Preliminary thoughts on the Australian Appellate Tribunal ruling

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It is with great sadness that I note the opinion of the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia on the matter of proposed services to bless same-sex unions. Setting aside the unanimous advice of the House of Bishops and the unanimous advice of the Board of Assessors, the majority of the Tribunal has decided that there is no impediment to such services of blessing going ahead.

This opinion, if acted upon, may indeed have devastating consequences for the Anglican Church of Australia, as similar decisions have done elsewhere in the world, but it cannot change the revealed will of God. The opinion is deeply wrong because it opens the door for the blessing of behaviour which the Bible clearly says will exclude people from inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10). As the Board of Assessors and the House of Bishops made clear, the prohibition of this behaviour is not limited to an isolated passage in the New Testament but is consistent through the entire Bible. God does not change his mind. He does not need to. He has always known the end from the beginning.

Since its release, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Geoff Smith, has described the decision of the Tribunal as ‘an important contribution to the ongoing conversation within the church’. He clearly does not see it as the final word. It is important that only Scripture occupies that place.

The opinion is lengthy and will take most of us quite some time to digest. Of crucial importance is the dissenting opinion of one of the Tribunal members, Ms Gillian Davidson. Alongside that, important statements by Dr J. I. Packer, when similar moves were made in Canada in 2002, and by Bishop Jay Behan, who spoke following a decision of the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia in 2018, are well worth reading.

What will happen in the Anglican Church of Australia is yet to be seen. Those who cherish the long heritage of biblical faithfulness in Anglican churches must now pray that God will deliver us from the spirit of our age.