A new policy to be debated by the Sydney Anglican diocese that would ban same-sex weddings and the promotion of homosexuality and transgender “ideology” in churches has been panned by queer Christians.
The policy would confirm that church-owned buildings can only be used for acts that “conform to the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of the diocese,” according to Fairfax Media.
It specifically bans “advocacy for transgender ideology (e.g: gender-fluidity)” and “advocacy for expressions of human sexuality contrary to our doctrine of marriage”.
The policy is likely to be debated and approved at a meeting next week, according to the report.
The bishop who authored the policy, Michael Stead, told Fairfax no current activities within the church would be affected.
“The new policy doesn’t represent a change in our position and I wouldn’t expect it to have an effect on any activities currently occurring on church trust property,” he said.
“Because the federal government has changed its definition of marriage, the policy makes clear the church’s doctrine of marriage has not changed and that property use scenarios relate only to man/woman marriage.”
He said in a statement the principle was that “churches should not be compelled to use their property for purposes contrary to their doctrine.
“We also maintain that freedom of religion in Australia should allow us to use our property in accordance with this belief.”
Steff Fenton, co-chair of the Sydney branch of pro-LGBTIQ Christian group Equal Voices, said the policy was designed to “squash free speech” and it was “vitally important” priests be allowed to advocate for LGBTIQ Christians.
“If the use of property would go largely unchanged then why do we need this ordinance?” she told the Guardian.
“The very fact that they need an ordinance to tell people not to speak these views, means there are people in these communities who support the full inclusion of queer people in the Anglican church.
“I am thoroughly Anglican myself, I go to an Anglican church, I am queer. We are thoroughly invested and part of these communities. We are not outside. These have real consequences for us.
“[The new policy] goes against some of the very core teachings of the Bible. That there is openness and grace and love for all.”
Gay teachers a ‘threat to Christian ethos’
Fairfax Media also reported the Anglican church sees the debate about its right to fire gay teachers as a “key threat” to its ability to foster a Christian ethos at its schools.
Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies (pictured) said leaked portions of the religious freedom review’s report showed “the enemies of religious freedom have been hard at work.”
“This week has exposed the hypocrisy of those who, during the same-sex marriage campaign, repeatedly told the Australian public that same-sex marriage would have absolutely no consequences for religious freedom,” he said.
“Now they have revealed what has always been their agenda: to force religious schools to play by secular rules.
“People of all faiths and none should have the right to speak and act according to their fundamental convictions.
“Anglican schools, if they are going to remain Anglican, must be able to employ staff who support the Christian values of the school.”
The Sydney Anglican diocese made a $1 million donation to the “No” campaign during the same-sex marriage postal survey last year.
But numerous Anglican leaders around the country actively advocated for marriage equality during the campaign.
Earlier this year, the Uniting Church of Australia announced a policy change on same-sex marriage that would allow ministers the option of conducting same-sex marriages.