19 May 2022

So, what happened with the same-sex marriage debate on Thursday?

General Synod delegates engaging in business on Day 4. Image: Supplied.

Kirralee Nicolle

12 May 2022

5.45pm

A motion that was supportive of same-sex marriage as “a witness to God’s grace and love” has been lost at General Synod.

The motion spoke of same-sex marriage as “a moral good and a gift to be celebrated, providing an enrichment of the Christian understanding of marriage and a witness to God’s grace and love, consistent with the testimony of Scripture and Anglican tradition as expressed in the historic Creeds”.

Ninety-five delegates voted in favour of the motion, 145 voted against the motion.

Read more: Same-sex marriage motion lost at General Synod

The motion had been put by the Reverend Associate Professor Matthew Anstey and seconded by Melbourne representative Professor Peter Sherlock.

Its full text was:

The General Synod

a) welcomes the introduction of civil same-sex marriages in Australia as

providing a state-based way of recognising faithfulness, love and

commitment;

b) gives thanks for the public witness of Christian same-sex couples;

c) notes the diversity of theological and legal viewpoints published by the

Doctrine Commission, Marriage, Same-Sex Marriage and the Anglican

Church of Australia, and that this diversity of viewpoints is found among

faithful, committed Anglicans who worship in all dioceses of the Anglican

Church of Australia;

d) affirms that marriage is not considered a matter pertaining to salvation in

this Church, as noted by the Appellate Tribunal Wangaratta Reference

[140]: “at many points in time between 1662 and the present day, that

doctrine [of marriage] was changed in response to different

understandings of Scripture, changing perceptions about the respective

roles of men and women, and the need to accommodate the law of the

land …. These changes never signalled that the Church of England’s

teachings expounded during the solemnisation rite were being proclaimed

as matters going to salvation or part of the ‘faith’ of the Church”; and

recognising that in heaven we shall neither marry nor be given in marriage

(Mk 12:25);

e) notes that at no point in the process of the General Synod’s passing of

canons relating to holy matrimony (Solemnization of Matrimony Canon

1981, Marriage of Divorced Persons Canon 1981, Matrimony (Prohibited

Relationships) Canon 1981) was reference made to constitutional

impediments to such, as noted by the Appellate Tribunal Wangaratta

Reference [141];

f) acknowledges the continual evolution within the church, including the

Anglican Church of Australia, of its position on moral issues – such as

slavery, capital punishment, interracial marriage, contraception, the

equality of men and women – and the concomitant absence of any such

moral injunctions in the historic Creeds;

g) considers same-sex marriage as a moral good and a gift to be celebrated,

providing an enrichment of the Christian understanding of marriage and a

witness to God’s grace and love, consistent with the testimony of Scripture

and Anglican tradition as expressed in the historic Creeds.

Earlier

Anglican delegates at General Synod are set to discuss a motion which seeks to affirm the solemnisation of same-sex marriages.

The statement regarding the affirming of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church, which was intended for discussion this morning, was postponed until this afternoon.

Prior to the first session, there were three motions listed on the agenda regarding same-sex marriage and its handling in both Anglican church life and Anglican schools, but two of these motions were later withdrawn.

The motion which remained for discussion sought to affirm “same-sex marriage as a moral good and a gift to be celebrated, providing an enrichment of the Christian understanding of marriage and a witness to God’s grace and love, consistent with the testimony of Scripture and Anglican tradition as expressed in the historic Creeds”.

The discussions in the morning session instead dealt primarily with amendments proposed last night to a bill dealing with attendance at General Synod meetings.

A delegate from the Diocese of Melbourne, Elizabeth Culhane, had proposed an amendment which would allow delegates to attend via videoconference who may find it challenging to attend in person “by reason of a temporary or permanent disability, disease or illness, medical condition or injury.”

Ms Culhane this morning responded to concerns voiced last night that delegates may lie about their ability to attend in person if there was an option to attend online, saying that the circumstances in which delegates may choose to lie about their physical condition would point to “a much bigger issue” for the Anglican Church of Australia.

Several delegates voiced their intent to vote against the motion, including The Venerable Jeffrey Coop from the Diocese of North Queensland.

Mr Coop said that as the father of two individuals living with disabilities, he believed that rather than making greater allowances for attendance via videoconference, efforts should instead be made to ensure the venues for General Synod were accessible to all.

The amendments proposed by Ms Culhane were not passed, and further amendments were proposed to the wording of the bill.

The bill was then set aside for further discussion following the lunch break.

Other discussions this morning included a petition put forward by The Reverend Canon Phillip Colgan of the Diocese of Sydney, which expressed “regret” over the vote by the House of Bishops yesterday against the motion put forward by Sydney Archbishop Kanishka Raffel.

Read more: Anglican Church in ‘perilous’ position after failing to define marriage as one man, one woman: Raffel

The petition was read by the seconder, Fiona McLean of the Diocese of Melbourne, and contained the following:

Noting with regret that on 11 May 2022, despite clear support from the majority of General Synod (including majorities in the Houses of Laity and Clergy), the majority of the House of Bishops voted against Motion 20.3 Statements as to the Faith, Ritual, Ceremonial or Discipline of this Church made under Section 4 of the Constitution,

The petitioners humbly pray that Synod commits to praying that all Members of the House of Bishops would clearly affirm and be united in their support for the teaching of Christ concerning marriage and the principles of marriage reflected in the Book of Common Prayer.

We also request that the petition be read to the Synod by one of the secretaries.

One of the motions which was withdrawn was to be presented by Archbishop Phillip Freier of the Diocese of Melbourne and seconded by Bishop Matt Brain of the Diocese of Bendigo.

The statement requested that the Standing Committee at its first meeting:

  1. establish a Select Committee to prepare a statement on Marriage, Human

Sexuality and Same -Sex Relationships

  • and, on receiving the first progress report of the Committee to establish the

means of convening an online session of General Synod for the further

consideration of the proposed statement.

The second withdrawn motion was to be put forward by The Reverend Associate Professor Matthew Anstey of the Diocese of Adelaide and seconded by Ms Ann Nadge, also of the Diocese of Adelaide.

The motion requested that the General Synod acknowledge:

a) …with sadness the negative publicity in the SMH article, “‘I

am livid’: Anglican principals’ fury at edict against gay marriage” (6 May

2022) regarding the imposition of heteronormativity as a required belief for

Principals and Board Members of Anglican Schools in the Diocese of

Sydney and the deleterious impact such publicity has on the mission of,

and goodwill towards, the whole of the Anglican Church of Australia and

the Anglican Schools Association;

b) …with sadness that the said SMH news reported that “[t]he

extra clause…took schools by surprise” and that several School Principals

chose to speak “on the condition of anonymity”, indicating not insignificant

concerns regarding freedom of speech, dialogue, and transparency,

values central and intrinsic to the very notion of education and religious

affiliation;

Furthermore, the bill requested that Synod note:

c) …that such a requirement for Principals and Board Members of

Sydney Anglican Schools to adhere to a specific moral position on

marriage is unprecedented in the history of the ACA and is a marked

departure from the practice of the ACA of individual freedom of conscience

on moral matters;

d) …that the moral code required by the Diocese of Sydney is a minority

view, held by few Australians, and opposed by the majority of Anglican

teenagers (60% support same-sex marriage, “Freedoms, Faiths and

Futures: Teenage Australians on Religion, Sexuality and Diversity”, 2017),

and moreover, pertains to a matter of ongoing debate in this church, such

that imposition of an obligatory adherence to such thwarts open dialogue,

conversation, and listening to alternative viewpoints;

e) is distressed that this action exacerbates the lived experience of many

LGBTIQA+ teachers, staff, board members, parents and students in many

faith-based schools, in which the church is seen as judgmental, unsafe,

discriminatory, and a source of harm and exclusion;

f) acknowledges that mandating such a requirement for a voluntary

organisation in receipt of public funding jeopardises the public goodwill and

governmental commitment towards educational providers, but also other

public services of this church offered in aged care, disability services,

social housing, domestic violence support and the like.

Read more: Family violence in Indigenous and First Nations communities, Safe Churches motions endorsed | General Synod Day 3

The motion still to be discussed is set to be put forward by Associate Professor Anstey and seconded by Professor Peter Sherlock of the Diocese of Melbourne.

The content of the statement to the General Synod welcomes:

a) …the introduction of civil same-sex marriages in Australia as

providing a state-based way of recognising faithfulness, love and

commitment;

b) gives thanks for the public witness of Christian same-sex couples;

c) notes the diversity of theological and legal viewpoints published by the

Doctrine Commission, Marriage, Same-Sex Marriage and the Anglican

Church of Australia, and that this diversity of viewpoints is found among

faithful, committed Anglicans who worship in all dioceses of the Anglican

Church of Australia;

d) affirms that marriage is not considered a matter pertaining to salvation in

this Church, as noted by the Appellate Tribunal Wangaratta Reference

[140]: “at many points in time between 1662 and the present day, that

doctrine [of marriage] was changed in response to different

understandings of Scripture, changing perceptions about the respective

roles of men and women, and the need to accommodate the law of the

land …. These changes never signalled that the Church of England’s

teachings expounded during the solemnisation rite were being proclaimed

as matters going to salvation or part of the ‘faith’ of the Church”; and

recognising that in heaven we shall neither marry nor be given in marriage

(Mk 12:25);

e) notes that at no point in the process of the General Synod’s passing of

canons relating to holy matrimony (Solemnization of Matrimony Canon

1981, Marriage of Divorced Persons Canon 1981, Matrimony (Prohibited

Relationships) Canon 1981) was reference made to constitutional

impediments to such, as noted by the Appellate Tribunal Wangaratta

Reference [141];

f) acknowledges the continual evolution within the church, including the

Anglican Church of Australia, of its position on moral issues – such as

slavery, capital punishment, interracial marriage, contraception, the

equality of men and women – and the concomitant absence of any such

moral injunctions in the historic Creeds;

g) considers same-sex marriage as a moral good and a gift to be celebrated,

providing an enrichment of the Christian understanding of marriage and a

witness to God’s grace and love, consistent with the testimony of Scripture

and Anglican tradition as expressed in the historic Creeds.

Read more: Synod reaches ‘difficult conversation’ of same-sex marriage | General Synod Day 2

The other matter discussed this morning was a motion by Dr Laurie Scandrett of the Diocese of Sydney which called for General Synod to consider holding the next Synod at an “economical location” in a rural area.

Dr Scandrett proposed that “somewhere that’s a little bit cheaper” be chosen for a location and requested that “the Standing Committee give serious consideration to holding the next General Synod at a suitable but economically priced location in a regional diocese.”

Read more: Ministry wellbeing and development policies endorsed | General Synod Day 1

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