The Bendigo Advertiser is reporting that Rev Noel Richards, a priest on the staff of St Paul’s Cathedral Bendigo, is to enter into a same-sex marriage in October.
When Drew Reid proposed to Father Noel Richards, it was an evening like any other for the Bendigo couple.
Drew and Father Noel, who have been together for more than five years, will be the first same-sex couple to be married in a church in Bendigo.
But while Father Noel has been an ordained priest of the Anglican Church for more than 40 years, the couple will be married at St Andrew’s Uniting Church instead of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Despite that setback, Drew said the support from the people of St Paul’s was undeniable.
“The congregation has just loved Noel and when they heard about our relationship they were just really excited for us,” Drew said.
“In terms of the wedding, there’s about 80 parishioners invited and attending. The only ones who said no are overseas or in hospital having surgery or something. Everybody else is all on board and embraced it.”
Like the now-married clergy in Wangaratta, John Davis and Robert Whalley, Reid and Richards have chosen to go to the press in order to gain maximum publicity for their wedding and related push for a change in doctrine of marriage within the Anglican Church of Australia.
Noel Richards is no stranger to attempting to enter into public debate on this topic. In 2017 he was was one of four Bendigo clergy who publicly supported same-sex marriage during the debate about legalisation in Australia.
The decision to enter into a same-sex marriage will be seen by many as a fundamental breach of Faithfulness in Service (as adopted by the Diocese of Bendigo) (“Fis”), the national church’s standard of behaviour for clergy and others.
In particular, FiS states,
7.1 The sexual conduct of clergy and church workers has a significant impact on the Church and the community.
7.2 Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.
Standards for clergy and church workers
These standards state the Church’s expectations for personal behaviour and the practice of pastoral ministry.
7.4 You are to be chaste and not engage in sex outside of marriage and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature.
The Bendigo Advertiser reports on Bishop Matt Brain’s response:
Regardless of the legal outcome, Anglican Diocese of Bendigo Bishop Matt Brain indicated a similar change to allow blessings of same-sex marriages would not be happening in his diocese.
But Bishop Brain said the church would continue to support every parishioner regardless of their sexuality.
image: Bendigo Advertiser