Diocese of Perth approves extra-marital sex for clergy and church workers

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At it’s annual synod, meeting this last weekend, the Diocese of Perth has approved changes to Faithfulness in Service (the Anglican Church of Australia’s national code of conduct) that remove the expectation for clergy and church workers to refrain from sex outside marriage. The amended text provided to synod, showing the effect of the change, was as follows,

In an explanatory memorandum, the Diocese’s legislative committee provides only the following commentary on this significant change,

The form of Faithfulness in Service being presented for adoption here is a slightly modified form of the most up-to-date revision of the code and is the form of Faithfulness in Service used in the Diocese of Adelaide. The modification comes in clause 7.4 where the clause is amended so that it reads, “You are to be chaste and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature”. It is hoped that it would commend itself to the members of Synod as a desirable set of standards and guidelines for those who lead and set an example in the life of our churches.

p28, Book Two – Business Paper Synod 2019

davidould.net understands this change was the subject of significant debate in the legislative committee for several months prior to synod but liberal voices were insistent.

The revised standard, which now means that sexual activity outside marriage is now considered appropriate for clergy and church workers, was adopted on the voices by synod.

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  1. Stephen Bond

    Extraordinary, a remarkable thing to read, or I should say ‘re-read’. I could say that it leaves me speechless, but in fact, will probably end up spluttering disbelief until it dawns on me that this is Progress. It follows that who am I to have a perspective on what constitutes the patent limitations of marriage vows? And the good news is that in the light of this development, for sheer market differentiation, all the Catholics have got are swinging censers: we Anglicans can presumably look forward to swinging in other domains of human endeavour.

  2. James Warren

    Looks like we keep being able to work out that the Bible is actually saying the opposite to what it’s saying?!?

  3. linda nolan

    not the wording i would have chosen. chaste = abstaining from unlawful or immoral or from all sexual intercourse (0xford dict). presumably they meant you are to be restrained & not engage etc.

  4. Brian Fyffe

    I wonder what their definition of chaste is now – it is probably a meaningless word for many clergy and volunteers in the Perth diocese of the Anglican Church. “Chaste” for liberals probably means not doing something that you would prefer not to do, rather than reference to any objective standard. If intercourse outside of marriage is now permissible under the Professional Standards, then they have implicitly redefined the meaning of the word Chaste. What will be the next boundary they try to stretch?

    1. Andrew

      Sexual abuse of children? Oh hang on….the Anglican church has already been found to have turned a blind eye to that

    2. Brian Fyffe

      “And in that diocese, everyone did what was right in their own eyes, for in that diocese, they had no King.”
      I wonder now who defines what is “disgraceful”? This is another word that is at risk of losing its meaning, if we can all be pleased with our own individual definition. Is Intercourse between two unmarried people not disgraceful? Or what about intercourse between one married person and one unmarried person, or between two men – I would say these are disgraceful, and the Bible says this is an abomination, but clearly the LGBTIQA+ lobbyists in the Perth Diocese wouldn’t think that.

  5. Nick Russell

    This is such a misleading headline and article. You write as if Faithfulness in Service was already instituted in the Perth Diocese and the motion removed a clause that was previously there. It wasn’t. FIS has been debated over for years but has always failed to receive assent because of the above clause. At this synod FIS has finally been adopted but with that one change. Are you aware that the motion was proposed by an evangelical and had the support of the Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Church in the diocese? Yes the original FIS is preferable to us evangelicals but faced with the choice of no FIS or with FIS with that clause removed, most of us can see that the modified FIS is better than none. This motion was a positive step towards biblical morality (even if it wasn’t far enough), not a negative one as your article suggestions. Some less misleading reporting would give this article the integrity it needs. I guess clickbait beat integrity in this case.

    1. David Ould

      hi Nick,
      I’m sorry that you see it that way. Yes, it is clear from the business paper linked to in the piece that this is the first adoption of FiS in the diocese. Nevertheless, as you yourself note, the only way to get such adoption was to abandon this key Biblical truth.
      As for the motion being proposed by an evangelical, I’m sure that you are not arguing that it means that evangelicals were in favour of the abandonment of Biblical truth on this matter. And, accordingly, the article does not make any such suggestion.
      Yes, it was good to get FiS adopted. But the only way to do so was to abandon this key point of principle and so that is the story – the Diocese of Perth has voted to abandoned Biblical integrity on the matter.

      1. Nick Russell

        Wanted to apologise for my tone about David – it’s never wise to write on the interweb when I’m annoyed/angry. I think my argument is clear above. For the typical reader of this blog who would not have the time nor will to click on links to business papers, they would take your headline and opening lines as meaning that FIS was already there and the motion was to remove that one clause. Again, apologies for the tone previously, I simply wanted to clarify what actually occurred to your readers.

        1. David Ould

          nothing to apologise for, Nick. I wasn’t in the slightest hurt or offended.

  6. anthonydouglas

    Ironically, the first thing that occurred to me was that this vote itself constituted disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature…

    But thanks Nick for clarification – will better focus prayers.


    Gosh, are the Anglican Times a Changing! The Question is, whether the change is in the right direction.

  8. Juan

    “At its annual synod,” in place of “At it’s annual synod,” would be better.

    1. James D

      No, it’s “its”!

      Possessive is “its”, which is confusing because most (all?) other words need the apostrophe for possessives. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is”.

  9. Craig Newill

    David, I was stunned to read of this deletion but when I pulled down the full set of Synod papers and saw the full page on which the deletion occurs, I saw that the preamble actually upholds biblical standards for sex saying that it is to only occur in marriage. I would think that if the doicese had abandoned biblical integrity it would have to amend the points in the preamble too. I am not sure why they voted to delete those words but I can’t honestly say that it was for the purpose of adopting an unbiblical sexual ethic.

  10. Jon

    David, as far as I am aware ‘chaste’ means abstaining from extramarital sex (or all sexual intercourse) so does removing the clause just mean they actually removed a clause that was redundant anyway?

    I’m not privy to the conversations of the Church in Perth but it would be interesting to see a clarification. I imagine they believe chaste to mean no extramarital sex. If thy suggest otherwise, then it’s appalling but I’m not sure we can just jump to that conclusion.

    1. David Ould

      hi Jon. It’s always tricky when there’s a distinction between the long ongoing conversations about these things in the diocese and the final wording. As others have noted, the word “chaste” can mean various things. The removal of the clause about marriage is a fascinating one – no other diocese that I know of has made such a change nor thought it necessary. In documents like this I would have thought clarity was a virtue.

      1. Alan

        David, you could not be (sadly) more mistaken. A little googling reveals that (at least) three dioceses have tinkered with clause 7.4:

        The Diocese of Adelaide adopted the Perth version 13 years ago! See https://adelaideanglicans.com/code-of-conduct.
        The Diocese of Newcastle’s version omits the same words, stating:
        “You are to set an example of integrity in relationships and faithfulness in marriage and not engage in disgraceful conduct of a sexual nature” More newsworthy is that the Diocese of Newcastle has a completely different version of clause 7.4: https://www.newcastleanglican.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Faithfulness-in-Service-Anglican-Diocese-of-Newcastle-August-2019.pdf
        The Diocese of Grafton’s version is the vaguest of all, stating that “Your sexual behaviour should be characterised by faithfulness and integrity”:

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