THE Australian Federal Government's Attorney-General, Nicola
Roxon, has suggested that a new draft marriage service devised by
the diocese of Sydney might not be legal.
The draft service, part of a collection of new liturgical
resources being developed by the diocese's liturgical panel, is to
be brought to the diocesan synod in October, but is already in use
in some parishes. It requires the bride to vow to "submit" to her
husband "as the Church submits to Christ". She also commits herself
to "honour" and "respect" him, while the bridegroom vows to "love
and cherish her as Christ loved the Church".
The chairman of the liturgical panel, the Rt Revd Robert
Forsyth, a Sydney regional bishop, has defended the choice of the
term "submit" on the grounds that it is a "deeply biblical word".
But a New Testament scholar, the Revd Dr Kevin Giles, of Melbourne,
said that in 2012 the subordination of women made for bad
Under the terms of the government's Marriage Act, clergy are
authorised to conduct weddings using any form or ceremony
"recognised as sufficient for the purpose by the religious body or
organisation" to which they belong. A statement from the
Attorney-General's office has confirmed that the "religious body"
in this case would be the Anglican Church of Australia, not an
The Primate of Australia and Archbishop of Brisbane, Dr Phillip
Aspinall, has also suggested that the legality of the new service
in terms of church law might have to be decided by the Church's
highest court, the Appellate Tribunal. The legality question was
important, he said in a statement.
There has been a strong public reaction to the proposed new
vows, with an outpouring of comments in newspapers' letters
columns, blogs, and on social media.