The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia has today issued an opinion on a series of questions put to it by the Diocese of Newcastle about the Diocese of Sydney‘s Affiliated Churches Ordinance [pdf]. The Ordinance allows for non-Anglican churches to affiliate with the Diocese of Sydney and so obtain a number of administrative and other benefits while not being recognised as Anglican.
The questions, which were amended after the Tribunal asked for them to be made clearer (not least to show which sections of the Constitution were in question), centred around whether the Ordinance was compatible with the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia. There are a number of affiliated churches in the area covered by the Diocese of Newcastle. The Diocese of Brisbane made submissions to the Tribunal, having a number of affiliated churches in its own area.
The Tribunal ruling [pdf] (posted by the Diocese of Newcastle and not available at the time of publication on the Tribunal’s own webpage) is detailed. It is structured around the questions and the responses provided by Newcastle, Sydney and Brisbane. It ends with the following comprehensive conclusion:
106. Implicit in the foregoing, we conclude that none of the constitutional grounds advanced for invalidity of the Ordinance have been established.
The Bishop of Newcastle has issued the following response to his clergy and others,
From the Bishop
Dear sisters and brothers,
Primate’s Reference to the Appellate Tribunal – Affiliated Churches Ordinance 2005 (Sydney)
The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia has issued its decision today which has the effect that Affiliated Churches Ordinance of the Diocese of Sydney is not invalid. The Appellate Tribunal follows a legal approach in which questions must be posed, submissions made and addressed after which the 4 legal members and 3 episcopal members make a decision.
The Appellate Tribunal formed the view that, despite our best endeavours, several of the questions we raised lacked sufficient specificity to enable them to be addressed in their terms or addressed usefully in the constitutional context within which the Tribunal must function.
The Diocese of Sydney is able to continue affiliating non-Anglican churches in this Diocese and other dioceses if they wish. Affiliation does not make an affiliated church part of the Anglican Church of Australia nor part of the Anglican Communion. An affiliated church does not have a duty to conform with the Fundamental Declarations and is not subject to any governance by the Synod or hierarchy of the Diocese of Sydney. Members of affiliated churches are unlikely to be able to declare or establish that they are or remain members of the Anglican Church of Australia.
It is a lengthy judgement. A copy is attached here for your interest.