Bishop of Ballarat “will not be promoting” same-sex blessing liturgy

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The Bishop of Ballarat, Garry Wetherill, has set out his response to the recent action of his synod in asking him to authorise a rite of blessing for same-sex couples who have entered into a marriage.

Writing in the diocese’s regular “dNews”, he says the following:

A controversial motion, recognising the reality of same gender marriage at law in Australia, asked me to consider preparing liturgical material that would recognise civil same sex marriages. The Bishop’s [sic.] have agreed not to act unilaterally on this matter, and so I will not be promoting such a liturgy at present. It is important to understand that this proposal is not a change in our Church’s doctrine of marriage, but rather a pastoral response to same gender attracted people in our churches who choose to contract a civil marriage. No doubt there will be further discussion about this and other matters concerning human sexuality in the years ahead.

A number of things are worth noting here.

  1. The Bishops’ Agreement appears to be having its effect in restraining any precipitous actions.
  2. Wetherill’s claim that “this proposal is not a change in our Church’s doctrine of marriage” will not convince everyone. The motion asked for a liturgy that blessed the same-sex marriage. To bless something is to endorse it as approved of by God. It is difficult to see howow this is not making a statement about our doctrine of marriage.

Attention is now likely to turn to Bishop John Parkes in Wangaratta, currently the most outspoken proponent of changing the approach to marriage. He still has a motion from his own synod to respond to.


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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. linda nolan

    Good on the Bishop. Church Leaders should take great care when handling innocuous-sounding requests for new liturgical responses whenever Caesar changes a law “down here”. The amended Marriage Act, for example, at S.47(3) reads “A minister of religion may refuse to solemnise a marriage despite anything in this Part, if any of the following applies: (a) the refusal conforms to the doctrines, tenets or beliefs of the minister’s religious body or religious organisation.”


  2. linda nolan

    Sufficient members of the Uniting Church in Australia were able to persuade their Leaders that, rather than taking the Section as authorising their clergy to refuse religious marriage on religious grounds (self-evident to most), it actually enables the Church to write a new, additional, liturgy allowing its ministers to marry any “2 persons” whom Caesar now deigns eligible for marriage. Unbelievably, UCA Leaders agreed, the new liturgy was written and same-sex couples are being married by agreeable UCA ministers in church.


    1. Graeme

      Sufficient members from the Uniting Church? Pray, inform us exactly how many members “persuaded” their Leaders ? I didn’t realise that the Uniting Church had ‘leaders” in their Congregation. Instead of using speculation and innuendo, state the truth and factual evidence. Also, how many times has the Marriage Act been amended since its inception?

      1. linda nolan

        Sufficient members to have a new, additional, liturgy written & now in use. There’s no speculation or innuendo here, the facts have been widely reported.The Marriage Act has been amended a number of times since 1961. The 8/12/17 amendment changed eligible parties from “a man & a woman” (there since 2004) to “2 people”. That concept, now formally embraced by the UCA, differs from Christ’s teaching on eligibility. Hence the congregational split in that Church (widely reported).

        I do not wish to see the ACA similarly split. Hence my bob’s worth on this forum.

  3. linda nolan

    Such is the slippery slope the Australian Caesar has embarked Christian churches upon. He should, of course, have separated Church & State in the amended marriage law but did not. Beware Anglican Leaders of the next move from the “bless em” crowd.

  4. Revd David Smith

    This is something that we need to be very careful about. The liberal element within the Anglican Church will keep pushing for it, and we need to make sure that orthodox belief remains our principal concern.

  5. linda nolan

    Quite right Revd, thank you. In my humble, Parliament’s amending of the Marriage Act on 8/12/17 is the most serious challenge to the Credibility of Christian churches in Australian history. From 1788 – 2004 there was an unwritten but mutually recognised understanding between Church & State (colonial then state/territory then commonwealth) that marriage was the union of a man & a woman. The understanding underwrote the authority given to clergy under the marriage laws of those jurisdictions to conduct Combined civil & sacramental marriage ceremonies. In 2004 the commonwealth law was changed to spell out the understanding. Thus from 1788 – 2017 Church & State BOTH joined a man & a woman in marriage according to Christ’s criteria. TBC

  6. linda nolan

    In 2017 Parliament changed the legal definition of parties to “2 people” but, incredibly, instead of secularising the Act, they manufactured a way so churches could remain involved in it, if they so choose. There can be only one response from any Christian Church worthy of the name – no thanks, you – the Commonwealth – can legally marry everyone in accordance with the Act; we will subsequently marry in our church those couples who wish it & who meet our Founder’s teaching on the subject. As formulating a Religious Discrimination Act will be the main ethical legislation Parliament will consider before the election, the first step for Christian churches, if they wish their voices to be taken seriously, will be to withdraw their ministers from the Act.

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