Wangaratta’s Anglican diocese to explore avenues for blessing of civil unions
WANGARATTA’S Anglican diocese synod has offered “overwhelming” support for a motion to explore the blessing by clergy of civil same sex unions.
The result of changes to the Commonwealth Marriage Act was one of the key issues - along with response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and management of the diocese’s aged care homes – to arise during the weekend gathering of about 100 clergy and laity in Wangaratta.
Bishop of Wangaratta John Parkes said the “motion of support and encouragement” to the LGBTI community was significant, and built on the region’s backing of same sex marriage in last year’s national plebiscite.
“It is interesting that we are beginning to realise how badly we have treated LGBTI people,” Bishop Parkes said.
“We are beginning to realise that love is love, that people are made by God as they are, that some people are gay, some people are straight, some people are black, some people are white.
“I’m proud of the synod and delighted we have a common mind, that it is a strengthening of society when loving people commit to one another.”
The motion put to the Wangaratta Synod on Saturday was that the gathering:
* acknowledge the widespread national and local support for the recent changes to Australian marriage laws to include same sex couples;
* commend the pastoral value of the Bishop authorising a form of blessing for optional use within the Diocese of Wangaratta alongside or in addition to a wedding conducted by a civil celebrant; and
* request that the Bishop of Wangaratta ensure opportunity for the clergy and laity of the diocese to engage in further discussion as part of the process leading to the potential diocesan provision for the blessing of civil marriages.
The motion was moved by Archdeacon Clarence Bester, and seconded by Archdeacon Emeritus Dr John Davis.
While the decision was not unanimous, Bishop Parkes said the motion was passed “overwhelmingly”.
He said there had been some requests made in the diocese for blessing of same sex unions, and he would continue to take advice on how the diocese could bless civil same sex unions while upholding the canon of the church’s constitution.
“While it remains not possible to conduct marriages according to the rites of the Anglican Church of Australia, the question does arise whether clergy are able to bless civil unions,” Bishop Parkes said in his address, or charge, to the synod on Friday.
“Questions of law and theology are being considered by the Church Law Commission and the Doctrine Commission. They
We are beginning to realise that love is love, that people are made by God as they are, that some people are gay, some people are straight, some people are black, some people are white. - BISHOP OF WANGARATTA, JOHN PARKES
will advise in the fullness of time what position the national church might take.
“I am taking my own advice as to whether I have the power at law and the proper theological, exegetical and hermeneutical justification to promulgate a service of blessing of same sex unions for use within the Diocese of Wangaratta.
“Should I determine to proceed in this way, I will force no person to act against their conscience.
“Nevertheless, and despite the trenchantly expressed views of some, the question of same sex attraction is not a settled question in our church. And we need to deal with it.”
Bishop Parkes’ charge also included apologies to both the LGBTI community, and to survivors of sexual abuse, as well as mention of the changes in motion to ensure the diocese complies with child safe standards in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
“Critically, the team is working towards real, meaningful change: the sort of change that will provide a safe environment for each and every one of us,” he said.
He said a safe church review audit conducted in early 2017 was revisited in March this year, “and it showed the diocese has made significant progress in implementation against the child safe/safe church standards over the past year”.