Australian diocese rejects church standards on same-sex marriage

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The Synod of the Diocese of Grafton, which met this last weekend, has passed a number of controversial motions and heard a question which indicate a walking away from aspects of the national church constitution and the recent Bishops’ Agreement.

As we reported last week, the Synod debated asking the General Synod to introduce same-sex marriage and blessing liturgies. That motion, as expected, was passed along with a number of related matters. What surprised some delegates at Synod was that the following motion was comprehensively defeated:

27. Standard of Worship and Doctrine

That this Synod affirms the authorised standard of worship and doctrine of the Anglican Church of Australia as set out in the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles of the Constitution.

The motion was defeated in a vote by houses with approximately 2/3 of the delegates voting against. This represents a rejection of the fundamental position of the Anglican Church of Australia with respect to doctrine and worship. The synod of Grafton has essentially said “we’ll decide for ourselves what our doctrine and liturgy is”. Those speaking against the motion included the Dean, Greg Jenks.

One member of synod observed to davidould.net that,

Numerous people at lunch time were joking that they are no longer Anglicans and so they can do as they please.  There was an air of triumphalism.

A question asked of the bishop also exposed what appears to be a deliberate move to reject the agreement that the bishops had reached last year at their meeting not to move forward unilaterally on the topic of same-sex marriage:

The Winter Cathedral Newsletter welcomed Ms Roz Rogers to the position of Associate Minister for Children, Families and Youth, it also declared that Ms Rogers is married to a woman.

The agreement between the bishops of Australia states in part: 

The doctrine of this Church is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman. If we as a Church are to change this doctrine to permit same-sex marriage, the appropriate mechanism is through the framework of the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Australia. Bishops should give leadership in demonstrating trust in this framework as the way to move forward together…

The bishops commit to act within the framework of the Constitution and Canons of this Church, and to encourage those under their episcopal oversight to do so.

In light of the agreement for Bishops to uphold the constitution, and the inappropriateness of licensing a person who at this stage is not married in the eyes of the Anglican Church of Australia:

1. Was the Bishop informed of the Same Sex marriage prior to licensing Ms Rogers?

2. Did the Bishop seek advice about the legalities under our constitution prior to issuing Ms Rogers a license?

3. As such an appointment has the potential to dramatically affect the life of the diocese and the potential to breach the constitution, will the Bishop make any advice received available to Synod?

davidould.net notes that even before any answer is published, the facts underlying the question (which were not disputed by the bishop) indicate a clear rejection of the spirit of the Bishops’ Agreement not to act precipitously or unilaterally in this area.