The 14th Assembly has received a report on marriage and will continue to discuss related proposals over the coming days.
Rev. Alistair Macrae introduced the Doctrine Working Group’s The theology of marriage and same-gender relationships within the Uniting Church report, noting that the report is based on the 1997 resolution on marriage and the Uniting Church and the marriage liturgy found in Uniting in Worship 2.
He acknowledged that the theological framework of creation-fall was not the only theological framework in relation to marriage, but that there are few which are so broadly used across the Christian church.
However, Rev. Macrae was keen to point out that use of this material in the group’s report was not intended to single out any single group for criticism.
“To attribute goodness to one sexual orientation and fallenness to another is not only destructive and alienating but also poor theology,” he said.
Rev. Macrae encouraged the Assembly to carefully consider the proposal.
“The view of the Working Group is there is more work to be done and while in the short term legislative changes may place churches under a certain amount of pressure … our church should take as long as necessary to discern the Spirit’s leading in this matter,” said Rev. Macrae.
A question arose about whether the Doctrine Working Group needed to continue its work considering the 1997 resolution that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Rev. Avril Hannah-Jones, who was also in the Working Group, said “There is no theology of marriage which can be easily articulated the by the entire Uniting Church. How we do theology in the Uniting Church is in accordance with the Basis of Union, using scripture, reason, experience and tradition. We put these together.”
The Assembly received the Working Group’s report by consensus.
Rev. Dennis Corowa spoke to the report on behalf of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC).
“Congress had a very open discussion about marriage in January,” he said.
“The National Committee met in March and once again had a frank conversation around these issues.”
Rev. Corowa told the Assembly the National Committee has opted to avoid making any comment on the issue, but to continue to be part of the conversation in private, for fear that “anything that was said would be used by one side or another to co-opt the whole of Congress into their camp.”
Rev. Macrae reminded the Assembly that according to the Marriage Act 1961 no Uniting Church minister is required to celebrate a marriage for any reason.
“This proposal only reiterates what is already the case: That no minister is required to celebrate any marriage for any reason.”
Discussion ensued of the requirements of ministers under a potential future change to the Marriage Act. Discussion will continue on this part of the proposal later in the 14th Assembly.
A proposal that the Assembly Standing Committee explore with the UAICC and Multicultural and Cross Cultural Ministry culturally appropriate ways to discuss the issue of same-gender marriage, was also discussed.
Concern was raised that in many UAICC and CALD communities there are people for whom this matter is already decided, and that this may imply an obligation for them to have conversations which they would not otherwise be willing to have.
After a period of respectful discussion, the proposal was passed.
A suggestion from the floor to include a clause specifying that the LGBTIQ community be consulted was made, and will dealt with in later discussion.
Rev. Macrae pointed out that particular consultation with the LGBTIQ community is already included in the Working Group’s report, which was received by the Assembly.
The conversation finished for the night with the joyous announcement from Congress Deputy Chairperson Rev. Garry Dronfield of the birth of a new granddaughter.
The 14th Assembly will continue to discuss on the proposals in the coming days.