2016 Australian Bishops’ Meeting Update

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Many of you have contacted me over the past few days asking if I’ve got any news on last week’s meeting of Australian Bishops. Sorry for the relative silence; it’s an indication of the slow work of ringing round contacts and trying to get the story together. Here’s what I have:

  1. As expected there was some detailed conversation around the question of sexual ethics. The bishops reaffirmed their commitment to Lambeth 1.10 as an orthodox understanding of sexual ethics although it is fair to say that a range of views were expressed.
  2. The bishops have decided not to go through the process of re-endorsing the Bishops’ Protocols as they did in 2015 on the basis that having already done so no new endorsement is required. Thus the Protocols remain binding.
  3. A number of protocols will be exchanged for Memoranda of Understanding as a more practical way of achieving the necessary agreement and co-operation. I understand that Protocol 1 on ministry to Aboriginal people will be one of these.
  4. We should expect a public statement in due course to address all or some of the above. At that time I will perhaps write again with further comment.
  5. A number of bishops have commented to me that there are a variety of different approaches to questions of doctrine.  3 different participants of the meeting told me that it was made clear that for evangelicals “truth matters” (that particular expression was used by more than one bishop) whereas others are not so concerned with establishing an objective truth so much as simply expressing a common position as at that time, calling such an approach “catholicity”. This difference in authority and approach became quite apparent during the discussions.
  6. It is clear that the outcome of the upcoming national plebiscite on “same-sex marriage” may increase tensions within the college of bishops. Having said that, it is not likely that more than 3 bishops will initially take any further liberalising action in response to a “yes” vote.

Can’t share any more at the moment. Sorry!

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  1. Bruce Lyon

    Thanks David for your informative update.

    The public machinations of the Bishop of Newcastle already covered on human sexuality and actively gay clergy, are of great concern to locals and the implications therein, both within and without of the local formal Anglican denomination.

    It is an excellent thing that GAFCON Australia has been initiated.

  2. Andrew Reid

    Hi David,
    Thanks so much for the update and your work in covering this story that not many others are covering.
    I understand you can’t share more at the moment, but I would be interested in knowing about how the Bishops see the difference between protocols and MoUs in establishing:
    1) common paths forward that dioceses will be committed to
    2) consequences for action when the principles are violated
    Perhaps the principle of a “loose federation” for the Australian Anglican Church makes it difficult to hold dioceses accountable when they act contrary to traditional Anglican faith and order?

  3. Andrew Kroiter

    That’s three bishops too many.

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