Wangaratta same-sex blessing delayed by challenge, but Bishop John Parkes stands firm

PUSHING ON: Wangaratta Bishop John Parkes will argue the case in the appellate tribunal for same-sex blessings, but has already been threatened with disciplinary action.
PUSHING ON: Wangaratta Bishop John Parkes will argue the case in the appellate tribunal for same-sex blessings, but has already been threatened with disciplinary action.

The historic blessing of two gay priests from Wangaratta, married after 20 years together, has been delayed by a legal challenge from the Anglican church.

John Davis and Rob Whalley were married in Melbourne and had plans to have the relationship blessed by Bishop John Parkes at a ceremony in Milawa on Saturday.

It came after a 67-18 vote from the Synod of the Diocese of Wangaratta to allow the blessing of same-sex couples.

Anglican Church of Australia Primate Philip Freier had always planned to refer the proposal to the church's appellate tribunal for a final decision, but did so this week quicker than anticipated - before the first blessing could actually occur.

Bishop Parkes said he was not surprised, but insisted it was just "a delay, rather than an abandonment".

"We will give the appellate tribunal a chance to meet and consider and we will be actively involved in presenting our views before the tribunal," he said.

"I can't for the life of me believe that we won't be able to bless people, but if not, some of us will have to consider our position very carefully."

Tribunal proceedings will be conducted like a court case, but it has not been decided yet if there will be oral evidence heard or written submissions.

WEDDED: After more than 20 years in a relationship, priests John Davis and Rob Whalley (pictured last week) were married in a civil ceremony yesterday. They will have a religious ceremony on the weekend.

WEDDED: After more than 20 years in a relationship, priests John Davis and Rob Whalley (pictured last week) were married in a civil ceremony yesterday. They will have a religious ceremony on the weekend.

Members of the Sydney diocese who have been vocal in their criticism could be among the witnesses, but Bishop Parkes has described their arguments that the blessings have threatened the church as "nonsense".

"They seem incapable of understanding that there is a fundamental difference between blessing an institution and blessing people," he said.

"If the tribunal decides, as my argument will be, that we have power to do what we're doing then we'll open the doors of the cathedral and anybody who wants to have their marriage blessed can come along."

While other bishops have previously ignored requests from Primate Freier to not take certain actions before an appellate tribunal hearing, Bishop Parkes said "the proper thing is not to" and it would be "rude".

Support and acceptance from the Wangaratta synod had meant a lot to Fathers Davis and Whalley, who had taken the emotional step to stand up for their relationship and other people of faith in the LGBTQIA community.

They will still take part in a ceremony conducted by Bishop Parkes on Saturday, but without the official blessing.

"We will proceed with our service of worship, but we won't be using the liturgical blessing," he said.

This story Same-sex blessing delayed by challenge, but bishop stands firm first appeared on The Border Mail.