By Mark Michael

The Most Rev. Geoffrey Smith, Archbishop of Adelaide, was elected primate of the Anglican Church in Australia through an electronic balloting process on April 6. Anne Hywood, General Secretary of General Synod confirmed the election in a letter to members of the church’s governing body the following day. Smith has been elected to a six-year term, and will take office immediately. He succeeds Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, who stepped down from the primatial role on March 31.

The new election came a little more than three weeks after a deadlocked primatial board of electors failed to give Smith a majority in all three of the board’s houses. While winning comfortable majorities in the houses of bishops and laity, a group of clergy from the Diocese of Sydney and their allies held out for GAFCON-Australia chair Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania, holding Smith one vote short of a majority in four of the seven ballots cast.

The Melbourne Anglican reports that Smith won clear majorities in all three houses this time. The Rev. David Ould, a priest from the Diocese of Sydney reported on his blog that this “follows a decision to abstain by a number of those clergy who had previously voted for Bishop Condie of Tasmania.”

Smith, a moderate who holds traditional views on marriage, is a native of rural New South Wales. He has served as Archbishop Adelaide since 2017. His earlier ministry included mission service in Papua New Guinea, leadership of the Anglican Church of Australia’s Mission Board, and a suffragan bishopric in the Diocese of Brisbane.

Archbishop Smith told Anglican News Service: “I am very conscious of the enormous privilege we the church have in sharing the mission of Christ, and the importance of unity in that task. My prayer is that our unity might be strengthened to better enable the witness and work of the church in the world.”

The meeting of the Australian Church’s General Synod that had been previously scheduled for June has been postponed until 2021 because of the COVID-19 assembly restrictions. The synod was expected to be contentious, as the church aimed to articulate a common response to the Diocese of Wangaratta’s decision last summer to allow the blessing of same-sex unions. Last September, Smith’s predecessor, Archbishop Philip Freier, referred Wangaratta’s canonical change to the Appellate Tribunal, the Australian church’s highest judicial body. A decision on the case is still awaited, and acting on it will likely be among the early challenges of Smith’s ministry as primate.