A Uniting Church reverend has made an emotional plea to her church as an internal split threatens to undo the church’s decision to give its ministers the option of conducting same-sex marriages.
In July, Uniting Church of Australia’s 265-member National Assembly voted to allow ministers the choice to marry same-sex couples, beginning September 21.
The assembly approved two definitions of marriage: one between a man and a woman, and another between two people under the Australian law.
But a backlash from conservative Christians within the church has forced a discussion that could force a review of the decision, ABC News reported.
The church’s constitution allows presbyteries to lodge an objection within six months of an Assembly decision. If a certain number of presbyteries is reached by January 13, the matter would be voted on again at another assembly. Same-sex marriages in the churches would be stopped in the interim.
Reverend Susan Wickham from the Church of Trinity at Clarence Park in Adelaide is in a same-sex relationship. She was a key campaigner in last year’s marriage postal survey.
She took to Facebook to plead for herself and her partner of more than 22 years, Reverend Leanne Jenski, to be given the freedom to get married in their own church.
“Please find the humility and grace, to which we are all called, and respect the assembly decision on marriage,” she said in the post.
“There were many at assembly who wanted the new marriage rite to completely replace the old but, they had the grace and humility to respect that some of us cannot accept the inclusion of gay and lesbian relationships.
“Two integrities and two rites was their compromise. I believe it was a gift of the Holy Spirit that could and can enable us to move forward together.”
Rev Wickham continued, “It does not require anyone to change their views — simply to recognise and accept that there are many different and faithfully held views.
“No one is forced to marry a same-sex couple and no worshipping community is forced to allow their property to be used for such weddings.
“We can be the church together if we are prepared to live with difference.
“If we lose that acceptance of difference and diversity, how can we be truly faithful to the one who created and creates us all in love?”
Other Uniting Church congregations oppose same-sex marriages
But on the Gold Coast, Newlife Uniting Church at Robina has threatened to leave the Uniting Church of Australia because of its disagreement with the decision to allow ministers to marry same-sex couples.
A group of eight ministers from separate congregations lead by Newlife head Reverend Stu Cameron is pushing to retain only the traditional notion of marriage between a man and a woman, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported.
“This proposal is not made lightly or out of anger or reaction. It is a response made with humility and prayerful, tearful concern for the Uniting Church — a movement we love and have much to be thankful for,” the group said in a statement.
Last month, a new policy debated by the Sydney Anglican diocese to ban same-sex weddings and the “promotion” of homosexuality and transgender “ideology” in Anglican churches was met with a fiery response from Christians.
The Sydney Anglican diocese made a $1 million donation to the “No” campaign during the same-sex marriage postal survey last year.
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