The Anglican Bishop of Wangaratta has issued the following missive:
22 September 2007
To the People of the Parish of Rutherglen and Chiltern in the Diocese of Wangaratta
Dear People of Rutherglen and Chiltern Parish,
It is with sadness that I write to you today to let you know that your Rector, Fr Tony Bartel, has offered me his resignation.
Fr Tony, in offering me his resignation, has made it clear that he is very happy in the parish and that the resignation is from the Anglican Church.
Fr Tony has found that the changes made in the Diocese and the wider Anglican Communion make it impossible for him to remain an Anglican.
The ordination of women is a catalyst issue but is only one among a number of theological and ecclesiological issues for him.
Fr Tony and his family will celebrate their last Sunday in the parish on 2 December 2007.
It is Fr Tony’s intention to be received into the Russian Orthodox Church.
For my part, I will miss Fr Tony’s intellectual sharpness and his contribution to the wider Diocese. For that, and the joy of his family’s presence in the Diocese for these few years, I give thanks.
To you all in the parish, I emphasise that this decision is not to do with the parish but entirely to do with Fr Tony’s response to issues in the wider Anglican Church.
I leave it to him to explain this further to you at an appropriate time.
Fr Tony assures me that his love for, and commitment to, the people and Parish of Rutherglen and Chiltern remains undiminished by his decision.
May God bless you all in your Christian lives and ministry.
You will remember that I posted only a little over a week ago the news of the death of Fr Tony’s mother, so this is obviously a time of deep upheaval for the family, and I ask you to keep them all in their prayers.
Tony is living proof of Newman’s dictate: “To grow is to change and to grow perfect is to change often.” Tony went to school with me at Immanuel College in South Australia, then was at Luther Seminary and Adelaide University at the same time as I was until he graduated from his Bachelor of Theology and went to the States. There he was ordained a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia and met and married his wife, Beth. He returned to Australia some years later to be received into the Anglican Church and ordained first a deacon (I was there for that) and then a priest by Bishop David Silk for the Diocese of Ballarat. He did several years as a lecturer at an Anglo-Catholic Seminary in the highlands of Papua New Guinea before returning to ministry in Australia at Mt Barker in the Adelaide Hills. For the past few years, he has been a priest of the diocese of Wangarratta in the lovely wine district of Rutherglen.
Now he takes one more step along the road to perfection. Tony acknowledges in a personal note that he is “unlikely to ever again have paid employment as a priest” so he will be seeking secular employment. However, I take it from that statement that he does intend to seek ordination as a Russian Orthodox priest.
There is of course one more “change” that lies ahead for Tony to take in his journey to ecclesiastical “perfection”, but we pray that he and his wife and family may enjoy a long period of settled and faithful membership in the Russian Orthodox Church before he finally decides to take that step which he has been putting off for almost a life time now…