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Muriel Porter: Is Sydney a threat to the Communion?

Muriel Porter: Is Sydney a threat to the Communion?

In a lengthy essay on the Religion and Ethics section of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s website, Muriel Porter explores the role of the Diocese of Sydney in the Anglican Communion:

It is the oldest and largest of the 23 Australian dioceses, and until its recent catastrophic financial losses, was the richest. It is also the most conservative, and is strident in defence of that conservatism.

But how could Sydney Diocese be a threat to the international Anglican Communion?

She then begins to provide her own answers.

Sydney’s role is not just secretarial. Its diocesan budget funds provision of training programs to GAFCON-aligned national churches in Africa and Asia sourced from the diocesan training college, Moore Theological College, among other things.

Its international influence reaches beyond the churches assisted through the GAFCON/FCA network, however. Some time ago it moved into the heartland of the Church of England through its close ties with the conservative Evangelical movement, Reform.

Similarly, there are links with conservative movements in the Church of Ireland, in the New Zealand church, in South Africa, and in the US and Canada. Sydney Diocese has also been closely involved in the formation of the breakaway Anglican Church of North America, with a leading lawyer from Sydney Diocese assisting in the drafting of the ACNA constitution.

Porter also notes several other sources of contention including Sydney’s opposition to female clergy and bishops, its introduction of diaconal presidency, and its “overt support – some say, permission – for lay presidency.” The issue or presidency, she adds, may precipitate a constitutional crisis, if Sydney declares the opinions of the Australian church’s Appellate Tribunal to be advisory.

For all these reasons, Sydney Diocese can be seen to pose a threat to the stability of the Anglican Communion, to the cohesion of the Australian Anglican Church, and also to other Anglican churches such as those in the United Kingdom, in the United States, in Canada, and New Zealand.

It is also potentially a danger to those third world Anglican churches that are part of the GAFCON organization, because it claims its involvement is in response to Gospel truth. Sydney and its friends are the true believers.

Churches not aligned with it, taking a different view principally on the issue of homosexuality but also on women in ordained ministry, are portrayed as deniers of the Gospel. These claims, from determined, persuasive, well-resourced church leaders bearing gifts of support for, and assistance to, emerging churches, are hard to resist.

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