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Controversial MP to be ordained by SA Anglican diocese

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Outspoken Nationals MP George Christensen is set to be ordained a deacon in a South Australian diocese of the Anglican Church that refuses to ordain women as priests.

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However, Christensen has re-nominated to run for his Queensland seat of Dawson at the next federal election and won’t be throwing the Turnbull government’s numbers into a spin.

If he was to quit early, it could put the government’s one-seat majority in jeopardy.

When he was 21, the conservative MP was accepted into a Catholic seminary in Melbourne, but left after a few weeks.

In 2014, he joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

More recently he became an Anglican, but retained his conservative Christian position by attaching himself to one of the few Anglican dioceses in Australia that does not ordain women priests. The Murray, which stretches from Adelaide’s southern suburbs to the Victorian border, did however ordain its first female deacon last year.

In July he will be ordained a deacon by Bishop John Ford, who told InDaily that Christensen would assist him on “ecumenical matters” to do with some of the diocese’s international connections.

Ford said that while Christensen would minister in North Queensland, he would also “bring considerable experience and great insight” to the Diocese of The Murray and would be connected with the cathedral in Murray Bridge when he is here.

Christensen told AAP on Tuesday he intended to stay on in parliament, as his unpaid deacon role would allow him to carry on with his day job.

He won’t be moving to South Australia, but rather is expected to be attached to a parish in Mackay, in his home diocese of north Queensland, where he will assist with services and other activities.

“I am humbled to have my vocation to ordination in the church discerned,” he said.

Christensen said he had explored a number of Christian traditions over his life, but slipped out of church-going in his 20s.

However, since then he had been “outed as a strong Christian”.

“It’s no real surprise, but it’s another step on my faith journey that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.”

Christensen has been studying theology through the Sydney College of Divinity and says he could be ordained a priest in the future, but only once he leaves parliament.

Asked whether he planned to be a chaplain to fellow MPs, he said, “We have a chaplain in Parliament House. I don’t intend to usurp his role.”

“The role of a deacon and a member of parliament – there is some synergy element to it,” he said.

Bishop John Ford agreed with that, saying that the role of a deacon was “ministry in the culture”, so serving in parliament offered a good opportunity to do so.

He would not comment on whether the diocese’s position on the ordination of women had anything to do with Christensen’s decision to seek ordination here.

“This (ordination) is not a public matter,” he said.

“Would you like your heart exposed?”

Christensen has had a controversial career in parliament, calling for a burqa ban and cuts to immigration, and speaking out against action on climate change and same-sex marriage.

The Murray Diocese has also been subject to controversy, with former Bishop Ross Davies leaving his post in 2010 after the Anglican Church brought a series of internal church charges against him.

– AAP, additional reporting by InDaily

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