Electing A Primate

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Philip Freier

Tomorrow morning sees the start of business at the 2014 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia. But even before then some important business has already been carried out with the election of a new Primate [pdf] – Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne.

The electors consisted of the diocesan bishops (20 in total out of 23 – Riverina and Northern Territory have bishops-elect and Gippsland sadly lost John McIntyre to a fatal illness recently) along with 12 clerical and 12 lay members.

In the first round every diocesan bishop was nominated in the ballot but the voting was restricted to the Metropolitan Archbishops (for an analysis of the candidates see here). Sources from the election tell me that in the first round Glenn Davies of Sydney got 7 votes from his fellow bishops, Roger Herft of Perth 5, Philip Freier of Melbourne 4 and Jeffrey Driver of Adelaide  also getting 4. However, Driver didn’t pick up a single clergy or lay vote and so he dropped out in the second round as did Roger Herft.

The electors were left with the 2 candidates we expected, Davies and Freier.

Glenn Davies

At this point there was some discussion and a number of bishops in particular made it clear that for them Davies was unelectable due to his opposition to women bishops and, even more importantly, his advocacy of dioconal and lay presidency – Bishop Gary Weatherill of Ballarat spoke particularly strongly on this issue. Others argued that he was by far the more competent when it came to questions around the ongoing vialibility of church structures – a key question going forward.

Davies polled fairly strongly through the next few rounds but it soon became clear that he was never going to be elected in the house of clergy. In particular one member of the house of clergy, a conservative, resolutely voted consistently for Freier rather than Davies. As it became obvious that Davies could not be elected in the clergy I understand his supporters signalled defeat and the 5th round was the final one.

The image above shows the actual record of votes from within the election on the last round.



I’ve obtained the full voting results. They’re slightly different in detail to what is reported above. In particular the record is that Driver did receive a few lay votes (although no clergy). For the sake of clarity I’ll post them all here:

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  1. Andrew Reid

    Do those results suggest the bishops are actually more conservative than the clergy and laity, at least in the electoral body? That would be the opposite to what we normally think, would it not?
    I still think the Coptic Orthodox method for selecting a pope would be a useful one for us to adopt – vote until there are 3 leading candidates, then pull the name out of a hat. Ensures selected candidates have support, but final decision is up to God and takes the edge off the politicking in the final stages.

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