New Australian primate accused of breaching doctrine

Published June 1, 2000


Dr. Harry Goodhew, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, head of Australia’s most populous and powerful diocese, has accused the newly-elected primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr. Peter Carnley, of breaching church doctrine and betraying the church’s belief in the significance of the resurrection and of Jesus Christ himself.

Some clergy in Sydney, a conservative diocese with a strong evangelical influence, called for a boycott of the installation of Dr. Carnley as primate on April 30. Dr. Carnley is a leading liberal theologian who angered conservatives in 1992 when he ordained Australia’s first women priests.

In a statement published on his diocesan Web site, Dr. Goodhew wrote: ”I take no pleasure in publicly stating my disagreement, but I consider that Peter [Carnley]’s treatment of material from the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles is unhelpful and misleading.” He was referring to an Easter article published in a national magazine, The Bulletin, in which Dr. Carnley rejected the suggestion that Christ was the sole path to salvation.

However, in an open letter to Sydney clergy, Dr. Goodhew said he was not planning to boycott the installation ceremony, which he said would be tantamount to severing relations with the rest of the church.

The row between conservatives and liberals has been going on for years in the Australian church.

Dr. Carnley, who is also Archbishop of Perth, said the call for boycott was “a deliberate ploy by a politically-minded group of conservative Christians.

“They are trying to suggest their way of thinking is the only way of thinking, when in fact there is a huge diversity of views within the church,” Archbishop Carnley told Australian Associated Press. “I don’t think we need to be dictated to by one group alone.”

A letter being circulated among Sydney’s clergy describes the new primate as “neither a shepherd of God’s people, nor a defender of the faith.”

Dr. Muriel Porter, a liberal Anglican academic who is also a member of the church’s general synod, dismissed the row as a regrettable storm in an ecclesiastical teacup. “The new primate’s attackers are in the ascendancy in Sydney,” she wrote in The Age. “They promote a sect-like version of Anglicanism. Supported by their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, they peddle a narrow moralism and an exclusivist attitude to church membership.” But, she said, they are a minority in the Australian church.


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