Anglican church hit with hate graffiti over gay marriage

Glen Waverley Anglican has been vandalised by hate graffiti related to the gay marriage plebiscite

By Stephen Cauchi

October 16 2017An Anglican church in Melbourne’s east, and a neighbouring Baptist church, have both been targeted with hate graffiti related to the gay marriage plebiscite.

Glen Waverley Anglican Church was vandalised over the weekend with graffiti that read “vote yes bash bigots”. There were also graffiti of a Nazi swastika and a Christian cross on either side of an equals sign.

Waverley Baptist Church, about one kilometre away, was also vandalised with graffiti. It read “crucify no voters – vote yes”.

The head pastor of Glen Waverley Anglican, the Revd Dr Drew Mellor, told media on Monday morning he discovered the graffiti at 6.30am on Sunday morning.

He said the graffiti had been very unsettling for members of the church, particularly more elderly ones.

“Fears around physical harm have obviously concerned some people,” he said.

Dr Mellor said he was “saddened” by the attack.

“The overwhelming feeling is one of sadness that the place has been defaced that way,” he told TMA.

“We as a church have been very clear that we are not giving any directions or instructions, or even any inferences, as to how people ought to be expressing their view [in the plebiscite] – just as long as they do so thoughtfully and respectfully.”

Dr Mellor said the two churches had been targeted because of “the view that Christians and the church are bigots because they may hold a particular perspective on this current discussion.”

“It’s probably just someone local who’s hit the two churches in the area,” he said.

Dr Mellor stated that the church would not, in line with Anglican policy, hold a gay marriage service within its walls.

"Our church leadership, lay and ordained, willingly hold to the biblical view of marriage. Our code of conduct, expected to be endorsed by all in leadership at Glen Waverley Anglican, openly advances the biblical view that marriage is between one man and one women." 

Dr Mellor said that he personally was opposed to gay marriage for biblical reasons and supported the Anglican ban on gay marriages within its churches.

Nevertheless, he said that he and his parish “actively welcomed” gay members.

He said police had told him the matter was under investigation. The graffiti itself would be removed shortly – at cost to the church.

“If our insurance covers that, and it probably does, we still have to pay the first four or five hundred dollars – the excess,” he said.

“In the end we’re paying for it.”

Senior Pastor David O’Brien of Waverley Baptist told the media on Monday that the attack on his church was “awful vandalisation…a shock to all of us.”

Church leadership had stated during services that they supported the No vote, said Revd O’Brien – but also that everyone would be supported, regardless of where they stood on the issue.

“We have people at the church who have worked for campaigns on both sides.

“We will not yield to hate. We will continue to love all, gay or straight or whatever, and will continue to care for people no matter what and to teach the principles of good and moral behaviour that benefit all,” said Revd O’Brien.

The attacks come two weeks after a Mormon church in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney was defaced with “vote yes” graffiti even though it had not parishioners how to vote in the referendum.

Melbourne Archbishop and Anglican Primate of Australia, Dr Philip Freier, has stated that the Church does not intend to change its stance on marriage, stating that “the doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman…I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage”.

However, Dr Freier has also stated that in the referendum “I do not presume to advise others how they should vote, though I myself intend to vote ‘no’.”

Both the Anglican Archdioceses of Sydney and Tasmania actively oppose gay marriage. The Sydney archdiocese is one of 80 organisations that formed the Coalition for Marriage lobby group, which is leading the ‘no’ case against gay marriage.

One of the more prominent Anglicans who supports gay marriage is the newly appointed Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Kay Goldsworthy.

Coalition For Marriage told media on Monday the graffiti attacks highlighted the intolerance of the Yes campaigners.

“One thing that this process has revealed is that, despite the rhetoric, ‘Yes’ campaigners do not actually believe in a tolerant society where people are allowed to live and let live,” said spokewoman Monica Doumit.

“Rather, they will target those who disagree for abuse, for boycott, and for some other type of punishment.”

Steve Offner, a spokesman for the Campaign for Marriage Equality, said that the Campaign “condemns acts of vandalism and any incitement to violence.”

“Marriage equality is about respect and dignity for every Australian. There is no room for any disrespect either towards people or property in this national debate.”

The postal survey will close on 7 November.

Here is a link to Glen Waverley Anglican Church’s statement on same-sex marriage: