A gay church organist and music director, who was told that he would have to “separate” from his husband and “be celibate” to retain his position at the Anglican Church, has lodged a complaint under NSW’s anti-discrimination laws. 

Peter Sanders (58) was an organist and music director at St Mary’s Anglican Church in Armidale in regional New South Wales. His husband Peter Grace (62) was on the organising committee of the church’s 125th-anniversary celebrations. 

Sanders,  in his complaint lodged with the Anti-Discrimination Board, has claimed he was unlawfully terminated from his job for being gay and marrying his same-sex partner, reported The Australian. According to the church, Sanders was never employed with them and was only being paid an honorarium. 

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Sanders has demanded that the Dean of the Armidale Diocese apologise to him and his husband, The Australian reported. 

Separate And Be Celibate, Church Told Gay Couple

Peter Sanders. Image: Change.org

A change.org petition asking the church to allow the two men to rejoin the church and give back their positions has received around 20,000 signatures. 

The petition said that the couple had joined the church several years ago. Sanders married his husband in 2020 under the Marriage Act. The petition revealed that in May 2021, “the two men were advised by the Dean of the Cathedral that they are not ‘living in a Biblical manner’ and were barred from continuing in their roles. This action is supported by the Bishop of the Armidale Diocese.”

A senior member of the church’s managing committee told the couple that they would have to “separate” and lead a celibate life or Sanders would lose his position at the church.

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The bishop of the Armidale diocese, Reverend Rod Chiswell, reportedly said that the church would not dismiss Sanders from his role in the church, but that involvement in leadership positions were “conditional upon agreeing to the faithfulness in service code”. 

‘Un-Biblical’

Sanders and Grace chose to leave the church and a third of the congregation followed them in solidarity with the couple. In January 2022, the couple’s union was blessed at St Matthew’s church in Albury, which belongs to the Wangaratta diocese that blesses same-sex unions. 

The Australian reported that Janice Clark, the managing committee member who was instructed to convey the Dean’s message to the couple that they were living in an “un-Biblical manner”, has supported Sanders and Grace in her submission to the board.

Clark said that during the meeting, another committee member told the Dean that she had a gay nephew who was accepted by the family. The Dean told the woman that her nephew too was an “un-Biblical person”, leaving her in tears, Clark claimed.

 

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