General Synod Marriage debate: Melbourne’s Cathedral celebrates gift of ‘disagreeing well’

Following the Australian General Synod debates on traditional and same-sex marriage this week, the Dean of Melbourne, Dr Andreas Loewe, affirmed the Cathedral’s commitment to respecting difference, and gave thanks for the gift of disagreeing well.

Members of the Cathedral held different views, the Dean told the St Paul’s Cathedral community on Sunday 15 May: some affirm the traditional understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman, while others hold the views that same-sex marriages should also be blessed by the church.

The fact that the Cathedral has not let this diversity of theological views divide it, is a gift to the wider Australian church, the Dean said: ‘Thank you for being the diverse community you are, and for modelling disagreement so well. Please share those things with the wider church, as we embark on the next stages of our journeys together’.

Members of General Synod associated with St Paul’s supported differing sides in the marriage debate. The Cathedral was strongly represented at General Synod by former and present Chapter members and staff: the Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Rhys Bezzant, Bishop Genieve Blackwell, Prof Dorothy Lee, Michael Shand, Robert Vun, Colin Reilly, Prof Peter Sherlock, and Prof Mark Lindsay all spoke at General Synod.

In spite of their different views on marriage, the General Synod members who served the Cathedral share effectively in the governance of the Cathedral and enabled its growth, because they held  a common vision and modelled respectful disagreement, Dr Loewe explained:

‘At St Paul’s, we have a gift to share with the wider church, because we can show how we have laid aside our differing views on marriage, and instead engaged with one another with great respect and grace’.

In the run-up to the national referendum on marriage equality, St Paul’s deliberately chose to respect the different views on marriage with understanding and compassion, the Dean said. ‘Instead of letting our diverse views on marriage divide us, we’ve chosen to create a welcoming space, where the good news of Jesus can be heard, and people can be led to discipleship’, Dr Loewe said. This focus on a shared vision, of being place where people can come to experience, know and love God in Christ Jesus, has enabled the Cathedral to grow in diversity and in numbers. ‘Today the Cathedral brings together people from more than 25 nations and many different cultural backgrounds. We have different theological views on marriage, but we all share the same desire to see people come to love and know Jesus Christ, and become his disciples’, the Dean said.

Beyond the marriage debate, Dr Loewe expressed his delight that General Synod strongly spoke out on the Climate Emergency, calling on our Government and the Opposition to reach Net Zero as soon as possible. Canon Missioner Robert Vun noted that, as one of the few first-generation non-Anglo members of General Synod, he was able to help Synod navigate a potential ‘blind-spot on minority cultures’ by raising greater awareness of their cultural needs.