops as real contenders to be titular head of the nation's 3.8million Anglicans.

The 47 members of a board to elect the new primate will be chosen at the General Synod meeting in October.

The result of their deliberations is impossible to predict. But authoritative sources have told The Australian there are three main candidates for primate.

These are the evangelical Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, whose conservative theology is at odds with many of the Australian dioceses; the Archbishop of Brisbane, Phillip Aspinall; and the bishop of Newcastle, Roger Herft.

Reflecting the views of several sources who would not go on the record, church historian Muriel Porter said Dr Jensen's "extreme views" on homosexuality and opposition to women priests would make it difficult for him to garner support.

"Peter Jensen's Sydney style of Anglicanism is far too narrow and centralist for the rest of Australia," Dr Porter said.

"Roger Herft is an outstanding bishop and should not be overlooked. He is highly respected in the international Anglican community."

Bishop Herft, who is considered a theologian equal to Dr Carnley, gained prominence at the 1998 Lambeth conference when he was appointed chaplain to the worldwide meeting of primates.

Dr Porter said Archbishop Aspinall had acquitted himself well in the wake of the scandal that forced his predecessor, Peter Hollingworth, to quit as governor-general.

"He also has knowledge of Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and now Brisbane. He is running the diocese admirably," she said.

Traditionally, the job of primate has been filled by one of five archbishops, whose diocesan bureaucracy can cope with their absence.

However, the looming retirements of the Archbishop of Adelaide, Ian George, and the Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Watson, has ruled them out and opened up the field to ordinary bishops.


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