One of Australia’s most senior Anglicans has defended his diocese’s decision to donate $1 million to the No campaign in the national postal survey on same-sex marriage.
- The Anglican Diocese of Sydney is a founding partner of the Coalition for Marriage
- Participation in the Coalition for Marriage not at the expense of commitment to social justice, Archbishop says
- His views are not shared by some other senior members of the Anglican Church
Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies announced the hefty handout during his Presidential Address to the 51st Synod of the Diocese of Sydney on Monday.
The donation drew some sharp criticism, including from ministers within the religion in other parts of Australia.
The Anglican Diocese of Sydney is a founding partner of the Coalition for Marriage, the group leading the No case.
On Wednesday afternoon the Archbishop read a letter to the Synod, which will be sent out to churches, defending the million-dollar donation.
“Some have questioned whether the money would have been better spent on social justice issues — feeding the poor, Sydney’s homeless, refugees etcetera,” Archbishop Davies said.
“The reality is, however, that our participation in the Coalition for Marriage is not at the expense of our commitment to social justice, but because of it.”
He wrote that the best way for Anglicare and other Christian agencies to serve the social good is for them to operate with a Christian ethos.
“A legal recognition of same-sex marriage will significantly affect Anglican bodies who wish to maintain and promote a Christian understanding of marriage in opposition to the law of the land,” he said.
Other senior Anglicans voting yes
The views of Archbishop Davies and the Diocese of Sydney are not shared by some other senior members of the Anglican Church.
Archdeacon of the NSW Central Coast, Father Rod Bower, read the letter and told ABC News he still believes the million-dollar donation was “not a good look”.
“My fear is this donation indicates all Anglicans are part of the No campaign when in fact the majority of Christians and the majority of Anglicans therefore are in favour of marriage equality,” Father Bower said.
“The Diocese of Sydney is free to spend their money however they choose to do so, legally speaking, and I wouldn’t want to interfere, but having said that, in terms of social justice marriage is very important, it is one of the cornerstones of our society.
“From my perspective if I had a million dollars to spend in this area, what I would want to do is use it to support families, no matter what the makeup of that family was.”
In Queensland, Coolum Beach Anglican Priest-in-charge, the Reverend Dr Cathy Laufer, told the ABC that when she told her congregation that she voted yes, many parishioners congratulated her.
Key dates in SSM postal survey:
August 24 — the final day to register with the AEC if you want to take part in the survey September 12 — survey forms start being sent out September 25 — all forms are expected to have been sent
- October 27 — forms are strongly encouraged to be returned by this date
- November 7 — the final deadline to return surveys
- November 15 — results are released at 11:30am
“My concern, and the concerns of others, is the Sydney Diocese donation is going to imply that all Anglicans vote no and that is not the case,” Dr Laufer said.
“The Anglican Church in Australia has a very wide range of members and just as our members include Labor voters, LNP voters, Greens voters, One Nation voters and so on, our membership also includes people who vote yes and people who vote no on same-sex marriage.
“I think there are good, sound, Christian arguments being made on both sides of this debate, but I have voted on the grounds of what, for me, is most compassionate for people who are committed to one another in love.”
Archbishop Davies’ letter said the argument that because same-sex marriage is inevitable, spending $1 million on the No campaign was a waste of church resources was misguided.
“Firstly, because the result is by no means certain … the outcome literally hangs in the balance,” he said.
“Secondly, even if the No vote does not prevail, the diocesan contribution came at a critical moment which allowed the No campaign to raise awareness of the consequences of same-sex marriage for freedom of speech and freedom of religion.”
The postal survey forms must be returned to the Australian Bureau of Statistics by November 7, and the result will be announced on November 15.