24th August 2022.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You probably have by now heard of the launch of the Diocese of the Southern Cross at the recent GAFCON Australia conference. This new diocese is a parallel Anglican structure outside of the Anglican Church of Australia. While some were dismayed at its establishment, I believe that it was a sad but necessary step at this point in time. The reality is that some Anglican evangelicals in dioceses led by liberal bishops who have a different view of the teaching of Scripture on matters concerning human sexuality, are looking for alternative episcopal oversight. Sometimes this is because they are being put under pressure by their bishop to step into line with the world’s way of thinking, other times it is a matter of conscience as they do not want to be led by bishops who they believe are leading God’s people contrary to God’s word. It is important to note that the Diocese of the Southern Cross has been activated solely as a safety net for these evangelical Anglicans.
Now, I suspect some evangelical clergy and laity in those dioceses will leave, others will stay. I don’t think that there will necessarily be a flood of evangelicals leave the Anglican Church of Australia to join the Diocese of the Southern Cross, but I trust that those who do will have good reason to do so. The leaders of GAFCON Australia have made clear that the Diocese of the Southern Cross will only remain while it is needed. If all Anglican bishops across Australia were to agree to the plain teaching of the Scriptures the parallel Anglican structure would no longer be needed.
With regard to the future of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale I want to make crystal clear that we have no intention, nor need, to leave the Anglican Church of Australia. The structure of the Anglican Church of Australia means that each of the twenty-three dioceses are autonomous and operate according to the decisions of their own synods. Thankfully the Armidale diocese has unity when it comes to upholding the plain teaching of Scripture in all matters of Christian life and doctrine, including human sexuality. We are thoroughly evangelical in this sense, with bishop, clergy and laity all on the same page. At this point in time, I stand with all other evangelical bishops in Australia when I say that we have no reason to abandon the Anglican Church of Australia. The ship as launched by Archbishop Cranmer in the 16th Century is a good one. Its constitution is sound, having excellent fundamental declarations and ruling principles that uphold the authority of Scriptures as primary.
In all of this we need to remember that God is still sovereign, Jesus is still King and He will build his church. May God strengthen us all to trust in Him and persevere with the main game in the Armidale Diocese which is “To Introduce All People to Jesus and Help Them Home to Heaven.”
With love in Christ, Rod Chiswell.
Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Armidale.