On the 12th November the Appellant Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia, the highest tribunal of the Anglican Church, made an important announcement.
Here, an attempt is made to simplify some the issues surrounding these decisions and provide links to various documents for those who wish to read into this matter further.
Last year the Diocese of Wangaratta made a decision at their General Synod to bless couples of the same sex who were already legally married. A liturgy for this new service was also prepared for approval.
As the blessing of same-sex unions is contrary to the traditional Christian doctrine concerning marriage, stated both in God’s Word, and in the Australian Prayer Book, the matter was referred to the Appellant Tribunal.
Also, at the 2019 Newcastle Diocese General Synod two important amendments were voted upon, including:
- Liturgy was to be introduced which would allow clergy to bless same-sex couples who were already legally married; and
- Clergy who conducted a service of blessing for a same-sex couple, not be brought up for disciplinary conduct. It was also proposed, that a clergyperson married to a person of the same sex, should not be brought up for disciplinary action.
Although many members of Synod shared personal accounts of why such a move would have significant ramifications in the life of the church, the two decisions were voted in by the majority.
Accordingly, as both Wangaratta and Newcastle Dioceses had passed decisions contrary to the traditional doctrines of the Anglican Church concerning marriage, they were referred to the Appellant Tribunal.
On 12 November 2020, the Appellant Tribunal announced their decision. This decision be read here.
Although the response involves significant legal language, in summary it states that the majority decision believed that the blessing of same-sex unions was not contrary to the doctrine of the Anglican Church.
There have been a number of responses to the Appellant Tribunal’s decision. These can be read here.
Bishop Peter prepared a pastoral letter for members of the Newcastle Diocese. This letter can be read here.
Over the coming months this issue will have wide-spread ramifications in the life of the Anglican Church.
Members of our church community who hold a more evangelical faith tradition may already know of the global movement Global Anglican Future’s Conference (GAFCON). This is an international movement of Anglicans who hold to a conservative expression of Anglicanism. The GAFCON Board of Australia have also issued a statement here.
I urge all members of the Southlakes Anglican Community to be united in prayer for the Newcastle Diocese. This issue is emotive for everyone. It will have grave implications for the Anglican Church in Australia.
I finish by offering the prayer for the Church offered in the Australian Book of Prayer:
Most gracious Father,
we pray for your holy catholic Church.
fill it with all truth and in all truth with all peace;
where it is corrupt, purge it;
where it is in error, direct it;
where anything is amiss, reform it.
where it is right, strengthen and confirm it;
where it is in want, furnish it;
where it is divided, heal it and unite it in your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.