John McIntyre, Bishop of Gippsland has granted ABC Gippsland radio an interview. Here’s the full audio. At the time of posting there is no transcript.

Play

His tone is somewhat conciliatory but some questions remain and some inconsistencies are obvious.

  • He repeats the “I didn’t ordain him” canard. I’m frankly slightly embarrassed for him on this one because it increasingly smacks of a pedantic application of the letter, rather than spirit, of the Lambeth motion and Australian General Synod in order to avoid its obvious meaning.
  • He notes that the General Synod motion commends a lifestyle of celibacy for those experiencing same-sex attraction but states that it has no force in the diocese unless affirmed by the diocese. That’s an interesting application of the way that the Australian General Synod works, but (to be fair to him) an argument used by other dioceses too.
  • He claims that “The policy of this diocese as I understand it is to be inclusive and welcoming of gay and lesbian people and I said in that particular speech; ‘I will continue to welcome gay and lesbian people into the life of this diocese confident that God is at work in and through all those who are open to the call of God in their lives and wanting to offer ministry in the life of our churches” and yet also recognises that “There are differing opinions and in fact it is probably, at the moment, the most divisive issue in the Anglican community, in the international Anglican church and I am not unaware of that.” If that is the case then his claim that he did not seek to make a political statement in granting this license is a little hard to swallow. After all,
    • He knew of Rev. Head’s domestic arrangements
    • He knew that this was (in his words) “the most divisive issue in the Anglican community” and that his diocese’s stated policy was contrary to the mainstream Anglican position as stated in the Lambeth 98 resolutions and resolutions of the Australian General Synod.
    • He nevertheless granted the license.
    • Rev. Head’s homosexual relationship was purposefully communicated as normative by the inclusion of a picture of he and his partner in the diocesan newspaper.

There is a big problem with Bishop McIntyre’s whole “I applied the strict letter of the law” application and it’s this – he didn’t. If one wants to know what the strict letter of the law is on this matter then that’s pretty clear.

First, the Offences Canon 1962-1981 [pdf] has this to say,

A canon to specify offences under sections 54, 55 & 56 of the Constitution

The General Synod prescribes as follows:

1.1 A diocesan tribunal and a provincial tribunal in its original jurisdiction in addition to
their respective powers under section 54(2) and section 55(3) of the Constitution may
hear and determine charges made in respect of the following offences alleged to have
been committed by a person who, at the time the charge is preferred, is licensed by the
bishop of the diocese or is in holy orders resident in the diocese:

1. Unchastity.

Of course, it does rather depend on what the definition of “unchastity” is. Helpfully, the Anglican Church of Australia has determined that too,

The guidelines “Faithfulness in Service [pdf]” were adopted by General Synod in 2004. They state this,

7.1 The sexual conduct of clergy and church workers has a significant impact on the Church and the community.
7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage

Standards for clergy and church workers
These standards state the Church’s expectations for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry.
7.4 You are to be chaste and not engage in sex outside of marriage and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature.

Further, in 2007 the Doctrine Commission of the Anglican Church of Australia issued a report on cohabitation [pdf] which said this:

In the Christian understanding of marriage, based on biblical teaching, marriage involves at least three characteristics – exclusive commitment, intended permanence and public declaration. Holy matrimony is protected by God’s laws forbidding fornication and adultery and those regulating divorce. In marriage, a husband and wife are joined in a lifelong union of loving and self-giving service to one another, which points to the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church. Marriage is seen by the Church as promoting Christian godliness and stable family life, being for the good of society.

Note in particular the call to a publicly declared commitment in marriage but that the marriage is the joining of “husband and wife”.

Let me now be bold. On the assumption that David Head and his partner have a “normal” homosexual relationship it should be concluded that they are sexually active. As such their relationship clearly falls under the definition of “unchaste”. If they are actually chaste then no actual such declaration has been made nor do their living arrangements give any indication otherwise.

At this point some may protest that we should not ask such personal questions, but then they are taking issue with Faithfulness in Service which states,

7.1 The sexual conduct of clergy and church workers has a significant impact on the Church and the community.

Indeed it does. What goes on in our bedrooms while private is also a public matter. If I model a lifestyle that is contrary to the gospel then it “has a significant impact on the Church and the community” because it publicly endorses that which the gospel proscribes. The Diocese of Gippsland has publicly endorsed a lifestyle in one of its clergy that Faithfulness in Service states is not appropriate for a minister.

If Bishop McIntyre wants to play the strategy of adhering to the letter of the law, then perhaps he should be conversant with all of the law.

I have, this afternoon, sent the following question to Bishop McIntyre,

Does Bishop McIntyre agree that the Rev David Head is living in a manner inconsistent with Faithfulness in Service which states,

7.1 The sexual conduct of clergy and church workers has a significant impact on the Church and the community.
7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage

Standards for clergy and church workers
These standards state the Church’s expectations for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry.
7.4 You are to be chaste and not engage in sex outside of marriage

If not, why not?

If he has no knowledge of the “sexual conduct” of David Head then why is that when he himself acknowledged in his ABC Gippsland radio interview that matters of sexual ethics are “the most divisive issue in the Anglican community”.

Does Bishop McIntyre agree with and teach the definition of marriage (being exclusively between a man and a woman) as currently understood by the Anglican Church of Australia (most recently affirmed by General Synod 2010) and further endorsed in the Book of Common Prayer?

As before with Bishop Graham Kings (who graciously gave us a full response) we’ll let you know if there’s any reply.

Image: Gippsland Cathedral, Gippsland Diocese website.

Leave a Reply

9 comments on “Bishop McIntyre on ABC Gippsland – have the rules been broken?

  1. The lunacy and two-stepping tap-dancing is trans-regional, trans-continental and trans-oceanic. Veritably so.

  2. David,
    I wonder if you might send a cc of that letter to Archbishop Phillip Freier in his capacity as Metropolitain of the Province of Victoria. I’m not exactly sure of his power to intervene in the affairs of another diocese, but as I understand it he has some power under the Episcopal Standards Act if there is a complaint against a bishop in his province. Although, this case would be complicated by his permission for the priest to continue serving in Melbourne diocese under his leadership.

    A couple of evangelical clergy I know in Gippsland are Graham Peters and Daniel Lowe, who may be able to inform you of any action evangelical clergy are taking.

    Andrew

  3. Thanks Reido.

    I’m sure Archbishop Freier is well aware of the situation and I also agree it might be somewhat embarrassing for him.

    It seems to me that the obvious “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that some bishops have operated under only serves to slowly legitimise any such breach of proper practice. Rather than making it “go away” it actually incubates the issue only to make it appear somewhere else. In the meantime it encourages the liberals that they can flout church discipline and practice.

    For now let’s just see what Bishop McIntyre has to say. Ultimately its his responsibility to uphold good doctrine, practice and order in his diocese.

  4. I think that the above article clearly shows that John McIntyre did act against Anglican rules and guidelines and I do not share his views on homosexuality. I do however feel that it is unfair of the Anglican Church League to target McIntyre and the diocese of Gippsland when it is clear that many other diocese are overlooking these Anglican principles. If the priest in question has been openly gay for several years and was ordained by someone else then McIntyre could not refuse to offer him the appointment even if his own views were different. I listened to the ABC radio interview and although pointed out that most Gippslanders are not in opposition to his views, I believe that the minority may be a larger number than he realises. Communicating this priests appointment with a photo of him and his partner was insensitive to other Anglicans who hold biblically based views on homosexuality and it appears to have not done Rev Head much good either.

    • hi Lucy, thanks for commenting here. If I may, I’d like to respond to a few of the things that you wrote.

      I do however feel that it is unfair of the Anglican Church League to target McIntyre and the diocese of Gippsland when it is clear that many other diocese are overlooking these Anglican principles.

      I do, to some extent, agree with you on the principle of your objection. Why this incident at this time? I think the answer is that Gippsland Diocese took the decision to promote this appointment in such a way as to draw attention to the nature of Rev Head’s relationship. If you like, they almost called the national Church’s bluff on the issue.

      But you are right – there has been a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in many dioceses and it’s hardly helped us. But there was something deliberately public about this appointment that raised the temperature on the issue.

      If the priest in question has been openly gay for several years and was ordained by someone else then McIntyre could not refuse to offer him the appointment even if his own views were different.

      I’m not sure that’s quite true. He could always refuse to grant a license since his life was not in conformity with Faithfulness in Service. That would, of course, then bounce the attention back to Rev Head’s former bishop. But that is, perhaps, where we will end up anyway. Far better, I think, to have never granted any license in the first place. That’s the mess we get into when we don’t uphold our own rules.

      and it appears to have not done Rev Head much good either.

      Indeed. He is rather caught in the middle. But then he should also take some responsibility. He publicly lives a life that is not in conformity with Christian standards that clergy are meant to uphold. He has been let down by bishops who have not dealt with it but ultimately he made the choice.

      but I do agree – Bishop McIntyre has had his bluff called and it may all backfire upon him. Or, of course, bishops may close ranks to avoid the obvious implications of this which extend beyond the boundaries of Gippsland.

      There are really only three options:
      1 Have Rev Head resign or remove his license.
      2 Change the standards of Faithfulness in Service and the definition of marriage as received by the Church
      3 Do nothing and hope it blows over, which will only demonstrate to the liberals that the doctrine and practice of the church means nothing to bishops.

      None of those will be easy.

  5. David, I work in an Anglican church Gippsland. One whose Parish Council sent a letter of objection to the bishop over David Head’s appointment. A couple of points should be noted.
    The bishop was on long service leave for 2 months beginning a month before the article in the diocesan paper was published. He wouldn’t have seen it and I doubt he would have approved it. At least I hope he wouldn’t have.
    I have heard that the editor of the paper now has her final version checked before publication. Apparently this didn’t happen before.

    One of the things I find most disturbing about the bishops argument is a failure to distinguish between those you welcome and show care and respect for and those you allow to have positions of leadership in a church.

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the commenting rules