Proposal for Sydney’s Anglican diocese to remove anti-gay marriage employment contract clause

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A proposal to scrap an employment contract clause opposing same-sex marriage that has been part of a general statement of faith since 2019 comes as a welcome relief for many Anglican school leaders and families.

The review of the rule is part of a comprehensive governance overhaul of the 30-plus Anglican schools run by the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and means principals at Sydney’s Anglican schools would no longer be made to add their signature to the controversial document that currently demands they affirm their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

Under the new proposal by the church – in a report to be presented at September’s synod – incoming school heads will not be asked to approve the clause that has created a fierce backlash from parents, students, and many staff members at Anglican schools across the country.

“Feedback has focused on the relational difficulties it has created in school contexts … with communities and alumni who are deeply influenced by a modern culture hostile to traditional Christian beliefs and practices,” the report says.

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“This may create a barrier for the recruitment of governors and leaders, who, while personally agreeing with the statement, may face sanctions from their employer or be prevented from taking up these voluntary roles.”

The conservative Sydney diocese manages operations of a number of prestigious Sydney schools, including Abbotsleigh, Barker College, King’s, Shore, St Catherine’s, and Trinity Grammar. The schools’ councils comprise volunteers and are dominated by representatives of the diocese.

The extra clause, which took both councils and principals by surprise when the Sydney diocese added it, said: “faith produces obedience in accordance with God’s word, including sexual faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman, and abstinence in all other circumstances”.

Incoming board members and school heads had to sign the statement as a key employment condition. In 2022, parents at the nation’s oldest private girls’ school, St Catherine’s, called for the scrapping of the rule, following news that the school’s next principal could only take the top job if they agreed to the terms.

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A Sydney diocese spokesperson acknowledged they had received feedback on the clause and said that the diocese had “already been discussing ways in which the policy could be improved”.

“The review of the governance policy is ongoing. A school’s executive leadership will need to be Christian in faith and character, following the teachings of Jesus and beliefs and tenets of the diocese, but the commitment they make will be a commitment to organisational faithfulness,” he said.

The review comes as the federal government considers removing anti-discrimination exemptions for religious schools. This would enable them to discriminate against individuals based on gender identity, marital or relationship status, pregnancy, or sexual orientation. The Australian Law Reform Commission is due to deliver its final report at the end of the year.

The Sydney diocese is in firm opposition to same-sex marriage and has made previous attempts to have the national church affirm that marriage is only between a woman and a man.

The diocese spokesman said the draft policy is open for feedback from organisations and schools until the end of 2023.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]