Members of the Church of England in the newly independent United States organised themselves as the Protestant Episcopal Church. In the following years, the expansion of the British Empire saw bishops appointed for Canada, India and, in 1836, Australia. William Grant Broughton, the first bishop, worked hard to establish churches in new settlements beyond the early chaplaincies. The outcome of this was the creation of dioceses of the Church of England in each Australian colony.
However, this development took place in a setting of denominational pluralism. While occupying a prominent position in society, the Church of England in Australia had no formal links with the State. Hence, all the pioneer bishops had to evolve new forms of church government, typically a Synod of clergy and parish representatives. As well, lacking the endowment of its parent, Australian Anglicans had to accept responsibility for the support of their clergy, the buildings of their churches, and the development of educational and charitable institutions. This has meant that while basic parish and diocesan structures have been in place for more than a century, the Anglican Church of Australia has remained a church of large responsibilities, but limited resources.
The various dioceses of the Australian Church, by and large, continue to reflect the theological emphasis of their first bishops. Apart from the largest diocese, Sydney, which remains staunchly Evangelical, Australian dioceses exhibit varying shades of Anglo-Catholicism with some Pentecostalism and Liberalism.
Their Anglicanism is usually defined by reference to the Lambeth Quadrilateral – that summary of essentials agreed to by the Anglican bishops in their world-wide assembly at the Lambeth Conference of 1888. This comprises four Articles:
- “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation’, and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
- The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
- The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s Words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
- The Historic Episcopate locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.”
By the Right Rev’d James Grant