Congregants at a regional New South Wales church have rallied to support a gay couple who are leaving the church over a dispute with clergy over their “unbiblical” same-sex marriage.
Peter Sanders was the church organist at St Mary’s Anglican Church in West Armidale in northern New South Wales.
He and his husband, who is also in a leadership role at the church, married early last year.
However in May, Sanders recalled clergy told the pair they were living in an “unbiblical way”.
The senior leaders told him he had to choose between his husband or his position as organist.
He and his husband had to separate, live celibately and undertake religious counselling, Sanders claims he was told.
The gay couple refused and stopped going to the church’s services as a result.
“We felt that we didn’t have any other choice by the ultimatum that was given to us … other than to step back,” he told ABC News.
Sanders said an “overwhelming majority” of the congregation had supported them.
“That’s something we would both clearly like to have the choice of being able to do,” he said.
“But not in a diminished capacity, as we were.”
Outraged church members rally behind gay couple
In response, the Bishop of the Armidale Diocese, Reverend Rod Chiswell, said he didn’t dismiss Peter Sanders.
He said he and the church’s Dean are seeking a “pastoral conversation” with the gay couple.
“The Anglican Church in the Armidale Diocese, like the Lord Jesus, welcomes all who choose to come to church, regardless of sexual orientation,” Rev. Chiswell said in a statement.
“Involvement in positions of ministry or other leadership … is conditional upon agreeing to the Faithfulness in Service code.”
However parishioners at the small regional church are outraged, praising the gay couple for their contribution to the church.
Speaking to ABC News, Thelma McCarthy, 96, said she had attended church all her life.
However she too has also stopped attending services at St Mary’s.
“As you read on through the Bible, God is all about love, about loving each other and forgiving each other,” she said.
“I’ve always been associated with my church with love.”
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