2 March 2024

Primate regrets Australian bishops’ participation in US consecration

Two Australian bishops reject Dr Freier’s advice and join consecration of a bishop outside the Anglican Communion

Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier, Australia’s Anglican Primate, shown at Bishop Condie’s consecration in Hobart last year. Dr Freier says the US consecration of Canon Andy Lines and the participation of Bishop Condie and Sydney’s Archbishop Glenn Davies “raises significant questions how the close fellowship, co-operation and collegiality of the Anglican Communion… is affected”.

By Mark Brolly

3 July 2017

Australia’s Anglican Primate, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, has expressed regret at the decision of two Australian bishops to participate in the consecration of a bishop for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which is not in communion with the Australian church or the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Dr Freier, in a letter to the Australian bishops on 1 July, said he had advised Archbishop Glenn Davies of Sydney and Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania against participating in the consecration of the Revd Canon Andy Lines as Bishop for Europe in ACNA. The Church of England – the mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which the Anglican Church of Australia is part – includes a Diocese in Europe, with a diocesan bishop and assistant bishop.

Bishop Lines, an Englishman, is to be “a missionary bishop” for Anglicans in Scotland, the UK and Europe who are outside the official structures of the Anglican Church in those places following divisions over sexuality and the authority of the Bible, most recently with the Scottish Episcopal Church voting on 8 June to change its Canon on Marriage to remove the definition that marriage is between a man and a woman and allowing clergy to solemnise marriage between same-sex couples (although the revised canon also stipulates that no member of clergy will be required to solemnise a marriage against their conscience).

He was consecrated in Edman Chapel, on the campus of Wheaton College – an interdenominational Christian liberal arts college near Chicago – on 30 June.

A media release on 1 July from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) said Bishop Condie travelled the furthest to show his diocese’s support and quoted him thus: “We are a long way away from the Scottish Church, and from the things that have unfolded in Europe in recent days, but we stand in solidarity with our Anglican brothers and sisters from around the world.”

Archbishop Freier wrote that he had advised Archbishop Davies and Bishop Condie, who was Archdeacon of Melbourne until his consecration as Tasmania’s Anglican leader last year, against participating in Bishop Lines’ consecration on 30 June.

“I take the view that communion – koinonia, is a gift of our Lord to his Church and that in our context it is the Anglican Church of Australia, through its constitution and the framework it establishes, that determines how this is expressed in practical terms,” Dr Freier wrote.

“For reasons explained below, I do not think that it is for us individually, acting independently, to determine with whom we are in communion or to act unilaterally to that end. I do not think that it is for individual dioceses in the Anglican Church of Australia to determine with whom we, as members of that Church, are in communion. We must act in accordance with the Constitution that binds us as the Anglican Church of Australia.”

Dr Freier wrote that the Anglican Church of Australia “is a committed member of the Anglican Communion”.

“Each Church makes its own decisions in its own ways, guided by recommendations from the Lambeth Conference, Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury,” he wrote.

“The strength of the Anglican Communion to date has been the close fellowship, co-operation and collegiality which has continued to flourish despite significant disagreements on certain issues. I have personal experience of the insights that arise and the goodwill that is fostered when we gather around the same table of the Lord.

“None of this is to deny the central importance of the Fundamental Declarations contained in the Constitution (of the Anglican Church of Australia)… Nor must we overlook the plenary authority of General Synod (the Church’s national parliament) in this matter.

“The consecration of Canon Lines and the participation of our colleagues raises significant questions how the close fellowship, co-operation and collegiality of the Communion to which I referred above is affected and, just as importantly, how individuals and member dioceses of the Anglican Church of Australia should conduct themselves to live out in accordance with the Constitution the mandated model of a Church in communion with other churches of the Anglican Communion so long as communion is consistent with the Fundamental Declarations contained in the Constitution.”

Dr Freier noted that on the same day as the Scottish Episcopal Church voted on same-sex marriage, ACNA announced its decision to proceed with the consecration of Canon Lines “to serve clergy and congregations who are outside other Anglican structures in Europe, providing an opportunity for ordination and oversight from a perspective of Biblical orthodoxy”.

“Neither the Archbishop of Canterbury (who has responsibility for Europe) nor the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church has given their concurrence to the consecration or the proposed Episcopal ministry,” Archbishop Freier wrote.

“Whilst I appreciate the courtesy of my Episcopal colleagues in seeking my advice, I regret very much that they have decided to act contrary to it. The consecration in the ACNA is not on any view an act in communion with the Anglican Communion and its member churches, particularly the Provinces of the Church of England, the Scottish Episcopal Church and existing jurisdictions in Europe.

“Whilst any individual and any diocese may form a view as to whether continued communion is consistent with the Fundamental Declarations, it is for the General Synod of our Church alone to determine such a question.”

Dr Freier wrote that he had “deep concerns” that the participation by Australian bishops in the consecration of Canon Lines, with or without the support of their respective dioceses, was contrary to the spirit of the canons of the Council of Nicaea (the first ecumenical council of Christians, held in 325) “and, most importantly, outside of the authority of our National Constitution”. “It may also be outside the authority of the Consecration of Bishops Canon, 1966 of the Anglican Church of Australia.

“As we respond to these developments let us resolve to uphold each other in mutual prayer and to do all we can to strengthen the koinonia we share as bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia.”

The Primate’s letter followed those of Archbishop Davies and Bishop Condie to their episcopal colleagues on 26 June. Both men wrote that they had decided to participate in Bishop Lines’ consecration with the support of their diocesan advisers.

Archbishop Davies wrote that the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision last month “amounts to another significant and sad moment in the life of the Anglican Communion, akin to the consecration of Gene Robinson (the first openly gay man to be consecrated a bishop in the Anglican Communion) in 2003”.

“As you will all know, I consider such an action to be a travesty of the rule of Christ, of the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer, and therefore abandonment of the principles of Anglican doctrine to which we have committed ourselves in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of Sections 1-6 of the Constitution,” Dr Davies wrote. “I consider that such a departure from the teaching of Scripture, ‘the ultimate rule and standard of faith’, casts doubt upon the nature of our communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church, since such communion needs to be consistent with the Fundamental Declarations (Section 6). In time, given the decisions of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church, which are yet to be translated into canon law, we shall see a similar disparity of communion with these two provinces.”

Dr Davies said ACNA was formed in 2008 by Anglicans who opposed such changes “because they believed that the truths of the gospel could not be compromised for the sake of conforming to society’s obsession to normalise homosexual behaviour as part of Christian discipleship”.

“Although I recognise that some members of our Church are open to considering a change in our doctrine at this point, our General Synod has on more than one occasion affirmed the importance of marriage as being defined as a life-long union, to the exclusion of all others, of a man and a woman. This is the doctrine of our Church. This is the doctrine of Christ. We depart from this at our peril.

“In response to the decision of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the bishops of the Anglican Church in North America, in consultation with many Primates of the Global South and of GAFCON have decided, upon the request of Anglican Christians in Britain, to consecrate a missionary bishop to those who have left the Church of England, or will soon leave the Scottish Episcopal Church, because they cannot abide the ineffective and errant leadership of their synods and some of their own bishops. That the General Synod of the Church of England could not even bear ‘to note’ a unanimous report from the House of Bishops, which reaffirmed the Bible’s teaching that marriage does not include same-sex relationships, is indicative of the challenges to orthodoxy that the Church of England faces. They need our prayers.”

Archbishop Davies wrote that the decision to consecrate a missionary bishop was not made lightly and was very different from the recent decision of the parish of Jesmond in the northern English city of Newcastle, where an assistant minister of the parish was consecrated a bishop to minister within the Church of England, despite the lack of canonical process and the agreement of either the Bishop of Newcastle or the Archbishop of York.

“Rather, the consecration of the Reverend Canon Andy Lines at the end of this month is for the purpose of providing episcopal oversight to those faithful Anglicans who can no longer in good conscience remain under their bishop or be a part of the church they once cherished. As a missionary bishop to Europe, Canon Andy Lines would not be ministering within the Church of England (which extends to continental Europe) or within the Scottish Episcopal Church, but rather to those who have left these churches.

“I have been invited to participate in this consecration and after consulting the Standing Committee of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, our Primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury, I have decided to do so.

“From the Primate’s response to this decision and his counsel not to participate, I understand that some of you will disagree and disapprove of my participation. I do not make the decision lightly, nor do I wish to cause division among our episcopal ranks. However, I believe that my participation is an act of solidarity with those who contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Not to participate, since I shall be present, would send a signal of a different kind, and one which I do not believe would bring honour to Christ and his gospel.”

Archbishop Davies compared his decision with that of his predecessor, Archbishop Donald Robinson, in February 1984 to consecrate the Revd Dudley Foord to be a bishop in the Church of England in South Africa, which was “not technically in communion with Canterbury”, as a gospel imperative.

“I cannot see, from this distance in time, that Archbishop Robinson’s actions caused any ongoing division in our national Church, and it is my hope that my participation in a consecration on the other side of the world will likewise cause no stumbling block to our fellowship. On the contrary, it is my hope that we would all rally to defend the Bible’s teaching on marriage, not merely for the sake of correct doctrine, but that we might preserve the message of the gospel for the salvation of all.

“As we celebrate 500 years of Martin Luther’s brave efforts to withstand those whose teaching was contrary to the gospel, new days bring fresh challenges for defending the truth.”

Bishop Condie wrote to his fellow Australian bishops that he hoped his decision to participate in Bishop Lines’ consecration would not impair his fellowship with them and asked for their forgiveness “for any unintended hurt caused to our collegial relationships”.

But he wrote that the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision to permit same-sex marriage was a departure from the Scriptures, the teaching of the Church and the consensus of the majority of Anglicans in the Communion. It left faithful Anglicans in Scotland in a vulnerable position and had brought schism to the global Anglican fellowship.

“The consecration is an emergency measure to protect the precious gospel of Jesus Christ, his authoritative word in the scriptures, and faithful Anglicans who have been marginalised by this schismatic behaviour… So-called ‘cross-border interventions’ by bishops into other dioceses are to be shunned in normal circumstances. However, when the gospel is at risk, these kinds of unusual measures are needed.

“Some may ask why an Australian bishop would get involved in something so far away, that may be characterised as ‘someone else’s fight’,” Bishop Condie wrote. “However, the Anglican communion is a global fellowship, and we need to stand in solidarity with faithful Anglicans across the globe. This is especially important for those who are marginalised because of the doctrinal unfaithfulness of their bishops. I believe we should all be committed to support them, and recognise our deep fellowship with them.

“The Primate has counselled me against participation on the grounds that it may impair my fellowship with you. This potential consequence grieves me, and has made me wrestle hard with the decision about whether to participate. While I acknowledge that some of you will think my participation is an error and will disagree with me, I ask that you judge me by my intentions, which are to stand in solidarity with those who will act to protect the gospel of Christ. I do not wish to cause our relationships any harm, but only to act in accordance with my conscience.

“My senior team here in Tasmania, a number of my episcopal colleagues, and many members of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in Australia, have urged me to take part. My Diocesan Council have offered their unanimous support for my involvement in the consecration.

“In light of this, I have decided to accept the invitation of (ACNA’s) Archbishop Foley Beach to participate in the consecration. I ask for your forgiveness for any unintended hurt caused to our collegial relationships.”

The controversy has arisen little more than two months before Australia’s General Synod meets at Maroochydore, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, from 3-9 September.

Archbishop Freier’s letter, with links to those of Archbishop Davies and Bishop Condie, may be read at http://www.anglicanprimate.org.au/2017/07/03/letter-to-australias-bishops/.

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