Angli­care faces in­ter­nal ruc­tions over Syd­ney dio­cese $1m no cam­paign do­na­tion

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Michael McGowan

The $1m do­na­tion to the cam­paign against same-sex mar­riage from the Syd­ney Angli­can dio­cese has in­fu­ri­ated sec­tions of the church’s char­ity arm, who fear it will un­der­mine the sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the two bod­ies.

On Wed­nes­day Angli­care Aus­tralia, which is made up of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the char­ity’s state bod­ies, tweeted that it “hasn’t do­nated to the no cam­paign” and wasn’t “a party to the Syd­ney dio­cese’s de­ci­sion to make a do­na­tion”.

“We com­pletely un­der­stand why news of the Syd­ney Dio­cese do­na­tion has caused real and deep hurt and anger,” the agency tweeted. “Angli­care’s staff and vol­un­teers work to help peo­ple. We hope those in need won’t be de­terred from seek­ing help with an Angli­care agency.”

The state­ment came as a re­sult of sig­nif­i­cant un­rest within the var­i­ous Angli­care bod­ies, who be­lieve the do­na­tion and Syd­ney arch­bishop Glenn Davies’ sub­se­quent com­ments risk un­der­min­ing the char­ity’s mis­sion.

While Angli­care is linked with the Angli­can church, in most states it op­er­ates in­de­pen­dently. The ex­cep­tion is in Syd­ney, where the church de­liv­ers ser­vices di­rectly.

Af­ter the Syd­ney dio­cese’s do­na­tion sparked a back­lash from within the church, it pub­lished a let­ter from Davies which di­rectly linked the do­na­tion to Angli­care’s ser­vices, and ques­tioned its abil­ity to “op­er­ate on the ba­sis of a Chris­tian ethos” if same-sex mar­riage was le­galised.

Davies wrote that par­tic­i­pa­tion in the no cam­paign was “not at the ex­pense of our com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice, but be­cause of it”.

“We be­lieve that the best way for Angli­care and other Chris­tian agen­cies to serve the so­cial good is for them to be able to op­er­ate on the ba­sis of a Chris­tian ethos, and to re­cruit Chris­tian staff and vol­un­teers,” he wrote.

“A le­gal recog­ni­tion of same­sex mar­riage will sig­nif­i­cantly af­fect Angli­can bod­ies who wish to main­tain and pro­mote a Chris­tian un­der­stand­ing of mar­riage in op­po­si­tion to the law of the land.”

Those com­ments have caused sig­nif­i­cant un­rest within Angli­care.

Paul Mac­Don­ald, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Angli­care Vic­to­ria, told Guardian Aus­tralia that while he did not “pass judg­ment” on the Syd­ney dio­cese’s sup­port for the no cam­paign, he took ex­cep­tion to the sug­ges­tion that Angli­care would be “dis­ad­van­taged in the re­cruit­ment of staff and vol­un­teers if the yes vote was to be suc­cess­ful”.

“Angli­care Vic­to­ria ex­ists to cre­ate a more just so­ci­ety by ex­press­ing God’s love through ser­vice, ed­u­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy,” he said.

“We be­lieve in end­ing any dis­crim­i­na­tion that our clients ex­pe­ri­ence and en­sur­ing that they are treated equally and in­clu­sively in our com­mu­nity. The pro­mo­tion of equal­ity and in­clu­sion goes to the very heart of our work at Angli­care Vic­to­ria.”

He said the re­sults of the vol­un­tary postal sur­vey “will not af­fect our abil­ity to hire staff or vol­un­teers as be­ing suggested”.

“Nor does it af­fect any of the ser­vices we de­liver to our clients,” he said. “Our ap­point­ments of staff, fos­ter car­ers or vol­un­teers are based on the sole cri­te­ria of the abil­ity to de­liver care, sup­port and pro­grams to our chil­dren young peo­ple and fam­ily clients at the high stan­dards that we re­quire.

“The is­sues of re­li­gious as­so­ci­a­tion or sex­ual pref­er­ence are ir­rel­e­vant in our de­ci­sions.”

The Syd­ney do­na­tion has been crit­i­cised by a broad sec­tion of the church, in­clud­ing those who would usu­ally be as­so­ci­ated with the no side.

Rev­erend Mike Paget from St Barn­abas on Broad­way in Syd­ney wrote in a lengthy Face­book post that while he was holds a “clas­si­cally Chris­tian view of mar­riage” he dis­agreed with the do­na­tion.

He wrote that the do­na­tion was “out of pro­por­tion with our com­mit­ments to other causes” and rep­re­sented “poor fi­nan­cial stew­ard­ship” be­cause he be­lieved a leg­isla­tive change to the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage was “in­evitable”.

“We also gave about $1m to set­tle Syr­ian refugees in Aus­tralia, pri­mar­ily through the arch­bishop’s appeal,” he said. “If our dio­cese were to al­lo­cate funds to the cam­paign, my pref­er­ence would have been for a di­rect al­lo­ca­tion of $1m to refugees and an appeal for those who wished to con­trib­ute fi­nan­cially to the no cam­paign.”

Paget also said the de­ci­sion was “ex­tremely hard to ex­plain to con­gre­ga­tions or the pub­lic”, and would “dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fect churches with large num­bers of young adults”.

“I do not think older Chris­tians al­ways un­der­stand the enor­mous pres­sure to re­nounce Je­sus and his teach­ing that the young ex­pe­ri­ence daily from their peers,” he wrote.

Peter Catt, the dean of St John’s Angli­can cathe­dral in Bris­bane and spokesman for Pro­gres­sive Chris­tian Voice, said he was “amazed” that the Syd­ney dio­cese had spent the money on “an ad cam­paign”.

Catt pointed to polling which has found a ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralian Chris­tians sup­port same-sex mar­riage and said opin­ions on the is­sue var­ied widely within the church.

“I would have thought we could have spent the money on an is­sue with much more agree­ment across the church,” he said.

“The church is pretty well in lock­step about the need to deal with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, home­less­ness, refugee rights. If you have $1m why not spend it on some­thing you know can make a ma­te­rial dif­fer­ence?

“In terms of the pri­or­i­ties and per­cep­tion of what the church does with its money, it’s not par­tic­u­larly help­ful.”

Pho­to­graph: David Moir/AAP

Syd­ney Angli­can arch­bishop Glenn Davies di­rectly linked the anti-same-sex mar­riage do­na­tion to Angli­care’s ser­vices.

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