THE panel charged with electing a new Australian Primate has failed to elect. The panel, which consists of the 23 diocesan bishops, 12 elected clergy, and 12 elected lay people, met in Sydney last Saturday. It has now been adjourned to a further meeting, at a date to be fixed before the end of June.
With the current Primate, Dr Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne, due to step down at the end of the month, it is expected that the most senior metropolitan archbishop, Dr Phillip Aspinall, Archbishop of Brisbane, will step in, in an interim capacity. The interim Primate will have to chair the meeting of the general synod that is scheduled to be held at the end of May.
The vote failed to reach the required majority by just one vote overall. Both the diocesan bishops and the laity returned substantial majorities in favour of the Archbishop of Adelaide, the Most Revd Geoffrey Smith. The clergy, however, were tied 6-6 for Archbishop Smith and the Bishop of Tasmania, Dr Richard Condie.
Dr Condie, who chairs GAFCON Australia, was strongly favoured by electors aligned with the diocese of Sydney. The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, was ineligible because he is shortly to retire.
Sources say that the push to elect Dr Condie — an unusual move, because, to date, only archbishops have been elected Primate in Australia — was a “carefully orchestrated plan” by the conservatives. Moderate electors, however, see the consistent strong support for Archbishop Smith among the bishops and lay electors as indicating that no GAFCON supporter is likely to be elected when the election process resumes.