In the wake of the likely failure of the plebiscite bill, a group of 68 priests and church leaders across Australia have signed a petition urging the Archbishop of Sydney to allow “free and open debate” about same-sex marriage within his church.
The move — unprecedented within the Anglican church — comes after the Sydney Archbishop, Glenn Davies, refused to renew the licence of a Sydney priest, Keith Mascord, due to theological differences, particularly his support for same-sex marriage.
Reverend Mascord was offered the opportunity to continue to minister to his own congregation at Dulwich Hill, with the proviso that he not preach in favour of same-sex marriage — he refused.
On Sunday, Archbishop Davies issued a statement which said: “Because of his rejection of the authority of the Bible and the doctrine of Christ (as received by the Anglican Church), the Archbishop formed the view that it is not appropriate for Dr Mascord to hold a licence to preach in the Diocese of Sydney.”
In their statement, the Anglican leaders asked the Sydney Archbishop to reconsider their decision.
They argued that the national and global Anglican view was to accept that Anglicans could disagree on the question of marriage equality.
Anglicans hold ‘variety of positions’ on same-sex marriage
The signatories, who include the Dean of Brisbane Cathedral, the Very Reverend Peter Catt, and Reverend Rod Bower from the parish of Gosford, wrote: “In September, the Primate (or head) of the Anglican Church in Australia, Dr Philip Freier, wrote to the Church’s Bishops on a plebiscite.”
“He affirmed the traditional view of marriage, but also observed that Anglicans hold ‘a variety of positions in good conscience’ on marriage equality,” they wrote.
“This reflects the global Anglican view. The 1998 Lambeth Report on Human Sexuality stated that Bishops, clergy and laypeople are ‘not of one mind about homosexuality’.
“Anglicans accept that there is room for a traditional view while recognising that some, in good faith, hold different views, or are still forming an opinion.”
The petitioners argued the decision to delicense a member of the clergy who had advocated for same sex marriage had “deeply shaken” the church.
“For most clergy, delicencing means losing job, income, accommodation, peer networks and spiritual community,” the petition read.
They also pointed to the fact that Sydney Anglicans had “called for a publicly-funded plebiscite to promote respectful and genuine debate”.
The priests, chaplains, deans and deacons from a range of parishes continued: “If they won’t allow their own clergy freedom to speak, how can their representation have integrity?
“How can they ask for public money for a position that needs coercive support?
“How does their plea for a plebiscite fit with suppressing internal debate?”
Church leaders ‘reluctant’ to criticise another diocese
Muriel Porter, a church historian, member of the General Synod and signatory to the petition, said the action taken by the 58 church leaders was highly unusual.
“Generally reluctant to openly criticise another diocese and particularly a powerful diocese like Sydney, clergy and lay church leaders are now saying that enough is enough,” she said.
“They are tired of the bullying, especially when it comes to the issue of human sexuality.”
Dr Porter, a long time critic of the more traditional Sydney Diocese, and author of Sydney Anglicans and the Threat to World Anglicanism: The Sydney Experiment, said: “For too long, moderate Anglicans have remained silent in the face of such heavy-handed tactics.”
“Perhaps it signals a new determination to speak up in support of LGBTI people who have been so appallingly treated by the Christian Church,” she said.
Some priests told the ABC they wished to put their names to the petition but were either worried about retribution or wished to approach the Archbishop personally.
On reading the petition, Reverend Mascord said: “Having the freedom to be honest and up-front about my beliefs is something I value highly.”
“I long for the day when that freedom will be extended to my clerical and lay friends who are presently fearful that if they express their private beliefs they will most certainly be punished,” he said.
Archbishop rejects restricting freedom of speech
On Monday, a spokesman for Archbishop Davies said Reverend Mascord’s licence had been lapsed for three years and repeated that the Archbishop’s decision was based fundamentally on Reverend Mascord’s view of Jesus and the Bible.
The spokesman also said Archbishop Davies had not attempted to seek to restrict Reverend Mascord’s right to speak.
The Archbishop said in a statement sent to the ABC: “At his ordination, Dr [Reverend] Mascord vowed that he was ‘ready to drive away all false and strange doctrines that are contrary to God’s word’.”
“He now describes himself as a ‘dissenting Christian’, holding that the Bible ‘is an ancient text, pregnant with ancient assumptions and beliefs, many of which we no longer reasonably hold’ and on this basis calls on Christians to rethink, among other things ‘the assumptions and beliefs which underlie Biblical discomfort with same-sex activity’,” the statement read.
“Because of his rejection of the authority of the Bible and the doctrine of Christ (as received by the Anglican Church), I formed the view that it was not appropriate for any clergyman who held such views to hold a general licence in our Diocese.”
Davies ‘merely expressed personal preference’
Archbishop Davies also said he had not sought to restrict Reverend Mascord’s freedom of speech, as he had only made stipulations that would accompany an Anglican licence to teach in a parish.
Outside of that, he said “I made no stipulations, and merely expressed my personal preference, informing Dr [Reverend] Mascord: ‘I would, of course, prefer you not to teach contrary to our received doctrine whenever and wherever you teach in non-Anglican settings, as you will still be perceived as an Anglican clergyman'”.
The ABC has obtained a copy of the letter from the Archbishop to Reverend Mascord, dated August 30, 2016, in which he tells him his licence will not be reviewed.
In it the Archbishop clearly states that he will give Reverend Mascord a limited licence to minister in his parish but only if he will desist from teaching “specifically on the issue of same-sex relationships”.
The Archbishop’s offer still stands.
Full statement regarding Keith Mascord:
Few issues have thrust Christian beliefs into the arena of public law and policy as has the debate over marriage, and related plebiscite.
In September, the Primate (or head) of the Anglican Church in Australia, Dr Philip Freier, wrote to the Church’s Bishops on a plebiscite.
He affirmed the traditional view of marriage, but also observed that Anglicans hold ‘a variety of positions in good conscience’ on marriage equality.
This reflects the global Anglican view.
The 1998 Lambeth Report on Human Sexuality stated that Bishops, clergy and laypeople are ‘not of one mind about homosexuality’.
Anglicans accept that there is room for a traditional view while recognising that some, in good faith, hold different views, or are still forming an opinion.
This general Anglican consensus has been deeply shaken by the decision of Sydney Anglican leaders to ‘de-license’ (or, not renew) one of their clergy, Rev Dr Keith Mascord, in relation to his views on marriage.
For most clergy, delicencing means losing job, income, accommodation, peer networks and spiritual community.
Dr [Reverend] Mascord has advocated for marriage equality respectfully and graciously.
For this, he was handed an ultimatum: be silent or be de-licenced. He refused to accept this gag.
In such circumstances, the call for free and open debate lacks credibility.
This is ironic as Sydney Anglican leaders, including those who took this action, have called for a publicly funded plebiscite to promote respectful and genuine debate.
Yet if they won’t allow their own clergy freedom to speak, how can their representation have integrity?
How can they ask for public money for a position that needs coercive support?
How does their plea for a plebiscite fit with suppressing internal debate?
The episode is as difficult to reconcile with the Anglican Primate’s position as it is with freedom of conscience and speech generally.
We hope that Sydney Anglican leaders will act, not just speak, to remedy the situation.
|Rev’d Andrew Sempel||Priest & President||Anglicans Together, Diocese of Sydney||NSW|
|Rev’d Angus McLeay||Priest||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Ms Ann Skamp||Lay leader||Diocese of Grafton||NSW|
|Rev’d Dr Anna Killigrew||Priest||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Ms Anne Annear OAM||Lay leader||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Dr Carolyn Tan||Lay leader||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Rev’d Chris Bedding||Rector||Darlington-Bellevue||WA|
|Priest||Gosford Anglican Church||NSW|
|Mr Christopher Roper||Coordinator Continuing Education||Trinity College Theological School||VIC|
|Mr Colin Fong||Lay leader||Diocese of Sydney||NSW|
|The Rev’d Canon Dr Colleen O’Reilly SCP||Vicar||St George’s Anglican Parish||VIC|
|Rev’d D. Paul Dalzell||Priest||Diocese of Wangaratta||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr David Connolly||Priest||St Stephen’s Anglican Church, Richmond||VIC|
|Rev’d David Head||Rector||St Mary’s Morwell and Gippsland Bishop in Council||VIC|
|Fr David Moore||Vicar||St John’s Camberwell||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr David Peake OAM||Priest||Dallas – Broadmeadows, Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Fr David Smith||Rector||Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill||NSW|
|Rev’d Dr David Wood||Priest||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Rev’d Dennis Webster||Vicar||St Stephen’s Richmond||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Don Saines||Senior Lecturer in Theology||Trinity College Theological School||VIC|
|Rev’d Canon Professor Dorothy Lee||Head of Theological School||Trinity College Theological School||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Elizabeth Smith||Priest||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Rev’d Fiona Goy||Vicar||Parish of Red Hill||VIC|
|Professor Garry Warne||Lay leader||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Rev’d Professor Gary Bouma||Minister||St John’s Anglican Church, East Malvern||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Georgina Hawley||Priest||St Peter’s Anglican, Victoria Park||WA|
|Rev’d Hans Christiansen||Senior Chaplain||Melbourne Grammar School||VIC|
|Rev’d Harry Kerr||Convenor, Pax Christi||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Dr Janet Paterson||Lay leader||Diocese of Sydney||NSW|
|Rev’d Jim Brady||Priest||St Paul’s Cathedral||VIC|
|Rev’d John Clapton||Priest||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Rev’d Dr John Mark Capper||Director of Learning and Teaching||University of Divinity||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Jonathan Inkpin||Rector & Lecturer in Theology||Diocese of Brisbane||QLD|
|The Very Rev’d Dr Keith Joseph||Priest||Diocese of Northern Territory||NT|
|Rev’d Lorna Green||Chair, Social Responsibilities Commission||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|Rev’d Lucille Piper OAM||Deacon||Diocese of Sydney||NSW|
|Rev’d Dr Professor Mark Lindsay||Deputy Dean||Trinity College Theological School||VIC|
|Fr Matthew Smedley||Rector||Parish of Bangalow||NSW|
|Dr Muriel Porter||Lay leader||Melbourne||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Natasha Darke||Chaplain||St Peter’s Collegiate Girls’ School||SA|
|Rev’d Patricia Bouma||Priest||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Rev’d Paula Thorpe||Associate Priest & Chaplain||St John’s Grammar Belair / Holy Innocents Belair||SA|
|Rev’d Penelope Jones||Priest||St Luke’s Toowoomba||QLD|
|The Very Rev’d Dr Peter Catt||Dean||Diocese of Brisbane||QLD|
|Rev’d Peter Harrison||Priest||Diocese of Perth||WA|
|The Venerable Peter MacLeod-Miller||Archdeacon||St Matthew’s Anglican Church Albury||NSW|
|Fr Peter Manuel||Rector||St Andrew’s Subiaco||WA|
|Rev’d Dr Ray Barraclough||Secretary||A Progressive Christian Voice Australia||QLD|
|Rev’d Dr Ray Cleary AM||Priest||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Richard Treloar||Vicar||Christ Church South Yarra||VIC|
|Fr Richard Wilson||Priest||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Rev’d Rod Bower||Archdeacon||Gosford Anglican Church||NSW|
|Mr Rodney Wetherell||lay leader||St Martin’s Hawksburn||VIC|
|Rev’d Rosemary Peterson||Priest||Diocese of Brisbane||QLD|
|Rev’d Stephen Daughtry||Priest||Holy Innocents Anglican Church, Belair||SA|
|The Very Rev’d Dr Stuart Blackler||Dean Emeritus of Hobart||Diocese of Melbourne||VIC|
|Fr Stuart Soley||Priest||St Mark’s Fitzroy||VIC|
|Rev’d Dr Sue Emeleus||Deacon||Diocese of Sydney||NSW|