Australian Anglican Primate: Gay and Women’s Rights ‘Won’t Split Church’

Dr Phillip Aspinall, primate of the Anglican Church in Australia and leader of four million Australian Anglicans, has played down fears that the Australian Church might split from the Church of England over disagreements regarding gay priests and the ordination of women as bishops.

|TOP|The primate’s comments follow the Sydney Diocese’s recent announcement that leading Sydney layman Robert Tong will put forward a motion for debate at the diocese’s annual synod to change the Church’s constitution, making the traditional link to Canterbury optional.

“I think a large part of the church in Australia would be reluctant to lose its very close connection with the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury, even if such a move got support in Sydney and that remains to be seen,” said Dr Aspinall, who is also Archbishop of Brisbane.

“Whether it [the motion] got sufficient support on a national scale in Australia to result in a change to the constitution I think is a very open question,” he said.

The motion is expected to be put forward Tuesday night in the synod in Sydney by Mr Tong, who said: “Instead of an automatic linking with the Church of England in England, it will be a matter of giving the Australian church a choice.

The synod’s standing committee is requested to consider a re-framing of section six of the church’s constitution and report again at next year’s meeting, prior to full consideration at the Australia-wide general synod in 2007.

Dr Aspinall also told the Brisbane Courier-Mail that he would work to prevent a split within the Australian Anglican Church between liberals and conservatives, led by Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen.

“I don’t think it will happen and I’m working hard to ensure it doesn’t happen,” he said. “There is a large centre in the church, and then on the edges there is room for differences of view and opinion, and disagreement does not mean disintegration.”

Dr Aspinall also expressed the belief that it was “pretty inevitable” that women would be ordained as bishops given that just under two-thirds of Anglicans in Australia believed it was right to ordain women.

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