Archbishop of Melbourne calls for “intentional conversations” over changes in marriage law

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Over the past few days a number of clergy from Melbourne have contacted 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 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,

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].

another noted,

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 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.

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  1. MichaelA

    This sort of behaviour has been seen repeatedly overseas, as so-called “conservative” bishops try to pander to liberals. It is always the thin end of the liberal wedge, with the end result being apostasy like that seen in the Episcopal Church of the USA.

    The constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia provides that the standard of doctrine is the Book of Common Prayer. That leaves no room for blessing same sex unions.

    If the Primate of Australia departs from the doctrinal standard, then why should parishes not seek alternative oversight from bishops who are faithful to that standard?

  2. Geoff Fletcher

    Refer facebook comment from Lance Lawton – well said, thankyou. I know a Godly person (not an Anglican) who was similarly maligned for consorting with / positively encouraging tax collectors & prostitutes – & even the occasional sympathetic cleric – of His day. And even wept with the sadness of others I believe. And often with reconciliation, unity & relationships in mind.

    1. David Ould

      hi Geoff.
      While I agree with you on Lance’s understanding of the Primate’s intention, I’m not sure that your particular analogy in this case works.
      The debate around Jesus hanging out with “sinners” deals with the question of why Jesus would associate with those who are clearly sinful and deserving of judgement. Nevertheless he seeks them out in order to bring mercy to them.
      But the issue here is not the “sinner” out in the community but leaders in the church who are openly teaching against the orthodox view on marriage. I don’t think the two are comparable. Your statement ends up labelling those ordained ministers in question as non-Christians in need of Jesus’ mercy so that they might be saved. Is that what you intended to communicate?

      1. Geoff Fletcher

        Thanks David. Although a lot could be discussed about the points you raise my bottom line was simply to align with Lance – acknowledging ABp Freier’s respectful & honest empathy with someone who had respectfully & honestly engaged with him, with no comment at this time on other issues at hand.

        I expect Jesus didn’t encourage the sinners he met with to be better at sinning but rather to be blessed in Godly ways – like honesty & respectfulness – & to them he offered relationship in grace. In contrast to the religious others who condemned His actions (& who condemned those sinners). Perhaps he addressed the isues in priority order. And aren’t we all clearly sinful and deserving of judgment? The named sinners in Jesus’ day, as now, perhaps weren’t so good at concealing it.

        A related topic, but for another time / post, might be who’s who in the parable of sheep & goats.

        1. MichaelA

          He offered them relationship in Grace if they repented from their sin.

          1. Geoff Fletcher

            Thanks Michael. So is repentance a prerequisite for, or a consequence of, intentional relationship with Jesus?

            1. chris russell

              It is a prerequisite.

              1. Geoff Fletcher

                How sad.

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