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.
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.