Doctrine Commission explores different theological questions and understandings to assist discussions within the Church.
By Mark Brolly
18 June 2018
Marriage and same-sex relationships are explored in a new booklet published this week by the Doctrine Commission of General Synod, the national parliament of the Anglican Church of Australia.
Marriage, Same-sex Marriage and the Anglican Church of Australia: Essays from the Doctrine Commission is designed to assist discussions within the Church as it responds to Australia’s expanded definition of marriage in the law to include same-sex couples after 61.6 per cent of eligible Australians endorsed the change in the national postal survey in 2017.
In a blog on Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier’s website as Anglican Primate of Australia, the booklet is described as a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships exploring different theological questions and understandings.
“The Church has not changed its stance that holy matrimony between a man and a woman is a sacred ordinance given by God, but it accepts that the State has endorsed in law a wider view of marriage,” the blog says.
The 2017 General Synod – which was held in Maroochydore, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, shortly before the survey was conducted and more than two months before the results were known – asked its Standing Committee to “facilitate a respectful conversation in our church by means of a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships that explore scriptural and theological issues”.
General Synod cited several issues, including the doctrine of marriage expressed in the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia; the current Australian context exploring the relationship between the state’s definition of marriage and the church’s doctrine of marriage; key Old Testament and New Testament texts on sex, marriage and friendship; Scripture and hermeneutics ( the study of the general principles of biblical interpretation in order to discover the truths and values of the Bible); a theology of blessing; a theology of desire; “Godly disagreement on this issue”; and the cases for and against same-sex marriage and/or the blessing of same-sex unions.
The Doctrine Commission, whose members represent the broad theological diversity in the Anglican Church, collated the essays addressing these issues from a range of different positions. The essays will be provided to all members of General Synod, who are to meet – again in Maroochydore – from 31 May to 5 June 2020.
“It is anticipated that this first conference will be the start of a continuing dialogue and reflection,” the Primate’s blog said.
“Any change in the church’s current position on the blessing of same-sex marriage would need to be considered at formal meeting of the General Synod at a later time.
“The call for a respectful conversation not only acknowledges the strongly held positions in the church but also the care that must be taken not to further marginalise those in the LGBTQ+ community and their family and friends, who may already feel excluded from church life.”
The nine-member Doctrine Commission includes two Melbourne scholars – the Revd Canon Dr Rhys Bezzant, Dean of Missional Leadership and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College, Parkville, and the Revd Canon Professor Dorothy Lee, The Stewart Research Professor and former Dean of Trinity College Theological School, also in Parkville.
Marriage, Same-sex Marriage and the Anglican Church of Australia: Essays from the Doctrine Commission is available for free download in PDF format from the General Synod website on the Doctrine Commission page: click here. It may be purchased in hard copy from Garratt Publishing: click here. Its recommended retail price is $34.95.