THE ability of the Anglican Church of Australia to "deliver on
its mission" was at "great risk", the Primate, Dr Phillip Aspinall,
Archbishop of Brisbane, said on Monday in his presidential address
to the General Synod meeting in Adelaide. Dr Aspinall steps down as
Primate today, at the conclusion of the meeting.
He identified the lack of sufficient expertise and resources in
some dioceses; their failure to accept advice, support, and
assistance from General Synod bodies; and the lack of authority in
the Australian General Synod and its bodies to remedy these
problems, putting the Church at risk. They were also "undermining
the Church's credibility and trustworthiness in the wider
community", he said.
These problems were not new, he said. He reminded Synod members
that, 16 years ago, the Church had been warned that economics
rather than theology would determine its future. Now, six of the 23
Australian dioceses were not financially sustainable, and three
more were in "serious financial circumstances", he said.
There was a "mismatch" between community expectations and the
reality that the national Church had very little authority, given
the high level of diocesan autonomy. This "bottom-up structure" was
"bewildering" to governments and outside bodies, and limited the
Church's ability to react promptly to various situations, he
The dispersed structure meant that increasing diversity had
diminished and weakened the Church's "internal sense of coherence
and belonging together". The Church was now "reaping the
consequences, as the wider community holds up a mirror in which we
Attempts to revise the Church constitution had so far failed:
local autonomy had trumped catholicity at virtually every point, Dr
Aspinall said. He challenged Synod members to be open to the
possibility of recognising in each other "a common faith in Jesus
Christ", and so see "what God might do with us".
In its first business sessions, the General Synod affirmed its
commitment to the Anglican Communion, and openness to participating
in any future consideration of a covenant proposal. A Bill to amend
the Church's marriage canon to allow marriage where neither bride
nor bridegroom was baptised, brought by the Archbishop of Sydney,
Dr Glenn Davies, was lost.
He had argued that the change was necessary for missional
reasons; this view was disputed by the Archbishop of Perth, the
Most Revd Roger Herft, among other speakers.
Dr Freier is elected Primate
THE Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, has been
elected Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, writes
Muriel Porter. He will take over from the Archbishop of
Brisbane, Dr Phillip Aspinall, who has completed the maximum
The Primatial Board of Electors, meeting in Adelaide at
the weekend, elected Dr Freier on the fifth ballot. The Archbishop
of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, was the runner-up in the final ballot.
The Board comprises the Australian diocesan bishops, 12 elected
clergy, and 12 elected laity.
Dr Freier, who is 59, and has been Archbishop of
Melbourne since 2006, will take up the additional post today at the
end of the General Synod meeting, which has been in Adelaide since
After his election, Dr Freier said that strengthening
the Church's contribution to rural communities, and sustaining a
national presence, were important challenges facing the Australian
Formerly the Bishop of the Northern Territory, Dr Freier
has a strong record of ministry with indigenous people. He speaks
several indigenous languages.