“My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views,” he said. “But do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of scripture.”
The blunt words of Sydney archbishop Glenn Davies come at a critical moment for Australian churches and demands for religious freedom
During his annual speech to the Anglican Church’s Sydney synod, Archbishop Glenn Davies told supporters of same-sex marriage to “please leave us”.
“My own view is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views,” Davies said. “But do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of scripture.”
In a report published on the Sydney Anglicans website, Davies’s media manager, Russell Powell, said the archbishop received a standing ovation at the end of his address – as indeed he had.
But in pockets of the hall, there was also discomfort, if not with the core sentiment then with the tone. For a man renowned for his civility, the language was considered blunt by many.
Davies has long been frustrated by what he believes is the excessive liberalism or tolerance of other Australian bishops towards same-sex relationships, particularly among clergy.
Now he watches as two relatively small parts of the church – the dioceses of Wangaratta in Victoria and Newcastle in New South Wales – are moving to bless same-sex marriages.
Pro-gay marriage Anglicans are walking a fine line in the Australian church. Some want a full marriage rite, such as the one that exists in the Episcopal Church of the US. Others, such as the members of the Wangaratta synod, have voted to bless same-sex marriages conducted under civil law. To Sydney’s “guardians” (their word) of orthodoxy, it is a distinction without difference.
One leading Sydney Anglican – supportive of but frustrated with Davies – could not work out if the archbishop’s call to “please leave” was a statement about “discipline within the church as opposed to grace outside it”. Was he simply insisting that bishops and priests stop agitating for the church to accommodate same-sex marriage? Or was the leader of Australia’s most powerful Anglican diocese, in an unusually intemperate spray, shunning gay Christians at the door of the church?
It took Davies four days to clarify that his imprecise comments were directed at the bishops, not the parishioners, but the hurt has been profound, especially for those working in Anglican education and social services.
This is a critical moment for Australia’s churches. They are attempting to persuade the federal government to accommodate their demands for greater religious freedom, including the right to hire staff whose lives accord to strict Biblical views of sex and sexuality. At the same time, they insist they welcome LGBT students into their schools and gay Australians to use their welfare services.
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