SYDNEY diocese has contributed $A1 million (£590,670) to the campaign opposing same-sex marriage, as a voluntary postal survey on equal marriage is held on behalf of the Australian government, the Archbishop, Dr Glenn Davies, has told the Sydney synod.
The money has been drawn down from the Diocesan Endowment, which funds the administration of the diocese.
Australian electors have been asked to vote “Yes” or “No” in the survey; the result will be announced on 15 November. If the Yes vote wins, legislation to allow same-sex marriage in the form of a Private Member’s Bill will be introduced in the Federal Parliament. The postal survey, costing $A122 million (£73 million), has caused much controversy.
Sydney diocese is a founding member of a group formed to oppose same-sex marriage: the Coalition for Marriage. The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Sydney and the conservative organisations the Marriage Alliance and the Australian Christian Lobby are also members.
Delivering the opening address at the annual synod, Dr Davies told synod members: “The stakes are high and the cost is high. Yet the cause is just, and it is a consequence of our discipleship to uphold the gift of marriage as God has designed it: creation ordinance for all people.”
He said that “removing gender from the marriage construct will have irreparable consequences for our society, for our freedom of speech, our freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion”. He continued that it was “a sad reflection upon the state of the Anglican Communion that some Provinces have been moulded into the patterns of their surrounding culture, such that they now approve the marriage of same-sex couples and purport to pronounce God’s blessing upon them”. He referred to the Scottish Episcopal Church’s decision, and suggested that it was likely that “Canada and the US will soon change their canons to follow suit.”
Sydney diocese’s contribution to the No campaign has been condemned by the Rector of a liberal Sydney parish, the Revd Andrew Sempell. He said that the contribution was “a poor use of church finances”, suggesting that “we are more interested in politics than people”.
“We’re doing too much judging and condemning,” he continued. “By putting our money into this sort of political process, we seem to be on the wrong side of grace.”
The Revd Dr Keith Mascord, a member of two ecumenical groups that support same-sex marriage — Equal Voices, and Australian Christians for Marriage Equality — said that the donation signalled “a certain measure of desperation” that would “damage the reputation of Sydney Anglicans for generations”.
Dr Mascord’s licence to officiate in Sydney diocese was not renewed last year after he made comments in favour of same-sex marriage.