In a rule change that could potentially see priests marrying atheists to Satanists, the Anglican Church will now allow any couple who wishes to marry in an Anglican Church to do so — so long as they’re not gay.

Previously, individual churches could show discretion, rejecting those they wished to. Now church weddings are available to any opposite-sex couple regardless of belief or religion.

However, a spokesperson for the Sydney Diocese told Sydney Star Observer same-sex couples would not be allowed to celebrate commitment ceremonies in Anglican churches, even if the couple were Anglican, and there was no discretion in this.

This means an additional cost for same-sex couples wishing to celebrate their relationships.

Director of the Australia New Zealand National Secular Association, Max Wallace, told SSO that couples who had to go through a civil celebrant would be charged GST.

“If you are married in a church, you don’t have to pay the GST because the service is considered to be a religious ritual.
“In this situation, the GST is discriminatory on the basis of belief. If you choose to opt out of a ‘holy’ wedding, you pay. If you opt in to a ‘holy’ wedding, you don’t pay GST.”

Churches ask for sums that are competitive with commercial civil celebrants. However, Wallace did not think the rule change was related to the Sydney diocese’s loss of $160 million on the stock market.

“In reality, the Anglican Church’s assets run into the billions. These current financial troubles are just a temporary embarrassment,” Wallace said.

“Opening the church to those of other faiths and non-believers is a desperate ploy for relevance … Christianity is declining at every census.”

In a recent speech to the diocese’s annual synod, Archbishop Peter Jensen listed involvement in the anti-gay ordination group GAFCON among reasons God might be punishing his church through its financial loss.

“It may be that the Lord is chastising us for our sins,” Jensen said. “Some would say that it is the sin of arrogance, others would say it is because your bishops went to GAFCON.”

However, a spokesman for the Archbishop said this was not an expression of a personal doubt about the rightness of GAFCON, just an example of something a person might think.

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