The Anglican Archbishop of the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, has come under fire for recent statements he made regarding the church’s position on same-sex unions. While it is not surprising that people have found Archbishop Glenn Davies’ words offensive, many news outlets have ignored the context of his speech as they have reported on it.
“My own view,” said Archbishop Glenn Davies In his presidential address at the 51st Synod of the Diocese of Sydney, “is that if people wish to change the doctrine of our Church, they should start a new church or join a church more aligned to their views—but do not ruin the Anglican Church by abandoning the plain teaching of Scripture. Please leave us.”
Why Did Archbishop Glenn Davies Say That?
At the beginning of his speech, Archbishop Davies spent more than 20 minutes discussing the gravity of the bishop’s role, as well as the actions of specific bishops in the Anglican church. The office of the bishop, said Davies, finds its basis in Paul’s instructions in the epistles of Timothy and Titus, and “Anglican polity retained this ancient office of bishop as a means of guarding the faith, entrusted with the responsibility of ordaining, licensing and appointing ministers to serve the body of Christ.” Bishops, argued Davies, have a weighty responsibility to safeguard the faith as they lead the flock and appoint others lead it.
Davies went on to evaluate recent appointments and actions of various Anglican bishops in Australia and in other parts of the world. Some bishops he praised for their faithfulness, and some he criticized for betraying the the truth of Scripture by supporting same-sex unions. He specifically mentioned the Bishop of Wangaratta, who recently supported a regulation blessing same-sex marriages. This, said the archbishop, “is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ” and leaves church members in a dilemma.
“What do faithful Anglicans do when their bishops betray God’s word, as did Israel’s shepherds of old?” asked the archbishop. “How do you hold onto the time-honoured ministry of bishops as guardians of the faith and doctrine, when your own bishop is no longer a worthy shepherd?”
Davies noted that next year, the General Synod will convene a special session to “confer on the issue of same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage.” While this meeting is to be a “consultation, with no opportunity for making decisions,” the archbishop emphasized the necessity for the Anglican church to take a definitive, biblical stance on this issue. Given the division within the Church over sexuality, Davies said, “I fear for the stability of the Anglican Church of Australia. These developments have the potential to fracture our fellowship and impair our communion.”
It was in the context of such comments that Davies then stated that it would be better for those who wish to change the established doctrine of the church to simply leave and start a church more to their liking.
Glenn Davies’ Response
Despite the content of the rest of the archbishop’s speech, media headlines have highlighted the phrase, “Please leave us,” and made it sound like Davies wants anyone who disagrees with him to leave the church. The Guardian even criticized him for taking four days to clarify his words.
Archbishop Davies did write a response to the outcry, saying that his comments were directed at the bishops and that he does not retract anything he said: “Many in society think that I should ‘update the faith’ rather than ‘guard the faith.’ But that is not up to me or, may I say, up to any bishop of the church of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. We are not at liberty to change what he said, drop out bits that don’t suit us, or mould Jesus into what we would like him to be.”
Doctrinal Statement on Gender Identity
Something else Davies mentioned in his presidential speech was “the troubling issue of gender identity.” The Synod did address that topic by adopting a doctrinal statement, as well as a set of pastoral care guidelines, on the issue. The purpose of the statement, said Davies, “is to make it clear not only to the public but also to our congregations, clients, customers and constituency, what the doctrine of the Anglican Church in the Diocese of Sydney is on this matter.” Without a clear declaration of the church’s position on gender, “the community expectations on issues of morality will prevail.”
The Synod’s statement affirmed two biological sexes, saying that gender dysphoria is a result of the Fall. While it acknowledged the challenges presented when people are born intersex, the statement said this does not negate God’s created order. It also emphasized showing compassion for those struggling with gender dysphoria and encouraged them to fix their eyes on Christ.
The Synod delayed voting on a document advising bishops to encourage trans people who have transitioned to de-transition.
The statement on gender identity was not well-received by transgender church members, who view the church’s rejection of non-binary identities as inherently discriminatory and uncompassionate. One likened the document to, “putting lipstick on a pig.”
In his presidential address, Archbishop Glenn Davies said he expects that “the Christian voice” will be increasingly marginalized. Even so, he said, “our engagement with these issues must not be based upon seeking to preserve ourselves or the privileged status we currently enjoy. Rather, our concern ought to be for the glory of God in following his paths.”