In an opinion piece published in the Brisbane Times the Dean of Brisbane, Peter Catt, is the latest senior Anglican clergyman to openly challenge the Anglican Church of Australia’s position on marriage. His piece is interesting in that it lays down an implicit challenge to those who would oppose him:
The form of blessing we have been practising cannot be banned or outlawed by church authorities, except through dramatic action. These blessings have been conveyed by the people of faith communities through the offering of hospitality, the practice of inclusion and the celebrating of the life events of gender- and sexuality-diverse people.
That “dramatic action” would involve some form of disciplinary procedure; something which is highly unlikely to occur in Catt’s case (despite his admission in the piece to having personally been involved in at least one “liturgical” recognition) given that his ordinary, Archbishop Philip Aspinall, is widely understood to be supportive of Catt’s position.
Catt also employs a novel argument calling on a “sensus fidelium” which he curiously locates not in the church itself but in the wider Australian population:
Last year’s vote on marriage equality revealed the strength of the developing positive sensus fidelium in Australia around the formal blessing of the relationships and marriages of gender and sexually diverse people.
As well as this brief unusual gambit he also falls back on an appeal to individual conscience and a very recent Australian precedent in the Diocese of Wangaratta’s recent motion and the fact that “the Anglican Cathedral Council in Grafton has encouraged the Dean to offer blessings to gender and sexuality diverse couples married by Civil Celebrants”.
Catt, already well-known as a public advocate for revision of church doctrine, is part of what now appears to be a coordinated campaign of Australian church leaders openly defying both the 2017 General Synod statements on marriage and the 2018 bishops’ agreement. Having been comprehensively defeated in both arenas they are now pursuing an agenda of encouraging open defiance of those agreements in the name of “conscience”. They will no doubt be encouraged in this move by what has been widely recognised as an ineffective reaction by the Primate to his own clergy participating in same-sex weddings.
davidould.net understands that there is very likely to be no disciplinary action taken by conservatives at the clergy level. However, we have every expectation that if a bishop should step over the line now firmly established by both General Synod and the House of Bishops that official complaints and disciplinary procedures will be entered into at the episcopal level. The motivation to do so in a clear and unequivocal way is surely further bolstered by the recent GAFCON meeting in Jerusalem and it’s clear “Letter to the Churches“. This may deter bishops from taking unilateral action (and Wangaratta certainly appears to be rapidly lining up to be a test case) but it does not deal with clergy like Catt now feeling free to chart their own course, confident that their own bishops will not seek to rein them in.
image: Herald Sun