Armidale gay couple shunned by church for marrying finally get priest’s blessing

the two peters anglican church armidale albury same-sex marriage gay couple
Images: Sally Morris/Facebook, Thennicke/Wikimedia Commons

A gay New South Wales couple who say they were driven out of their church for getting married have heard a powerful message from a supportive priest who agreed to bless their union.

Peter Sanders and Peter Grace went public with their story last year, after getting a civil same-sex marriage in early 2020.

The couple had belonged to St Mary’s Anglican Church in West Armidale. However they explained the parish refused to bless their “unbiblical” marriage.

At the time Sanders was the church’s musical director and organist. His partner volunteered as leader of a church committee.

The men were also told they would lose their positions within the church if they didn’t separate, become celibate and undertake religious counselling.

The Bishop of the Armidale Diocese, Reverend Rod Chiswell, said at the time the church did welcome gay people.

However the married couple couldn’t stay in their roles without “agreeing to the Faithfulness in Service code,” he said.

The devastated gay couple refused. They stopped going to the church’s services as a result. Subsequently, around a third of the church’s congregation would also leave in protest.

Joyous applause after gay couple’s Anglican church blessing

Last week, the couple travelled 10 hours from Armidale to Albury, to St Matthew’s Anglican Church.

Priest Peter MacLeod-Miller, a long-time supporter of the LGBTIQ+ community, welcomed the couple for a traditional blessing of their marriage on Sunday, January 2.

The couple knelt side by side at the front of the church, arms linked, for the ceremony.

The Albury congregation then erupted into joyous applause.

Peter Sanders explained to the ABC he feels like he’s “properly married now.” He’s now considering becoming ordained himself.

Church’s ‘fascination with prejudice and discrimination’ is ‘nonsense’

Father Peter MacLeod-Miller told the congregation that “we are celebrating a better, kinder world, and also a real change,” according to the ABC.

He said, “If you want the world to change, then we change it.

“If you’re not satisfied with a government that discriminates against people, we change it.

“If you’re complaining — as I’ve been complaining for years — then we need to change it. The church does not belong to a diocese or a bishop.”

Father MacLeod-Miller wrote on Facebook that blessing the gay couple was a “great way to kick off the new year”.

He thanked the Wangaratte Anglican diocese, to which his church belongs, for adopting an August 2019 resolution allowing such blessings.

However the priest panned the gay couple’s Armidale church for making them “refugees within their own spiritual community.”

“It could be that St Matthews Albury is too traditional,” he said.

“We only affirm traditional values of love, inclusion and acceptance, as Jesus did.

“[We] find the religious institutional fascination with prejudice and discrimination incongruous nonsense, needing to be addressed.

“This blessing is one way of making a positive difference.”

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Jordan Hirst
Jordan Hirst

Jordan Hirst is an experienced journalist and content creator with a career spanning over a decade at QNews. Since 2012, the Brisbane local has covered an enormous range of topics and subjects in-depth affecting the LGBTIQA+ community, both in Australia and overseas. Today, the Brisbane-based journalist covers everything from current affairs, politics and health to sport and entertainment.

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

1 Comment

  1. Paul Mitchell
    11 January 2022

    Congratulations to the happy couple! ❤️✔️

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