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AUSTRALIA: Bishop Sarah Macneil Conducted Same-Sex "Blessing" While Archdeacon

AUSTRALIA: Bishop Sarah Macneil Conducted Same-Sex "Blessing" While Diocesan Archdeacon

March 7, 2014

The following comment was left on my website on Wednesday evening,

A few years ago a person who is the daughter of Christian friends of mine entered into a lesbian relationship in Canberra. The two young women participated in a same gender civil union ceremony at an embassy as one of them came from that country. They then participated in a faux "wedding" ceremony conducted by Rev Sarah Macneil at Sarah's Canberra church. Sarah "got around" both the Church and civil law illegalities of the Church ceremony by describing the ceremony as a "blessing of two individuals" or some such phrase. My friends tell me that the ceremony had all the hallmarks of a church wedding with invitations, walks down the aisle, hymns, prayers with the couple standing at the front before the congregation of invited family and friends etc.

It's obviously a serious accusation so I've done a bit of further work and I can confirm that the ceremony in question did take place in 2007 at All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie when Dr Macneil was rector. It has been suggested to me by a number of sources that Dr Macneil has conducted other such services but I would stress that I'm unable to confirm at the time of writing whether that's true.

Dr MacNeil was Archdeacon of South Canberra 2001-02 and Diocesan Archdeacon 2003-9 therefore at the time of the ceremony she was in a senior position in the diocese.

It's also important to note that this occurred under the leadership of Bishop George Browning, prior to Stuart Robinson's consecration.

I approached Grafton Diocese and asked the following questions:

Did Dr Macneil conduct a ceremony, by any name, that celebrated and endorsed the civil union of these two young women?

Has Dr Macneil conducted any other similar ceremonies that would be understood by concerned observers to be an endorsement of a permanent homosexual relationship?

What would Dr Macneil now do if a minister in Grafton Diocese conducted such a ceremony?

The diocese acknowledged receipt but I have not received any answer.

The facts already established are, of course, entirely consistent with Dr Macneil's position on human sexuality that we have already reported on. It would be helpful for Dr Macneil to clarify her position on this matter. In particular if she has now changed her position on human sexuality and, if so, what has caused that changed. Since she will be expected to sign up to the Bishops' Protocol on human sexuality this historical action of hers will be seen to further compromise her ability to do so with integrity. Whether our bishops (and not least those who consecrated her) think that is a problem remains to be seen.

If Dr Macneil was in a senior position in the diocese (as she was at the time, Archdeacons are effectively second only to the bishops) then it also speaks to how people may view her commitment to uphold the doctrine and discipline of the church as a senior figure.


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