A Woodend Anglican priest says she is determined to persuade the church to allow her to legally perform wedding ceremonies for same sex couples.
Months after Australians voted overwhelmingly in favour of same sex marriage in the postal survey she still has to abide by laws within her church.
“I can’t convince homosexual followers that their God fully loves and accepts them based on this massive part of their identities, which is really heartbreaking,” she said.
The Anglican Church still only allows weddings to take place according to the laws written in the Prayer Book for Australia which specifies marriage is between a man and a woman.
Reverend Clarke is leading a small group of her parishioners in lobbying the Anglican Church to change those words in the guidelines but says its going to take “quite some time”.
There are many “polarising” views amongst Church scholars which make for a long and gentle process to make that real change to policy that affects Clarke’s ability to hold a legally binding marriage ceremony.
“I could conduct a ceremony but my words would be meaningless as my licence now comes through the church,” Reverend Clarke said.
A few of Reverend Clarke’s own parishioners have approached her in support of the churches traditional marriage views, but she receives an overwhelming amount of support within the Macedon Ranges.
“I can’t speak for other churches in the area, but at least I can display my support for the issue openly here and that’s a positive sign,” said Clarke.
In relation to the plebiscite, “the majority of the Christians in this church did vote yes without me telling them to, I just told them my views which obviously do support the LGBT community,” Clarke said.
Cobaw Community Health in the Macedon Ranges has organised support groups, called WayOut and Rainbow Ranges which work together to host special events in support of members of the LGBT community.
Ms Eliza Edwards-Cairns has been involved with the group since she was in high school. “I helped organise the event around Kyneton like barbeques and these were based around acceptance and love,” she said.
“There were only a small number of students of all ages doing it when I started, but the groups having an impact because numbers are really flourishing now,” Edwards-Cairns said.
After the announcement of the same-sex marriage survey result last year, she was involved in writing posters and radio announcements for the celebrations held in Kyneton, which included guest speakers.
“While I’ve also been involved in city protests, this group reinforces the idea that there’s still a strong little community out in this rural area ready to support members that identify as LGBT, especially young people,” Ms Edwards-Cairns said.
Reverend Clarke maintains that this support is paramount to Christian values and is how she defends her views against those in opposition to her.
“If we are following the teachings of Jesus, which we as Christians signed up for, he never spoke out against gay people, although he did speak against divorce yet we somehow allow that,” Clarke said.
She said she was disappointed at the million-dollar donation given to the ‘no’ campaign during the same sex marriage survey debate last year by Sydney Anglican Church.
“I wasn’t aware there were suddenly no hungry or homeless people in Sydney that could use that money,” Clarke said. She also advocates for issues such as refugees and the homeless.
This is an issue that still strikes us as important, as it’s personal for so many members of society. “I know gay people in this church that are the most kind-hearted souls, they’d give you the shirts off their backs,” Reverend Clarke said.
“However, they are going overseas to marry now, as they can’t wait for a change that I don’t see coming for even as long as I’m serving in this church, as much as I hope for it,” Reverend Clarke said.
She holds on to the positive indicators for change, with figures like world-first appointed female Archbishop, Kay Goldsworthy, in Perth openly supporting a more inclusive attitude to come from the Church moving forward.
Clarke also has members debate her about how the Bible deems homosexuality a sin. She reminds them that modern churches don’t follow all aspects of the Bible, including marriage between people of different religions.
“It’s funny how some members want to uphold certain tradition but not others really,” Reverend Clarke said.
There are many differing interpretations of the Bible however there is an “overall message of love that is at the core of this issue that we need to keep in mind,” she said. And there are plenty of people willing to keep that message highlighted.