The retiring bishop of Bendigo, Andrew Curnow, has used one of his very last columns in the diocesan newspaper “Spirit” to come out in support of both marriage redefinition and upcoming legislation in Victoria for euthanasia. Sources tell davidould.net that his remarks in the September 2017 issue have left many in the diocese “not happy and very disappointed”.
The bishop’s comments come on page 2 of the issue (copy embedded below) and while he closes by urging his readers to “vote with your conscience” it is very clear which side Curnow’s conscience has led him to on both questions:
Many church leaders have come out strongly on both issues mainly advocating for no change to existing legislation. Marriage is between a man and a woman is the traditional Christian point of view, but that does not mean it cannot change. For over seventeen centuries many Christians believed in slavery, but that did not stop William Wilberforce from coming along and pointing out that it was no longer consistent with Christian teaching or practice. It still took a civil war in a Christian country to bring it to an end.
On the issue of assisted dying I do not agree with many Christians that what is being advocated is suicide by another name. I am also glad that the Victorian parliament has agreed to a conscience vote by members on the issue. This seems to me to be acting with integrity and understanding and an attempt by parliament to act responsibly. I have looked at the legislation and do not agree that it undervalues or reduces the sanctity of life. Modern medicine has brought great beneﬁts to many of us but as it says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to be born, and a time to die”.
Ultimately on the issue of marriage equality and assisted dying I would encourage you to vote with your conscience. Try not to be judgemental and bear in mind that our nation is one of the last nations on earth trying to embrace the value and standard of a harmonious safe society.
Bishop Curnow’s comments stand in some contrast to the following motions passed at the recent General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia held in September 2017:
16.21 Marriage, same-sex marriage and the blessing of same-sex relationships
The General Synod –
(i) recognises that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman, and further,
(ii) recognises that this has been the subject of several General Synod resolutions over the past fifteen years, and also
(iii) recognises that the nature of marriage is the subject of ongoing conversation within the church and wider community and that we need to listen to each other with care and respect, and
(iv) acknowledges the experiences and genuine concerns of LGBTIQ+ people within the church and the community, and therefore
(v) asks the Doctrine Commission to facilitate a respectful conversation in our church by means o f a collection of essays on marriage and same-sex relationships that explores Scriptural and theological issues relating to:
a. The doctrine of marriage expressed in the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia
b. Our current Australian context, exploring the relationship between the State’s definition of marriage and the church’s doctrine of marriage
c. Key Old Testament and New Testament texts on sex, marriage and friendship
d. Scripture and hermeneutics
e. A theology of blessing
f. A theology of desire
g. Godly disagreement on this issue
h. The case for and against same-sex marriage and/or the blessing of same-sex unions.
21.4 Assisted Dying
The General Synod, noting the push for “assisted dying’’ in a number of Australian States –
a) Opposes the legalisation of assisted dying;
b) Urges all Australian State and Territory governments to better resource palliative care services, to improve palliative care in the community, including regional and remote communities, Aboriginal communities and nursing homes, and to provide better training in palliative care for all health professionals; and
c) Urges Australian Anglicans to contact their MP’s to express their views.