BREAKING: Bishop of Newcastle Lifts Ban on Same-Sex Blessings

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In a move that can only serve to push the Anglican Church of Australia into much deeper crisis, the Bishop of Newcastle Peter Stuart has written a Pastoral Letter where he signals his approval of clergy conducting a blessing of couples married in a same-sex marriage.

In his familiar style, Stuart does not explicitly state the change of conditions but his meaning has been clearly understood by its recipients:

Clergy and lay representatives to the Synod will be aware that my view, formed after wide engagement with others, is that, despite some commentary to the opposite, the legal and pastoral fact is that a member of the clergy of this Diocese, at this time, is not prohibited from using the ‘Wangaratta service’ or a similar service.

Request – It is my request to clergy that should they seek to lead a service of blessing for persons of the same gender who have been married according to the Marriage Act within a church building within a Parish that they ascertain, well prior to the service, that the Incumbent and Parish Council of the Parish have confirmed by resolution recorded in the Minutes of the Parish that they are willing for the church building to be used for that ministry.

Bishop Stuart also addresses the means by which this could be officially approved in the diocese. This may be since the original bill has technically lapsed since it was first passed. Nevertheless Stuart argues that the Diocesan Council (effectively the standing committee for the synod when it is not meeting is an appropriate vehicle for such approval,

It is up to our Synod, or the Diocesan Council as its delegate (when it has the proper authority), to change ordinances or change which canons are in force. I know that some people lament that Synod is the forum for this work but in our Anglican way, it is the forum that is created to exercise these exact responsibilities.

It is understandable that Bishop Stuart would not want to return to synod this year to get the entire diocese’s approval. When the original bills were passed there was outrage from orthodox Anglicans who complained that the handling of the vote was “a stitch up” describing the bishop’s actions at the time as a “breach of trust” and that “Conservatives and evangelicals have been treated with contempt”. understands that a large number of clergy and parishes in the diocese are now speaking to Gafcon about alternative oversight.

Readers may wait with keen interest to see if the Primate and other diocesan bishops who have been openly critical of Gafcon in recent days will respond with equivalent language and tone about this unilateral move by the Bishop of Newcastle.

Stuart closes his letter (embedded below) with the call to “be strong in our common bond of faith”. It now appears that many in his diocese will see this as a final deliberate breach of that bond.

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This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Steven Smith

    One can only admire the courage of Bishop Peter. To stand up to, and move away from archaic and discrimatory practices, shows true leadership

    1. David Ould

      moving directly away from the teaching of Jesus and the doctrine of the church is a particular form of leadership, that’s true.

    2. chris russell

      To Steven Smith. What you refer to as “archaic and discriminatory practices” has been the witness of the Christian church from the very beginning. If you see it is as archaic and discriminatory, then you should leave it, with your integrity intact.

      1. Steven Smith

        I left 45 years ago. I have no concerns about my integrity. I do however have serious concerns with those who preach love and practice hate.

        1. chris russell

          OK, then, your integrity may be intact, but outsiders, also, need to get past the cliches of the political left. I readily acknowledge the fact that social conservatism is influential in the opposition to the blessing of sexual misconduct that is being facilitated by Peter Stuart et al. I would also say that Gafcon and the Diocese of Sydney appear both to lack proper concern in respect of the problem.

  2. Robert Bruce

    Peter Stuart’s letter comes as no surprise. His weasel words declare his apostasy.
    He talks about “proclaiming the Gospel” and then proceeds to encourage practices that are contrary to Jesus’s teachings.
    What the Bible says about homosexual practices is clear. There is absolutely no place at all for Bible-believing Christians to bless things that the scriptures condemn. That does not mean we condemn those who sin in sexual ways: it is not for us to judge other people. We will continue to love the sinner but not the sin; we are all sinners and we pray that all will come to experience the forgiveness with which we have been blessed by repenting and believing.
    Peter Stuart apparently understands nothing of the authority of the Bible. He is leading those who would follow him away from God’s Word, to Hell.

  3. Ian Porter

    This is so sad. The Bride of Christ has left her husband to become a lesbian, all the while thinking that this will honour and please her husband, who ‘gave himself for her’.

  4. Jill England

    Yes, such clever use of language to attempt to justify teaching and practice which is an abomination to God and which directly contradicts the teaching and practice of the Church the Bishop claims to serve. Such rationalisation is an exercise in self-deception which unfortunately deceives others also, doing untold damage to God’s Church while also distracting the Church from her mission. Does anyone whose actions are guided by such rationalisation really claim to know God’s Heart, I wonder? How do those rationalisations hold up in those quiet moments before God?

  5. Bruce Lyon

    +Stuart appears resigned to the idea that those conservatives who leave will form new Churches under GAFCON and seems ok with that.

    I assume minus property …

  6. Tim Tunbridge

    +Stuart shows no concern or compassion for those same sex attracted Christians endeavouring to live a celebrate life in obedience to the commands of Jesus.

  7. John Clarke

    And in the Armidale Diocese Bishop Rod Chiswell is attacked for adhering to Faithfulness in Service. Bishop Rod has been criticised for this by the usual groups including Peter McLeod-Miller plus his (Chiswell’s) local State MP. The issue is do we want to be popular with society or do we acknowledge God as sovereign and live for his glory and not our own.

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