By Verity Edwards
Melbourne, March 3, 2012
Archbishop Hepworth, the Australian leader of the Traditional Anglican Communion, last year claimed he was raped by three Catholic priests nearly 40 years ago.
He had planned to step down at Easter after bishops in several countries lost confidence in him and opposed his attempts to reunite with Rome.
A statement issued by the TAC's College of Bishops after the meeting in Johannesburg late on Thursday night also revealed the body voted to remain completely Anglican, despite Archbishop Hepworth's successful attempts to reconcile the TAC with the Catholic Church in Rome last year.
"The TAC will remain fully Anglican," the statement said.
"While it receives, with thanks, the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus from the Holy See, the TAC College of Bishops has voted as a communion to decline the invitation."
Archbishop Hepworth said yesterday he accepted his removal. "I was going anyway in four weeks' time and all I'm doing is filing and putting our information in archives. . It's a meaningless gesture and if it's meant to upset, I am not upset."
Of the 20 active bishops in the TAC, 12 attended the meeting in South Africa, constituting an official College of Bishops.
While the college voted against the Rome reconciliation, Archbishop Hepworth said a significant number of parishes in Australia, the US and Britain were already working towards reunification. "Union was never going to be achieved without friction and conflict," he said.
"It was a divisive matter 500 years ago and those of us who suggested (reconciliation) were always going to get in trouble."
The College of Bishops has installed Indian archbishop Samuel Prakash as acting primate and Archbishop Hepworth remains head of the TAC in Australia. Archbishop Hepworth was ordained as a Catholic priest in the 1960s but left the church after allegedly being abused by three priests.