Australian primate’s election deadlocked — Aspinall to serve as interim primate


In what was described to as “a very carefully orchestrated plan”, conservative electors for the new Australian Primate have prevented the election of a new Primate who would not uphold the doctrinal integrity of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The conservative strategy, shared with earlier in the week, was to go “all in” for Richard Condie, Bishop of Tasmania and also chair of GAFCON Australia. During the election they argued that he was the only realistic candidate who would uphold the doctrine and polity of the Anglican Church of Australia.

Archbishop Smith of Adelaide, previously considered the default option, has increasingly disappointed conservatives with the way that he has managed the Diocese of Adelaide. Anglicans there have expressed their concern about numerous appointments of revisionists to key posts and a failure to deal clearly with the presenting issue of same-sex marriage and related ethics. Australia has had much of that with Archbishop Philip Freier as Primate and so conservatives decided for a different approach.

Condie was preferred.

Condie’s nomination was always going to be controversial. As chair of GAFCON Australia he was a figure that many could not accept. Nevertheless, conservatives maintained the argument that he was the only viable candidate who genuinely upheld doctrine and polity at this crucial time. Conservative strategy was predicated on the requirement to gain a majority in all three houses. 6 conservative clergy votes would be sufficient to hold out against alternate candidates.

The voting took place over 5 rounds. The first round saw every diocesan bishop nominated and produced the following result:

Voting patterns were now already fairly well established. Round 2 simply clarified that this would be a two horse race:

After round 2 there was much discussion over Condie’s suitability. Three clergy electors moved to Smith and the lone votes for Aspinall moved to Condie.

Increasing pressure was put on the conservative block to now accept the reality of Smith’s eventual election but their discipline held over the next two rounds with only one clergy switching to Smith.

At this stage it was clear to all in the room that the conservative group was not going to move. One elector summed it up succinctly:

Well of course. They weren’t getting their way.

Another ballot (Round 6) was prefaced by angry speeches claiming that the house of clergy had effectively wasted $20k in having this process without getting a result”. The final voting yielded the same result (except for one bishop having to leave) and the electors voted to have one last round by a margin of 20 to 19. Round 7 saw one more bishop move to Smith but all other votes stayed the same.

The unwillingness of electors to prioritise the candidate who most vocally and clearly upheld the doctrine and polity of the national church was described to as a clear indication that “there is a real issue” – namely that orthodoxy no longer commands allegiance.

The electoral panel adjourned and agreed to meet again before 30 June 2020. Phillip Aspinall will now serve as Acting Primate after 31 May when Philip Freier’s term ends and will chair the upcoming General Synod. Some conservatives have remarked to that this helpful ; Archbishop Aspinall was expected to have been one of the most vocal and influential revisionist votes at that meeting – now he will have to chair it.