This article is the second one in a week about Rev Dr Mascord 'losing' his licence to preach in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney due to his stance on same sex marriage and his view that traditional Biblical theology is flawed. It is worth noting straight away that Dr Mascord did not have a current license in Sydney, so his license was not revoked - he applied for a license and the Archbishop declined.
I have to say that I side with the archbishop of Sydney on this one - and I know that some of my friends will vehemently disagree with my view here - especially those on the list of signatories.
The truth is though that Dr Mascord, when ordained, vowed only to teach and uphold the doctrine of the Anglican Church, and also to be subject to his bishop. He is now openly advocating views which are contrary to the doctrine of the Anglican Church, and refuses to submit to his bishop's lawful and reasonable request.
Also worth noting is that the Archbishop advised that he could in fact be licensed to serve in his parish, if he could give an assurance that he would only preach that which is in accordance with the doctrines of the church (again,he is only being asked to fulfil his commitments in accordance with his vows of ordination) - Dr Mascord declined to give that assurance, and so the Archbishop upheld his own vows taken when he was consecrated as bishop 'to drive away all false and strange doctrine which is contrary to God’s word; and privately and publicly to call upon and encourage others to do likewise' and to 'correct and discipline, according to the authority you have by God’s word, the disorderly and disobedient and those guilty of offence within your jurisdiction'.*
For me this is pretty clear cut - if you wish to be licensed to preach in an Anglican Church, it is entirely reasonable that you will only preach in accordance with the doctrines of the church. If you cannot in good conscience do that, then it is also not unreasonable that you be told you can't preach.
Finally, I will finish with a quote from C.S. Lewis, which I think is relevant here:
“It is your duty to fix the lines (of doctrine) clearly in your minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing in your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of the other.”**
*From The Consecration of Bishops service in An Australian Prayer Book, © Anglican Church of Australia Trust Corporation.
** From 'God in the Dock'
This week I wrote to my congregation explaining to them that I uphold the doctrine of the church and believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I also explained that holding this view does not mean that I hate homosexual couples, it does not mean that I am opposed to them having equal rights under civil law - it simply means that I and those who share my view believe that the term marriage can only ever apply to the lifelong union of a man and a woman.
Some I know will label me a 'homophobe' for expressing this view. Some will say I am being hateful. The truth is though, that I do not hate anyone - not even those who have done me direct emotional and physical harm - so why would I hate homosexuals?
The idea that to disagree with someone over marriage is hateful, is being used as a weapon in the debate by those who support changing the definition to include same sex couples. The argument goes that if you oppose same sex marriage then you are clearly against equal rights for gay people - which means you clearly are a bigot that hates gay people...
Of course saying that we believe that marriage should stay between a man and a woman actually in no way restricts the rights of homosexual couples to enter into lifelong committed and monogamous relationships if they wish to do so. It in no way restricts the ability of government to ensure that gay couples are treated equally under the law - in fact the previous Labor Government already passed legislation at the Commonwealth level to ensure this! That there are still some inequalities being experienced at the State/Territory Level simply means that those jurisdictions should be called upon to enact similar legislation. If this was done then gay couples would be treated 100% equally under the law at all levels of government in Australia - and all without ever changing the fundamental meaning of societies most important institution.
What saying that we believe marriage is between a man and a woman means, is that we understand marriage to be more than simply something people do if they love each other—we understand it to be a special union, between a man and woman, especially given and sanctified by God for the forming of a new family unit and the raising of children. There is no hate here—there is no homophobia, and no-one is saying that homosexual couples should be discriminated against—by all means give a same sex couples equal standing under secular law— even through recognising the relationships as civil partnerships or similar. It is also not a statement about the nature or value of their relationships—Homosexual couples do love each other, they care for each other, and they value their relationships just as highly as heterosexual couples do. They must be shown our love and care and be treated with the dignity deserved by people made in the image of God.
The simple truth however is this; in Traditional Christian understanding Marriage is something that can only take place between a man and a woman, any other relationship, no matter how loving, no matter how caring and valued that relationship is, simply is not and cannot be a marriage. Whilst the secular legal definition may change (and likely will) The Christian understanding revealed through God’s word will not.
Fr Daryl is an Anglican priest living in regional New South Wales Australia.