Australian church appellate tribunal rules same-sex liturgies are valid


The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia has issued it’s opinion on perhaps the most controversial question ever put before it: is the liturgy from Wangaratta to bless the parties of a same-sex marriage consistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia?

The answer by 5 of it’s 6 members: Yes.

A separate “minority” opinion in the negative has been issued by a fifth member, Gillian Davidson.

For background see my piece from October, “Appellate Tribunal Prepares to Issue Critical Opinion“.

The majority opinion falls entirely along lines expected by observers of the Tribunal but is likely to be keenly debated. It takes positions that are contrary to both the weight of submissions it received and the particular advice that it asked for from both the House of Bishops and the Board of Assessors. The answers to those questions were robustly conservative/orthodox and deliberately sought to show how the question of same-sex activity and marriage were encompassed within them (especially the answer from the Board of Assessors).

Here’s my first response to the opinion fade on Facebook live.

The Tribunal also offered an opinion on the move by Newcastle Diocese to limit the effect of national disciplinary codes and procedures upon clergy who participated in these “blessings”. It splits along the same 5-1 lines but offers a more limited response. The first two answers deal with the basic question and they opine that the Diocese can proceed to make those limits.

On some other questions they declined to answer, viewing answers as being of “insufficient practical utility” and then another “going well beyond the jurisdictional issues we have already addressed”. Nevertheless, the position of the Appellate Tribunal is now clear.

Attention now moves to the House of Bishops who meet tomorrow and the Standing Committee of the General Synod who begin to meet on Friday.

It seems more and more inevitable that there will and must be clarity provided at the next General Synod, due to meet in early June 2021. The General Synod has proven itself to be more and more conservative over the past 10 years, even censuring the Scottish Episcopal Church for sanctioning same-sex marriage, and might be expected to further bolster the conservative orthodox position when it meets.