I wanted bishops to leave, not LGBT people, says Sydney’s Glenn Davies

Glenn Davies, the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, says he was referring to bishops (regional leaders) of the Anglican Church when he suggested some people should leave the Anglican Church if they did not agree with its doctrine on same-sex marriages.

In an oped for the Sydney Morning Herald, he says: ” When I said “Please, leave us”, my words were directed at bishops of the church, and those who wish to change our doctrine, and I stand by those words.

“The words were not directed at members of our congregations, especially those who identify as gay, whether single or married. It is regrettable that some have misrepresented my words, whether intentionally or unintentionally. In our churches, people are being nurtured in community. Some may have only recently come to know of Jesus or may be struggling, as we all do at times, in following his ways. We must be careful not to over-reach or under-value either Jesus’ compassion or his commands. Yet for we who wish to follow Christ, commit themselves to him in faith and obedience, then it is his teaching we must seek to follow.”

Eternity reported his speech as saying “progressives” should leave, and after being told this was too broad made it read “people who wish to change doctrine.”

The Sydney Morning Herald had headlined its first report: “‘Please leave us’: Archbishop tells same-sex marriage supporters to abandon Anglican Church,” while the ABC proclaimed: “Anglican Archbishop tells same-sex marriage supporters to start own church”.

Several other media outlets – for example, SBS and News.com.au – used a report by Australian Associated Press newswire, which read: “One of Australia’s most senior Anglicans has told those lobbying for the church to accept same-sex marriage to ‘please leave’ rather than push for reform merely to ‘satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world’.

The original passage in the Archbishop’s address reads: “Friends, we have entered treacherous waters. I fear for the stability of the Anglican Church of Australia. These developments have the potential to fracture our fellowship and impair our communion. I have stated this on numerous occasions at the annual National Bishops’ Conference, but sadly to little effect.

“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.” – Glenn Davies

“Next year the General Synod will meet in a special session to confer on the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage. It has been planned by the General Synod Standing Committee as a consultation, with no opportunity for making decisions. However, the time has come to take action and make decisions, and these recent events have made it all the more imperative to do so. The General Synod must make a clear statement about the teaching of the Bible on the sanctity of sex within the marriage bond of a man and a woman, so that marriage is held in honour among all and the marriage bed is not defiled (Hebrews 13:4).

“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 – but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us. We have far too much work to do in evangelising Australia to be distracted by the constant pressure to change our doctrine in order to satisfy the lusts and pleasures of the world.” At the words “Please leave” the Synod burst into applause – it was clear that this was the message that would be remembered.  The full text is here.

This passage follows a description of the actions of Wangaratta Synod in authorising blessings of same-sex civil marriages and the foreshadowed action of Newcastle Synod to do the same, when they meet in a few days. These synods include clergy and lay people (people who are not ordained as ministers) as well as bishops (regional leaders).

Readers can decide for themselves whether the passage bears the meanings (there is more than one) inferred by Eternity and other media. Alternatively, some Facebook posts by Synod members refer to “clergy” or “clergy/leaders” as being the “people” Davies was aiming his message at.

Another key session of Sydney’s Synod was taken up with debating whether Sydney should interrupt its funding of the national church. A motion to “defer” funding straight away was watered down. Strong speeches by Karin Sowarda and Bishop Peter Lin persuaded the Synod to call for a report from the diocese’s Standing Committee with legal advice and a recommendation about making payments to the national church. Sydney provides about 30 per cent of the national church budget.

In Melbourne, Anglican Archbishop Philip Freier also commented on same-sex marriage and blessings of those marriages while giving his Synod speech this week. “Despite the many other challenges that properly concern Christians, this one issue seems to be the one that most polarises and alarms Christian denominations,” he said.

“When we are in relationship with people in our families or congregations we manage different opinions and identities very differently.” – Philip Freier

“Matters of sexual identity are obviously very personal to who we are and how we interact in society. The Anglican Communion has made it clear over the past two decades that, while it affirms marriage as between a woman and a man, it also affirms the place of LGBTQI people within the life of the Church.

“For some this is a big stretch. We know that there are passionately held views around how this is or even can be done. Equally, I suspect that when we are in relationship with people in our families or congregations we manage different opinions and identities very differently from when it is a debate amongst people we don’t know personally.”

UPDATE: A couple of motions passed at the Melbourne Synod indicate it is leaning conservative – lining up with Sydney on a couple of key issues. Melbourne has expressed “its sorrow to the Bishop and Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta for their approval of a liturgy that could be used to bless persons in same-sex relationships at their recent Synod meeting.” And has welcomed “the formation of the Church of Confessing Anglicans Aotearoa / New Zealand,’ formed by Anglicans leaving the main NZ and Pacific Anglican Church in response to same sex blessing.

“All God’s children are welcome and affirmed in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland and no one is asked to leave.” – Jeremy Greaves

Archbishop Davies was critical of a response to his speech by Jeremy Greaves, the “Commissary” (someone who acts in place of a bishop) of Brisbane, because it was issued without checking the facts with him.

Greaves seems to have taken a similar interpretation to media reports. He wrote: “Despite the challenges often posed for our life together, all God’s children are welcome and affirmed in the Anglican Church Southern Queensland and no one is asked to leave. We treasure the unity of the church and the reconciliation of all people and the whole creation wrought by the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Asking people to leave the church undermines this fundamental truth. Rather we affirm the importance of remaining together as we wrestle with difficult issues and seek to enter more deeply into the truth revealed in and through Christ.”

Michael Paget is an example of an inner city minister responding to Davies’ words this week. “What has not been clear – either in the reporting or in the Archbishop’s own words – is that these comments were about other Anglican dioceses and leaders who wish to leave the historic Anglican understanding of biblical teaching behind. The Archbishop has subsequently and specifically clarified that he was addressing bishops.

“I’m no apologist for the Archbishop and have been publicly critical of his comments in the past. I wish that Glenn that chosen different words. I wish that he’d been more alert to the way in which his words would understandably be misunderstood, and would hurt people. I wish that he’d thought to be clear about what he was not saying – in particular, that he had made crystal clear that gay and lesbian Christians were not the intended target of his speech are and always will be welcome in Anglican churches.

“I am disappointed that we need to clarify and explain his intentions. But I will, because I think those intentions are to perform precisely the task the Jesus calls him to as a leader in the church, which is to call other leaders, his peers, to remain faithful to the promises that they made and, if they will not, plead with them to seek a platform elsewhere.”