2 February 2024
St George’s Cathedral
In the Church of England where ordaining bishops has been reserved for centuries to the two archbishops of Canterbury and York, double consecrations are commonplace. Not so elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, and not so in Australia.
The double consecration of Peter Hollingworth and Bob Butterss in Melbourne in 1985 is one of very few if not the only only occasion in living memory, and certainly the only one witnessed by the current writer in over 50 years. Indeed, as far as we know, on 2 February 2024 we were making history in the Diocese of Perth and the huge Province of Western Australia was as we gathered to ordain David and Hans together, two new bishops in the Church of God.
Like all bishops from at least the 4th century of the Christian Era, David from Adelaide and Hans from Melbourne are ordained first and foremost not as bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, but as bishops in the Church of God. All bishops everywhere connect each and every baptised Christian with every other living bishop, with all bishops in succession back to the Apostles, and not just Roman Catholic or Orthodox or Lutheran bishops or bishops of any one denomination. For this reason, each new bishop is ordained not simply by the Metropolitan or Diocesan bishop of their local church, but by at least three bishops, and where possible many more. There was nothing unusual in 24 bishops sharing in laying hands on David and Hans, and others would have joined had they been able.
Bishops, after all, are signs of the unity and universality of the household of faith, even in a house divided. They are witnesses to Christ and all his followers down the ages from the first disciples until now, not to mention the future – witnessing as well to all that is yet to be. We belong to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church of God, reflecting not only what does exist and has existed, but striving against all that divides to hold together in one body according to Christ’s Last Supper prayer. In this hope, one Archbishop of Perth customarily advised both the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch of every bishop ordained here!
The more we discover about episcopal ordinations, the more we hope and pray for the day when all shall be one, that day when all will be united with the crucified and living Lord. We pray that Bishop David and Bishop Hans will be blessings to Archbishop Kay who chose them, blessings to one another, blessings to sisters and brothers of whatever faith or flavour, blessings indeed to everyone they meet, as well as blessings to themselves.