THE Anglican Church has “a long way to go” before it resolves internal conflict over women in leadership positions, gay clergy and marriage equality, Newcastle Anglican Bishop Greg Thompson said on Tuesday after a meeting with Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies in Kuala Lumpur.
Bishop Thompson has called on all Australian bishops to affirm the importance of being able to express divergent views in the church after Sydney diocese sought to hold two bishops, including Australia’s first female bishop, accountable for appointing a gay priest and supporting same sex marriage.
He also expressed “great concern” about the establishment of a conservative arm of the church in Australia, in a statement released to Australian media and the United Kingdom-based Church Times, after a Newcastle Herald article about serious divisions in the church.
Bishop Thompson said “I could not simply stand by” after Sydney diocese passed a resolution in October saying it was “deeply grieved” by the actions of Bishop Kay Goldsworthy and Bishop John Parkes.
Bishop Goldsworthy appointed a gay priest to a parish in her diocese of Gippsland and Bishop Parkes said same sex marriage was not inconsistent with scripture.
Sydney diocese circulated a report to all Australian bishops and archbishops saying the two bishops’ actions were “a breach of collegiality and fellowship at a profound level”.
Bishop Thompson wrote to Australian Anglican Primate Philip Freier in December saying he would miss a national bishops conference in early March because of the divisions.
In his statement on Tuesday after a “long and construction conversation” with Archbishop Davies in Kuala Lumpur, where the two men are attending a church event, Bishop Thompson said there was clear goodwill “but it is also clear there is a long way to go before the significant issues facing our church are resolved”.
“The Archbishop and I have very different dioceses. He leads a diocese where many members hold very conservative views. They oppose gender equity within the church and oppose marriage equality in the church and in the community.
“I lead a diocese that has a long tradition of promoting inclusion. We affirm the leadership of women at every level of church ministry. We are committed to ensuring that gay and lesbian Christians are welcome in our churches.”
Bishop Thompson said Anglicans from Sydney diocese had established churches in Newcastle diocese, both in the Hunter and on the Central Coast, in “direct competition with our ministries” for more than 20 years.
“We have learnt to accommodate ourselves to this but look with great concern on movements such as the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans that are designed to elevate an alternate Anglican jurisdiction in Australia and New Zealand.”
Newcastle Assistant Bishop Peter Stuart will attend the annual bishops conference meeting in South Australia from March 6.
“We will continue to consult with other bishops and within the diocese of Newcastle about the best way forward from here,” Bishop Thompson said.