The Uniting Church of Australia just granted ministers the freedom to allow or deny marrying same-sex couples.
The governing body of the Uniting Church – the Assembly – hasn’t met Since Australia voted overwhelmingly for same-sex marriage in December last year.
But the The 15th Assembly have been considering the issue since 7 July at Melbourne’s Box Hill Town Hall.
The existing definition of marriage says it is a union between ‘a man and a woman’.
But this new statement says: ‘For Christians, marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.’
The 15th Assembly meeting of the Uniting Church in Australia has resolved to allow its ministers the freedom to conduct or refuse to conduct same-gender marriages. #uca18https://t.co/IciGV7jnlJ pic.twitter.com/bnVGdGArhy
— Uniting Church (@UnitingChurchAu) July 13, 2018
Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer said on their website: ‘This decision follows many years of reflection, prayer and discernment, and I want to thank Assembly members for the way they have responded with grace to what is a difficult conversation for many people of faith.’
Directly addressing LGBTI church members, Palmer said: ‘I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you.
‘We also acknowledge those who for whatever reason have not been able to support this change.
‘Please rest assured that your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will be respected and protected,’ Palmer said.
Years of consultation
The church’s Working Group on Doctrine (WGD) prepared an internal report on the issue.
The Assembly Standing Committee then endorsed the report, paving the way for the church to begin holding same-sex marriages.
The results of the report came after three years of research and consultation.
Some of the reasons given for recommending the Uniting Church update its policy include; ‘scientific research generally supports the view that people who are attracted to someone of the same gender were born that way’.
‘This knowledge supports the view that same-gender sexual attraction can be understood as part of God’s good and diverse creation rather than unnatural,’ the report reads.
The report also stated: ‘It is common knowledge that discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation has very damaging impacts on their health and wellbeing.’
The Assembly also affirmed the sovereignty of the First Peoples of Australia.