Bishop of Gippsland: ‘There is no obstacle’ to same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church of Australia. Is Brisbane next?

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In his recent Presidential Address to the Diocesan Synod, Bishop Richard Treloar has told his diocese that there is no longer any bar on the blessing of same-sex marriages.

The address, delivered by video and available on YouTube, moves to the topic of same-sex blessings around halfway through (video embedded below at the beginning of this section) .

Bishop Treloar summarises the position as now commonly understood; the Appellate Tribunal has issued an opinion that such services are not contrary to the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia (albeit noting that they do so by adopting a narrow definition of the term “doctrine”) and also that recent General Synod did not uphold the first Statement it considered (which both confirmed the definition of marriage and proscribes same-sex marriage). He also makes comments about his role as “guardian of the faith”.

Having summarised the position, Bishop Treloar then makes his announcement, presenting this as a fait accompli that he has no power as bishop to resist:

Bishop Treloar does not grapple with the conundrum that General Synod has presented him with – the second statement (which also clearly defines marriage as between a man and a woman) sets out clear expectations of chastity within marriage. Thus, if the Bishop were unable to also resist the positively assertion of the Statement that General Synod did pass he would have to advise his own diocese that, while he may consider that same-sex blessings were permissible, he would also have to advise that sexual activity within those partnerships was not. Either General Synod compels and restrains the good bishop, or it does not.

Gippsland is the first of what may be many dioceses taking similar steps; simply acting as though the matter is now decided rather than passing the relevant motions at their synod. Next up is the Diocese of Brisbane which begins tonight.

The Business Paper [pdf] has no motion or bill for any such liturgy or service. It does contain a report entitled “Playing in the Sandpit” which sets out the results of a “consultation” within the diocese.

There is also a motion to remove any reference to marriage from the requirements for chaste behaviour in the diocese’s Faithfulness in Service. Here is the full text of the motion:

20. Amendment to Faithfulness in Service

The Rt Rev’d Jeremy Greaves to move; The Rev’d Dr Margaret Wesley seconding:

That Faithfulness in Service, as used in this Diocese, be amended as follows:

In Section 7.2: placing a full stop after “taking responsibility for their sexual conduct” and removing the words, “by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.”

In Section 7.4: replacing the words in Section 7.4 with “Your sexual behaviour should be characterised by faithfulness and integrity.”

Explanatory Note:

Sections 7.2 and 7.4 currently read:

7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.

7.4 You are to be chaste and not engage in sex outside of marriage and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature.

The revised sections 7.2 and 7.4 would read:

7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct.

7.4 Your sexual behaviour should be characterised by faithfulness and integrity.

So sex outside marriage is perfectly fine.

Given that Archbishop Aspinall is a known supporter of same-sex marriage and that there is no motion in the business paper on the topic, davidould.net predicts that tomorrow’s Presidential Address will take a similar tack to that of Bishop Treloar in Gippsland and we’ll have our first Archbishop leading their diocese across a line that may very well permanently split the Anglican Church of Australia.

We’ll keep you updated.