At Bishop Peter’s own invitation we have asked him the following question:
You write that “the Bishop together with the Synod and Diocesan Council is responsible for the good order and government of this Diocese” and “I have some confidence that together we might be able to find a ‘Newcastle Way’ which will incorporate living with strong difference in an open and Godly way”,
1. Does the Diocese have the right and authority to act unilaterally in legislating for liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage even when such a position has repeatedly been rejected by the General Synod?
2. Are you willing to give your assent to such motions or legislation so that the “Newcastle Way” effectively means accomodating in “a loving way to express our shared life” such a move and the tensions it will bring?
Bishop Peter’s reply is as follows:
Q: Does the Diocese have the right and authority to act unilaterally in legislating for liturgy for the blessing of same-sex relationships or same-sex marriage even when such a position has repeatedly been rejected by the General Synod?
A: The legal situation in the Australian Church around liturgy and order is not clear. The Archbishop and Diocese of Sydney have set a significant precedent for unilateral action by authorising liturgies additional to the Book of Common Prayer, An Australian Prayer Book and A Prayer Book for Australia. Those liturgies not being authorised by the General Synod. They have also set significant precedent with the Archbishop unilaterally authorising Diaconal Administration of the Holy Communion. The latter not being authorised by the General Synod.
In this church, a resolution about doctrine by the General Synod is not determinative. Ultimately if doctrine is contested, the disagreement must be resolved by the Appellate Tribunal. That was the situation with the marriage of persons who have been previously married while their former spouse is still alive, the ordination of women and the order of the administration of the Holy Communion.
There were no proposals before the Newcastle Synod in 2018 of this kind. The Synod has shown a cautious but genuine desire to listen very attentively in the spirit of Lambeth 1:10.
Q: Are you willing to give your assent to such motions or legislation so that the “Newcastle Way” effectively means accomodating in “a loving way to express our shared life” such a move and the tensions (“strong difference”) it will bring?
A: In the Province of New South Wales the Bishop is not a member of the Synod meaning that a motion is an expression of the House of Clergy and the House of Laity as assembled at that time. The Bishop has no role in assenting to motions and motions do not bind the Bishop, unless moved in accordance with an Ordinance that has established such power.
In relation to legislation, the question significantly preempts any conversation or deliberation in which the Synod may engage. The Synod has heard my desire that the Diocese of Newcastle will be an expression of comprehensive Anglicanism. The next step for the Synod will include exploring how Christians who have theological differences live together. The work of the General Synod Doctrine Commission and the Diocesan Faith and Order Commission will be important parts of ensuring that the Synod and the Diocese continues to give prayerful, biblical and theological reflection to the life of the Diocese.
In relation to legislation, the role of the Diocesan Bishop is to listen to the Synod, the National Church and the Anglican Communion in exercising his or her mind around assent.
— Nick Bielby (@nickbielby) December 7, 2017