Christians should vote “according to their conscience” in a same-sex marriage plebiscite and the Church “must accept” the result, Australia’s most senior Anglican has told followers.
In what gay marriage advocates have welcomed as a significant blessing, Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier told the nation’s Anglicans they could support same-sex marriage “in good faith”.
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“If the plebiscite does happen it will be important that Christians – and others – vote according to their conscience and their view of what is best for society,” he wrote in a letter to Anglican bishops.
“Should the vote be in favour of same-sex marriage as suggested by the opinion polls, the Church must accept that this is now part of the landscape.”
In the letter, the archbishop maintained that the Anglican Church was unlikely to change its view that, according to scripture, marriage is the union of a man and a woman.
But he also set out the view that civil marriage is “wider” than holy matrimony, pointing to the state’s endorsement of de facto relationships with legal protections.
Archbishop Freier echoed the concerns of LGBTI advocates, Labor and the Greens in declaring himself “very concerned” that the plebiscite campaign would involve vilification and hate.
“The Church also understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice to each other, and that Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should,” he wrote.
It came days after the Australian arm of the Quakers society broke ranks with other religious group to call on the Turnbull government to legislate same-sex marriage and ditch its planned plebiscite.
Parliament returns on Monday and it is understood Attorney-General George Brandis is preparing to take a plebiscite proposal to a cabinet meeting on Monday evening.
But the plebiscite could still be blocked in the Senate, with Labor waiting to see details of the government’s proposal before deciding whether to support it.
Fairfax Media reported this week that a “self-executing” plebiscite, which would automatically legislate gay marriage following a majority “yes” vote, could win Labor’s backing, subject to other conditions.
Tiernan Brady, who led the “yes” campaign in Ireland and now heads the campaign vehicle Australians 4 Equality, welcomed the archbishop’s pronouncement as “hugely significant”.
“What you see in this statement is actually a real reflection of what the members of the church actually think,” he said. “It’s real leadership to make this move and say clearly that it’s OK to vote ‘yes’, and you can do in a way that’s consistent with your belief.”
Mr Brady said the statement mirrored a very significant decision by the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland to instruct their congregations to vote according to their own conscience.
Lyle Shelton, director of the Australian Christian Lobby, agreed “everyone should vote according to their conscience” but said it was a policy debate, not a theological one.
“I would look forward to briefing the [arch]bishop on the consequences that flow from this public policy change,” he said.
Article source: http://watoday.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/religious-shift-on-samesex-marriage-anglicans-should-vote-according-to-conscience-20160909-grctrp.html