Nearly an entire congregation has abandoned a church in regional Queensland to start their own, after the Uniting Church’s national vote to allow same-sex marriages.
The St George Uniting Church is located in the south west Queensland town of the same name. Over the last 12 months, around 90 per cent of its members, including the minister, have left the congregation.
The defectors want to start their own conservative sect, opposing the Uniting Church’s decision last July to allow ministers the option of marrying same-sex couples.
St George Uniting Church Head Reverend David Baker told the Roma Western Star those remaining had tried to keep the church together.
“They had started talking among themselves about what they would do, together,” Rev Baker told the newspaper.
“As a group, about 90 per cent of them decided that they would leave and form a new Christian community.”
Rev Baker said he was aware the the decision was based on the church’s national same-sex marriage vote.
“We tried to open up the doors of conversation with them, and seek to help them find a way to stay,” he said.
“But that hasn’t worked, so they made that decision.”
St George Uniting Church determined to keep going
The church is located in the south west Queensland town of St George, within the federal electorate of the Maranoa.
It was one of 17 electorates to record a majority “no” vote (56.1 per cent) in the 2017 marriage postal survey.
Reverend David Baker said he had spent much of the year helping Queenslanders of faith “work through” the national assembly’s same-sex marriage vote.
“Most people can see that this is a way of letting people live in a way that is true to themselves, and share their life with someone,” he said.
“Our view of marriage says it’s between two people who promise, in covenant, to love each other for the whole of their lives,” he said.
“Some people go good, this is common sense and this has allowed us to have a sense of being able to recognise same sex orientated people as members of the life of the church, loved by God, like all the rest of us.
“A lot of people share in that, but we’re still a church that has a traditional view on marriage.
“There have been some concerned with the decision our Church made.”
Despite the mass walkout, Rev Baker is committed to keep the church going and continue serving the parishioners who stayed.
“We honour their decision to recognise that they want to stay a part of the life of the Uniting Church, one who seeks to live the way of Jesus and show his love to all,” he said.
Anglican churches also split on same-sex marriages
Last July, the Uniting Church voted to endorse same-sex marriage and allow individual ministers to choose whether or not to officiate same-sex marriages.
The church’s national assembly approved two definitions of marriage: one between a man and a woman and another between two people.
A bid to undo the decision and send it to another vote failed to garner enough support in January.
In October, an Anglican priest married his partner at a nearby Uniting Church in regional Victoria.
The Anglican church in Australia has also made headlines after proposals to merely bless same-sex marriages caused ructions in the denomination.
Sydney Archbishop Glenn Davies sensationally called for clergy supportive of same-sex marriage to “please leave us” rather than “ruin the church” over the issue.
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