Now part of the autonomous Anglican Church of Australia and the worldwide Anglican/Episcopalian communion, the Anglican diocese of Melbourne, which then included the whole of the Port Phillip District, was created on 25 June 1847 by letters patent of Queen Victoria appointing Charles Perry its first bishop. The creation of independent country dioceses - Ballarat in 1876, Bendigo, Gippsland and Wangaratta in 1902 - raised the status of Melbourne's bishop to that of archbishop in 1905.
The archdiocese of Melbourne now encompasses the metropolitan region, a limited area of surrounding countryside, and the city of Geelong. Its governing body, the diocesan synod, first met in 1856, as part of Perry's initiatives to strengthen lay participation in church government. The basic community unit, the parish, remained a geographical one until the beginning of the 20th century when some inner-city churches (St Peter's Eastern Hill, St Paul's Cathedral) developed eclectic congregations, gathered on the basis of churchmanship, liturgical or musical styles, which now exist alongside many geographical parishes.
Melbourne's bishops have presided over a diocese that allowed a degree of diversity. Conservative low churchman-ship characterised the episcopate of Charles Perry (1848-76), Field Flowers Goe (1887-1901), and the period following Lowther Clarke's (1903-20) retirement. But Perry's successor, James Moorhouse (1876-86), espoused liberal intellectual tendencies. He encouraged educational ventures and deplored sectarian narrowness. Successors of a similar spirit include Lowther Clarke and Frank Woods (1957-77). While overt Anglo-Catholicism has been the position of a small but influential minority, the broader influence of the Catholic revival has been widely dispersed across the diocese. Suspicion and varying degrees of hostility between evangelicals others led to duplication in a variety of areas such as theological education (Trinity and Ridley Colleges) and social work (Mission to Streets and Lanes, Mission of St James and St John, Brotherhood of Saint Laurence). A variety of issues, such as the controversy preceding the first ordination of women, which took place in St Paul's Cathedral on 13 December 1992, have brought about a modification of some of the traditional political alignments, with conservatism or liberalism providing a new basis for co-operation across older divisions.
Until recently, Melbourne Anglicanism influenced much of the tone of the city's culture, even though the proportion of Anglicans in the total population was significantly less than in most other colonies. By 1861, Anglicans constituted 37.8% of Melbourne's population; in 1901, 38.8%; the 1991 figure of 16.8% reflects major demographic changes since World War II. Important channels of influence such as the Brotherhood of St Laurence, with its often radical and wide-reaching initiatives, and Anglican independent schools have not always been those under direct diocesan control. Anglican laity were generally satisfied with the Education Act of 1872. Despite the hopes of Archbishop Clarke, Melbourne's Anglicans did not develop a network of schools under diocesan control, nor more recently, of low-fee schools like those in Brisbane or Perth.
The Anglo-Saxon inheritance of Melbourne Anglicanism has been modified partly through the contribution of several significant Irish clergy to all of its different streams of churchmanship, and through interaction with people of a widening range of cultures. While 19th-century missions to the Chinese had limited impact, Anglicans made their churches available to Orthodox migrants in the post-World War II years, and more recently individual parishes have developed liturgies for Chinese (Richmond North), Iranian (Alphington), Spanish-speaking (Braybrook) and Sudanese communities (Footscray). Parish churches in the south-eastern suburbs have attracted many Anglicans from Sri Lanka and the Indian subcontinent.
Melbourne's Anglicanism has had its own distinctive ethos. In contrast to Sydney, it has maintained a more liberal attitude to controversial issues, and developed a reputation for considerable tolerance of diversity. Sydney's convict heritage also encouraged the equation of denomination with class more strongly than was the case in Melbourne, where the strength of Presbyterianism among its middle classes was significant. In contrast to Adelaide, it has been less concerned to distinguish itself from other reformation churches: the possibility of union with Presbyterians was considered in the first decade of the 20th century, and discussions over possible Anglican-Methodist union were held from 1932 to 1947.