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100 years ago: Freeing Australia’s Church of England

07 July 2023

July 6th, 1923.

THE Australian Church seems to be definitely moving at last towards homogeneity. The Synod lately held at Melbourne has passed a resolution in favour of an all-Australian Convention to prepare a common constitution for the Church in Australia. A few dioceses still hold out against the idea of an Australian Church which shall be free from entanglements with the Privy Council. Sydney, of course; Brisbane, rather oddly; Bendigo and Tasmania are reported to have voted against the proposed severance of the nexus. But the rest were for freedom. It will perhaps be news to some English Churchmen that the Church in Australia is not yet under one Constitution, nor free. But unity in the Australian Church is an unrealized ideal. Though it has acquired, slowly and with difficulty, a provincial organization, in face of strong opposition from within its own borders, there are some dioceses which are extra-provincial, Tasmania, Adelaide, Willochra, and North-West Australia. And over all the Church in Australia there lies the shadow of a hand which might descend and grip it. The Australian Church came into being under the authority of Letters Patent, it was in every sense a State Church, a little piece of the Mother Church transplanted to the Antipodes. Privy Council decisions may be found to bind it, not as the decisions of a quasi-ecclesiastical Court, but as the final Court of Appeal for all cases from the Commonwealth, and its decisions affecting property would have to be accepted by the Church. The present movement is therefore a movement for a freedom which the Australian Church, as a whole, has never had, though some parts of it are less rigidly fettered than others.

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