Archbishop of Melbourne Ad Clerum: Gafcon move “unnecessary” and possibly “an attempt to shed redress responsibilities”

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The Archbishop of Melbourne and former Primate Philip Freier has issued a wide-ranging ad clerum. In his letter he addresses the recent move by Gafcon to clarify it’s position.

I agree with the Primate’s view that there is no need for this “new church entity” – Anglican doctrine has not been changed by the recent Appellate Tribunal opinion or the effect of the Diocese of Wangaratta’s application of the national churches “Canon Concerning Services”. Undoubtedly, the proponents of this initiative think differently for the reasons they describe.

Freier’s letter also contains a number of assertions or suggestions that may possibly aggravate current tensions by misrepresenting Gafcon’s position.

Freier compares the proposed move to the Ordinariates set up by the Roman Catholic Church and speaks of “rebuilding parish ministries”. He calls upon clergy “leaving” to “voluntarily relinquish their Anglican orders”.

Supporters of Gafcon (including this writer) would want to observe that there is no intention by a single member of Gafcon (not a flood, not a trickle, not a drip) to leave the Anglican Church of Australia, only a potential desire to find an alternative home within it led by a faithful bishop. Nor would any move likely to be anything less than entire parishes leaving together in order to maintain faithful ministry.

update: a number of commentators have made the (correct) observation that those clergy who joined a new extra-provincial diocese would in fact be leaving the Anglican Church of Australia. Nevertheless, this does not mean (contra to Freier’s claims) that they are moving to “another church” nor that they would have to relinquish their orders since they would be joining another entity within the Anglican Communion (recognised as legitimate by the majority of Anglicans across the world).

Clergy in New Zealand who moved to the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa New Zealand did not relinquish holy orders, rather the new grouping recognised their orders and the continuation of their previous ministries with new oversight. That new oversight is by a bishop consecrated by other Anglican bishops.

Even moving to a new ministry would not require relinquishment. So, for example, if I were to transition to the Church of England to a new ministry I would not give up my orders and would expect them to be recognised as valid by my new Anglican bishop, as is normal practice across the Anglican Communion.

Perhaps more controversially, and egregiously, Freier also makes what will be read by many as a thinly-veiled accusation:

As a closing comment, I want to express my concern that some, especially survivors of child sexual abuse, may see this initiative as an attempt to shed redress responsibilities or to leave them entirely in the Anglican Church of Australia without carrying any of that liability and responsibility to the new entity. It would be valuable if the new entity resolved, early on, to fund redress in the diocese where any “former Anglican Church of Australia Churches” previously operated or where former Anglican Church of Australia clergy have served.

The imputation that Gafcon is seeking to “shed redress responsibilities” is one that may receive a strong response in the coming days. Freier presents no evidence for his “concern” but makes the claim anyway.

Like the Primate before him, Archbishop Freier’s letter (embedded below) contains not a single criticism of those in his own diocese and across the Anglican Church of Australia who so persistently oppose the doctrine of the church and the teaching of Christ on matters of human sexuality and other areas.

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update 12 August 2021

Gafcon Australia have issued a statement from their board responding to Freier’s accusation:

The Board of Gafcon Australia expresses deep dismay that Archbishop Philip Freier has written in a letter to clergy that parishes leaving revisionist Dioceses may be seen as motivated by an attempt to ‘shed redress responsibilities’.  

This extraordinary suggestion is simply not true.  Nor is this suggestion helpful for the survivors of sexual abuse. Sexual abuse by clergy and the institutional cover up of that abuse or avoidance of redress responsibilities are indefensibly evil. 

Given the gravity of the Archbishop’s accusation, we are at a loss to understand why it was not put to us before publication. Our chair has written to the Archbishop asking him to retract his comments.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. chris russell

    I gather that we will soon see all of you in court.

  2. Paul Nolan

    The Primate before Freier was not Smith. I’m sure the writer means Archbishop Freier was Primate Smith’s predecessor.

    What a hide Freier has – he was number one in the ACA when Parliament made legal (civil) marriage the ‘union of 2 people’. He must have read in the New Testament where Jesus told the Pharisees that God considers marriage to be the union of a man & a woman. But did Freier instruct his clergy to stop doing civil marriages & stick to religious ones only? Like heck he did.

    And here he is, four years too late, blathering on about an unchanged Anglican doctrine.

    Give us a break man, or relinquish YOUR orders.

    1. David Ould

      thanks Paul. perhaps my language wasn’t clear. When I write “like the primate before him” I mean that primate’s comment that came before his.

  3. Robert Bruce

    How weird it is to see senior Anglican churchmen coming out to display their foolishness on important matters of doctrine. They seem to support unity in the ACA but it is the sort of “unity” that Paul was so concerned about when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in 54AD, to appeal to the factions to return to the gospel and unite around it.
    The ACA has all sorts of factions today, each one masquerading as the true church. What we need is not out-of-touch bishops blathering away to display their idiocy, but agape love to bind us together, as Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 13.

  4. Andrew Reid

    Hi David,
    Thanks for the article and analysis of the issue. I haven’t seen any sign of Melbourne clergy affiliated with GAFCON seeking to escape responsibilities for the redress scheme. Given the appalling history of of our church in this matter, it’s a bit rich to start accusing others of escaping responsibilities. Synod is approaching so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.
    Just on your point about moving to other Anglican jurisdictions, I would note that Sydney is a bit picky about recognising those ordained elsewhere. As I understand it, it does recognise their orders but may or may not appoint them as rectors of parishes?
    Best wishes,

    1. Paul Nolan

      Hello Andrew. Not many Anglicans would disagree with you that it’s a bit rich for Archbishop Freier to accuse faithful ACA clergy & their parishioners of planning to shed their share of compensating survivors of clerical child sexual abuse. That’s a low blow, unworthy of a so-called ‘Leader’.

      You write of the approaching (General) Synod which, ironically, puts Freier’s outburst into context. Just like the arguments over blessing same-sex civil marriages in church, Freier & the other scriptural revisionists would like nothing more than to use up Synod time debating these red herrings.

      If you are an invitee, Andrew, I urge you & any other invitees reading this not to fall for an old debating ruse. The pertinent issue before GS is whether ACA clergy should continue or not as government-appointed ‘authorised celebrants’ under the Marriage Act which defines parties to legal marriages in Australia quite differently from God’s definition, relayed by Jesus to the Pharisees, as recorded in the New Testament.

      THAT is the issue bearing upon same-sex marriage blessings in church & talk of parishes finding an alternative home within the ACA lead by a scripture-following bishop. GS invitees need firstly to decide that issue, whereupon how to address other matters will become apparent.

      1. Andrew Reid

        Hi Paul, sorry I wasn’t clearer but I was referring to the Melbourne Diocesan synod.

        1. Paul Nolan

          Ok, no worries Andrew. Perhaps you’ll go on to be invited to GS in 2022? If so, please don’t allow the revisionists to run a red herring agenda. I urge all faithful GS attendees to do the same.
          Thanks PN

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