Pastoral Statement on Same-Sex Relationships and Marriage
We acknowledge that offering a theological and pastoral response related to human sexuality and sexual practice in our cultural setting is complex, contentious and challenging. We also acknowledge that it is one of the major challenges facing us as a church at this time, especially in seeking to witness to the hope of the gospel. 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.
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) upholds this unbroken conviction in 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.
The National Code of Conduct for clergy and church workers in the Anglican Church of Australia is Faithfulness in Service. It states the official position of the Anglican Church as ‘chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage’. We grieve that there are parts of the Anglican Church of Australia that seek to depart from these principles and guidelines.
In upholding biblical teaching on marriage, we acknowledge that it involves the costly call of celibacy for all who are unmarried. We give thanks for those who are living faithful, full and godly lives as single people. We thank God for those who have courageously shared their struggle and their story. 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 has often 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 were themselves the problem. This is not true, and we apologize if you have experienced this. We recognise that the ongoing contention in this area is a source of tension and pain for many people. 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 personal and pastoral tension within our faith community as we seek to reflect on God’s word 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 strive to develop faith communities that rejoice 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 give thanks for and welcome those who share their lives as companions and seek to live faithfully.
We recognize that not all in our Dioceses and parishes 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, especially as we seek to share pastorally with same sex attracted people. 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 people of faith and religious institutions in any proposed legislation.