Same-sex couples will be allowed to wed in the Uniting Church of Australia after the denomination’s national body agreed to a policy change on same-sex marriage that will allow ministers the option of conducting them.
The church will now have two different views on marriage to show the “diversity of Christian belief” among its members after a triennial meeting of the denomination’s national decision-making body.
Members of the church’s 18-member Assembly Standing Committee agreed to adopt a second statement on Friday during a seven-day assembly in Melbourne.
“Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life,” the new belief statement reads, whereas the existing statement reads, “Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life.”
Under the new ruling, ministers will be allowed the choice to conduct or refuse same-sex marriages.
Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer acknowledged the “struggle of LGBTIQ people in the church over many years.”
“I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you,” she said.
Dr Palmer also addressed “those who for whatever reason have not been able to support this change,” telling them “your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will be respected and protected.”
“I thank you all for modelling a loving Christian community, holding together and caring for each other, across our diversity of strongly and faithfully held views,” she said.
Same-sex marriages in Uniting Churches around the country are expected to be able to start taking place in the coming months.
In late April, the church’s Assembly Standing Committee first endorsed an internal report recommending the church’s marriage policy statement be changed from being the union of “a man and a woman”, to between “two people”.
The change should be made, the report said, because “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 states.
The report acknowledged “the injustices which LGBTIQ people have suffered in society and in the church”.
“It is common knowledge that discrimination against people because of their sexual orientation has very damaging impacts on their health and wellbeing, including high rates of suicide,” it read.
“If the church is committed to learning from Jesus about challenging the injustice of excluding people then it will seriously consider extending marriage to couples of the same gender.”