Respectful conversations on marriage

As this edition of Revive hits the stands, Australia is in the midst of the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, the non-binding, non-compulsory survey asking the public whether Australia should allow same-sex marriage. Your postal vote needs to be received by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) by Tuesday 7 November for it to be counted in the survey.

There is a lot of diversity within the Uniting Church regarding this issue, and the church has been in conversation for many years about its formal position. One thing its leaders do agree on is the need for respectful conversations. At the recent Annual Meeting of the Synod of WA, members of the Synod took part in small group conversations about what marriage meant to them. They also  had the opportunity to prayerfully send a written message to the Uniting Church in Australia on the issue.

Rev Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church WA, acknowledged the pain members of the church were feeling and felt this method of conversation was much more helpful than the traditional consensus model, guided by a proposal and debate on the floor of the meeting.

Following the meeting, Steve has written a pastoral letter to the Uniting Church WA regarding this issue.

Stuart McMillan, President of the Uniting Church in Australia, has also called for the church to engage respectfully in this debate. He reiterated that the Uniting Church’s official definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, but that the church continues to discern this issue. Stuart wrote that as under the Marriage Act, ministers of religion cannot legally solemnise a marriage without an approved liturgy, the Uniting Church position on marriage will “remain the same until the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia decides otherwise and approves an appropriate  liturgy.

“I would however take this opportunity to again remind members of the need for respectful conversations on the issue of samegender marriage,” he wrote. “As the public debate intensifies, we  must redouble our efforts to choose our words carefully, including when we speak of our sisters and brothers in Christ.”

The Uniting Church in Australia has made available the Space for Grace resource, which can be used as a guide for facilitating respectful conversations. It was developed by the Multicultural and  Cross-Cultural Reference Committee, inspired by engaging in conversations with a diverse range of people.

Download Space for Grace, and read Stuart McMillan’s call to the church on this issue at assembly.uca.org.au.

Read Steve Francis’ pastoral letter at unitingchurchwa.org.au/news-notes/news-2.

Heather Dowling

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