Some of you may have seen reports in the media and Facebook posts over the last few days about the Proposal on Same Gender Marriage that will be put to the national Assembly meeting in July for decision. The Facebook post doing the rounds states that “A Uniting Church committee has recommended that the church adopt same-sex marriage.” The article was published by Eternity News, (the Bible Society Australia). As you might imagine the post has received mixed responses.
The article comes in response to the long, detailed and careful Report from the Assembly Working Group on Doctrine (WGD) which was sent out to Assembly delegates this week. The Report is an internal document meant for Assembly members not the general public.
The Report comes out of 3 years of discernment, including conversations held in each Synod (apart from the Northern Synod due to timing issues); two national consultations representing the cultural, theological and personal diversity of the UCA; conversations with various networks and groups within the life of the UCA representing the broad diversity of views including congregations, presbyteries, national presbytery ministers, national educators network, Uniting Network, Assembly of Confession Congregations, UAICC, Multicultural Cross Cultural Ministry National Reference Committee, and ecumenical partners as well as theological reflection. In other words, the Report comes after a great deal of consultation, reflection, and study of biblical texts.
The Working Group on Doctrine looked at four possible options. They considered a range of things including the Basis of Union, the Biblical witnesses, Church History, Science, and Justice.
“Noting the diverse range of views on this matter through the Church, and as a result of the study, prayer and consultation behind this Report, the WGD recommends Option 4: Offer the rites of marriage to opposite-gender and same-gender couples, while allowing Ministers and Uniting Church authorized celebrants freedom of conscience to perform marriages or not.”
If this option is endorsed by the Assembly (a body made up of delegates from UCA congregations across Australia) ministers are free to refuse to marry same-gender couples. Further, Church Councils may also make policy regarding the marriage of same-gender couples on their property, but may not prevent the minister in placement from following his or her conscience in this matter.
If you would like to discus the proposal, one way is to attend the Same Gender Marriage Forum in Canberra on 23 May. you can find the details on the Presbytery website http://canberraregion.unitingchurch.org.au/
This Report is one of many that will be put to Assembly members. I have no doubt there will be considerable discussion, prayer and reflection during the meeting about this proposal as we, together, listen for the insight and leading of God’s spirit on this matter.
Karyl Davison, 01 May 18
These 2 short videos also outline the proposal:
Rev Dr Ji Zhang https://vimeo.com/264924501
and Rev Alistair McRae https://vimeo.com/264923268