Anglican Revisionists Keep Pushing their Agenda

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It’s 2022 so about time for an Anglican update. What’s new in the Anglican Church in Australia?

Well, not much. The situation can be characterised as revisionists now effectively ignoring the moratorium we were going to have before General Synod. Action has been happening in 2 places in particular:

First, Peter Macleod-Miller has stuck himself right into the middle of a difficult situation in the Diocese of Armidale. The ABC reports (actually, “reports” is not quite what this propaganda piece is),

It’s just before nine o’clock on Sunday morning and the bells are ringing out loudly at St Matthew’s church in Albury.

It’s already 25 degrees Celsius and the sun is beating hot and bright onto a small knot of people milling around outside. Among them are two men with matching cream linen jackets and nervous smiles.

Peter Sanders, 58, and Peter Grace, 62, are there to have their marriage blessed — almost two years after their wedding.

The two men have driven 10 hours from their hometown in the north of New South Wales after their own parish would not recognise their relationship.

The men say that St Mary’s Anglican Church in West Armidale not only refuses to bless their union, but that they were recently faced with the prospect of losing their positions within the church if they did not separate, lead a celibate life, and undertake religious counselling.

So the situation is actually a little different to the press release that the ABC regurgitated. Sanders and Grace were told that their relationship was contrary to the nationally-accepted standards of Faithfulness in Service. Unlike other dioceses, the Diocese of Armidale has not watered-down the requirements of that code of conduct and so Sanders’ position as music director and organist at his parish was untenable. Integrity would lead to a resignation, but instead he dug in. And the bishop held his ground on Jesus’ teaching and the church’s doctrine, as he promised to do in his consecration vows.

Yet Macleod-Miller offered a solution. The couple drive those 10 hours to have their marriage “blessed” in front of a congregation that they did not know.

source: facebook

And his own Bishop wanted a piece of the action too,

Albury priest Peter MacLeod-Miller, a long-time advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, tells Sunday’s congregation that “we are celebrating a better, kinder world, and also a real change”.

He reads a letter from Bishop Clarence Bester, head of the Wangaratta diocese of which St Matthew’s is a part and which adopted a resolution to offer blessings for same-sex marriages in August 2019.

Bishop Bester says he is praying that “the love and care for the ministry offered today may restore hope and dignity to all those who feel sidelined”.

The congregation is made up of well-dressed elderly worshippers, a family with young children, as well as a few individuals and couples, looking a little unsure, wearing rainbow flag T-shirts and face masks.

Father MacLeod-Miller sends his message out loud and clear to the group.

“If you want the world to change, then we change it. If you’re not satisfied with a government that discriminates against people, we change it,” he says.

So there you have it. A Diocesan Bishop interferes in the discipline of another diocese.

All this despite the Primate, Archbishop Geoff Smith of Adelaide, calling for restraint following the Appellate Tribunal decision on exactly those blessings. The Primate calls for us all to hold fire until General Synod, but Bishop Clarence in Wangaratta gives his endorsement to a clear breach of that truce.

This is, of course, not the first time such a rejection of the Primate’s call has happened. In his own Province of South Australia Bishop Stead of Willochra granted a license to Sorel Coward, which Smith had previously refused.

Meanwhile over on the west coast, the Archbishop of Perth has moved her own pieces forward on the board announcing the appointment of Steven Hilton as Precentor. Hilton’s recruitment is another challenge to the delicate unity of the Anglican Church of Australia. He is active in campaigning for a change in church doctrine on marriage and has served for 2 years as “Cathedral Curate” at Manchester Cathedral in the Church of England where he has been at the forefront of some provocative moves such as a “Pride Eucharist” and regular “Open Table“s. Hilton will move to Perth with his Civil Partner Marco.

In one sense, Hilton’s transfer is a curious one. In the Church of England curates are required to serve a three year term in their training parish before receiving approval from their diocesan bishop to move to a new post. By any measure Hilton has not completed this training.

A senior conservative leader with knowledge of the situation described the appointment to, given Hilton’s relationship status, known history and lack of consultation with conservatives in the diocese, as “blatant” and “nakedly provocative”.

This is not Goldsworthy’s only recent challenging appointment. She has also announced that Peter Boyland is the new “Archdeacon Assisting” to “work on diocesan matters”. Boyland is described to as “openly homosexual” and “ambitious”. It seems that the Archbishop was persuaded to make the promotion despite vigorous protests by conservatives in the diocese who recognised this as yet another move to effectively solidify a changed doctrinal position on human sexuality.

These appointments are being understood by conservative leadership in Australia as a clear signal of Archbishop Goldsworthy’s intent to move things along despite, at her last synod presidential address, urging her diocese to unity stating,

I believe that we can, and must faithfully continue to commit to the biblical witness of living out our desire to be held together in Christ, knowing that we all belong in him, and that we cannot do without each other, as members of his one body.

2021 Perth Synod Presidential Address

Going into 2022 it seems that the revisionist appeals to “be held together in Christ” don’t actually count on the ground. Even in the decisions of those who make the appeal.

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  1. Somewhere in cyberspace

    Should finish with a footnote: “I exercise great constraint in using the title ‘revionists’.”

  2. Anthony Douglas

    Interesting photo in the ABC piece of the certificate – the fine print carefully introduces an ambiguity to imply that the marriage was in accordance with Anglican rites. A very convenient lapse of grammar…

  3. Tim Tunbridge

    The Primate’s letter of 26/7/2021 addressed to his episcopal colleagues strongly criticised Gafcon Australia for allegedly undermining the unity of the national Church. And yet it would appear, not a word from the Primate about the recent developments in Wangaratta and Perth which do precisely that.

  4. chris russell

    I have to say, David, that you have most likely caused Bishop Clarence Bester to feel insulted and deeply pained by your insinuation and insensitivity. I refer to the good Bishop’s frank disclosure in his Presidential Address at the 2020 Synod as follows.

    “As a relatively new Bishop within the Church of God, who has not been part of previous discussions with other Bishops within the national Church, especially as General Synod did not take place last year, I would like to continue in conversation with them and the wider Church, wherever that may lead us. Recently, at a Bishop’s meeting, I expressed my feelings about this process and the fact that, following Synod last year, I felt alone in all of this, as I endured many insults and being blamed as a cause of division in the Church in Australia”.

    “So there you have it”, writes David Ould. “A Diocesan Bishop interferes in the discipline of another diocese. All this despite the Primate, Archbishop Geoff Smith of Adelaide, calling for restraint following the Appellate Tribunal decision on exactly those blessings. The Primate calls for us all to hold fire until General Synod, but Bishop Clarence in Wangaratta gives his endorsement to a clear breach of that truce”.

    At the 2020 Synod, Bishop Clarence continued:

    “I have not even had the opportunity to share my thinking, but yet there are those who accuse me of advancing the legacy and ideology of others. I am one who can stand in my own right, but feel insulted and am deeply pained by the insinuation and insensitivity of others.”

    Fair enough. It could not even be said of Parkes, Bester’s predecessor at Wangaratta, that he could restrain the gorgeous media darling, MacLeod-Miller. When I first came to the North East of Victoria, in 2016, I learned that Parkes had forbidden all clergy in the diocese from speaking out on the the matter of the governmental proposal to reform marriage. This was happily ignored, of course, by MacLeod-Miller, who, of course, was then ignored in turn by Parkes. I have some sympathy therefore, for Bishop Clarence, who, I assume, was standing in his own right when he chose to interfere in the discipline of another diocese.

      1. chris russell

        epithet = df “an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”.

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