When you hear a report of two men driving ten hours from the Armidale, where they live, all the way to Albury so they can celebrate the blessing of their marriage in an actual church, nearly two years after the event, you’d have to be wonder what David and Goliath struggle went on between these two defiant LGBTQI church members and the Anglican Diocese of Armidale.

According to Peter Grace and Peter Sanders, West Armidale’s St Mary’s Anglican Church refused to bless their union. The two were also faced with the prospect of losing their positions within the Church if they did not separate, lead a celibate life, and undertake religious counselling.

Overwhelming Support in the Congregation

An overwhelming majority of the congregation supported the two Peters, with a third of the congregation walking out in protest.

According to a go-fund-me page set up to assist them with legal costs, “They have brought nothing but happiness, love, and care to St Mary’s. We value them as friends and fellow parishioners, totally reject the Church’s discrimination against them and could not bear to see their loving marriage ended.”

According to the ABC, Mr Sanders, speaking on the hardship they faced, recalled,  “We wanted to leave Armidale because of what happened. It would be so much easier for us to leave.”

Father Peter MacLeod-Miller of St Matthew’s Anglican Church at Albury, the Church hosting the marriage blessing service, is a prominent advocate of LGBTQI equality. He said this was the first case of its kind that he could recall since same-sex marriage was legalised in 2017.

“If you want the world to change, then we change it. If you’re not satisfied with a government that discriminates against people, we change it,” MacLeod-Miller told the ABC.

Peter Grace, Peter Sanders, and  Father Peter MacLeod-Miller. Image: Katherine Smyrk/ ABC

So, What is Going on in the Armidale Diocese?

According to the Guardian, the Bishop of the Armidale Diocese, Reverend Rod Chiswell, said “Involvement in positions of ministry or other leadership … is conditional upon agreeing to the Faithfulness in Service code.”

The Anglican Church 2017 ‘Faithfulness in Service’ document states, “Sexuality is a gift from God and is integral to human nature. It is appropriate for clergy and church workers to value this gift, taking responsibility for their sexual conduct by maintaining chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.”

There is no talk of celibacy and separation for a married couple here!

Mr Sanders and Mr Grace are concerned that the new federal religious discrimination bill could hinder acceptance for same-sex couples in the Church.

Seeing the bill introduced in parliament has motivated them to keep fighting for change. They plan to make a complaint to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board about unlawful discrimination.

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