FACING public criticism over Sydney diocese’s decision to contribute $AU1 million to the campaign against same-sex marriage, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has written to all Sydney parishes defending the diocese’s decision.
The money was given to the Coalition for Marriage, a group formed to oppose changing the Marriage Act to allow same-sex marriage, which is currently the subject of a national voluntary postal plebiscite (News, 13 October). Sydney diocese is a founding member of the Coalition for Marriage.
Noting criticism that the money should have been given instead to social-justice issues, Dr Davies wrote that the diocese’s contribution was “not at the expense of our commitment to social justice, but because of it”. He continued: “We believe that the best way for Anglicare and other Christian agencies to serve the social good is for them to be able to operate on the basis of a Christian ethos, and to recruit Christian staff and volunteers.
“A legal recognition of same-sex marriage will significantly affect Anglican bodies who wish to maintain and promote a Christian understanding of marriage, in opposition to the law of the land.”
He added that some had questioned whether the contribution was a waste of resources, because they believed that change to the law was inevitable; but this view was “misguided”, he said. The outcome of the survey “hangs in the balance”, and the contribution allowed the No campaign to “raise awareness of the consequences of same-sex marriage for freedom of speech and freedom of religion”.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of North-West Australia, the Rt Revd Gary Nelson, formerly a priest in Sydney, threatened to withdraw his diocesan clergy from celebrating all marriages if same-sex marriage was approved by the Australian government without strong protections for religion.
Overseas evidence showed, he said, that protections could be “whittled away”.
The newly elected Archbishop of Perth, who will become the metropolitan of Western Australia, the Rt Revd Kay Goldsworthy, Bishop of Gippsland (News, 1 September), will be installed in February. She is one of a number of Australian Anglican bishops who wrote to the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, protesting against the holding of the plebiscite on the grounds that it would be divisive and harmful.
Although admitting to a more inclusive position on same-sex marriage personally, Bishop Goldsworthy has said, that she would not challenge the stated position of the Church, which was that marriage was between a man and a woman.
All Church members, she said, would have to examine their own beliefs, and come to their own conclusions.
The results of the plebiscite will be announced on 15 November. If the Yes case is successful, a Private Member’s Bill to change the Marriage Act will be introduced to the Australian parliament.