Over the past few days a number of clergy from Melbourne have contacted davidould.net over an ad clerum that Archbishop Philip Freier (who also serves as Primate of Australia) has issued. Various degrees of concern have been expressed over Freier’s call for “a respectful conversation about how the Church ministers in the tension between the changes to the Marriage Act and our teaching on Holy Matrimony.”
Critics of this move have pointed out to davidould.net that while the call on it’s own is fairly bland (and Archbishop Freier is known for his own conservative position on marriage), its context in the flow of the letter is more troubling. It immediately follows Freier’s citation of a letter he received from a retired clergyman expressing sorrow that he is still unable to celebrate same-sex marriages since he is bound by the liturgy of the Anglican Church of Australia. Freier states he was “very moved” by the letter.
One Melbourne member of clergy said to davidould.net,
My reading of this is that there is going to be some sort of attempt to formulate two liturgies one for “Holy Matrimony” and one for “Civil Marriage” and giving those clergy who want to the freedom to run a liturgy for “Civil Marriage”.
For me and a number of my peers, this is a deal breaker if it becomes Canon Law in the diocese. I would be looking to FCA (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans) for oversight of [our parish].
That the archbishop’s first response to the result [of the Australian postal survey on change in marriage law] is cryptic comfort of apostates is very distressing to me.
Others that we spoke to were more circumspect. A number pointed out that Freier places a high value on institutional unity and, given that the more liberal sections of the diocese are increasingly struggling to see their agenda implemented at diocesan level, this may simply be the Archbishop seeking to be gracious in responding to them.
Nevertheless, all those that davidould.net spoke to were clear that the implementation of any form of liturgy for blessing same-sex relationships would be seen as an incredibly serious breach of church doctrine and teaching that would require some form of robust response, perhaps even the seeking of alternate episcopal leadership; an outcome that Archbishop Freier will almost certainly be seeking to avoid.
The full ad clerum can be read below.