Australian show down over same-sex blessings postponed — General Synod postponed indefinitely

421

Australia’s Anglicans national meeting that was expected to deal with a the blessing in church of same sex civil marriages haas beeb postponed. The General Synod (GS) which was scheduled for the end of May has been deferred with no new date for the meeting. The GS consists of representatives from each region/diocese including Bishops, ministers and “laity” – ordinary Christians.

The situation comes about because the question of blessings was raised by the Wangaratta Anglican Diocese. Their synod – parliament – authorised a new service to bless persons who are married in a civil service, including same-sex couples. Newcastle Diocese followed Wangaratta’s lead and passed similar legislation – but allowed it to lapse.

With the November 2020 decision of the top Anglican legal body, the Appellate Tribunal (AT), that blessings of civil same-sex marriages CAN be authorised by the dioceses (regions) of the Anglican Church of Australia (ACA), there is a real disagreement.

At least one blessing – in Wangaratta has taken place – of two ministers with the (now retired) local Bishop who moved the motion in Wangaratta conducting the service.

GS is a parliament with three houses. Two of them -ministers (“clergy”), and ordinary Christians (“laity”) are likely to lean conservative. The House of Bishops (which sort of is like the Senate) might go the other way – it is the wild card.

The General Synod has repeatedly passed conservative motions against same-sex marriage. If anything, it is arguable that the church has become more conservative over time.

The reason for deferring the GS is the COVID situation in Australia.

Here is the letter issued by the Primate (top leader) Bishop Geoffrey Smith of Adelaide in which he says  “In these uncertain times, God’s faithfulness and changelessness gives us great hope and strength. May God continue his saving and renewing work among us.”

I am aware that many of you are in the process of registering your attendance at the meeting of General Synod scheduled to be held from 31 May to 4 June 2021.

Yesterday the General Synod Standing Committee met to consider whether the decision to hold the meeting at that time needed to be reviewed in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

I am writing to advise that it has been resolved to defer the Eighteenth Session of the General Synod to a date to be determined, most likely in 2022.

This difficult decision has been made in response to the continuing uncertainty around travel and gatherings.

Covid-19 has impacted all our communities in profound ways. We are mindful of the grief, disruption and heartache this world-wide pandemic has caused to individuals and communities. We are also thankful to God for the way Australia has fared through this time.

Since the beginning of this year State and Territory governments have initiated lockdowns, border closures, quarantine requirements and meeting restrictions, at very short notice. There is an expectation that this will continue in response to the threat of community transmission and attendance at GS18 is likely to be impacted for some, if not all, General Synod members.

The Standing Committee considered the financial impact of the deferral as well as other meeting options including a fully virtual meeting or a hybrid event where those members who can, attend in person, and those who cannot connect to the proceedings online. None of these options were considered appropriate for the conduct of an ordinary session of the General Synod and the nature of business to be considered at this next meeting.