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Anglican Diocese of Brisbane

St John's Cathedral, Brisbane

The Anglican Diocese of Brisbane is based in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The diocesan bishop's seat is St John's Cathedral, Brisbane. The current Archbishop of Brisbane is Phillip Aspinall, who was formerly the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The diocese stretches from the south-eastern coastline of Queensland, down to the New South Wales border, and west to the Northern Territory and South Australian borders.



The Diocese of Brisbane has a liberal Anglo-Catholic ethos, which stands in contrast to the Protestant/Calvinistic theology and strict morality of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania. Monastic groups such as the Society of Saint Francis and the Oratory of the Good Shepherd have made Brisbane their Australian base. The Society of the Sacred Advent was also founded in the city.[1]

Saint Francis' Theological College, at which most of the diocese's priests are trained, has historically "combined a Catholic interpretation of the Book of Common Prayer with an acceptance of ‘moderate’ biblical criticism. This... [is]... the liberal Catholicism of Bishop Gore and Lux Mundi".[1]

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall is, himself, a liberal Anglo-Catholic and gave the keynote address at the Australian Church Union's 2006 Keble Mass.[2]

Consistent with this liberal tendency, the Social Responsibilities Committee of the diocese has endorsed same-sex civil unions.[3]

For the most part the diocese's parishes exhibit the "rather self-conscious Anglo-Catholic congregationalism of the capital cities, often tinged with radical Socialism".[1]

Despite the dominant liberal Anglo-Catholic ethos, there are a handful of low church parishes in a few of Brisbane's southern suburbs. Noosa on the Sunshine Coast is also a Calvinist parish. However, the last time there was any major controversy about the diocese's Anglo-Catholic orientation was in 1956.[1]


Queen Victoria created the Diocese and, in 1859,[4] appointed Edward Tufnell (1814–1896) as the first diocesan bishop.[5] Tufnell designated St John's Cathedral in Brisbane as the pro-cathedral. The central stained glass windows in the apse were donated by Bishop Tufnell.[citation needed]

The second bishop was Matthew Hale, who was translated from Perth in 1876.[6] Hale was succeeded by William Webber,[7] who was the last man to be only Bishop of Brisbane (from 1885 to 1904) as the new ecclesiastical province of Brisbane would, in the future, be headed by an archbishop as the incumbent.[citation needed]

A see house called Bishopsbourne (now Old Bishopsbourne) was built in Milton c. 1865 for Edward Tufnell. It was used by subsequent bishops and archbishops until Archbishop Philip Strong purchased the house Eldernell (formerly Farsley) at 39 Eldernell Street, Hamilton in 1964, renaming it Bishopsbourne.[8] In April 2007, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall sold the Hamilton residence for $11.2 million and moved to a residence in Ascot costing $2.6 million, which has also been renamed Bishopsbourne.[9][10]


The Diocese has embraced American-influenced Progressive Christianity.

The Diocese has produced a Progressive Christianity theological work entitled The Once and Future Scriptures. Some of the senior priests who contributed to the work, including Gregory Jenks and Nigel Leaves, were members of the Westar Institute, the organisers of the Jesus Seminar. Dean Peter Catt also contributed to the book and Archbishop Aspinall produced the foreword. [11]

Archbishop Aspinall invited another member of the Westar Institute, Bishop John Shelby Spong, to the Diocese after he had been banned by the former Archbishop, Peter Hollingsworth.[12]

Assistant Bishop Jeremy Greaves was also a supporter of the late Jesus Seminar figure, Marcus Borg. Bishop Greaves is also a friend of Bishop Spong and contributed to an open letter to him in 2016.[13]

The Diocese hosted the fourth international Common Dreams conference to promote Progressive Christianity in 2016. Amongst other topics, the conference had papers on Unitarianism and panentheism. [14]

Bishop Greaves has stated he would like to abandon the Apostle's Creed[15][16] and gradually change the Diocese to fully embrace Progressive Christianity: "For so many of us in ministry, we're locked into a model where the people who sit in the pews pay our salaries, pay our way. I have a wife and three small children to support and so the challenge of being too prophetic and changing too many things too quickly is that there won't be enough people left in the short term to help me survive financially, and that's a brutal and very difficult challenge."[17]


Priests trained in the Diocese must graduate from Saint Francis' Theological College. The Principal of the College is Bishop Jonathan Holland.[18] A motion was put at the 2011 Synod to investigate and review the College because of concerns about high drop-out rates and failure to prepare students adequately for ministry. Bishop Holland blocked the review by changing the sub-clauses of the motion so that they praised the College instead.[19]

Another motion was put at the 2017 Synod that would have allowed graduates of the more Protestant Brisbane School of Theologyto become ministers in the Diocese but this was not carried. Graduates of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney's Calvinistic Moore College are also banned from preaching in Brisbane.[20]

Saint John's CathedralEdit

The Brisbane Anglican Cathedral of Saint John was completed in 2005, after 100 years of construction.[21]

In 2015, a series of statues, costing $45 000 each, were purchased and blessed by Archbishop Aspinall before being installed on the cathedral's facade.[22]

Shortly before this, a storm warped one of the cathedral's walls, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.[23][24]

Because of its expense and a perceived preoccupation with the building at a time when congregation numbers are in steep decline, the Cathedral has been nicknamed "Aspinall's Folly" by some parishioners.[25]

Lobby groupsEdit

The Angligreen environmental group is a significant voice in the diocese.[26]

The dean of the cathedral, Peter Catt, is the founder of A Progressive Christian Voice and an advocate for same sex marriage. He also chairs the Diocese's Social Responsibilities Committee.[27][28]


Biblical literacyEdit

Archbishop Aspinall has observed that, "Few Anglicans in Brisbane have any depth of knowledge of the Bible; few read or study the Bible regularly..."[29]

Transgender priestEdit

Archbishop Aspinall supported English-born Brisbane priest and Saint Francis' lecturer, Jonathan Inkpin, when he came out as Australia's first openly-transgender priest. Aspinall's letter indicated he was aware of other transgender priests in the Diocese. Inkpin's wife, Penny Jones, was one of the first female priests in the United Kingdom.[30][31]

Same sex marriageEdit

In its 2017 synod, the Diocese refused to affirm the prior National Synod's pledge to "uphold the traditional and biblical dynamic of marriage as exclusively of that between a man and woman, consecrated by God.”[32]

In the same year, Bishop Jeremy Greaves, also a same sex marriage supporter,[33][34] conducted a "Pride" evensong service at the cathedral.[35][36][37] At around the same time, a "Gay-e-tea" event was also held at the cathedral.[38]

A large number of priests in the Diocese, including Penny Jones,[39] Gillian Moses,[40] Julie Woolner,[41] Rod Winterton,[42] Tiffany Sparks,[43] Julie Leaves,[44] Jeanette Jamieson,[45] Cathy Lawler,[46] Moira Evers,[47] and Sue Wilton[48] publicly support same sex marriage.

In a 2018 newspaper interview, Dean Peter Catt admitted he had been blessing same sex couples "for years".[49] He declared that, "The form of blessing we have been practising cannot be banned or outlawed by church authorities, except through dramatic action."[50]

Reintegration of convicted child abusersEdit

The Diocese allowed two convicted child sexual abusers to attend church, perform lay reader duties and work in a choir with children at Holy Trinity Church, Fortitude Valley. This led to public outcry.[51][52][53][54]

State-church ties and militarismEdit

Peter Catt and Jeremy Greaves support the military and Anzac Day and are opposed to Christian pacifism.[55][56][57]

Links to the legal communityEdit

The Diocese has close links to the legal establishment in Brisbane, leading to claims of a serious conflict of interest.[58][59][60]

The Royal Commission opted not to pursue charges against Bishop Jonathan Holland's father, Bishop Alfred Holland (despite finding he had not acted on allegations of abuse)[61][62] or against Archbishop Aspinall.[63]

Dissident parishEdit

The conservative Anglo-Catholic parish, All Saints' Brisbane, which left the Diocese to join the Traditional Anglican Communion, is notable for having links to Forward in Faith, which maintains a small presence in the city.[64]

Royal CommissionEdit

Out of all Anglican dioceses in Australia, the Diocese of Brisbane received the most complaints at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.[65]


In 2018, an old scholars' association declared they no longer wanted the Diocese to control church schools “amid concern about the handling of child sexual abuse cases and its dated school governance practices”.[66]


The Diocese has an authoritarian, hierarchial culture. It has been accused of bullying and threatening its own parishioners.[67][68]

Archbishop Aspinall has, himself, faced a tribunal over one bullying allegation.[69]

On another occasion, a child abuse survivor who was threatening to sue the Diocese, alleged that Archbishop Aspinall told him that litigation would be sinful.[70]

A source alleged to the Anglican news site Virtue Online that "even those who are theologically the same stripe as Aspinall regard him as pretty ruthless when it comes to his own authority. And he micro-manages..."[71]

Aspinall himself has confirmed the highly political nature of the Diocese, telling the Royal Commission that "The Anglican Church makes Federal Parliament look like kindergarten."[72]

A minister named Jeanette Jamieson and a laywoman named Margaret Pearson from the Parish of Kilcoy were also accused of misconduct and bullying. The Diocese did not investigate the complaints.[73]

There is also a subculture of homosexual priests in the Diocese. Academic David Hilliard has produced a study that confirms the tendency of homosexuals to gravitate towards Anglo-Catholicism.[74] Some of the Diocese's Anglo-Catholic priests are homosexuals or transgender, including members of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd.[75][76][77]


The Diocese has a strong ecumenical relationship with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.[78][79]


Between 2011 and 2016, the number of parishioners in the Diocese declined by 7%.[80]


Bishops of BrisbaneEdit

In 1858, the Brisbane diocese was separated from the Diocese of Newcastle based in New South Wales. Until then, the area had been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Newcastle, William Tyrrell.

Bishops of Brisbane
From Until Incumbent Notes
1859 1874 Edward Tufnell
1875 1885 Matthew Hale Translated from Perth.
1885 1903 William Webber Died in office.
1904 1905 St Clair Donaldson Became Archbishop of Brisbane

Assistant bishopsEdit

Among the previous assistant bishops of the Diocese of Brisbane were Henry Le Fanu (bishop coadjutor), who became Archbishop of Perth and Primate of Australia, and John Parkes, who is now the Bishop of Wangaratta. The current assistant bishops are Cameron Venables (Western Region since 2014), Jeremy Greaves (Northern Region since 2017) and John Roundhill (Southern Region since 2018).[81][82]

Archbishops of BrisbaneEdit

With the creation of the Province of Queensland in 1905,[83] the Diocese of Brisbane became the permanent metropolitan see, and its bishop the metropolitan archbishop.

Archbishops of Brisbane
From Until Incumbent Notes
1905 1921 St Clair Donaldson Translated to Salisbury.
1921 1933 Gerald Sharp Died in office.
1934 1943 William Wand Translated to Bath and Wells and later to London.
1943 1962 Reginald Halse Translated from Riverina; knighted in 1962; died in office.
1963 1970 Philip Strong Translated from New Guinea; Primate of Australia, 1966–1970.
1970 1980 Felix Arnott Previously coadjutor bishop in Melbourne.
1980 1989 John Grindrod Previously Bishop of Riverina and then of Rockhampton; Primate of Australia, 1982–1989; knighted in 1983.
1990 2001 Peter Hollingworth Translated from the Inner City, Melbourne; Governor-General of Australia, 2001–2003.
2002 present Phillip Aspinall Previously assistant bishop in Adelaide; Primate of Australia, 2005-2014.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d The Anglo-Catholic Tradition in Australian Anglicanism
  2. ^ Australian Church Union
  3. ^ Vogler, Sarah (November 7, 2015). "Same-sex marriage: Arm of Anglican Church supports civil unions in Queensland". Courier Mail. Retrieved March 3, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Consecration Of The Bishops Of Bangor, Brisbane, And St Helena", The Times, 15 June 1859, p. 10.
  5. ^ Crockford's Clerical Directory 1975-76 London: Oxford University Press, 1976 ISBN 0-19-200008-X
  6. ^ Diocese of Brisbane[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ ADB entry
  8. ^ "Old Bishopsbourne (entry 600254)". Queensland Heritage Register. Queensland Heritage Council. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Bishopsbourne, Hamilton (formerly Eldernell)". Your Brisbane: Past and Present. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Cumming, Gillian (26 March 2007). "Great expectations for Farsley". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 27 November 2014. 
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  29. ^ The Once and Future Scriptures: Exploring the Role of the Bible in the Contemporary Church, Salem, OR: Polerbridge, 2013.
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  64. ^ All Saints Brisbane
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  81. ^ General Synod Information Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
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  83. ^ Anglican Diocese of North Queensland – History Archived 9 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine.

External linksEdit