Two Anglican priests will become the first same-sex couple in Australia, since the Marriage Act law changes in 2017, to be married and blessed by the church next week.
Retired Archdeacon Emeritus Dr John Davis and Fr Robert Whalley addressed their local Diocese on Saturday, after a 20-year relationship, and set forth plans to marry next week, in the hope that the church would give their blessing.
The rural North-East Victorian town of Wangaratta is the most unlikely place for this historic occasion but the vote of the local Anglican diocese voted at their Synod to approve of the marriage.
The priests, aged 72 and 73, had told their very personal story to the synod, finally prepared to stand up for what they believe in before their fellow worshippers, and the wider community and the nation.
The regulation now allows clergy to conduct a blessing on members of the LGBTIQ+ community if they wish to.
Speaking with ABC News, head of the Wangaratta Diocese Bishop John Parkes described the moment the vote was revealed as “restrained joy”.
“This is a difficult issue and people’s conscience takes different views,” Bishop Parkes said to ABC News.
“My own view is that there’s nothing in the Bible that understands the sorts of relationships that we are talking about, in this day and age.
“This is a long-overdue recognition that if God is love, and faithful persons are living together in love, then the church ought to bless those persons in the name of God.”
Some of the hard religious sections of the church have said the decision by Bishop Parkes to push ahead with this blessing would cause a “national crisis” in the church.
Anticipating their concern, Bishop Parkes acknowledged the outcome was a significant disaster for some.
He said had taken careful legal advice from church lawyers in the lead-up to the synod.
“There are suggestions that I will be disciplined by other parts of the church,” he said after the successful vote.
“If I’ve done something wrong then I am more than happy to answer for it, but I don’t believe I have.”
The vote taken among the laity and licensed clergy was recorded as 67 in favour to 18 against, with one abstention.
Speaking about the two priests he will marry on Saturday Bishop Parkes was full of love.
“To be able to stand with them and have them affirm their identity is a very special and important thing,” Bishop Parkes said.
He hopes other LGBTIQ+ people will feel accepted in the church.
“There will be those who are struggling with their own identity and I want to say to them as directly as I can, ‘God loves you and we love you and you are who you are, and that’s okay!'”
The two men are set to be married next Tuesday by a civil celebrant and subsequently receive a blessing at the Anglican Church in Milawa, 20 minutes outside of Wangaratta in a small country church on September 14.
## In April 2016 before the marriage law changes, Father Peter Manuel from the Anglican Parish in Subiaco Western Australia blessed a same-sex couple’s union at a church ceremony before the couple went on to be officially married two days later at the British consulate in Perth. ##