Retired Bishop of Tasmania appointed assistant to Australia’s primate

Bishop John Harrower, the recently retired Bishop of Tasmania, was commissioned to a new role assisting Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier during Choral Eucharist for the opening of Melbourne’s annual diocesan synod at St Paul’s Cathedral on 14 October.

The former Melbourne vicar has returned to Victoria to a part-time role as Bishop assisting Dr Freier in the Archbishop’s duties as Anglican Primate of Australia.

Bishop Harrower’s commissioning occurred two days before his 68th birthday and just over a month after he formally ended 15 years as Tasmania’s Anglican leader. Bishop Genieve Blackwell — who was commissioned as an Assistant Bishop of Melbourne at a similar service before June’s special synod — Bishop Philip Huggins and Bishop Paul White accompanied Bishop Harrower and his wife Gayelene to the Nave Altar step at St Paul’s, where he made a series of commitments to his new ministry.

Archbishop Freier then led prayers for Bishop Harrower, Mrs Harrower and their family.

In a pastoral letter to Tasmanian Anglicans on 7 May announcing his impending retirement, Bishop Harrower wrote that “life brings the unexpected and so it is that we believe God has led us to a new season to be with our sons and families in Melbourne”.

Bishop Harrower served as a Church Missionary Society missionary in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s before returning to Australia, where he was Vicar of Glen Waverley and Archdeacon of Kew in the 1990s until his consecration as Bishop of Tasmania in 2000.

Archdeacon Richard Condie of Melbourne, the Vicar of St Jude’s in Carlton, preached the sermon, in which he likened the work of the Synod — the annual “parliament” of the diocese — to gardening.

“The year before last, our ministry team read and discussed a book called The Trellis and the Vine,” he said. “The book pursues a gardening metaphor for ministry. We do trellis work and we do vine work.

“Some of the work we do in the life of the church is a bit like ‘trellis-building’, providing frameworks and structures so that the vine work — the real growth of God’s kingdom — might take place.

“We are here working hard on the trellis. But trellises are not an end in themselves. They are a stage, a platform, a structure to hold up the vine, to make the Word of God fully known.”

Archdeacon Condie wryly noted that he missed the June Synod as he was enjoying long service leave “somewhere in Budapest”, while 12 months ago this week, his church was on fire, “which was a spectacular way to get out of the Saturday of Synod”. “And, no, I was not responsible for the fire. I have a rock-solid alibi!”

He reminded Synod members that they were Christ’s Body, the Church; that they were Servants of that Church; that they were proclaimers of Christ; and that they worked for the encouragement and unity of God’s people.

“Sometimes Synod gets a bad wrap… After all, it sometimes feels like we are going round in circles. Sometimes the politics of the decisions are all too apparent and the purpose of our being together gets lost in the process of us being together.

“What a joy it will be in this Synod over these next days when we hear each other encouraging each other… Being united not in our common work, not in the problems we face, not in a superficial politeness, but truly in our convictions about Christ.”

The Eucharist began with the first public airing of a Processional Hymn composed by retired English Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith for the 125th anniversary of the consecration of St Paul’s Cathedral, which falls in 2016.

In his Synod Charge delivered after the service, Dr Freier lauded the multicultural character of the Diocese of Melbourne — a point that had been vividly and beautifully demonstrated earlier when his Executive Officer, Sri Lankan-born Ms Naomi Nayagam, wore a sari as she read the First Reading. The Second Reading was proclaimed by the New Zealand-born Registrar, Mr Ken Spackman.

The Synod is to meet on the nights of Thursday 15 and Friday 16 October and all day on Saturday 17 October

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