The Anglican Diocese of Sydney has revoked a policy that would have banned smoking ceremonies to take place on any property owned by the Anglican Church in Sydney, including schools.
Last week it was revealed a policy developed by the Diocese’s Religious Freedom Reference Group considered smoking ceremonies and other spiritual practices, such as Hinduism-inspired yoga, as “inconsistent” with the beliefs of the diocese and conflicting with Christian spirituality.
The document proposing the ban considers only 'the one God' is to be worshiped, and hence recommended the prohibition of any practice that didn't follow the Christian faith in church property. The policy stated that smoking ceremonies cleansed a place "from the residual spirits of those who have died", which made them problematic.
Kabi Kabi and Goreng Goreng Reverend Ray Minniecon told NITV News he was pleased with the decision to hold off on the ban, as didn’t believe it had been appropriately discussed with Indigenous communities.
“I’m happy with the outcome of today’s decision. I look forward to working with the churches, including the Sydney diocese, to ensure that our cultural practices and sovereignty are respected,” Rev Minniecon said.
Bishop Michael Stead, the chair of the Diocese’s Religious Freedom Reference Group, conceded that the reversal occurred because they needed to have greater consultation with Indigenous communities in Sydney.
"This discussion needs to be part of the wider conversation about reconciliation between the First Peoples of this country and its later arrivals, and needs to be driven by Indigenous Christians," Bishop Michael Stead said.
"It was clumsy to address this in a proper use policy, and I readily withdraw it, with deep apologies to the Aboriginal community.”
For now Indigenous communities are still able to perform smoking ceremonies on properties owned by the Anglican Church in Sydney, but Bishop Michael Stead said the policy that would've banned them may or may not be on the table for review at next year’s gathering.
The policy stated that church property can only be used for “acts or practices which conform to the doctrines, tenets and beliefs of the diocese”.
The synod is still debating today whether to ban same-sex marriage ceremonies and receptions on any property owned by the church or any commercial property leased by the church. The policy states these go against the beliefs of the diocese, who define marriage as "the union of a man and a women”.
Allowing yoga classes that go beyond positional yoga is another matter being discussed.
The synod is an annual gathering of representatives of the Sydney diocese. The meeting allows the synod to consider matters which may affect the order of the diocese, including resolutions and policy-making.