BREAKING: Archbishop of Melbourne Issues Ad Clerum on “Changes to the Marriage Law” – no sanctions to be applied

You are currently viewing BREAKING: Archbishop of Melbourne Issues Ad Clerum on “Changes to the Marriage Law” – no sanctions to be applied

In his first public response to the story that broke this week that 3 Anglican clergy in Melbourne participated in the liturgical celebration of a same-sex wedding, the Archbishop of Melbourne has issued the following ad clerum: has received no direct response yet from the Diocese since reaching out for comment last Friday, 3 days in advance of publishing the story.

In his letter Archbishop Freier states,

I have received assurances from one of the clergy that none of the three was involved in the wedding service itself, though they did attend. The service took place in the Community Church of St Mark in Clifton Hill, a Baptist Church, and the celebrant was a minister of another denomination. One of the Anglican clergy presided at the Eucharist later, and the other two offered Eucharistic prayers, but none officiated in any way in the marriage service. They did enter the church in the procession.

The assurances that Archbishop Freier received (via an assistant bishop who has met with at least one of the clergy involved) directly contradict the information has received from sources at the service; specifically that Rev. David John Moore “conducted the marriage”. The 3 clergy involved did far more than simply “attend”.

It is uncertain whether this response from Freier will satisfy the more conservative members of the diocese. More than one correspondent to has described what happened as “pharisaical”, i.e. a deliberate attempt to circumvent the restrictions on clergy by keeping the rules (i.e. not being the official celebrant) while at the same time giving every sense of full liturgical participation. Freier’s response provides no sanction of any form for the 3 Anglican clergy who participated and therefore holds open the possibility that similar events will occur in the future. Perhaps more liberal-minded clergy will now be emboldened to similarly participate in future weddings since Freier’s ad clerum appears to be establish a precedent that there will be no repurcussions. also imagines a vicar who wishes to pursue diaconal or lay administration having a deacon, lay leader or even the entire congregation recite the Prayer of Consecration at a Communion service at the same time as the President does so from the Table and even standing there with him; technically, not a breach of the rules against diaconal/lay administration (since it can always be argued that the President was reading the prayer) but a clear attempt to circumvent their intent and spirit. What would be the consistent response of Diocesan leadership under such circumstances?

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. bcwearne

    The Archbishop’s ad clerum advice is written as a willing subservience to the changes of the Marriage Act and so brings the Melbourne Diocese rigorously into line with the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013. It is difficult to read this statement as anything other than a statement that the change to the Marriage Act has changed reality itself. This is ecclesiastical mimicry of the political dithering from “both sides” of politics. Those bringing in these legislated changes cannot transparently face the new requirement that the Marriage Act now demands of Christians in this country. They must now allow this false teaching about marriage to be set forth in the weddings they seek whether it is they who are getting married or those who are duly authorised to lawfully confirm the vows a man and a woman make in promised to be husband and wife. The changes to the Marriage Act were legislated, as the new Monitum reveals in its clarification of the new definition of “spouse”, to make it compliant with the 2013 amendment. This ad clerum advice of one leader in one denomination simply confirms a churchly complicity in an ongoing process that seeks to trash Jesus’ teaching and thereby brings Christian marriage itself into disrepute. Notice there is no recognition of the pastoral consequences that arise from a liturgy compromised by the Government’s imperious demand that the false teaching of the Monitum be part of any duly conducted lawful wedding ceremony.

    1. Paul Nolan

      Hi bc. It should be pointed out the monitum (S.46 (1) of the Marriage Act) is not required now, nor has been since 1961, to be used by ministers of religion as authorised celebrants. Their legal requirement iro the ceremony are spelt out in S.45 (1).

      That said, I agree with the thrust of your comment. Parliament have put the ball firmly back in the Christian churches’ court. If no change to the Act is forthcoming from the Ruddock Panel (there are a number of sensible submissions covering this very area), then our churches will need to decide very quickly if we follow Christ’s teaching on the correct parties to a marriage or continue our present involvement in administering the Act.

      My strong wish and recommendation is that the Anglican Church of Australia offer Holy Matrimony on a stand alone basis. Faithful men and women so joined will surely not object to an additional 10 minute ceremony at a registry to be considered legally wed.

      1. bcwearne

        Thankyou Paul for your help in clarifying an important issue. I may even need further clarification as to how the monitum is typically “used” or referred to by ministers of religion as authorised celebrants. Sorry to go on here, but this is indeed a serious public-legal complexity. Thankyou for reading this.

        As much as the Monitum’s stipulated “use” in a ceremony is important – more important is the teaching or the doctrine embodied in the Monitum that includes the statement of how the legislation now considers lawful marriage. Is the church wedding within the same polity or not? Are the weddings solemnised in church somehow exempt from the Government’s view of the marriages that can be solemnised in civil dress? And a church wedding when it is of a wife-and-husband (as it should be if it is to be a Christian wedding) should not be the occasion to take the Government to task for its mistaken legislative definition of marriage. Do not the amendments to the Marriage Act as passed late last year problematise what should not be problematic, namely Government’s explicit respect for husband-and-wife marriage. Should not this explicit respect, quite rightly, be available to the man-and-woman seeking Christian marriage in a church?

        Certainly the Monitum as formulated in Section 46 exists for civil ceremonies. And the fact that the law governing civil ceremonies now effectively excludes Christian civil celebrants and Christian civil marriage celebrations (i.e. the absence of an explicit statement of Government’s respect and support for a husband-wife marriage in a Monitum) should not only be of concern to parliamentary law-makers but be of concern to those conducting weddings in churches if they are truly concerned about Christian marriage qua institution.

        The deep irony was that this all took place under the rubric of “marriage equality”. Now where is the equality between a wedding conducted by ministers of religion as authorised celebrants and civil celebrations?

        It will be of interest to learn whether any church submissions to the Ruddock Panel have come out in support of amendments that would allow Christian civil celebrants and Christian civil weddings.

        But then this political issue should not be reduced to simply a matter of how lawful weddings are to be lawfully conducted.

        Consider, should not those married as husband and wife before this change in the definition of lawful marriage – whether 5, 10, 40, or 60 years ago – be able to look at the Marriage Act (the legislation formed by the parliament, representatives who are accountable to their electors and hence truly their legislation and their Act) and see their husband-wife relationship ascribed in terms that guarantee due public legal respect? I put it to you that they/we cannot now do so. The Marriage Act’s meaning and purpose should not be to re-educate us into some ideological reconfiguration of the reality of a lawful union which should be recognised for what it is – a husband-and-wife union.

        1. Paul Nolan

          Hello again bc. The relevant part of S. 46 (1) reads “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.” but please note that S.46 is not used by or referred to by ministers of religion.

          In the Australian Anglican Church the legal requirement in respect of the ceremony, (s. 45 (1), is met by using the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony wherein the minister makes it quite clear that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

          So to answer your question – is a church wedding within the same polity? – yes church weddings, in order to be lawful, are covered by the Marriage Act. But S.45(1) enables Christian ministers to use a form of ceremony which reinforces Christ’s teaching on the correct parties to a marriage.

          Divers marriage legislation from the First Fleet onwards has authorised churches to combine sacramental and civil solemnisations in one church service. That was no problem when the law and the sacrament agreed that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. Now that the law and the sacrament differ on such a fundamental, Christian churches must decide if they should remain involved with the Act.

          1. bcwearne

            Thankyou once again Paul for spelling out what is lawful in this polity for Anglican churches in the conduct of (Christian) weddings. I have read through BCP 1662 service and note, in particular, the reference to the public legal order in the publishing of the bans (making it known in the community) and also in the final paragraph of the celebrant’s opening address.The service presupposes that any such union needs to be lawful (i.e. not illegal) and nested and supported in the community in which the church and the couple exists (the appeal to the congregation as accountable witnesses “we are gathered” and “if any can shew just cause…”). It is not about clergy having elbow room to exercise their choices according to their consciences.

            My concern is that Christian churches now need to reform their marriage liturgies and a step would be to request from the Government a formal statement that can included in the marriage ceremony that truly and lawfully conveys the Government’s respect for, and sense of privilege to be a guardian of, the public integrity of husband-wife marriage qua institution. Moreover, the form should be identical to an alternative monitum (i.e. reckoning with Freedom of Religion for marriage celebrants) that should now be made available by legislative amendment to the Marriage Act. The legal provision for civil weddings should not exclude, as it now does, the possibility of Christian civil weddings and Christian civil celebrants by wording that prevents those who believe marriage to be husband-and-wife between male-and-female. Male-and-female weddings should not be coerced by the Act’s legislated weasle words about “two persons”, and its exclusionary attempts in the use of the word “spouse” (i.e. seeking to bring the Marriage Act in line with the 2013 Amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act).

            The Christian church’s task with respect to advocating public justice for marriage and weddings is not simply about securing Freedom of Religion of the churches or of Christians. But its calling is, by proclaimed word and appropriate (political) deed, to do all that it can to persuade Government, whatever mistakes it may continue to make in its formulation of the Marriage Act and the administration thereof, that it should give due respect to husband-wife marriages and it should be explicit. The public-legal respect that Christian churches should call for from Government is to marriage as husband-and-wife. That teaching is integral to its teaching ministry given to it by Christ (Matthew 28:20). The Christian Church has a teaching ministry and this means refuting errors, even errors promulgated the civil authority, as in the amended words of the Marriage Act’s definition of marriage.

Leave a Comment - but please pay careful attention to the house rules