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‘Sadness’ at Sydney diocese’s anti-same-sex marriage clause for schools

13 May 2022

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THE Australian General Synod will be asked to express “sadness” at Sydney diocese’s requirement that new principals and board members of the diocese’s Anglican schools affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman only.

A late motion brought to the General Synod meeting by a theologian and academic from Adelaide, the Revd Matthew Anstey, notes the “deleterious impact such publicity has on the mission of, and good will towards, the whole of the Anglican Church of Australia”.

The requirement, the motion continues, is “unprecedented” in the Anglican Church of Australia, and “a marked departure” from the Church’s practice “of individual freedom of conscience on moral matters”.

The motion was debated on Wednesday at the General Synod, which is meeting at a resort on the Gold Coast, Queensland. The five-day residential meeting is the first General Synod meeting since 2017; the pandemic prevented the scheduled meeting in 2020, and its planned replacement meeting in 2021.

Several principals of Anglican schools in Sydney have, according to a press report, complained to the Archbishop, the Most Revd Kanishka Raffel, about Sydney diocese’s requirement.

The principals, who are unnamed in the report in The Sydney Morning Herald, said that the clause in a statement of faith that school leaders must sign was “aggressive”, “contrary to the laws of the land”, and would seriously limit the pool of potential principals and school leaders. The principals, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, said that they were also concerned for gay students and their parents.

The clause was added to the statement of faith by the 2019 Sydney Diocesan Synod; the concerns have arisen over advertisements for a forthcoming school-principal vacancy at St Catherine’s School, Waverley. The outgoing principal, Dr Julie Townsend, is quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald as writing to parents that “discriminatory and damaging views have no place in our school”.

Her letter continued: “Although we are a diocesan school, we are not the Sydney Diocese. I know many people are working with the diocese to explain to them why their 2019 revised statement of faith has no place in schools.”

A Sydney regional bishop, the Rt Revd Chris Edwards, responded that the clause made explicit “what was always understood from biblical teaching on marriage”, given the change to secular law permitting same-sex marriage.

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