With the advent of same-sex marriage, churches are seeking to articulate with grace and truth a response to the various issues this presents. Stephen Hale has generously made available the pastoral guidelines that the St Hilary’s Network in Melbourne has developed. Reading and reflecting on their efforts might prove helpful to others engaged in similar tasks.
Stephen Hale is the Lead Minister in the St Hilary’s Network
We acknowledge that developing a theological and pastoral response related to human sexuality and sexual practice in our cultural setting is complex and challenging. We offer our full assurance for all who are same sex attracted that they are loved, valued and welcome in our church. Our identity as believers is founded in the new life we live as God’s children. We are all one in Christ Jesus regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.
As a church, we uphold the formularies of the Anglican Church of Australia, which are grounded in the Bible’s teaching. The Christian rite of marriage is between a man and a woman. Both Jesus in Matthew 19:4-5, and St Paul affirm what God has instituted across all ages in the words of Genesis 2:24: ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ The introduction to the Anglican Marriage Service (APBA Order 2) classically states it this way,
‘Scripture teaches that marriage is a lifelong partnership uniting a woman and a man in heart, mind and body. In the joy of their union, husband and wife enrich and respond to each other, growing in tenderness and understanding. Through marriage a new family is formed, where children may be born and grow in secure and loving care.’
Faithfulness in Service (The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation, 2004) is the guiding policy document of the Anglican Church of Australia, especially for those who are licensed or authorised to minister, and states the formal position of the Anglican Church as ‘faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness’. In upholding biblical teaching on marriage, we acknowledge that it involves the costly call of celibacy for all who are unmarried.
In the person of Jesus, we find the perfect model of someone who lived and spoke with both grace and truth (John 1:14). We acknowledge that in our attempts to develop a pastoral and theological response, the church may have at times spoken the truth, but not in love, and we repent of it. We acknowledge that, in our attempts to uphold the Bible’s teaching (and Anglican formularies) on marriage, we may have given the impression that same-sex attracted people themselves were the problem. This is not true, and we apologise if you have experienced this. We also acknowledge that homophobia has been a sin in our church and the wider community, and we repent of it.
We acknowledge that this is an issue of significant pastoral tension within our faith community as we seek to reflect on the Bible’s teaching and, also, as we seek to love and support same sex attracted family members, work colleagues and friends. We commit ourselves to holistic pastoral responses that are compassionate and positive in supporting people who are same sex attracted.
We seek to increasingly be a faith community that rejoices in the gift of friendship for all people. We encourage mutual hospitality within the body of Christ as families and single people share their gifts and homes. We encourage all married couples and families to both welcome and include single people as part of their ongoing life. We welcome those who share their lives as companions and seek to live faithfully.
We recognise that not all in our church community hold the same views on this matter and urge each of us to interact in a respectful and open manner. We commit ourselves to ongoing study and reflection on the teaching of Scripture in these areas.
- We encourage church members to engage with friends, colleagues and family respectfully and with grace, modelling Christian engagement. As Christians living in a pluralist culture we seek to support each other in upholding our right to speak respectfully and graciously. We urge legislators to uphold religious freedom and to enshrine appropriate protections for religious practitioners and institutions in any proposed legislation.
1. Under the provisions of the Marriage Act (Australian Government, 2017) Anglican clergy are exempted from performing same sex marriages if it is contrary to the formularies of their denomination. The 2017 Marriage Act states:
2A: b) to allow ministers of religion to solemnise marriage, respecting the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of their religion, the views of their religious community or their own religious beliefs;
The Canons of the Anglican Church only allow for marriage between a man and a woman.
2. As per current practice, St Hilary’s clergy and lay ministers attending any marriage where they have been invited to play a role shall, prior to accepting the invitation, inform the Lead Minister, if they have not already done so by their standard scheduling and planning discussions. Clergy must abide by current Diocesan protocols in the conduct of weddings.
3. Staff and those in elected leadership must uphold Faithfulness in Service
4. An individual’s views on these matters are not a criterion for being on the Parish Electoral Roll.
- Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017. Australian Government, 2017.
- A Prayer Book for Australia, Broughton Publishing, 1995
- Faithfulness in Service, The Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation, 2004.