The following comment was left on my website on Wednesday evening,

A few years ago a person who is the daughter of Christian friends of mine entered into a lesbian relationship in Canberra. The two young women participated in a same gender civil union ceremony at an embassy as one of them came from that country. They then participated in a faux “wedding” ceremony conducted by Rev Sarah Macneil at Sarah’s Canberra church. Sarah “got around” both the Church and civil law illegalities of the Church ceremony by describing the ceremony as a “blessing of two individuals” or some such phrase. My friends tell me that the ceremony had all the hallmarks of a church wedding with invitations, walks down the aisle, hymns, prayers with the couple standing at the front before the congregation of invited family and friends etc.

It’s obviously a serious accusation so I’ve done a bit of further work and I can confirm that the ceremony in question did take place in 2007 at All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie when Dr Macneil was rector. It has been suggested to me by a number of sources that Dr Macneil has conducted other such services but I would stress that I’m unable to confirm at the time of writing whether that’s true.

Dr MacNeil was Archdeacon of South Canberra 2001-02 and Diocesan Archdeacon 2003-9 therefore at the time of the ceremony she was in a senior position in the diocese.

It’s also important to note that this occurred under the leadership of Bishop George Browning, prior to Stuart Robinson’s consecration.

I approached Grafton Diocese and asked the following questions:

  1. Did Dr Macneil conduct a ceremony, by any name, that celebrated and endorsed the civil union of these two young women?
  2. Has Dr Macneil conducted any other similar ceremonies that would be understood by concerned observers to be an endorsement of a permanent homosexual relationship?
  3. What would Dr Macneil now do if a minister in Grafton Diocese conducted such a ceremony?

The diocese acknowledged receipt but I have not received any answer.

The facts already established are, of course, entirely consistent with Dr Macneil’s position on human sexuality that we have already reported on. It would be helpful for Dr Macneil to clarify her position on this matter. In particular if she has now changed her position on human sexuality and, if so, what has caused that changed. Since she will be expected to sign up to the Bishops’ Protocol on human sexuality this historical action of hers will be seen to further compromise her ability to do so with integrity. Whether our bishops (and not least those who consecrated her) think that is a problem remains to be seen.

If Dr Macneil was in a senior position in the diocese (as she was at the time, Archdeacons are effectively second only to the bishops) then it also speaks to how people may view her commitment to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the church as a senior figure.

21 comments on “(updated) Bishop Sarah Macneil Conducted Same-Sex “Blessing” While Diocesan Archdeacon

  1. So, do we have here the Sherlock Holmes of the Sydney Diocese at work? Purely to find SIN in a prospective Bishop in the Australian Church. Do Sydney clergy have nothing better to do than snoop around in this despicable way? Shame on you, Mr. Ould!

    The Ash Wednesday liturgy should have told you that, for a Christian, it is invidious to ‘throw the first stone’.Or are you not a sinner?

    • Brian, I’m sure it reads an number of different ways to a number of different readers. But it’s neither petty (since these are very important issues) nor vindictive (since I do not know Dr Macneil personally and certainly bear her no personal ill will, let alone need to avenge myself of anything).

  2. It is not petty at all. Marriage is the blessing of two people of different genders who unite before God. That blessing and unity are specifically not available for people of the same gender. It is a serious matter for a priest to skirt around the law by adopting a different name for something the Church prohibits.

    • A pairage is not a marriage, never was, never will be. A pity some still trry to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

  3. In light of the fact that someone else brought this to David’s attention it’s hard to accuse him of deliberately digging to find dirt. The only digging he has done has been to seek to verify the information given. Dave, thanks for your care in this matter.

    It certainly isn’t petty. Scriptural authority is critical in someone who is meant to be teaching scripture! Here in the Sydney diocese we’re assessed on character, competency and CONVICTION. I would expect (and from my own experience know it to be true) that we question our own appointments at least as rigorously as we ask questions of others. Certainly the questions I’ve been asked have ‘sought to find SIN.’

    How does it appear to outsiders? It could leave them thinking we squabble about petty matters. It may leave them thinking, ‘Hey, some Christians stand for something.’ It might even make them seek to find the truth! I figure we leave this up to God who uses the ‘weak and foolish’ things of the world to shame the wise.

    David, once again, thank you for taking the lead on this matter.

  4. I don’t live in Sydney and I’m not part of an Anglican church, so I comment from the position of an interested observer who is grateful for the grounding given to me as a young Christian in an Anglican church many years ago. I’ve been following David’s posts on this matter, and on the issue of the beliefs of Rod Bowers and it seems to me that:

    1) David is calling bishops to be bishops, and the church to be the church. As yet the Anglican church in Oz is not in the sorry state of the Episcopal church in the US, the Anglican church in Canada or – to an increasing degree – the C of E in the UK. If bishops are not willing to make a stand now, and insist that clergy actually believe the things they commit to, then the Ang church in Australia will follow the same miserable path to oblivion. These churches did not suddenly wake up one morning and discover that they were on the road to apostasy. It took years of little compromises, of bishops not wanting to appear “petty”, of fearing what the world would think, of a pathway of failures to uphold true doctrine and exercise church discipline.

    2) Whatever this “appears” to look like, Jesus was totally intolerant of false teaching. It is cruel, divisive and deadly. Nothing that anyone thinks of David could be worse than winking at behaviour and beliefs that are ultimately unloving – in that they call people away from that which pleases God. If our leaders cannot have the integrity and backbone to uphold truth, then no matter what anyone thinks of the church it’ll be last one out turn off the lights.

    • Well said Lydia. Apostacy as been building throughout the Anglican Communion as you note particularly in TEC. Evidence that Bishop’s already support positions of questionable theology (apostacy) already exists in Australia, especially the Newcastle Diocese that the great apostate Rev Bower hails from.

      Recently Rev Bower said of an evangelical colleague of mine online on FB, “your religion is repignant to me”, after being chastised in love with Scripture quotes supporting the virgin birth, the resurrection and the ascension, all of which the Rev Bower openly denies in a traditional understanding.

      A key point coming out of Grafton, is what episcopal oversight arrangements can be made for those who cannot accept Dr MacNeil as a Bishop ?

      This is where GAFCON comes into the picture. I think its essential for those who are forming the new “Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – Oceania” or similar body to bring forward these plans.

      David, can you help here with some enlightment about “FCA – Oceania” ?

  5. Time for “Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – Oceania” to be launched publicly, so to allow new pan-geographic Anglican Dioceses to be formed across Australia, NZ and the Pacific Islands similar to ACNA ?

    • Hi – recently found David’s blog, and I’m glad this kind of stuff is being said.

      Regarding pan-geographic Anglican Dioceses, ACNA and suchlike, can anyone point me to a comment from David or any orthodox Anglican leader on the future of the Anglican Church of Australia? What do those guys think will end up happening?

  6. Dear David, It’s now more than 24 hours since you originally posted this. More than enough time for for the Bishop of Grafton and Bishop of Canberra-Goulburn to have had had their attention drawn to it.

    Has either of their offices been in touch to ask you to remove the post? Offer a corrective? Or offer any comment?

    Warmly, Dominic

    • hi Dominic,

      As you would expect there has been some correspondance with Bishop Macneil’s office but there is no official public response to these questions nor should we expect any.

  7. David, thanks for doing the research on this. A person’s commitments are best seen in the track record of their actions. Those in Christian ministry should expect their public and personal life to be above reproach and the things they have done to be open for public scrutiny. Bringing these things into the open is helpful for everyone to realize just how far some Anglicans have strayed from the teaching of our Lord and how little other clergy seem to care. Thank you for calling on people to do their job.

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