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Progressive Anglicans "devastated' "

Archbishop Geoffrey Smith and Archbishop Glenn Davies - PHOTO (RNS)

By David W. Virtue, DD
August 18, 2022

A group of orthodox Australian Anglicans announced they were forming a GAFCON-based diocese separate from the Anglican Church of Australia, a stick in the eye at the head of the Church of England. This comes hard on the heels of the Lambeth Conference where Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the titular head of the Anglican Communion, called for unity and tolerance on both sides of the same-sex debate.

One wonders if the action to form this new diocese, days after the Lambeth Conference ended, was deliberately made to send a signal that compromise over Lambeth resolution 1:10 (sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman) is non-negotiable and is [still] the biblical standard for the entire Anglican Communion.

The Most Rev. Geoffrey Smith, Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Adelaide noted the formal launch of the Diocese of the Southern Cross. The new diocese will be under the leadership of Bishop Glenn Davies, retired Archbishop of Sydney and Metropolitan of the Province of New South Wales. Bishop Smith said that while this new jurisdiction "mirrored" some characteristics of an Anglican diocese, it had no formal or informal relationship or connection with the Anglican Church of Australia and should be considered a new denomination.

"It is unfortunate that confusion may well result from the establishment of this organisation among existing members of the Anglican Church of Australia and among people wishing to connect with the Anglican Church of Australia," Smith said.

"The meeting of the General Synod held in May this year clearly affirmed the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, and declined to affirm same-sex marriage. It is perplexing therefore that the leaders of this breakaway movement cite the reason for this new denomination as the failure of General Synod to explicitly express an opinion against the blessing of same-sex marriages."

Individual dioceses are free to bless same-sex unions in Anglican churches, which is the thin end of the wedge. Smith, as primate, chairs the meeting of the General Synod but has no power over other Anglican dioceses. He called for the church "to live together with difference."

"My conviction is that the Anglican Church of Australia can find a way to stay together, graciously reflecting God's great love, with our differences held sincerely. This week's announcement makes achieving that end more difficult but not impossible."

Well, as history has shown, it is impossible. In North America, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was formed after homoerotic priest Gene Robinson was consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) was formed to represent orthodox Anglicanism in Canada as an alternative to the revisionist leaning Anglican Church of Canada. A GAFCON diocese was formed in New Zealand under the leadership of Bishop Jay Behan in October 2019.

In Australia, the news was greeted by revisionist Anglicans, who said they were "devastated" by the "historic split." They wondered aloud if the breakaway group can still consider itself Anglican!

Here is what a number of bishops said:

Peter Stuart, the Bishop of Newcastle, apologized to the LGBTQI community. "I am sorry for the pain that you endure too often when Anglicans speak," he said. North Queensland Bishop Keith Joseph described the split as an "error".

Clarence Bester, the Bishop of Wangaratta, said it was "a sadness that we discriminate against people and we use scripture as justification".

The Reverend Elizabeth Smith, a priest in Kalgoorlie, said she was "devastated by the launching of a breakaway new church that calls itself Anglican but is a world away from most Australian Anglicans", and backed her female bishop, Kay Goldsworthy, who attracted criticism for ordaining a male deacon living in a same-sex marriage. Goldsworthy was very visible in Canterbury at the Lambeth Conference

Conservatives have declared the issue of same-sex marriage a "line in the sand" and are concerned that progressives within the church have put modern social justice considerations above the Bible's "unchanging truth" that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The issue has torn apart churches around the world. It made headlines in Australia in 2019 when the Victorian diocese of Wangaratta voted to bless same-sex civil unions. That began with the blessing of retired Wangaratta vicar-general John Davis and his partner of more than 20 years, Rob Whalley, also a former priest.

But the ceremony was delayed when conservatives - especially those in Sydney - vocally objected. The issue went to a church court, which endorsed the original decision. The couple's ceremony went ahead in November 2020.

"The roof hasn't fallen in," Davis told the Herald and The Age. "I think [same-sex love] is a second-order issue that is being made a first-order issue and I think that's deeply unnecessary. This isn't really about principles, it's about power."

Dorothy Lee, an Anglican theologian and priest, described it as a sad day for the church. "I think [the decision to launch a breakaway movement] is aggressive, and arrogant and absolutist," she said.

"I think it's tragic when churches split, and fail to hold together in unity despite the many things they have in common."

Some also questioned whether the new church, the Diocese of the Southern Cross - which describes itself as a "separate and parallel" Anglican diocese - could legitimately call itself Anglican.

Joseph said there was no trademark on the word Anglican, but the new group, and its global affiliate GAFCON, went "beyond classical Anglicanism".

However, Tasmanian Bishop Richard Condie - who supports the new church - said it was simply providing a way for Anglicans whose views contrasted with those of their bishop to find like-minded spiritual leadership.

"That doesn't mean that everybody who remains is not a Bible person," he said. "Even in the most revisionist of diocese in Australia, they love the Bible and they want to live by it.

"But for some, receiving the ministry of [their] bishop is difficult," Condie said.

"There's no sense of triumph. There's a sombre air of sadness about what's happened."

Condie said the new church was Anglican because it believed Anglican doctrine. "I don't think there's any issue of legality to be considered," he said. "I think it is more confessional, it's more about what we believe."

The bishop of the new church, Glenn Davies, said the Diocese of the Southern Cross had not received, "nor are we likely to receive", any inquiries from Melbourne for affiliation.

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The recently retired Archbishop of the ultra-conservative Archdiocese of Sydney, Glenn Davies, has emerged as the leader of a breakaway extra-provincial diocese, the Diocese of the Southern Cross. This new church will cover the whole of Australia.

This move has been taken with the support of GAFCON, the ad-hoc grouping of bishops and dioceses most opposed to the inclusion of LGBT+ persons in the life of the church. The Archdiocese of Sydney has been a strong supporter of the GAFCON, which has previously supported breakaway groups in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand.

In its organizing documents registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, the new diocese states that the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles will be the "authorized standard of worship and doctrine." The new diocese also states that GAFCON's Jerusalem Declaration will be the third pillar of their identity and will be "the basis of fellowship in the Diocese."

The new diocese is opposed to marriage equality. Presumably, it will also be opposed to female ordination as the Jerusalem Declaration, in two of its statements it upholds traditional views of each, which say;

We recognise that God has called and gifted bishops, priests and deacons in historic succession to equip all the people of God for their ministry in the world. We uphold the classic Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders.

We acknowledge God's creation of humankind as male and female and the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family. We repent of our failures to maintain this standard and call for a renewed commitment to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married.

The new Diocese is also supported by the serving bishop of Tasmania, Richard Condie, who is also the chair of GAFCON Australia. He was present at the GAFCON Australasia conference where the launch the new diocese was announced, saying; "We are at an important moment in the history of the Anglican Church in Australia, you know as well as I do that there is an emergency."

Further he noted that "GAFCON Australia had originally been set up as a "break glass in case of emergency" organisation. The emergency, he stressed, had now come: This walking away from the scriptures and the ridiculing of those who uphold them as we have seen in some presidential addresses by bishops in Australian Synods this year, IS the crisis, it IS the emergency to which we must respond."

The decision to go ahead with the formation of the breakaway diocese was taken after a motion offered by the Sydney Archdiocese to affirm that marriage was only between a man and a woman was blocked by the Australian Bishops 12 to 10.

As VOL has observed before, at the end of the day revisionists will fail. They are preaching to a choir in an empty church.

You can read Australian culture war apologist Bill Muehlenberg's take here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2022/08/17/when-churches-go-bad-fight-or-flight/

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