Official Launch of Australia’s First Separatist Anglican Church Diocese | Religion
The first congregation of the breakaway Anglican Church in Australia was about to meet in a suburban RSL, and the man who was supposed to lead the service was worried.
Ten minutes before the Reverend Peter Palmer left, there were less than a dozen people at Beenleigh RSL and the golf club in southeast Queensland.
“Then all of a sudden all these people came in…and we started worshiping God together, in a whole new style of Anglican worship,” Palmer said at a conference on Monday.
The stakes were high: Palmer previously gave his opinion as parish priest of St George Beenleigh’s Anglican Church, telling an ‘envoy’ from the Archbishop of Brisbane that he was leaving to join Gafcon, a dissident group that is dividing the Anglican Church around the world.
Gafcon, the Global Anglican Future Conference, says it is fighting against a “revisionist” interpretation of the Bible by Anglican church leaders that has allowed the ordination of women, the blessing of same-sex marriages and more relaxed views regarding divorce.
Palmer said when the envoy asked him why he was leaving to join Gafcon, he replied, “I can’t accept same-sex blessings, I won’t allow that to happen, and I have to resist that.” .
Rather than serving his usual three-month leave, Palmer said he was told his service the following Sunday would be his last with the Anglican Church.
He said he negotiated to get an extra week of service – to allow his parishioners to “grieve” – given he had been at the church for over six years.
Palmer then told his parishioners that he was leaving to join a diocese that explicitly forbids same-sex marriage.
“A lot of them were shocked…and they actually asked me, ‘What do we do?’
“So I thought about it, and I prayed about it, and I decided there was only one way to do it, which was to stand up against it and call it for what it is: God says it is a sin.”
Palmer’s service last weekend was the first held by the Southern Cross Diocese, Gafcon’s only Australian branch.
The diocese was officially launched this week at a Gafcon conference in Canberra by its new bishop, Glenn Davies, former Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Sydney.
“It’s a sad day, in many ways,” he told the Guardian.
“If the leaders repented and returned to the teachings of the Bible, we would not need the Diocese of Southern Cross. I would turn it off and come back.
It is the latest expansion of a movement that is dividing the Church across the world, with similar dioceses in North America, South America, Africa and Europe.
“I don’t recruit people, I don’t attract people, I don’t recruit, I give them a safe haven and they can come to me,” Davies said.
The Anglican Church was the main denomination in Australia during the 19th and 20th centuries. But according to the latest census, Anglican membership has fallen more than any other religion over the past five years, from 3.1 million to 2.5 million people – a decrease of almost one in five, from 13.3% to 9.8% of the population.
Brian Douglas, an Anglican priest and assistant research professor at the Australian Center for Christianity and Culture in Canberra, said he expected the split within the church to widen.
“There are effectively two Anglican churches in North America now, and I suspect that’s what’s going to happen here,” he said.
These divisions in the United States had led to legal disputes over whether parishes that had split from the Anglican Church could still hold services in their local churches, but Douglas said similar issues could be avoided by Australia, as the Anglican Church owned its property. in trust, meaning that none belonged to the parishes.
As the dust settles, Palmer prepares for his next shift.
“I don’t think it’s okay [just] be me for a long time,” he said.