Newcastle’s Anglican diocese has voted in favour of allowing ministers to bless same-sex marriages, defying Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies on the issue.
A majority of the clergy and lay people voted in favour of two bills on the issue at the diocese’s synod – the church’s parliament – on Saturday.
One bill permits ministers to bless those married “according to the Marriage Act,” which includes same-sex couples.
But the bill states no minister would be forced to conduct such a service if it went against their conscience.
The other bill would stop clergy from being disciplined for blessing a same-sex marriage, or for being in a same-sex marriage themselves.
The vote comes after Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies sensationally called for supportive clergy to “please leave” if they support same-sex marriages.
Dr Davies claimed the church couldn’t bless same-sex unions because it “can’t bless sin”. He said blessing them would “defile the marriage bed” and “ruin” the church.
Bishop of Newcastle Reverend Peter Stuart (pictured) said he is “conscious of the harm that has been done by the church to LGBTIQ+ people and those who love them.”
“Our conversations have often come over as demeaning,” he said.
“In each LGBTIQ+ person, as in all people, we see the image of God – God bearing himself to us. That simple fact should shape our discourse.”
‘Significantly different views’ among Newcastle Anglicans
Rev Peter Stuart described debate on the bills as “measured and highly respectful”. But he said some Anglicans held “significantly different views” to each other.
“Synod members spoke personally and profoundly about their life experience and decisions,” he said.
“They reflected on the Bible, church law and also the pastoral needs of parishioners.
“We are going to have to be diligent in finding good ways of working together with competing views.”
No Australian Anglican diocese allows same-sex weddings to be conducted in its churches.
In August, the Victorian Diocese of Wangaratta earlier voted to allow similar blessing of same-sex couples.
However the country’s top Anglican, Primate Dr Philip Freier, referred that decision to the church’s internal tribunal. The tribunal will determine whether blessing the marriages defies church doctrine.
Rev Stuart said the diocese would wait for the tribunal’s ruling before change would occur.
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