Married gay priests blocked from receiving church blessing for their union

Father John Davis and Father Rob Whalley were due to become the first same-sex couple to receive a blessing from Australia's Anglican church but a legal challenge has put a halt to their plans.

Married gay priests in their 50s standing outside a church
Image: James Wiltshire

In a uniquely romantic piece of news, two gay priests from opposite sides of the world who fell in love and got married were due to make history by becoming the first same-sex couple to receive a blessing from Australia’s Anglican Church. However, a legal challenge has put a stop to their plans.

ABC News in Australia reported how Father John Davis, from Australia, and Father Rob Whalley, from California, first met 20 years ago and it was love at first sight. Father Whalley explained, “I looked at him and I thought, ‘I could be with this guy for a long time, we actually see the world in much the same way.’”

But Whalley soon had worries, “I said to myself, ‘There’s no future in it at all. This is an absolutely global impossibility. You’re from Australia. I’m from California.’ And he looked at me at that moment and said, ‘I love you.’”

The couple married on September 10, 20 years after that first meeting.

More recently, the gay priests were to become the first same-sex couple to have their wedding blessed by the Anglican Church in their native country of Australia, with Bishop John Parkes planning to carry out the blessing this upcoming weekend before his retirement. Everything had seemed to be on track until a legal challenge arose, blocking the blessing from taking place.

The couple’s case has been brought to the Appellate Tribunal, which is the Church’s biggest ecclesiastical court. The Tribunal will now decide whether the blessing contravenes the Anglican Church’s constitution due to the marriage being under civil law. Until a decision has been reached, Archbishop Philip Freier has said that no blessings may be carried out. Freier in the past has stated that doctrine dictates marriage is between a man and a woman.

While the couple’s problem is currently in limbo until the decision, they are adamant in their happiness to be a test case for a potentially history-making decision. Expressing it is “a privilege” and “an honour”, Father Davis shared, “This will be something of huge significance to every diocese across the country.”

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