Two Anglican priests will become the first to have their relationship officially blessed by their church in Australia after their local diocese in rural Victoria voted overwhelmingly to affirm their relationship.

The Wangaratta Anglican diocese held its Synod over the weekend and voted to have their church bless the relationship of local priests John Davis and Rob Whalley after they marry in a civil ceremony later this month.

Davis and Whalley have been in a committed relationship for two decades.

The Anglican Church in Victoria does not perform same-sex marriages. However this will be the first time an Anglican church performs a blessing for a same-sex couple married under secular law.

The move has been condemned by the Anglican Church in NSW’s Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies, who accused the Wangaratta diocese of defying Anglican orthodoxy.

“It is highly regrettable that clergy and lay people in the Diocese of Wangaratta have chosen to follow their Bishop rather than the clear words of Scripture concerning God’s design for human sexuality,” Archbishop Davies said in a statement following the move.

”The doctrine of our Church is not determined by 67 members of a regional synod in Victoria nor is it changed by what they may purport to authorise.”

“Time and time again, the [Australian] General Synod has affirmed the biblical view of marriage as the doctrine of our Church. To bless that which is contrary to Scripture cannot, therefore, be permissible under our church law.

“The circumstances of this event are reminiscent of the actions of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada in [blessing same-sex relationships in] 2003. It is now universally acknowledged that those events were the beginning of the ‘tear in the fabric of the Anglican Communion’.”

“Moreover, to claim the authority of our Church to carry out a service of blessing contrary to the biblical view of marriage and the doctrine of our Church will certainly fracture the Anglican Church of Australia.”

The decision by Canadian Anglicans to bless same-sex relationships resulted in a number of Anglican churches in the developing world to form their own Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) group of churches and to threaten to split from the Global Anglican Communion.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Phillip Aspinall, is yet to comment on the Wangaratta diocese’s decision.

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