Bishop John Parkes – a former barrister – has told the Chronicle that he believes the country has “grown up” and that the federal government will be bound within a relatively short time to change the Marriage Act to enable people of the same gender to marry.
He admits that the challenge of such a move for religious faiths will be complex – but does not believe that gay marriage will become “a betrayal of the Gospel or the end of the world”.
“As I read the Bible in context, as I read the way that the church has dealt with it and now deals with it, I can find no biblical prohibition,” the bishop said.
The Bishop’s public statement comes at a time when other diocesan bishops who hold revisionists positions on this topic have made their own moves to push the issue forward, not least the decision by Grafton Diocese to have discussions on the matter and the recent appointment by Bishop Kay Goldsworthy of Gippsland of a man in a homosexual relationship as rector of a parish in clear contradiction to the Bishops’ Protocol on the subject.
This latest move is doubly surprising given a public statement [pdf] that Bishop Parkes published less than a week ago on the 29th of August where he sets out parameters (as he understands them, although others will recognise familiar revisionist arguments) for the debate and then adds this paragraph,
I do not seek to impose constraints on the debate, other than the need for respectful conversation. However until the Diocese has come to a view on these matters, contributions to the debate should be made in your private capacity and not in your representative capacity. I would therefore be grateful if you did not use your formal ecclesiastical title when making public comment. The Bishop is the only one to speak for the Diocese of Wangaratta, and I want there to be no mixed message about this.
6 days later the Bishop has spoken. No mixed messages.
The Diocese of Wangaratta is in the Province of Victoria, of which the Metropolitan is the Primate; Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne. This new provocation, on top of the recent actions of Bishop Kay Goldsworthy in Gippsland, will increase pressure on Archbishop Philip to act in some way. I understand that a number of very senior clergy in the Australian church have already made their concerns known, and more are yet to do so.