Australian Bishops Protocol on Human Sexuality – A Defeat for the Liberals

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The liberal attempt in the Anglican Church of Australia to push forward in the promotion of the homosexual agenda has come off the tracks.

Here, from a number of sources, is the Australian Bishops protocol on Human Sexuality. I understand this was agreed at the recent House of Bishops meeting in response to the controversy over the appointment of Rev. David Head in the Diocese of Gippsland.

The following Protocols express the common mind of the bishops as determined by consensus at our National Meeting. Each protocol bears the date it was first agreed.

We confirm our agreement to abide by them and renew this commitment annually by consensus.

While these protocols have no legislative force, it is expected that our bishops will abide by them, as an expression of the bonds of affection and unity that we share in the gospel and our collegiality in ministry.

Protocol on Human Sexuality

As bishops in the Australian Church we accept the weight of 1998 Lambeth Resolution 1.10 and the 2004 General Synod resolutions 33, 59 and 61-64 as expressing the mind of this church on issues of human sexuality.

We undertake to uphold the position of our Church in regard to human sexuality as we ordain, license, authorise or appoint to ministries within our dioceses.

We understand that issues of sexuality are subject to ongoing conversation within our Church and we undertake to support these conversations, while seeking to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Some immediate observations.

  1. Readers ought to be encouraged that the Australian House of Bishops is, in the main, more conservative than the Church of England. For those tempted to view the ongoing debates in both provinces as being similar there is cause here to make some clear distinctions
  2. The protocol is set out as the “common mind” of the bishops and refers to “collegiality” (just as we have already done). By implication Bishop McIntyre is being censured for breaching that collegiality. I am led to believe that just that point has now been made to him very clearly.
  3. The protocol makes no reference to the teaching of Scripture. For some this will be disappointing. Others will note that Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10 “…[rejects] homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture…”
  4. The right behaviours set forward in Faithfulness in Service are affirmed, ie only heterosexual marriage or chastity for clergy.
  5. Bishop McIntyre has been given a bit of a slap down. How he will now proceed will be very interesting. For the first time I would suggest that it’s not inconceivable that Rev. Head would resign, or be asked to resign. Certainly, now that the Bishops have confirmed their position it would make any professional standards complaint against him all the more likely to succeed.
  6. The ongoing policy in a number of dioceses of “don’t ask, don’t tell” with respect to openly homosexual clergy can hardly continue. It would be the height of dishonesty for any bishop to claim that they were not morally bound by this protocol. For any to step outside it would be a major break of collegiality.
  7. This has to be seen as a major loss for the liberals in the church. The attempt to progress a “facts on the ground” strategy that has been so successful elsewhere has been firmly rebuffed. Talk about having your bluff called.

The protocol refers to a number of 2004 General Synod resolutions. The archive of the 2004 GS can be found here [pdf]. The text of the specific resolutions is as follows:

The General Synod:
(a) receives the report of the Child Protection Committee;
(b) adopts as the Church’s Safe Ministry Policy Statement:
“The Anglican Church of Australia is committed to the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, particularly within its own community. The Church will:
ƒ carefully recruit and train its clergy and church workers;
ƒ adopt and encourage safe ministry practices by its clergy and lay church workers;
ƒ respond promptly to each concern raised about the behaviour of its clergy and lay church workers;
ƒ offer pastoral support to any person who has suffered abuse; and
ƒ provide pastoral support to and supervision of any person known to have abused a child or another vulnerable person.”
(c) adopts the Safe Ministry Check in the Report of the Child Protection Committee as the national applicant and referee questionnaires for the selection of ordination candidates and for the screening of clergy and church workers who have contact with children in their ministry;
(d) authorises the revision of the Safe Ministry Check by the Standing Committee;
(e) adopts Faithfulness in Service in the Report of the Child RESOLUTIONS Protection Committee as the national code for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry by clergy and lay church workers; and
(f) authorises the revision of Faithfulness in Service by the Standing Committee.

That the General Synod hereby approves “Faithfulness in Service” as
the code of conduct for observance by Bishops.

That this General Synod
1 notes the Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 of 1998 on human sexuality and subsequent developments in various parts of the Anglican Communion;
2 welcomes the publication of the study guide to Faithfulness in Fellowship;
3 urges Dioceses to promote the use of the study guide and also commends to the Dioceses the Doctrine Commission’s recently published essays Lost in Translation as they explore the importance of Scripture in our understanding of this issue; and
4 requests Dioceses to commit themselves to listen as the Church develops a Christian response to the contemporary experience of human sexuality.

Recognising that this is a matter of ongoing debate and conversation in this church and that we all have an obligation to listen to each other with respect, this General Synod does not condone the liturgical blessing of same sex relationships.

Recognising that this is a matter of ongoing debate and conversation in this church and that we all have an obligation to listen to each other with respect, this General Synod does not condone the ordination of people in open committed same sex relationships.

This General Synod welcomes the initiative of the Federal Parliament in clarifying that marriage, at law in this country, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

Perhaps time for the orthodox in Gippsland to take it up with their bishop and professional standards unit?

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Andrew Reid

    Having had a look through Faithfulness in Service, it rules out any sexual relationship outside of marriage for clergy or lay people employed in pastoral ministry. So, I’m not sure how he managed to drive a wedge between ordination and licensing / appointment / authorising. Even if General Synod res. 63 only mentions ordination, the adoption of Faithfulness in Service at that same Synod included this much broader standard.
    So is this protocol introducing anything new? Or is it just re-inforcing or clarifying what is already there in Faithfulness in Service?
    Regardless, I am encouraged the bishops did make a clear statement, rather than a fudge.

  2. David Ould

    hi Andrew,

    Yes, you’re right – that’s the point we make here. At the very best Bishop McIntyre turned a blind eye, at worst he has no intention of upholding Faithfulness in Service.

    In answer to your question – no, it doesn’t introduce anything new. But it does simply clarify and reinforce the current standards. Not that they needed clarifying, they were plenty clear enough.

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