The Uniting Church of Australia’s landmark vote last year to allow same-sex weddings will not be reversed after an internal backlash, the church’s LGBTIQ network has said.
Last September, the Uniting Church became the first major Australian Christian denomination to endorse same-sex marriages, approving two definitions of marriage – one between a man and a woman, and another between two people as in Australian law – allowing Ministers to choose.
But the Uniting Church’s constitution allows presbyteries and synods to lodge an objection within six months of such a decision, on the basis of a lack of consultation. If a majority is reached by January 13, same-sex marriages would be suspended and the issue would go to another vote.
With the deadline looming, the LGBTIQ group Uniting Network has said the necessary threshold will not be reached as the Presbytery and Synod of South Australia chose at the weekend not to object.
Uniting Network co-convenors Hannah Reeve and Rev Peter Weeks expressed “great relief” at the development and said that the last 18 months – including the postal survey, internal debate around marriages and the Religious Freedom Review – had caused people a lot of anxiety.
“A lot of people are feeling tired and broken in our church right now, especially those who are LGBTIQ and as leaders within Uniting Network we continue to hear stories of profound pain and angst,” Reeve said.
“These ongoing discussions are not an inconvenience or a purely theological debate to us – this is about our relationships and our families and it has continued to hurt deeply.”
Rev Weeks said, “The church should be a place where everyone can be fully themselves and honest, wherever they are at in their story.
“We look forward to ministers and couples continuing to use the additional ‘two people’ marriage liturgy and are relieved that weddings can continue to go ahead as planned.”
Internal division on same-sex marriages
The Uniting Church of Australia’s 265-member National Assembly voted last July on whether to give ministers the choice of marrying same-sex couples, but the vote caused internal division.
In November, Adelaide minister Reverend Susan Wickham, who is in a same-sex relationship, penned a passionate plea to be allowed to marry in their own church.
Another church on the Gold Coast threatened to leave the Uniting Church entirely in protest at the same-sex marriage decision.