In a recent opinion piece, Matthew Anstey provided an account of the recent debate in the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia over the meaning of marriage. While this piece largely elaborated the Archbishop of Brisbane’s recent letter to his clergy, it contained such egregious errors of fact and attribution of motive that it calls for a response.
At the General Synod last month, two statements were presented formally at the request of the Diocese of Sydney, though both those statements had been extensively workshopped with members of the synod outside of Sydney — laypeople, clergy, and bishops, women and men, same-sex attracted people and other-sex attracted people. Their final form was greatly improved by this extensive interaction. Both of these statements were reaffirmations of a determination to live according to the teaching of Christ as it is given to us in the Bible.
When each statement was put to the vote, the vote was taken in houses (laity, clergy, bishops). This is an entirely legitimate procedure. There are obvious disadvantages of such a procedure, since it means that the measure must pass in each of the three houses in order to pass overall. There are also very obvious advantages, particularly since the order of voting ensures that laity or clergy are free to vote prior to, and therefore without direction from, the bishops.
In the case of the first statement, specifically affirming the biblical teaching about marriage, the house of laity approved the statement (63/47) as did the house of clergy (70/39), but the house of bishops (which only contains the presiding bishop in each diocese, not every bishop of a diocese) narrowly voted to reject the statement (12/10 with 2 abstentions). This created consternation among many since the synod as a whole had voted so very clearly in support of it (without the bishops 133/86). The twelve bishops who voted against the statement had declined to listen to a very clear majority of the synod.
— Moore Theological College (@MooreCollege) December 27, 2020