The Australian House of Bishops, who have met again on Friday 20 November, have issued a statement in response to the Appellate Tribunal’s opinion.
The bishops had already met the previous week, albeit briefly online, and that meeting was described to davidould.net as “difficult”. There was some expectation that this week’s meeting might result in the issuing of two separate statements, signalling a clear split in the House. While that has been avoided, the statement that was issued shows clear signs of a split that the Bishops’ collegiality cannot mask.
Commenting upon the growing divide, the Bishops say,
Members of the House of Bishops have variously received requests to restrain clergy from exercising this ministry and, on the other hand, to welcome the opportunity for this ministry. There is not a common voice. With pain we recognise that there is not a common mind on these issues within the House of Bishops. Yet we are of one heart and mind in love towards those with whom we disagree and in our desire to serve Christ and see God’s kingdom grow.
That love towards those that they disagree with will not, apparently, extend to honouring the Primate’s call to not act until General Synod has met next year.
The Bishops’ resolutions include (my emphasis),
a. to seek to speak the truth in love, mindful of Jesus’ prayer for His followers in John 17. In particular, we will publicly acknowledge areas of agreement as well as disagreement among us;
b. to engage with our Diocesan Synods and Councils as they consider the Opinions and any implications for their life and witness;
Bishops will now publicly acknowledge their disagreement on this fundamental question and we should therefore expect to see clear statements from a number of them in support of the revisionist position as well as orthodox Bishops making their own statement.
The language of “engagement” is fairly empty and meaningless. What responsible Bishop does not already “engage” with their synod and council?
What is missing, of course, is any language of restraint. By contrast the NSW Provincial Standing Committee met earlier this week and passed a resolution that “requested the ministers of the Province to wait and not to act upon these matters until they are debated at the next General Synod.” That Province includes the Diocese of Newcastle which is one of the two dioceses to have already authorised a blessing liturgy.
The full text of the Bishops’ statement follows: