Archbishop Davies, hit back at his comments, saying the diocese would “stay true to the bible’s teachings on sexuality” and reject the “revisionist theology” propagated by progressive archbishops in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Bishop Davies has been the dominant force in the conservative wing of the Anglican Church for nearly a decade, leading the Sydney diocese from 2013 to last year, and was a leading campaigner against same-sex marriage during the 2017 postal survey.
Australia’s Anglican Church has split, with a group of conservative bishops and lay people forming a new diocese. The breakaway group, led by the former Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Glenn Davies, has encouraged those Anglicans who are unhappy with progressive bishops to join the new diocese. It follows the Australian Anglican Church’s decision to leave it up to each diocese to decide whether to bless same-sex unions. So far, three dioceses have decided to allow same-sex weddings. Since then, conservative voices have threatened to leave the Church as they felt it had drifted away from Bible teachings on same-sex marriage. The group started drafting plans to create the new diocese early in 2021 and registered with the charities commission in October 2021. Archbishop Davies announced the newly formed Diocese of the Southern Cross during the Global Anglican Future Conference in Canberra.
It will operate under the umbrella of GAFCON, a conservative Anglican movement, and will not be “in communion” with Archbishop of Canterbury, Most Rev Justin Welby and will cover all of Australia. “I think you’ll see the Diocese of the Southern Cross will have a significant impact,” Archbishop Davies said during the event. “It will send shivers down the spines of some bishops in the Anglican Church of Australia.” According to the charity register, Archbishop Davies, Tasmanian minister Susan Willis, and lawyer David Baker from St Jude’s Anglican Church in Melbourne are the three board members. “For those who cannot live under the liberal regime of a bishop, they can come and be thoroughly Anglican under a bishop,” Archbishop Davies continued. Archbishop Davies will be commissioned as head of the breakaway church. At least seven provinces within the Anglican Communion allow same-sex marriage.
Geoffrey Smith, the Primate of the Anglican Church in Australia, issued a stinging rebuke of the “Diocese of the Southern Cross”. Archbishop Smith described the move as “unfortunate”, and one that would make it difficult to hold the church together. “It is always easier to gather with those we agree with. But in a tragically divided world, God’s call, and therefore the church’s role, includes showing how to live together with difference. Not merely showing tolerance, but receiving the other as a gift from God,” he said. The schism comes after discussions between church progressives and conservatives broke down at the General Synod in May, when the country’s bishops voted down a motion to oppose same-sex marriage blessings. It created an atmosphere of revolt among conservative churchgoers, who accused the bishops of departing from the church’s theological roots.
Archbishop Smith said other voices at the Synod were sympathetic to the conservative’s motion. “It is perplexing that the leaders of this breakaway movement cite the reason for this new denomination as the failure of General Synod to explicitly express an opinion against the blessing of same-sex marriages,” he said. Archbishop Davies, hit back at his comments, saying the diocese would “stay true to the bible’s teachings on sexuality” and reject the “revisionist theology” propagated by progressive archbishops in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Bishop Davies has been the dominant force in the conservative wing of the Anglican Church for nearly a decade, leading the Sydney diocese from 2013 to last year, and was a leading campaigner against same-sex marriage during the 2017 postal survey.
He insisted the diocese would provide a “more authentic home” for congregants at odds with the views of “the revisionist bishops” after years of bitter infighting between senior clergy. “We signalled these issues roughly two years ago and the revisionist bishops did nothing to back-pedal on their views. “They kept saying, ‘Oh, no the evangelicals will capitulate’. “And we have decided not to capitulate,” Archbishop Davies said. “We believe in the authority of scripture. I realise we won’t have the glorious Gothic buildings that other Anglican Church dioceses have, but that doesn’t worry me.” Its approach to same-sex marriage has led to comparable splits in Canada, the US, Brazil and New Zealand, often involving protracted legal disputes over property rights. Sydney Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, the leader of the country’s most powerful conservative dioceses, shocked moderate church leaders when he offered support for the new diocese.
“The Diocese of the Southern Cross is for the sake of those elsewhere who have been forced to leave their church because they cannot in good conscience accept the authority of those who have departed from the teaching of Christ on marriage and human sexuality,” Archbishop Raffel said in a statement. A trenchant opponent of same-sex marriage blessings, he has otherwise remained silent during the diocese’s launch and refused requests for press interviews. Several sources with knowledge of the church’s split said Archbishop Raffel was avoiding comment on the breakaway to ensure he could vote on future motions relating to same-sex marriage in the General Synod, a national congress comprising ordained and lay Anglicans.
Perth Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy, who is forbidden from officiating services in Sydney’s conservative dioceses because she is a woman, said she was concerned about the diocese’s approach to women and gay people, adding that the breakaway was an “unnecessary move” that could be detrimental for the church. Archbishop Goldsworthy also took issue with the use of the word “revisionist” to describe so-called progressive bishops, noting that the “word could be used at any moment of reform in history”. Brisbane’s Acting Archbishop Jeremy Greaves, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage blessings, said the breakaway diocese was a “deeply saddening moment” in the Anglican Church’s history.