The annual meeting of the Australian Anglican Bishops has responded to a request to revisit a protocol on appointments and human sexuality by broadening and strengthening the protocol.
I understand from reliable sources that the new version of the protocol, which previously only specified sexual ethics, now refers to the entire of Faithfulness in Service, the Anglican Church of Australia’s national code of conduct. The standards of behaviour included in the original protocol [pdf] are thus maintained and the general minimum requirements included in the protocol are broadened in their scope.
I also understand that the following should be taken into account:
- I’ve been told that one of the original concerns of Bishop McIntyre was that the protocol unfairly singled out homosexuals for special attention with nothing to be said about drunkards, bullies etc. This has now been rectified.
- The bishops see it as their role to uphold doctrine as set out by General Synod, not to create it.
- That being the caseI am told it was communicated to Bishop McIntyre by a prominent conservative that if he wanted to change doctrine the way to do it was through General Synod, not by a change of protocol or simply by establishing facts on the ground.
- Faithfulness in Service was adopted by the General Synod in 2004. Any change to the standards set out there would also need to be passed by General Synod.
- Thus attention may then turn to the General Synod which meets from 29 June to 4 July in Adelaide. We may see a motion to set out an alternate understanding of homosexual behaviour, coupled with a matching change in FiS. Then again, we may not.
Conservatives will be very pleased with this outcome. The vast majority of bishops received the proposed change gladly and I am told that those who may argue a different case value the unity of the church over and above that particular cause at this stage.
On a personal note, I had argued 2 years ago when the original protest was made over the appointment in Gippsland that Faithfulness in Service was the best way forward here and here since it sets out orthodox doctrine and corresponding praxis.
Many will be reassured and grateful to see the bishops clearly uphold that position as they did over the past few days.