The Anglican Church has dismissed a critique of its advice to church members on how to argue the case against same-sex marriage.
The critique was written by progressive Anglican priest Rev. Dr Keith Mascord in response to the Anglican Sydney Diocese's document What Has God Joined Together?, which claims legalising same-sex marriage would have adverse consequences for children, women and society more broadly.
What Has God Joined Together? also describes a change in the marriage law as potentially the "greatest threat to religious freedom we have ever seen in Australia", and advises lay people on how to respond to common questions in the marriage debate, such as "Why does God have such a problem with gay people?".
About 65,000 copies have been distributed to Anglicans in Sydney and some areas of regional NSW since late February. It can also be accessed online.
Mascord, an Anglican priest who works in corrective services, was angered by the document and penned what he described as a "scathing critique", which he sent to Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies and senior clergy last week.
Mascord’s rebuttal was also posted to the website of LGBTI Christian group Equal Voices, a group he helped found.
In it, he criticised the church's document for, among other things, "overstating the supposed negative consequences" of same-sex marriage; implying that supporting a change in the law disrespects the institution of marriage; and lacking humility.
"I think [What Has God Joined Together?] is a very poor document, and it's misleading people," Mascord told BuzzFeed News.
"But more seriously than that, it's a hurtful document. They're arguing against same-sex marriage but without doing what they should have done first: apologise for the hurt and damage that even documents like this keep causing."
"We've got really upset reactions from gay people in Sydney, LGBTI Sydney Anglicans have been quite distressed by the document," he said.
Bishop Michael Stead, who chaired the committee that wrote What Has God Joined Together?, told BuzzFeed News he rejected Mascord's criticisms.
"What Has God Joined Together? is a thoughtful examination of the views on same-sex marriage," he said. "After such consideration, it does not support a redefinition of marriage.
"It doesn't pretend to be the only examination of the topic, but it was shown to churches before distribution in March and overwhelmingly endorsed. Other denominations and churches have also asked to use the material as part of a wider Christian response to the issue."
Archbishop Glen Davies has previously railed against same-sex marriage activists, labelling them "bullies" who shut down debate. In 2016, Davies refused to renew Mascord's license to preach in the Sydney Diocese on the basis of Mascord's support for same-sex marriage.
In the rebuttal to What Has God Joined Together?, Mascord challenged the Archbishop to circulate his critique in the same spirit of open discussion.
The final paragraph of Mascord's response reads: "Dissent should not be stifled, that is for sure, and in the spirit of the Archbishop’s call, I ask that this paper be circulated to clergy and congregations, and that it be used to initiate discussions around the Diocese on these important matters."
But the Diocese rejected the request. A spokesperson told BuzzFeed News it could not distribute Mascord's document as What Has God Joined Together? has already been circulated.
Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.
Contact Lane Sainty at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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