The head of the Anglican Church in Australia says the church must do more to improve child safety but could be held back by its lack of central authority.
The outgoing head of the Anglican Church in Australia says a lack of central authority in the church has affected its efforts to deal with child sexual abuse.
Addressing the church’s national parliament in Adelaide on Monday, Brisbane Archbishop Phillip Aspinall said the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse had expressed surprise and concern at the dispersed power structure within the church.
Dr Aspinall, the Anglican church primate, said the church had taken a number of steps to improve child safety and respond to allegations of abuse over the past decade but acknowledged more work was needed.
However he said the “very weak” nature of the national offices within the Anglican church represented a serious challenge.
The royal commission and the “parlous” financial condition of many dioceses had highlighted the problems with this diverse structure, he said.
Dr Aspinall said there was a “mismatch between community perceptions and expectations and the reality of the church’s life”.
“The primate is not the CEO of the Anglican Church and cannot direct any bishop, priest, deacon or lay person, employee or volunteer outside of his own diocese,” he said.
Disparity between wealthy and poorer dioceses and theological differences prevented closer cooperation between the church branches, he said.
Some dioceses that lacked expertise or resources continued to reject advice from within the broader church.
Of the church’s 23 dioceses, six describe themselves as financially unsustainable and a further three say they are facing serious financial problems.
Dr Aspinall will step down as primate at the conclusion of the general synod on Friday, with Melbourne Archbishop Philip Frier elected to succeed him.
The royal commission will deliver its interim report to government on Monday.