The Australian General Synod will be asked to express “sadness” over a “conservative” decision by the Diocese of Sydney, which required its schools to reaffirm that marriage is only between a man and a woman. A recent motion, presented to the General Synod meeting by Adelaide theologian and academic Reverend Matthew Anstey, highlights “the deleterious impact such a statement has on the mission of the entire Anglican Church of Australia.” The requirement, the motion continues, is “unprecedented” in the Anglican Church of Australia and would represent “a marked departure” from the Church’s own practice of “individual freedom of conscience in moral matters.”
The motion was discussed May 11 at the General Synod meeting along the Gold Coast in Queensland. The meeting lasted five days and was the first assembly since 2017, following the cancellation due to the pandemic of the session scheduled for 2020 and the replacement session scheduled for 2021.
An overly “aggressive” clause
According to press reports, several principals of Anglican schools in Sydney have reportedly complained to Monsignor Kanishka Raffel, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, about the requirements of his diocese.
The principals said the statement of faith they are required to sign would include an overly “aggressive” clause, “contrary to the laws of the country,” which would seriously limit potential principals and school leaders. Interviewed on condition of anonymity by The Sydney Morning Herald, the principals said they were also concerned about gay students and their parents.
Principals in revolt
The clause was added to the statement of faith by the 2019 Sydney Diocesan Synod. Concerns arose following announcements of an impending vacancy for the principal’s position at St. Catherine’s School in Waverley. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the outgoing principal, Julie Townsend, reportedly wrote to parents that “discriminatory and harmful views have no place in our school.”
The letter goes on to say, “We are a diocesan school, but we are not the Diocese of Sydney. I know that many people are confronting the diocese to explain why the updated statement of faith in 2019 has no place in schools.” A regional bishop in Sydney, Rev. Chris Edwards, responded that the clause made explicit “what has always been established by the Biblical teaching on marriage,” in light of civil law reform that now allows same-sex marriage.