BREAKING: Appellate Tribunal Issues Majority Opinion Backing Same-Sex Blessing Liturgy

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The Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia has issued it’s opinion on perhaps the most controversial question ever put before it: is the liturgy from Wangaratta to bless the parties of a same-sex marriage consistent with the Fundamental Declarations and Ruling Principles in the Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia?

The answer by 5 of it’s 6 members: Yes.

A separate “minority” opinion in the negative has been issued by a fifth member, Gillian Davidson.

For background see my piece from October, “Appellate Tribunal Prepares to Issue Critical Opinion“.

The majority opinion falls entirely along lines expected by observers of the Tribunal but is likely to be keenly debated. It takes positions that are contrary to both the weight of submissions it received and the particular advice that it asked for from both the House of Bishops and the Board of Assessors. The answers to those questions were robustly conservative/orthodox and deliberately sought to show how the question of same-sex activity and marriage were encompassed within them (especially the answer from the Board of Assessors).

Here’s my first response to the opinion on Facebook live the same afternoon it was issued.

The Tribunal also offered an opinion on the move by Newcastle Diocese to limit the effect of national disciplinary codes and procedures upon clergy who participated in these “blessings”. It splits along the same 5-1 lines but offers a more limited response. The first two answers deal with the basic question and they opine that the Diocese can proceed to make those limits.

On some other questions they declined to answer, viewing answers as being of “insufficient practical utility” and then another “going well beyond the jurisdictional issues we have already addressed”. Nevertheless, the position of the Appellate Tribunal is now clear.

Attention now moves to the House of Bishops who meet tomorrow and the Standing Committee of the General Synod who begin to meet on Friday.

It seems more and more inevitable that there will and must be clarity provided at the next General Synod, due to meet in early June 2021. The General Synod has proven itself to be more and more conservative over the past 10 years, even censuring the Scottish Episcopal Church for sanctioning same-sex marriage, and might be expected to further bolster the conservative orthodox position when it meets.

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  1. RevRon

    As the majority also takes a position that is contrary to the Bible, can I now burn mine? Or should I first ask them if there are any parts of it that are relevant in the 21st century that I should keep?
    I am also wondering how long one can retain “membership” of a “church” that has lost it’s way?

    1. Helen Gilbert

      Lost its way is your opinion, not the opinion of all Anglicans, and remember to treat others as you would like to be treated.

    1. David Ould

      yes, you’re right. Thanks for picking that up. Now corrected.

  2. chris russell

    At [31] the Tribunal states:

    “Consenting homosexual acts in private between adult men (and sometimes between women) were severely punishable by law until a generation ago. By contrast, sexual abuse by husbands received minimal attention from Church or State until recently. Indeed, as with slavery, the restriction of the franchise by reference to gender or race, the prohibition of usury, capital and corporal punishment, reform of now widely condemned practices of the past was impeded by confidently expressed Biblical arguments supporting conduct that is now almost universally condemned”.

    The Tribunal’s Opinion is nowhere stronger than at [31]. What the argument here suggests is that conservatism is the real motivator of many Christians who purport to judge social issues on the basis of the Bible. Indeed, opposition to the normalisation of homosexuality in the ACA is a prime example of this. Certainly it is naive to describe advocates of the case against the proposed blessing as conservatives. This is exactly what proponents want you to do, David. They know that there is nothing spiritual in being conservative (Rev 21:5). They also want you to describe the issue as being a “Gospel issue” for them – and, again, you oblige. We know what is the ‘Gospel’ of our Lord and Saviour. It is not a term to be shared with those who are walking in darkness.

    It is also noteworthy that the term “revisionism” is used frequently to characterise the movement to introduce the novel blessing in question. This is academic terminology, which, also, is inappropriate. It gives the appearance that the question at issue is a theological issue, and that it is for career clergy and other professionals to determine the matter for the common people who attend Anglican churches. When we read between the lines, both parties, in this dispute, may be found on precarious ground.

  3. Paul Nolan

    David, you seem to cover only the first question the Primate asked the Tribunal’s opinion of. Did the Tribunal opine on whether the Wangaratta Regulation was validly made pursuant to the “Canon concerning Services 1992”? PN

    1. David Ould

      They’ve provided a mixed opinion on Newcastle. In their favour on the substantive question and declined to address the rest of it.

      1. Paul Nolan

        Their inconsistency seems a little Mickey Mouse to me. Carefully reading this article & the earlier ones plus clicking on all the associated links is worth the effort however. It comes down, in my humble opinion, to one question. Does the ACA have an existing form of service (excluding Holy Matrimony which is a civil and a religious combination) for blessing the civil marriages of opposite-sex couples? If the answer is yes then of course other questions come into play. PN

  4. Robert Bruce

    Surely we are in the End Times.

  5. PaulR

    What’s interesting is the traditional position of the Anglican Church of Australia has not changed! While the approval of this liturgy ” is a blessing of a civil marriage.” The spirit of the liturgy speaks deeply of the promises and commitments-which is the heart of matrimony.

    (from the liturgy)

    Loving God, whose son Jesus Christ welcomed strangers and called them his friends, grant to N and N such gifts of grace that they may be bearers of your friendship and their home a place of welcome for all.

    Jesus, our brother, inspire N and N in their lives together, that they may come to live for one another and serve each other in true humility and kindness. Through their lives may they welcome each other in times of need and in their hearts may they celebrate together in their times of joy, for your name’s sake.

    Holy Spirit of God, guard and defend N and N in their life together, protect them from evil, strengthen them in adversity until you bring them to the joy of your heavenly kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    This Trinitarian affirmation( to the chagrin of conservatives) is more powerful than anything I have read in a traditional wedding service. So I’m celebrating with you “mates” today down under. My church The Episcopal Church codified theological support for same-gender marriage within canonical law in 2015. Martin Luther King, Jr., reminded us that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Change takes a long time, but it does happen. Paul R Diocese of Northern Indiana.

  6. Timothy John Tunbridge

    ‘..don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold..’ said St Paul to the Christians in Rome. Great advice! Pity the Appellate Tribunal wasn’t listening.

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