Australia’s Anglican bishops have blocked an attempt to affirm the church’s definition of marriage as between a man and a woman in a shock vote.
The church’s General Synod, the national assembly of Anglican clergy, was on earlier this week.
At the Synod, the conservative Sydney diocese brought on a vote on a statement to affirm the church’s traditional position on marriage – a man and a woman only – and declare blessings of civil same-sex marriages within the church as “contrary to the teaching of Christ”.
However in November 2020, the Appellate Tribunal, the church’s highest court, disagreed in a ruling and permitted the blessings of same-sex marriages in Anglican churches.
This week’s vote at the General Synod easily passed through the houses of clergy and laity (unordained delegates).
However the Anglican bishops voted against the statement by 12 votes to 10. It needed to pass through all three houses to be successful.
Bishop of Tasmania Richard Condie explained as the result was announced, “many people were visibly shocked.”
“There were tears and confusion in the room. Synod business was adjourned to allow people to process the decision,” he said in a statement.
“Twelve bishops failing to uphold this church’s view of marriage – repeatedly affirmed by the General Synod – is deeply lamentable.
“A number of the orthodox bishops are concerned about the implications for our common life and work in the days ahead.”
Gay couple allegedly told to ‘end marriage and live as friends’
Progressive Anglicans want the church blessings for gay Anglicans who wed. They argue for the church to deny them leaves the church out of step of mainstream culture.
One Melbourne vicar told the Synod it was “deeply painful” for him to tell gay siblings “the church I serve doesn’t recognise the blessing of God in their relationships”.
But conservatives, particularly the Sydney Anglican diocese, strongly oppose both same-sex marriage and blessing the marriages in the church.
In one regional New South Wales Anglican Church, a married gay man was allegedly driven out of his job and told to “end his marriage” and live with his husband “as friends”.
A third of that congregation left in outrage at the time. Earlier this year the man lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
Anglican Archbishop says vote could splinter church
At the General Synod this week, Sydney Archbishop Kanishka Raffel (pictured above) said the contentious same-sex marriage vote could splinter the church.
He said the statement was “unremarkable” and its failure to pass signalled something was “fundamentally awry”.
He said the bishops’ vote puts the church in a “perilous position”. It’s the same “tipping point” that splintered Anglican churches in the US, Britain, Canada, Brazil and New Zealand, he said.
“Over the last 20 years or so… people have lost confidence in the goodness and trustworthiness of God’s word as expressed in Anglican liturgy and practice for 500 years,” he said.
“Those churches have fractured. We don’t want that. But we know what has happened in many countries.”
Meanwhile, Anglican school principals are angry at the Sydney Anglican diocese for requiring principals and others to sign a document affirming their belief that marriage is between a man and a woman.
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