The Synod of the Anglican Diocese of Grafton, meeting this weekend 21-23 June, is to debate a motion asking the General Synod to implement same-sex marriage.
The full text of the motion, proposed by Dean Greg Jenks, is
24. That this Synod encourage the 2020 General Synod to adopt optional provisions for the blessing of civil marriages as well as an optional liturgy for the solemnization of Holy Matrimony where the parties to the marriage are of the same gender.
Moved: The Very Reverend Greg Jenks
Seconded: Canon Lee Archinal
Other related motions include a more general “Affirming of All God’s People with Radical Hospitality” (Motion 23) which states that “God affirms the goodness in the gender and sexual identity of all people” (although davidould.net suspects they don’t actually mean all people since there must be some sexual identities that Grafton Diocese is not yet ready to affirm).
There is also a motion (28) on “Conversion Therapy”, similar to that seen in other Dioceses calling for a blanket ban. We’ve written about that type of motion before.
The motion on same-sex marriage is the next contribution to a delicate political situation in the Anglican Church of Australia. As reported on davidould.net, the Standing Committee of the General Synod has recently called for a “Special Session” in 2020 that will be minimal in nature. This is widely seen as an attempt to avoid any decisive voting on the topic of same-sex marriage, although space is currently scheduled for a more open discussion on the subject (albeit without motions).
Why might such a delay be called for? The consensus opinion amongst those davidould.net has talked to is that theological liberals know that they currently don’t have the votes on the floor of General Synod (as evidenced by the robust orthodox motions in 2017). A vote on the main issue in General Synod would almost certainly be lost. Thus many will, presumably, seek to achieve their goals in different ways (including through the Appellate Tribunal – the method by which General Synod was bypassed on the question of women bishops). There is always still the possibility of a diocese acting unilaterally.
Where does the Grafton motion sit in all of this? Taken at face value it appears to be an attempt to put the matter at General Synod and to honour the agreed process of the bishops to settle this matter within regular the constitutional processes of the national church. However, those behind the Grafton motion will also be clear that they cannot achieve their goals through General Synod. So to what end this motion?
davidould.net thinks that what the motion achieves is a clear statement in support of same-sex marriage for the diocese that does not, however, require its own bishop to act (other than to put the motion “as requested” at General Synod). Were that motion then to fail (as it surely would), the diocese might then be able to argue the pressing necessity of a local option, having already established momentum for it. Bishop Murray Harvey can keep his hands relatively clean in the process and yet still have something substantial to present at the national level.
The full Motions and Questions document is embedded below: