Fallout in Australia over Lines consecration

 

Fallout in Australia over Lines consecration

Author: 

George Conger

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia has asked the church’s Appellate Tribunal to offer a ruling as to whether its bishops may participate in the consecration of bishops who are not members of the Anglican Communion.

On 16 August 2017, the Most Rev. Philip Freier, Archbishop of Melbourne, wrote to the registrar of the tribunal stating he had received a request from the Bishop of Bendigo, the Rt. Rev. Andrew Curnow, supported by four other bishops that raised objections to the consecration of the Rt. Rev. Andrew Lines of the Anglican Church in North America by the Archbishop of Sydney and Bishops of Tasmania and Northwest Australia.

The proceedings, made public in a letter to the Australian bishops on 28 August 2017, comes a week before the start of the church’s General Synod at Maroochydore, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, from 3-9 Sept 2017 and will likely overshadow its proceedings.

The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia is not a disciplinary tribunal, but a body charged with providing legal opinions on ecclesiastical questions.

Bishop Curnow, joined by the Rt. Rev. John Stead of Willochra, the Rt. Rev. Kay Goldsworthy of Gippsland, the Rt. Rev. William Ray of North Queensland, and the Rt. Rev. Allan Ewing of Bunbury, asked the Tribunal to address three issues:

1. Does the consecration, or purported consecration, of a person as a bishop in a church, or purported church, which is not a member of the Anglican Communion and, or alternatively, is not in communion with the Anglican Church of Australia constitute a breach of any of the provisions of— a. Chapter II of the Constitution; b. the Consecration of Bishops Canon 1996; or c. the Episcopal Standards Canon 2007 —and, if so, of which provision or provisions and in what manner.

2. Does the consecration, or purported consecration of a person as a bishop in a church, or purported church, which is not a member of the Anglican Communion and, or alternatively, is not in communion with the Anglican Church of Australia constitute an act which is in breach of the ecclesiastical convention of the Anglican Communion (as expressed in Lambeth Conference 1878 or otherwise) and, if so, in what manner.

3. Does a Bishop of the Anglican Church of Australia have the power or, alternatively, the capacity to consecrate a person as a bishop in a church, or purported church, which is not a member of the Anglican Communion and, or alternatively, is not in communion with the Anglican Church of Australia.

On 30 June 2017 the Rt. Rev. Andrew (Andy) Lines was consecrated a “missionary bishop” for Anglicans in the UK and Europe who are outside the official structures of the Church of England, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church’s diocese on the continent. The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev. Glen Davies, the Bishop of Tasmania, the Rt. Rev. Richard Condie, and the Bishop of Northwest Australia, the Rt. Rev. Gary Nelson were among the 11 primates, three archbishops, and 13 diocesan bishops from member churches of the Anglican Communion who participated in the ceremony.

In an open letter made public before the ceremony, Dr. Davies stated he was compelled to act in light of the decision by the Scottish Episcopal Church to permit same-sex marriage. This step “amounts to another significant and sad moment in the life of the Anglican Communion, akin to the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003”, he wrote, explaining: “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.”

“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.”

He explained the consecration of a missionary bishop “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.”

Dr. Davies noted his “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.”

There was a historical precedent to his participation in the Lines consecration, Dr. Davies wrote, citing the 1984 consecration by Sydney Archbishop Donald Robinson of the Rev. Dudley Foord as bishop in the Church of England in South Africa. “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.”

Dr. Condie also wrote to his fellow bishops ahead of the consecration asking for their pardon “for any unintended hurt caused to our collegial relationships”. However, he could not in good conscience not act. “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.”

Dr. Condie stated the church was called to stand in “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.”

On 1 July 2017 Dr. Freier responded with an open letter to the Australian bishops saying he had advised Drs. Davies and Condie not to participate in the consecration -- no mention was made of the Bishop of Northwest Australia.

“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.

He added that he believed it was not “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.”

“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 wrote.

“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.”

A spokesman for Archbishop Davies stated he had no statement to make at this time, but stood behind his June letter detailing his reasons for participating in the consecration. A source at the diocese who asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the archbishop or diocese noted there was a degree of disquiet among the Sydney leadership over the course taken by Bishop Curnow and his compatriots. While Drs Davies and Condie had kept the primate, Dr. Freier, fully informed of their plans and had had communicated with him before they acted, Bishop Curnow and his colleagues had not shown the same courtesy to Drs. Davies and Condie.

Bishop Curnow did not respond to our request for comments as of our going to press, while a spokesman for the Anglican Church in North America said a statement would be forthcoming.

 
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