Wangaratta and Newcastle issue first response to Australian appellate tribunal

Peter Stuart.jpg
Peter Stuart

The two bishops of the Dioceses at the centre of this week’s Appellate Tribunal opinions have issued their first responses. Bishop Peter Stuart of Newcastle sent his clergy a letter on Friday:

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Bishop Clarence Bester of Wangaratta issued a statement on Thursday.

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While both statements do not openly encourage clergy to conduct such “blessings”, neither do they urge ongoing restraint.

The House of Bishops met online on Friday (after Wangaratta’s statement but prior to the Newcastle letter). understands that at that brief meeting the Bishops agreed to wait on offering comment on the Tribunal opinions until they had had the opportunity to confer properly together. A working group has been formed to prepare a joint statement that will be released following next Friday’s Bishops’ meeting.

Revisionist bishops in the meeting had argued that in the interim something needed to be said. I understand that the tone of their position was that they would move ahead. One is reported to have said “we are powerless to stop this”. Whether the Bishops are that powerless within their Diocese, or whether they choose not to exercise what power or influence they might have, remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, this position and the content of the letter and statement has disappointed senior conservative leaders. A very highly place source told

Before the Appellate Tribunal opinion was known, the Bishops were urged by the Primate not to act until General Synod has met, regardless of the outcome of the Tribunal.

For all the language that we might “listen to one another” and “hold together as a Church”, it is beginning to look like the restraint that the Primate asked for will not be kept nor encouraged by those Bishops who are most able to ask for and even implement it. What they choose to do, especially as they preside over their upcoming synods, will be closely watched by the entire national body. Any assessment of a genuine commitment to unity may depend upon it.