The Australian House of Bishops have been gathered over the past few days for their annual meeting. Their time together climaxes with the election of a new Primate tomorrow (where they will be joined by 24 lay and clergy electors).
davidould.net has been in contact with a number of those present and, while we cannot provide any direct quotes, it is now quite clear that there is a real division within the House of Bishops over the question of sexual ethics and, particularly, whether same-sex marriage ought to be blessed in one way or another. Bishops have spoken to us of their distress at some of what they are hearing and have asked for grace and wisdom to handle what is clearly a very difficult situation.
The recently installed Bishop of the Murray, Keith Dalby, put it this way in his typical diplomatic style:
It appears that revisionist bishops are refusing to resile from their position, despite it being clearly contrary to an agreement the bishops had previously made, let alone the overwhelmingly clear mind of the national church as expressed at the General Synod.
Tomorrow the diocesan bishops will remain and be joined by a panel of electors as they choose their new Primate. We’ve written previously about the choice before them and the most likely candidates.
Conservatives electors who we spoke to over the past few days have told us of a determination to vote for a Primate who, in their words, would, “uphold both the doctrinal position and the polity of the national church”.
While there are some procedures set out in the relevant canon, the electors have a large degree of flexibility in how they conduct the process. In the first round all diocesan bishops are nominated. Those who receive no votes are removed in the second round along with any who choose to remove their own name. After that there are continued rounds of voting until a candidate can command a majority in all three houses; bishops, clergy and laity.
If no Primate is elected then the senior Metropolitan, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, would be appointed as interim Primate for a period covering the upcoming General Synod in June which he would then chair.