The Archbishop of Perth, Kay Goldsworthy, is set to proceed with an ordination later this week that, according to sources in the diocese, is set to “split the diocese”.
On the evening of Thursday 24 February 2022 Archbishop Goldsworthy will preside over the ordination at St George’s Cathedral where four candidates will be made deacon. There are two male and two female candidates. The two male candidates (who we will not name here) are both figures of some significant controversy.
The first had been living in a de facto relationship with a woman for a number of years. The couple have children.
The second candidate is a man who has been in a registered civil union with another man for a number of years.
Neither man made any secret of their domestic arrangements during their four years of formation prior to ordination and davidould.net understands that they and their personal situations were both well-known to diocesan leadership, particularly the first candidate who has served as a senior figure in diocesan organisations.
This latest turmoil for the diocese follows on from the recent controversial appointment of Steven Hilton as Precentor at the Cathedral. Like the ordination candidate, Hilton also has a civil partner.
Unhappiness in the diocese amongst conservatives has been exacerbated since the decision to ordain these candidates is in stark contradiction to Archbishop Goldsworthy’s own stated views on the question of chastity. At a widely-attended meeting of local EFAC (Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion) representatives on Monday evening, details of meetings with the Archbishop were shared. It was related to the meeting that the Archbishop had expressed that her own understanding of a “chaste” life (the term used in Faithfulness in Service) precluded any sexual activity outside of marriage. Quite clearly the lives of both these candidates did not meet that clear expectation for the substantial majority of their four years of formation prior to ordination. Nevertheless they were allowed to continue in the process.
A conservative leader in the diocese, familiar with the situation, told davidould.net that not only have a number of clergy approached the Archbishop on the matter but also that there are “a stream of wardens and other lay people who have visited and written to the Archbishop”. They have all made it clear to her that they will not be able to attend the ordination at the cathedral on Thursday evening, nor also be able to attend any future events at the cathedral so long as the new Precentor remains on staff.
The first candidate has married very recently. The second candidate removed any evidence of their relationship from their Facebook profile. davidould.net understands that neither of these late moves persuades local orthodox leadership that the fundamental issues have been dealt with. The ball is now definitely in Archbishop Goldsworthy’s court. Will she proceed with an ordination which, by her own expressed standards, ought not to happen? Or will she stand by her own words at the 2021 Diocesan Synod:
I believe that we can, and must faithfully continue to commit to the biblical witness of living out our desire to be held together in Christ, knowing that we all belong in him, and that we cannot do without each other, as members of his one body.
The sense amongst the orthodox in Perth is that they increasingly don’t belong and that it appears that the Archbishop might have to do without them.
Archbishop Goldsworthy was asked to comment.
image: Ross Swanborough in PerthNow