BISHOPS and clergy in Australia have reacted strongly to the call by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, for Anglican supporters of same-sex marriage to leave the Church.
Delivering the presidential address to the Sydney diocesan synod last week, Dr Davies said that “if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church [on marriage], they should start a new Church or join a Church more aligned to their views; but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of scripture. Please leave us.”
The Archbishop of Perth, the Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy, wrote to her diocese to say that many people had been in touch with her after Dr Davies’s comments. “I am so sorry for the distress that has been caused to so many in our Church and the wider community by these comments,” she wrote. In the diocese of Perth, she said, “we are committed to welcoming people as Jesus did, with the promise of his love which leads us out of the shadows of shame into the full light of God’s new day in Jesus Christ.”
The Bishop of Gippsland, in regional Victoria, the Rt Revd Richard Treloar, in a letter to be read out at Sunday services in his diocese, said that people who identified as LGBTQIA+, and supporters of marriage equality who wanted same-sex marriages blessed in the Anglican Church, as well as those who understood marriage to be exclusively between a man and a woman, were all welcome in his diocese. “We invite you to come, and to stay,” he wrote.
The Rector of St James’s, Sydney, the Revd Andrew Sempell, said that Dr Davies’s comments were “an attempt to claim that the diocese of Sydney represents the ‘true church’, and that those who disagree are ‘heretical’ and do not properly belong”.
Dr Davies has since said that his remarks were directed only at bishops. Earlier in his address, he had criticised the Bishop and the synod of the Victorian diocese of Wangaratta for authorising a liturgy for the blessing of same-sex marriages (News, 6 September). “We cannot bless same-sex marriages for the simple reason that we cannot bless sin,” he said.
He continued: “Friends, we have entered treacherous waters. I fear for the stability of the Anglican Church of Australia. These developments have the potential to fracture our fellowship and impair our communion.”
The time had come “to take action and make decisions, and these recent events have made it all the more imperative to do so”, he said. He called on the General Synod to make “a clear statement about the teaching of the Bible on the sanctity of sex within the marriage bond of a man and a woman; so that marriage is held in honour among all and the marriage bed is not defiled [Hebrews 13.4]”.
On Tuesday, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd Paul Bayes, told the Guardian: “I regret that the Archbishop [of Sydney] seems to want to exclude people rather than to engage with them within the wider Anglican family.” He hoped that bishops from Sydney would attend the Lambeth Conference next year, “so that we can all talk together and learn from one another there.
“Meanwhile, I’m glad that other parts of the Australian Church are engaging in dialogue with Sydney, and are advocating for a greater inclusion and a wider and more diverse Church. It’s good to be in the same communion with all these people.”
The Sydney Synod also welcomed the Rt Revd Jay Behan, of Christchurch, New Zealand, who was consecrated bishop last Saturday for the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa-New Zealand.
Dr Davies, the diocese of Sydney’s regional bishops, the former Archbishop Dr Peter Jensen, and the bishops of Armidale, North-West Australia, and Tasmania, all took part in the consecration. Sydney diocese, Dr Davies said, recognised Bishop Behan and his diocese as authentically Anglican. “It matters little that the Archbishop of Canterbury is unlikely to recognise this new diocese as part of the Canterbury Communion,” he said.
“While I have been accused of breaking fellowship with the National Church by joining in a consecration with a Church purportedly not in communion with the Anglican Church of Australia, I plainly declare that my communion with the Church of Confessing Anglicans of Aotearoa New Zealand is the koinonia [communion] of the Holy Spirit, as defined by scripture,” he said.