Australian bishops have rejected a statement affirming the biblical basis for marriage as the national church’s official position.
At the first meeting of the Anglican Church of Australia’s General Synod since same-sex marriage was legalised there in 2017, members voted on whether to affirm that: “The solemnisation of a marriage between a same-sex couple is contrary to the teaching of Christ and the faith, ritual, ceremonial and/or discipline of this Church.”
The Houses of Laity and Clergy overwhelmingly backed the motion, but the bishops exercised their veto, voting to reject the statement.
A church tribunal concluded in 2020 that blessings of same-sex marriages would fall within the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia.
However, the tribunal said the General Synod should be left to determine church practice and to express its own position on the matter.
The Archbishop of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel, then proposed the statement which was backed by the Houses of Laity and Clergy, which voted 57 and 64 per cent in favour respectively.
Due to the system of governance in the Church, the large majority was able to be overruled by the House of Bishops, which rejected it by just a two-vote margin.
‘Valuable missed opportunity’
In a statement, Archbishop Raffel expressed his disappointment that some bishops had voted against making a clear statement, saying a “valuable moment for clarity has been lost”.
However, he added: “The doctrine of our church has not changed. The previous Synod carried two separate motions affirming the teaching of Jesus on marriage.
“Today, the majority of the House affirmed the teaching of Jesus on the subject of marriage”.
According to Raffel, the small margin by which the motion was defeated leaves the church uncertain about the leadership’s unity around “a common understanding of Scripture”.
Former Free Church of Scotland Moderator, David Robertson, now a church commentator based in Australia, said: “The behaviour of the bishops was reprehensible. Ignoring the clear will of the Church”.
Robertson said the result shows that the majority of Anglicans still hold to a biblical view of marriage and called for unity among believers.