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Don’t go it alone on same-sex blessings, Australian Primate warns dioceses

16 May 2022


Archbishop Smith seen on a screen addressing the General Synod last week

Archbishop Smith seen on a screen addressing the General Synod last week

THE Australian Primate, the Most Revd Geoffrey Smith, Archbishop of Adelaide, has warned dioceses not to proceed to authorise same-sex marriage blessings in the wake of last week’s tense General Synod meeting.

He was responding to the synod’s narrow rejection of Sydney diocese’s move to declare same-sex marriage and blessings contrary “to the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church” (News, 13 May).

Archbishop Smith has been quoted as saying that, if dioceses proceeded to authorise same-sex blessings — a course of action that he admitted was likely — the General Synod would be weakened, and some bishops might not attend bishops’ meetings. Some people, and even some parishes, in dioceses that went ahead with such blessings might leave the Church, he said.

Archbishop Smith had previously called on dioceses not to move ahead with same-sex blessings before the the delayed General Synod had had a chance to meet. Last week’s meeting offered the first opportunity for a national discussion on the topic, after the Appellate Tribunal ruled in 2020 that same-sex blessing was not contrary to the Church’s constitution (News, 13 November 2020).

Dioceses have held off till now, apart from the diocese of Wangaratta, which sparked the same-sex blessing debate by approving a blessing rite in 2019. Two public same-sex marriage blessings have occurred in that diocese to date (News, 11 December 2020), although observers believe that private blessings may have happened in other dioceses.

Meanwhile, the Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Revd Kanishka Raffel, has admitted that he does not know what the General Synod decision means for the unity of the national Church. The diocese of Sydney, he said, was “very firmly committed to the constitutional understanding of the Anglican Church. You may have heard references to the fundamental declarations and the ruling principles. They define our understanding of Anglicanism, and we are thoroughly committed to them. So we think it’s other people who have departed.”

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