Australian Primate to Stand Down

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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, has announced that he will not seek reelection as Primate. He will stand down on 31 March 2020 in order to allow sufficient time for an election and for his successor to prepare for the pivotal General Synod in June.

In a letter to his fellow bishops, the Primate wrote,

Thank you to those who have asked me about my intentions in respect of the primate election process and specifically whether I am willing to accept a further term of three years as Primate. Your questions and, in some cases, warm affirmation of my contribution have helped me as I have approached this question as a matter of spiritual discernment.

I want to let you know that I will not be accepting a further term and, working back from some important dates next year, advise that I will be concluding as Primate of Australia on
31 March 2020. This will enable my successor to chair the Standing Committee meeting on 17 and 18 April 2020 and have sufficient time for preparing to chair the General Synod from 31 May to 5 June 2020.

The new Primate will be elected by a body made out of all the diocesan bishops along with a “board of electors” who are elected by General Synod. The current board of electors are conservative in leaning, especially the house of clergy which is overwhelmingly evangelical.

Speculation will immediately turn to who the next Primate will be and have already been asked by numerous interested parties to comment.

The Primate has traditionally been one of the 5 Metropolitan Archbishops (Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth). Davies in Sydney will be about to retire and so is not electable. Aspinall in Brisbane has already served a number of terms as Primate and has indicated to his fellow bishops that he has no desire to return to the role (although things can always change – Aspinall is thoroughly liberal in theology but well respected for the manner in which he chairs).

That leaves Kay Goldsworthy in Perth and Geoffrey Smith in Adelaide. While Kay Goldsworthy would be a popular choice amongst liberals she would not be electable given the make-up of the board of electors.

It might be that a “regular” diocesan bishop is proposed as an alternative although this would be an extraordinary event. But then the Anglican Church of Australia is in extraordinary times.

Primate of Australia website: Anglican Primate to step down early

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  1. Greg Colby

    One things for certain…no one will be entirely happy with who ever is elected.

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