Anglican Bishops write to MPs to urge no further freedom concessions in SSM bill

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This’s morning’s smh reports that a group of 7 Anglican bishops, led by the bishop of Wangaratta, have written to all MPs in the House of Representative (lower house of the Australian parliament) to urge them to pass Senator Smith’s bill unamended, particular with respect to religious freedoms:

A group of Anglican bishops has split with some of the church’s top leaders to declare support for the current version of the same-sex marriage bill before Parliament, publicly calling on lower house MPs to resist the conservative push to insert stronger religious protections. has received a copy of the letter:

Some readers may take issue with the claims surrounding the Senate’s previous examination of the issues around freedom of religion and expression. As Assoc. Prof Neil Foster notes at Law and Religion in Australia:

It is worth stressing (since there seems to be some confusion on the matter, even among members of the Government) that this Committee was examining the Brandis Bill, not the Smith Bill. The Smith Bill has not been through any Parliamentary committee process that I am aware of.

Simply put, the letter’s claim that the bill responds directly to that previous Senate committee appears to be incorrect. I’ll refer readers to Foster’s excellent work in this area:

The signatories of the letter are:

  • John Parkes (Wangaratta)
  • Garry Weatherill (Ballarat)
  • Andrew Curnow (Bendigo)
  • Kay Goldsworthy (Gippsland)
  • Sarah MacNeil (Grafton)
  • William (Bill) Ray (North Queensland)
  • John Stead (Willochra)

Not many surprises there.

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This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Bruce Lyon

    So, are the above named Anglican Bishops enemies of the Protestant, Reformed, Gospel?

    One could mount such a case, me thinks.

    Are they living up to their ordination vows to defend?

    Hmmm ….

  2. MichaelA

    If these bishops reject the teachings of historic Anglicanism, then why shouldn’t overseas Anglicans plant new and independent Anglican congregations within their dioceses?

    The Archbishop of Canterbury has declared that the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) is not a province of the Anglican Communion. That has left ACNA free to send one of its bishops to ordain 9 new ministers to plant and nurture independent Anglican churches in England. The service is in three days’ time. It is obvious that there will be more in future.

    Why shouldn’t ACNA do the same with these dioceses in Australia?

    Just a thought.

  3. John Finkelde

    Hey David I enjoy reading your posts so thanks for blogging. One thing, the font colour of your wording is very light grey and I’d like to ask for a darker color! I find it difficult to read on my tablet.

    Thanks! And keep the posts coming!

    1. David Ould

      hi John. Thanks for the comment. I’ve changed it slightly. Is that better?

  4. bcwearne

    These latter-day Erastians among Anglican archbishops in Australia – allowing Government to define marriage for the Christian church – are obviously incapable of dealing with the rights of a Christian couple who seek to be married in a Christian civil ceremony. Such spiritual blindness suggests to me that they are resigned to a standpoint that will allow the Parliamentary mistake to shepherd such “religious” couples into church weddings even at a time when church officebearers around the country have brought Christianity into disrepute. One has to wonder whether these wiseacres are really trying to safeguard their niche in the wedding market. It’s disgraceful. You are quite David to call for their resignation.

  5. bcwearne

    You are quite right David to call for their resignation.

    1. GregColby

      I can’t see anywhere where David Ould has called for anyone resignation – or am I not looking at the post above properly?

  6. Geoff Fletcher

    No – nobody is “allowing Government to define marriage for the Christian church”. Nor has been allowed, nor can it be allowed. And I doubt these Bishops would be so ill-informed as to suggest otherwise. The Government defines civil marriage ONLY, and the church, in many & various forms, seeks to tag along by being an agent under the Commonwealth Marriage Act. But, to use the Anglican Service for Marriage as an example, the church seeks to have it’s cake and eat it – as we read the charge of the Priest to the bride & groom that if not entered into as God’s word allows then they are not joined together by God nor is their matrimony lawful IN HIS SIGHT.

    If a church denomination really has the strength of its conviction why not direct its Ministers to rescind their agency under this Act of the State in which they no longer have confidence?

    I do get tired of this apparent sense of entitlement to influence in society presumed by such institutions, as opposed to earning influence & respect anew with each generation. If it wasn’t on the decline already surely the soon-to-conclude Royal Commission and recent revelations about domestic violence within faith communities should have sent this dwindling influence into freefall.

    It is a sad irony that this parliamentary debate and passage into Law of SSM is what has kept the Royal Commission’s report just released into the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle largely off the front pages. We should all hang our heads in shame about this blight from those culprits who claim to bear the Name we all share – those perpetrators and their active & passive enablers We should stop the chatter and playing of games, and get back to the good works in Christ for which we have been created.

    1. MichaelA

      Sorry Geoff, but I am at a complete loss as to your reason for suggesting that churches should relinquish their agency under the Marriage Act.

      Yes, the Book of Common Prayer says that those who get married otherwise than as God’s word allowed are not married in His sight. If anyone has a problem with that, they don’t have to get married in church. Its a free country.

      As for “apparent sense of entitlement to influence”, the reason that churches celebrate weddings is because there are many couples who want them to. Why should those couples miss out just because you are personally opposed to them marrying in church?

      1. Geoff Fletcher

        First up – a happy & hope-filled Christmas to all who visit this site and a special thanks to David for the sometimes risky business of hosting it & provoking us!!

        Thanks for the reply Michael. I wonder & apologise if I’ve not made myself clear. My main points simply are that :
        1. The creation & commitments of marriage operate in two separate spheres (civil & sacred), often conflated but do not have to be. It may be helpful if church weddings made that clearer to those participating & attending.
        2. Generally if anybody has lost faith in something they purport to endorse (eg. law of the land re marriage) then the only honourable course of action is to withdraw. With less integrity but still preserving order one could go along with it but ought not denigrate. White-anting & throwing stones from within has a proud tradition in church organisations!!

  7. C. Ciccotosto

    We as Christians are appalled at the capitulation of ‘the seven’ in selling out the truth of GOD’s Word and Christian beliefs to join with the world in condoning such wickedness The call for their resignations is completely justified. However we should all pray for a spirit of repentance to fall on the Church and for GOD’s mercy for those who have openly and publicly disobeyed our Holy and Righteous GOD. How far we have fallen!

  8. Earnest Lee

    Why single out Religious Institution for child sexual abuse censure when it was prevalent throughout Society, hidden, unspoken and in many cases unreported through Shame, especially boys and youths.???????

    Two rights must be recognised in a “Bill/Charter of Rights” those of the Child and the Elderly.

  9. Paul Nolan

    Geoff, sorry this is so late, only chanced upon your post today. I agree entirely. Now that the law defines marriage parties so differently from Christ (“2 people”) v. (“a man and a woman”), Christian churches have no ethical choice but to withdraw from participating in it. They must offer sacramental/liturgical solemnisations only with an undertaking that, if required by law, they will ensure all couples so married have been firstly married in a civil ceremony.

    1. Geoff Fletcher

      Thanks Paul. The (secular) Commonwealth Marriage Act isn’t all bad. It HAS served our society well for decades after all. I really like the other parts of its definition : “A union . . . to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life” & wouldn’t mind that proclaimed in ANY marriage ceremony. I’ve actually known some priests who are happy to soft-pedal the “exclusion of all others” or “for life” aspects, unfortunately.

      1. Paul Nolan

        Hi Geoff. The problem with the Act is that it is not now and has never been, secular. It authorises ministers of religion (& now, religious marriage celebrants and Defence Force chaplains overseas) to combine a civil (legal) solemnisation with a sacramental one in a single church service.

        That was ok before Dec 2017 when the definition was the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others. Now that the definition is the union of 2 people I don’t consider it ethical for clergy to participate in a law which says a man marrying a man is just as lawful as a man marrying a woman.

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