The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies has slammed a top church tribunal’s opinion to permit the blessings of same-sex marriages.
Last year, the Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta, in north-east Victoria, made history when it voted to allow priests to officially bless same-sex couples already married.
However the vote caused controversy and leaders intervened to challenge the decision in the church’s highest court, the Appellate Tribunal.
On November 11, the tribunal voted 5–1 in favour of blessing the same-sex marriages.
The opinion, which is not a ruling, claim nothing in scriptural teachings stop a bishop from blessing a couple married under civil law.
The Anglican Church would still not allow its priests to perform or officiate same-sex marriages.
However, the tribunal said marriage equality demonstrated the “evolving social and legal environment within Australian society where the church exercises its mission.”
“The blessing of same-sex marriages does not necessarily involve denial of God,” the tribunal wrote.
Archbishop Glenn Davies says tribunal’s opinion ‘dishonours God’
But Anglican Archbishop of the Diocese of Sydney Glenn Davies slammed the Appellate Tribunal’s opinion. He told clergy the opinion was “hard to fathom, as it is contrary to the teaching of the Bible”.
“[The tribunal members] narrowly define doctrine as that teaching which is necessary for salvation.
“Since marriage is not necessary to salvation, the majority of the Tribunal opined, then blessing a lawful marriage under the Marriage Act 1961, would [not breach] doctrine – that is, with respect to what is necessary for salvation.
Archbishop Davies said though his church “welcomes all people” he believes the Tribunal’s legal interpretation “undermines the clear teaching of Scripture and thereby dishonours God.”
He said previous decisions made clear “the teaching of the Bible, and therefore of the Anglican Church, was that the sexual union of two persons of the same gender was sin.”
“That is why clergy are forbidden to solemnise same-sex marriages. To bless such a union would amount to the blessing of sin,” he said.
Archbishop Davies described the discussion as “a crisis for our National Church”. He said the Anglican General Synod, the church’s parliament, would consider the issue in 2021.
He said the Synod would discuss which view “truly reflects the Constitution’s declaration that ‘the canonical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments [are] the ultimate rule and standard of faith given by inspiration of God and containing all things necessary to salvation.’”
Many Anglican dioceses ‘want to look behind the words’
Former Wangaratta Bishop Reverend John Parkes brought on the initial vote in his diocese before he retired.
He told the ABC on November 12 the Tribunal’s majority opinion of approval was a landmark decision.
“I’m highly delighted for same-sex couples who love each other and are faithful to each other,” he said.
“And who, for a long time, have been on the fringes of the church. This, I hope, is a sign that God loves you and we welcome you.”
While still a bishop, Parkes conducted a service for married gay couple Rob Whalley and John Davis. Both men were also Wangaratta priests.
He also wanted to officially bless the pair’s marriage before the matter went to the tribunal.
“Some dioceses, Sydney among them, who take a very literal view of the black-and-white words of scripture,” Parkes said.
“However, there are many dioceses that want to look behind the words and consider the circumstances in which scriptures were written.
“The contemporary theological perspective says God’s love and God’s acceptance is the paramount virtue.”
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