The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Glenn Davies, has been getting some rough treatment of late, aided largely by media coverage that either deliberately or negligently took his words out of context.
The first instance was the reporting of three words, “please leave us,” taken out of an address that went for over an hour largely and reportedly said a message to those who wanted the Anglican Church to bless same-sex marriages. Read in context, though, it was clear that he was speaking to bishops, and not to the laity.
In his address to the Synod, Davies spoke of the Anglican Diocese of Wangaratta in Victoria which, last month with the approval of its Bishop, authorised the blessing of same-sex unions, a decision which has been appealed by the Primate.
Last weekend three more Australian dioceses announced proposals to bless same-sex marriages and protect clergy who themselves enter into same-sex marriages from disciplinary procedures.
Davies also welcomed to the Synod Bishop-elect Jay Behan, the first Bishop of the Church of Confessing Anglicans of Aotearoa New Zealand.
This new diocese has been created because the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia passed local laws last year allowing the blessing of same-sex marriages. As a result, a dozen congregations wanting to remain faithful to the clear Christian teaching on marriage and who could no longer, in good conscience, follow bishops who were so clearly opposed to it, decided to leave.
This new diocese is unlikely to be recognised by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Anglican communion worldwide, because it broke away from the recognised church in that country.
Those who left were suddenly without church buildings, places of residence for their clergy and all the other “material” goods accumulated by the church over the years, but deemed the situation so serious that they just had to leave.
It’s not just an issue for Australia and New Zealand. The debate over the blessing of same-sex unions will likely also arise at next year’s Lambeth Conference, an assembly of Anglican Bishops from around the world held approximately every 10 years.
So strong is the feeling that the progressives will win out at that assembly, a good number of more orthodox bishops – including Davies – have decided not to attend.
Those who want to uphold traditional teachings on marriage have been shut out of the Anglican communion by bishops priding themselves on “inclusion.” How ironic.
It was to those bishops that Davies said: “Please leave us.”
As we know too well, the Anglican communion is not alone in having bishops who want to use synodal processes to push a progressive agenda, but in the Catholic Church such figures must deal with the presence of the Vicar of Christ whose role it is to ensure the faith isn’t compromised by the dissenters.
Someone from the Anglican church had to call these bishops to account, and Archbishop Davies was right to do so. Good on him.
The media portrayal of him as someone who was asking the faithful who struggle with the teaching on marriage and sexuality to leave was unjust and it, too, needs to be called out.
The other aspect of the Synod that drew headlines – and ire – was the adoption of a doctrinal statement related to transgenderism.
The statement said that the Bible does not endorse “a divergence between biological sex and gender identity or expression” and names the seeking to separate sex and biology as “an attempt at self-creation” that denies the creative power of God.
While the statement was reported and commented on, the reason behind its adoption was largely ignored. But the reason is important.
The new Religious Discrimination Bill proposed by the government protects actions of religious institutions if they “may reasonably be regarded as being in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of the religion.”
While that is a positive step, the proposal foreshadows the need for a clearly identifiable doctrine that deals with transgenderism. Without it, religious teaching about transgenderism might not be protected by the new law.
The Sydney Anglicans have been so attacked in the past week or so for trying to do two things: first, to protect themselves against those inside the tent who want to change their teaching on issues of marriage, gender and sexuality, and second, to protect themselves against those on the outside who want to use anti-discrimination laws to punish them for the same.
They shouldn’t be attacked; they should be congratulated for their courage and their leadership.
As people of faith, it is more important than ever that we stand together during these times and I’m pleased to stand alongside the Sydney Anglicans on the battlefield.