Bendigo Anglican bishop Andrew Curnow tells no campaigners meaning of marriage can change

Just weeks away from retirement, Bendigo’s Anglican bishop has delivered a startling rebuke to those demanding he oppose marriage equality and assisted dying, describing their correspondence as “dogmatic” and “vitriolic”. 

In one of his final columns for Bendigo diocese publication SpiritBishop Andrew Curnow said he received a “deluge” of emails from the no camp on both issues.  

“I have found much of the material vitriolic, highly emotional and practically claiming Armageddon is on the horizon if the ‘yes’ vote wins,” he wrote.

“I have also found much of the material claiming unequivocally what the Bible states on both issues both extremely dogmatic in tone and language.”

Read more: Rainbow parade to mark marriage debate

He argued Australia was no longer a Christian nation and using Christianity as grounds to oppose new marriage and euthanasia laws made him “very uncomfortable”.  

”This does not mean that the church cannot contribute to the debate on public issues or that it cannot make a meaningful contribution to the life of the nation and state,” Bishop Curnow said.

“But our contribution has to take account of the diversity of our society.

“We cannot adopt an imperialist attitude!”

While marriage between a man and woman was the traditional belief, it was not beyond change, the bishop believed, using the church’s shift away from slavery as an example of changing Christian mores. 

But the bishop stopped short of asking others to vote in favour of marriage equality, asking readers to be guided by their conscience. 

“Try not to be judgmental and bear in mind that our nation is one of the last nations on earth trying to embrace the value and standard of a harmonious safe society.”​

He took the same approach to the Victorian government’s proposed assisted dying laws, welcoming a conscience vote in the Victorian parliament as a responsible way to handle the sensitive subject. 

“I have looked at the legislation and do not agree that it undervalues or reduces the sanctity of life,” he said. 

Read more: Christian leaders back marriage equality

“Modern medicine has brought great benefits to many of us but as it says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, ‘There is a time to be born, and a time to die’.” 

The bishop’s position is at odds with a resolution passed recently by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The national body moved to recognise “that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman”.

It also a different view to the one put forward by Catholic bishop Les Tomlinson last month; he said changing the Marriage Act would have “deeper effects” for Australians.