Dear Sisters and Brothers,
The Lambeth Conference was a great success. Whilst we got off to a rough start, the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury was remarkable and we all enjoyed a time of great fellowship. It was a particular delight to share fellowship with bishops from West Africa, South Sudan and Kenya and I look forward to taking up their invitations to visit them in the next couple of years. It was also a great joy to see my brothers from Melanesia whom I have not been able to see due to COVID-19 for three years, and I look forward to renewed exchanges with them.
Overall the mood of Lambeth was that our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ is more important than issues that are seen to currently divide us. I give thanks to God for his Spirit which was clearly with us, and regret deeply that some provinces and dioceses chose not to attend.
I did note in my discussions with bishops from Africa, the Pacific, the Americas and the United Kingdom that the Diocese of North Queensland is perhaps the most multi-cultural diocese in Australia and attempts to be particularly respectful of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members on whose lands we meet and together worship God. I also noted that in this diversity we are determined to be followers of Christ who take the Bible seriously as the basis of our faith: that “Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation” (Article VI). We are also determined to be one in Christ (John 17). Therefore in North Queensland we do not bless same-sex unions, but we do welcome all regardless of gender, wealth, race, sexuality or marital status. This matter was settled at our Synod in April 2021 and will not be revisited at our next Synod. Our thinking and our resolution on these issues was of great interest to my colleagues from all over the world. We hold together in spite of our differences.
So it was with some sadness that I noted upon my return home that a new entity, known as the Diocese of the Southern Cross, has been set up under the auspices of Gafcon. There has been considerable media coverage of this over the last few days. This has been a development in process for some time, but the actual timing of its inauguration was clearly designed to coincide with the end of the Lambeth Conference.
In the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday 18th August 2022 I am correctly quoted as describing the new Gafcon entity as an “error”. There are several reasons for this. First, in spite of claims that it is “Anglican”, it is not. While legally there is little restriction on the use of the term “Anglican”, this new entity is not part of the Anglican Church of Australia or the Anglican Communion. Legally it is a company limited by guarantee, and ecclesiologically it is a new denomination. Persons who join member or affiliate churches belonging to this new entity are no longer members of the Anglican Church of Australia. Further, in requiring adherence to the Jerusalem Declaration it goes beyond the fundamental declarations of Anglicanism. For further information on this, I refer you to my paper on Gafcon and schism, which was recently published by The Journal of Anglican Studies (Cambridge University Press); for your convenience I have attached a copy see this link
The other grounds on which it is in error are explained in greater depth in the attached paper. There is error in the schismatic nature of what has happened; error in requiring adherence to the Jerusalem Declaration; and error in insisting that Anglican orthodoxy is only to be found in Gafcon. Please feel free to contact me to discuss or critique what I have published. There are also other difficulties: the new entity has not yet indicated whether it will accept women’s ordination as priests or bishops; and the legal difficulties are immense. I attach the Primate’s statement which also further addresses these issues. see this link
How does this impact us? We are one of several moderate dioceses in the Australian Church which are not aligned with Gafcon but also are not about to go down the road of the blessing of same-sex marriage. So there is no need to join the new entity. We remain the Anglican Church in North Queensland. We are broad, comprehensive, and welcome all.
So there should be no direct impact on us at all. And there should be no anger or great emotion. This new entity is in error. There is no need for us to respond further to it. However, as always I am very happy to enter in further discussion.
May the love of God be with you, and the love of God and neighbour be yours to share.
Yours in Christ
The Right Reverend Dr Keith Joseph
Bishop of North Queensland
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