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Whatever happened in Torres Strait?: interpreting the Anglican split of 1998
journal contributionposted on 2001-09-01, 00:00 authored by David Wetherell
Recent movements within world Anglicanism towards a more democratic representation of the church are in contrast to Torres Strait Islanders' assertion of their own male-led conservative and hierarchical body. These characteristics have marked Torres Strait Island Anglicanism for many years. On the surface, the various strands leading to a conflict over a choice of leader in 1997 focused upon discordant relationships and faulty decision-making procedures, especially the surrender of the diocese of Carpentaria to the adjacent diocese of North Queensland and a subsequent choice of a bishop where Torres Strait clergy claimed that the terms of the surrender had been dishonoured. Yet below the surface, the cleavage between Island and European leadership was also a sign of the ideological shift which was occurring in the Anglican Church of Australia. Supported by European elements within that church opposed to the ordination of women, Islander clergy charged that the mainland body was deserting the faith and order of the 'church of the fathers'. With the Islanders newly empowered, as they perceived it, by the Mabo judgement of the High Court of Australia in 1992, their perception appears to have been that, in spirit, the mainland church denied what the High Court's decision recognised: the ultimate control by Islanders over their own affairs.