Melissa Krollig is the Treasurer for Uniting Network Australia, the national network for LGBTIQ people, their families, friends and supporters within the Uniting Church in Australia. Melissa is also an out and proud queer woman and a devoted Christian.
For many these two identities can’t be reconciled, in a lot of churches those who are LGBTIQ are not accepted or welcome only so far as their sexuality becomes invisible, their relationships non existent and their faith to the church unquestionable.
Conversely there are those in the LGBTIQ community who feel a deep unrest towards churches, after a hard fought battle during the marriage postal survey many have felt attacked by those who appear to represent the church.
People like Melissa can often find themselves caught between these two worlds, a religion that doesn’t want them and a community that refuses to accept their faith as valid.
For Melissa this experience was all too real, as a youth leader in her church she unexpectedly found herself in a same sex relationship after she began to explore her sexuality.
But it wasn’t long until the church gained wind of her relationship and she was excused from her role as youth leader. The experience was emotional and spiritually wrecking, having grown up in the church which she shared with her family, she found herself exiled and relationships with her family strained.
Her experience however, is not unique, plenty of others like Melissa have had similar experiences and walked away from the their faith and their families. But for Melissa her faith was too important and she continued to search for a place where she could be herself and retain her connection to her religion.
Finding the Uniting Network was just what she had been looking for, a collective of people with similar experiences as well as heterosexual people who had been affected in different ways.
Whether they had children, friends and family in the LGBTIQ community or they were simply queer themselves this nationwide organisation is dedicated to finding a progressive place for faith and sexuality to co-exist in the modern world.
“The bible was written a long time ago for a particular group of people at the time with a certain set of rules for a certain time,” she said.
“The interpretations aren’t quite what they were like then. Things that we thought were about homosexuality were actually probably about other things. People need to develop their understanding of these things.”
Ten years on and Melissa is about to head to Brisbane as part of the organisations national conference “Daring for Equality.”
The conference is a three day event with participants from around the country coming together for a series of workshops and guest speakers. Of note is Conference keynote speaker the Reverend Dr Inkpin (pictured), a transwoman, Anglican priest, theologian and justice activist.
The event will be taking place at Merthyr Road, Uniting Church, who are very excited to be part of the conference.
The Revd Murray Fysh, Minister at Merthyr Rd Uniting Church, said that his Congregation was open and welcoming of all people and were looking forward to hosting the conference.
“The Gospel of Christ Jesus, based on Jesus’ own ministry, emphasises the inclusion of all, especially people who have been marginalised or rejected.”
So what’s on the agenda? Equality of course, but what does that look like in a modern church, with the passing of marriage equality churches are facing an interesting crossroads.
“Currently if a minister within a church wishes to marry a same sex couple, they are not allowed to do so even if they wish,” Melissa said.
This will form an ongoing part of the discussion at this years conference as participants get to connect, explore and share their stories to try and effect change on this issue and many others within the church.
The Uniting Australia Annual Conference will take place from June 8 to 10, with bookings closing June 3.
For more information or to register your interest email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website.