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AUSTRALIA: Newcastle Anglicans support gay marriage

AUSTRALIA: Newcastle Anglicans support gay marriage

By Heather McNab
October 29, 2019

Newcastle's Anglican diocese has voted to change church rules to allow ministers to bless same-sex marriages and prevent clergy in same-sex marriages from being punished by the church.

More than 200 clergy and lay people voted on the two bills at the diocese's synod on Saturday, the majority in their favour.

One would create a regulation allowing ministers to bless those married "according to the Marriage Act" - and allow for the blessing of same-sex couples.

No minister would be forced to conduct such a service if it went against their conscience, the bill says.

The other would prevent a clergy member from being disciplined for blessing a same-sex marriage, or for being in a same-sex marriage themselves.

It follows comments by Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies in his presidential address to the Sydney Anglican diocese synod earlier in October that the church couldn't bless same-sex marriage because it couldn't bless sin.

Dr Davies argued if people wish to change the doctrine of the church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views, rather than "ruin" the Anglican church by abandoning the plain teaching of scripture.

"Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world," the archbishop said in his speech.

In an address to the synod, Bishop of Newcastle Reverend Peter Stuart said the comments made by Archbishop Davies were not reflective of the rapport the archbishop has created among bishops in NSW.

"He and I have spoken frankly with each other in the last few days," Rev Stuart told those gathered.

Rev Stuart said he was "very conscious of the harm that has been done by the church to LGBTIQ+ people and those who love them".

"Our conversations have often come over as demeaning. In each LGBTIQ+ person, as in all people, we see the image of God - God bearing himself to us. That simple fact should shape our discourse."

The debate around the two bills was "measured and highly respectful" but also indicated "significantly different views", Rev Stuart said in a statement.

"Synod members spoke personally and profoundly about their life experience and decisions. They reflected on the Bible, church law and the pastoral needs of parishioners."

"We are going to have to be diligent in finding good ways of working together with competing views."

In August, the Victorian Diocese of Wangaratta passed a resolution providing for the blessing of same-sex couples who have married under the Commonwealth Marriage Act.

Archbishop of Melbourne and Australia's most senior Anglican, Dr Philip Freier, has referred that decision to an internal tribunal.

The bills passed by the Newcastle synod will also need to be considered by the tribunal.

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