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Australian Bishops differ over blessing of same-sex marriages

27 November 2020

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THE Australian House of Bishops has acknowledged “with pain” that it is unable to agree on the blessing of same-sex marriages.

In a statement released from a meeting held to discuss the Appellate Tribunals ruling that cleared the way for blessing same-sex marriages (News, 13 November), the Bishops said that they recognised that “there is not a common mind on these issues within the House of Bishops.”

They have refrained from calling for a moratorium on use of the blessing liturgies that were approved by the dioceses of Wangaratta (News, 6 September 2019) and Newcastle (News, 8 November 2019) last year and were referred to the Tribunal to test their constitutionality. It had been expected that the Bishops would ask for no action until the meeting of the General Synod scheduled for next May-June.

Instead, they have urged clergy “to manifest the fruit of the Spirit in considering whether or how to bless those married according to the Marriage Act 1961”. (The Australian Government amended the Marriage Act in 2017 to provide for same-sex marriages.)

The Bishops continued: “We recognise these are issues that affect people profoundly. Consequently, there will be a variety of deeply felt and sincerely held responses to the Appellate Tribunal Opinions. Members of the House of Bishops have variously received requests to restrain clergy from exercising this ministry and, on the other hand, to welcome the opportunity for this ministry. There is not a common voice.”

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, has written to his clergy saying that, in his opinion, “the effect of the [Tribunal] majority opinion’s legal interpretation undermines the clear teaching of Scripture and thereby dishonours God”.

He continued: “This is a crisis for our National Church”; and congregations “may be disturbed as to how a judicial panel could arrive at such conclusions, yet the teaching of Scripture has not changed.”

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