The Bishop of Newcastle, Peter Stuart, has written a “pastoral letter” to his diocese which, while very verbose, has been understood to indicate that he now gives permission for “Wangaratta” blessings to occur in his diocese.

In his letter, Bishop Stuart states that,

Our church allows for the possibility of the blessing of same-sex marriages and over the coming years we may hear that this ministry has been exercised within our Diocese.

The letter’s section on the Appellate Tribunal’s decision runs for over three pages without ever giving a clear answer to the obvious question that everyone is asking “will blessings be permitted?”. Nevertheless, given that Stuart does not say that blessings may not go ahead, the letter has been understood to provide tacit approval. The sense of this is only further reinforced by a piece in the Newcastle Herald which Stuart actively co-operated with, “Newcastle Bishop Peter Stuart calls on Anglicans to support ‘blessing’ of same sex marriages in diocesan churches” and an accompanying editorial “Bishop Peter Stuart’s inclusive vision of the Anglican Church“.

While the letter seeks to give the impression that “conversations continue” and states that “truth-seeking requires sustained and engaged conversation” it is quite clear that Stuart has provided the final word.

Stuart’s decision to push on with the blessings will be seen as an open rejection of both the Primate’s request for restraint and a motion at a recent NSW Provincial Synod which “requested the ministers of the Province to wait and not to act upon these matters until they are debated at the next General Synod.” Stuart was the sole member of the synod to vote against that motion.

Clergy within the diocese have told that there is “a lot of unhappiness from the Herald article”.

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5 comments on “Bishop of Newcastle: “Our church allows for the possibility of the blessing of same-sex marriages”

  1. There is only one way to resist these developments, and it is not by contending with the unfaithful as to the right interpretation of Scripture.

    Stuart’s letter refers to the statement in the Appellate Tribunal’s Opinion [at 238] viz. that General Synod may “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” change the law to allow formally for the blessing of homosexuals and lesbians married under the amended Marriage Act.

    Stuart, himself, does not refer to concrete guidance from the Holy Spirit relevant to his own diocese. This is because he can not say that it seems good to him and the Holy Spirit (Acts 15: 28-29) that the teaching of the church must needs be amended i.e. concerning the sinfulness of sexual relations that are not sanctified.

    The same may be said of the pretentious blasphemy of the Tribunal that it should dare even to speak of the Holy Spirit in this context; however the faithful in the Anglican Church of Australia should simply seize, as being sufficient, the specific words used by the Tribunal, in a manner that was both unholy and facile. There is no other conversation in town.

  2. I wonder at the listening ability of Newcaslte clergy who communicate secretly with you about “tacit approval” for Wangaratta Blessings to occur in Bishop Stuart’s diocese. All clergy with the bishops licence in our diocese were called together for a day of information sharing where Bishop Peter confirmed what he wrote in his letter; that whilst there would appear to be prima-facie permission to go ahead with a blessing of same sex marriage (one already legal performed under national laws), he was asking all clergy to hold off from doing so until after general synod had met and issued its rulings. It would be a blind, deaf and ignorant member of the Newcaslte clergy who felt Bishop Peter has issued any permissions to go ahead with same sex blessings in the diocese. That’s this is his intent is clear from his pastoral letter. He has asked that any clergy person who felt called to act on the prima-facie permission from the appellate tribunal to meet with him for a pastoral conversation before going ahead with any such blessing.

    I am confident you would know this, it have chosen to twist things to make it seem Bishop Peter is intent on steamrolling same sex blessings upon the Australian church – nothing could be further from the truth.

    • hi Greg. It appears the bishop is communicating different things in different channels.
      In his original letter to the clergy he is (one assumes deliberately) ambiguous. Three long pages without clearly answering the question that everyone is asking.
      Then in his meeting with the clergy you report that he asks everyone to hold off until General Synod.
      Then he goes to the newspaper and declares his full support for blessings.

      I am confident you would know this, it have chosen to twist things to make it seem Bishop Peter is intent on steamrolling same sex blessings upon the Australian church – nothing could be further from the truth.

      Not at all. I can only go on what the bishop chooses to make public.
      Having said that, it does look like the steamrolling already happened at last year’s diocesan synod.

  3. The word “steamrolling” is apt in describing the behaviour of bishops who will do what they can to overturn church teaching. The so-called ‘Wangaratta’ blessings, for example, have their origin in the project of then retiring bishop, John Parkes, who effectively set the agenda for Clarence Beester, his replacement. Beester, himself, uses the weak language of compromise, but he resents being steamrolled by Parkes:

    “I have not even had the opportunity to share my thinking, but yet there are those who accuse me of advancing the legacy and ideology of others. I am one who can stand in my own right… (Presidential Address, Synod, 30 November 2020)”.

    Parkes was a bishop whose actions sent people away from his church. Do not trust a professing Christian who puts his conscience in the place of the Holy Spirit. Admittedly this began with Luther, but those who knew Parkes recall his stifling the expression of contrary opinion both lay and clerical. On one occasion, he scattered the flock by steamrolling those who objected to having their Cathedral building set up and used as a place for dining and recreation. As for me and my house, we do not anymore attend services in his diocese plaything.

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