The Archdeacon of Melbourne, the Ven Dr Dr Craig D’Alton (vicar of St Mary’s North Melbourne) has published a blogpost on his site “Humane Catholic” suggesting an alternative to the recently publicised Australian Bishops’ Agreement on how to proceed over the question of same-sex marriage.
“God is love, and those who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”
These words from 1 John 4, which begin the marriage service in A Prayer Book for Australia, undergird the doctrine of marriage as it has been received by Anglicans.
We the bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia, affirm the following:
1) The injunction to love is the greatest of the commandments, and any discussion of marriage ought to begin with the principle that marriage is a sign of God’s love in the world.
2) All people, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other gender identifying people, are children of God, and created in God’s image.
3) The law of the Commonwealth of Australia has changed to allow the marriage of persons who previously could not marry one another, and this Church has not yet come to a clear view on how this change effects the doctrine of marriage of this Church, nor has it yet formulated a uniform liturgical response.
4) We are committed to working in depth on the theological, liturgical and pastoral questions raised by this change; to do so in ways that do not harm or vilify LGBTI people, and to engage in that work at both the national and the diocesan levels.
5) Until such time as this Church forms a view on the question of whether couples of the same sex may marry in Anglican churches, we advise all clergy that it is not possible to conduct lawful services of marriage for couples of the same sex.
6) In the interim, we accept that individual diocesan bishops may choose to authorize specific forms of service for the blessing of civil marriages, including those contracted between couples of the same sex. The clergy of those dioceses should adhere to those forms of service when conducting such blessings. In dioceses where the bishop does not chose to authorize a form of service, individual clergy should seek the advice of their diocesan bishop on a case-by-case basis when asked to conduct services of blessing for same sex couples.
7) Clergy and church workers who contract a civil marriage with a same-sex partner will be regarded to be in compliance with Faithfulness in Service, in the contexts in which that document uses the term “marriage”.
8) We look forward to the day when this church will be able to display unity and a degree of uniformity in our doctrine of marriage and in its liturgical application. Until that day, we recognize the need both to listen to the voices of differing opinions, and to act as conscience dictates within the Constitutions and Canons of this Church.
The blogpost clearly calls for the church to change it’s doctrine of marriage by asking that the church’s definition of marriage include same-sex couples (pt. 7), a change which the General Synod recently declared to be “contrary to the doctrine of our church and the teaching of Christ”. By contrast to D’Alton’s claim that “this Church has not yet come to a clear view on how this change effects the doctrine of marriage of this Church”, the Archbishop of Melbourne and Primate of Australia, Philip Freier, noted in a blog post last year prior to the General Synod that,
The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.
Given that it is indeed unlikely that the Anglican Church of Australia will revise its doctrine of marriage and reaffirmed it at the General Synod, questions will continue to be asked about how those pushing for revision will “act as conscience dictates” and what may be done in response if such actions clearly seek to indicate affirmation of same-sex marriage as good and holy.
image: St Mary’s Rainbow Heart Inclusion Sign, Google street view