Anglican Church in Australia splits over same-sex marriage

Australia Anglican Church split

The Anglican Church in Australia has split, triggered by intractable divisions over same-sex marriage and accusations that bishops are out of touch with grassroots Anglicans.

The Diocese of the Southern Cross was officially launched in Canberra on Sunday, with former Sydney Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies (pictured) named its first bishop.

“I think you’ll see the Diocese of the Southern Cross will have a significant impact,” the 71-year-old told the Sydney Morning Herald. He added that many Anglicans felt the Australian church had strayed from the teachings of the Bible.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Adelaide Archbishop Geoffrey Smith, labeled the move as “perplexing” in a statement published Thursday.

A meeting of the General Synod held in May this year “clearly affirmed the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, and declined to affirm same-sex marriage,” Smith said.

“It is perplexing therefore that the leaders of this breakaway movement cite the reason for this new denomination as the failure of General Synod to explicitly express an opinion against the blessing of same-sex marriages.”

But an attempt by the Sydney archdiocese to affirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman was narrowly voted down at a synod in May, prompting warnings of the risk of a schism.

Notably, the statement upholding the traditional view of marriage was passed by the house of the laity by 63 votes to 47 and by the house of clergy by 70 votes to 39. But the bishops exercised their veto power by rejecting the statement by 12 to 10, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Two bishops abstained.

This led to the accusations that bishops were out of touch with grassroots Anglicans.

Conservatives have declared the issue of same-sex marriage a “line in the sand”. They are concerned that progressives within the church have put modern social justice considerations above the Bible’s “unchanging truth” that marriage is between a man and a woman.

However, progressive Anglicans say they are “devastated” by the split and question whether a breakaway group can still consider itself Anglican.

Peter Stuart, the Bishop of Newcastle, apologised to the LGBTQI community. “I am sorry for the pain that you endure too often when Anglicans speak,” he said. North Queensland Bishop Keith Joseph described the split as an “error”.

Clarence Bester, the Bishop of Wangaratta, said it was “a sadness that we discriminate against people, and we use scripture as justification”.

Dorothy Lee, an Anglican theologian and priest, described it as a sad day for the church. “I think [the decision to launch a breakaway movement] is aggressive, and arrogant and absolutist,” she said.

According to the 2016 census, 3.1 million Australians identified as Anglicans, making it the second-largest Christian denomination in that country; the largest is the Roman Catholic Church.


Sydney Morning Herald

Catholic News Agency

The Guardian


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