The “additional marriage liturgy” for Uniting Churches

Good news from the Uniting Church in Australia website:

The Uniting Church in Australia has today published an additional marriage liturgy that will allow same-gender couples to get married in Uniting Churches from Friday 21 September 2018. The liturgy was approved by the Assembly Standing Committee which met in Sydney from 24-26 August.

The publication of the Uniting Church in Australia Additional Marriage Liturgy (2018) follows the decision by members of the Fifteenth Assembly in July to hold two equal and distinct statements of belief on marriage to honour the diversity of Christian belief among Uniting Church members.

President Dr Deidre Palmer has issued a Pastoral Letter to Church members, to reassure people about the additional liturgy. “By using this liturgy, or the previously authorised marriage liturgies, Uniting Church authorised marriage celebrants will be acting properly within the rites of the Uniting Church in Australia,” said Dr Palmer. “I reaffirm that the Assembly’s resolution on marriage allows you to hold one of two positions on marriage, as a member, Minister or Church Council. The Assembly made this decision acknowledging the faithfully held positions across the life of the Church.”

The Assembly decision allows ministers and celebrants in the Uniting Church the freedom to conduct or to refuse to conduct same-gender marriages.

In her Pastoral Letter, Dr Palmer also praised the conscientious work of Uniting Church Synods and Presbyteries. “If you are still concerned about the position of the Uniting Church in relation to same-gender marriage, I would encourage you to talk to your Presbytery or Synod leaders to ensure you are acting on accurate information about the nature and impact of the Assembly’s decision,” said Dr Palmer.

The Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer has written to all Uniting Church authorised celebrants notifying them of the additional liturgy, and the date from which it is authorised for use.

Resources including frequently asked questions are also available on the Assembly website.

What is missing from the Basis of Union?

I’ve offered some reflections in an earlier post concerning the things about the Basis of Union that I really appreciate:

https://johntsquires.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/what-i-really-like-about-the-basis-of-union/

But I ended those reflections with the note that the First Peoples of this continent (and related islands) are not mentioned anywhere in the Basis of Union. This needs to be noted, first of all, as a striking (and unfortunate) deficit in the Basis. I want to think further about this, and some other matters, that are absent from the Basis of Union.

Continue reading “What is missing from the Basis of Union?”

Alongside the Basis of Union, there was the Statement to the Nation

I recently reflected on “what I like about the Basis of Union”. It was a visionary document for its time, and in many ways it stands us in good stead as we seek to be a pilgrim people, always on the way towards a promised goal (para 3). That affirmation has shaped our understanding that, as a church, we are undertaking a journey, during which we continue to look to the final reconciliation of humanity under God’s sovereign grace (para 17).

At the same time (1977) as this document provided a foundation for three denominations to come together as a new Church, the inaugural national meeting of that body issued a Statement to the Nation. This document has lived under the shadow of the Basis. We could do well to read and reflect on it regularly. You can read this Statement at https://assembly.uca.org.au/resources/introduction/item/134-statement-to-the-nation-inaugural-assembly-june-1977

Continue reading “Alongside the Basis of Union, there was the Statement to the Nation”

What I really like about the Basis of Union

I am preparing to teach a couple of days on the Basis of Union, the foundational document on which the Uniting Church was created (back in 1977). That led me to thinking about the key things that I really love about the Basis. Here are some of them: Continue reading “What I really like about the Basis of Union”

Affirming the Sovereignty of First Peoples: undoing the Doctrine of Discovery

When the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church decided to recognise the sovereignty of the First Peoples, it invited its members to start to undo the Doctrine of Discovery and all the imperialist, colonising influences that it set off.

Continue reading “Affirming the Sovereignty of First Peoples: undoing the Doctrine of Discovery”

The sovereignty of the First Peoples of Australia

In the middle of my office desk, underneath the main computer screen, I have a small card, in red, yellow, and black, with the words

Ngaala kaaditj Noongar moort keyen kaadak nidja boodja

That is a daily reminder, in the Noongar language, for me to acknowledge the Noongar people, the first inhabitants of the land where I live and work. The Noongar people have been the custodians of the large southwest area of this land from time immemorial, and my respect is due to their elders, past and present, and those still to come, for this careful custodianship over millennia and millennia.

Continue reading “The sovereignty of the First Peoples of Australia”

Marriage and the matter of being “vital to the life of the church”

Marriage of same gender people is NOT a matter that is “vital to the life of the church”.

Since the 15th Assembly concluded almost a month ago, there here has discussion in various places claiming that marriage is a matter “vital to the life of the Church”. The consequence of such a view is that the Assembly should be sending its decision to other councils of the church, seeking their “concurrence” on the decision made.

This is all in accord with what Clause 39 of the Constitution of the Uniting Church specifies. That clause itself depends on a sentence in paragraph 15(e) of the Basis of Union, which refers to “matters of vital importance to the church”. Continue reading “Marriage and the matter of being “vital to the life of the church””

A diversity of religious beliefs and ethical understandings

The Uniting Church has a long engagement with matters of sexuality, stretching over more than thirty years of conversation. The most recent stage in that process took place in the middle of July, at the meeting of the 15th national Assembly. In decisions made at that meeting, the church has decided to move forward on the issue of marriage of same-gender couples.

This was the first national meeting since last year’s change to Australian marriage laws, so there was a clear opening for considering the church’s understanding of marriage, and to move to permit the marriage of same-gender couples within Uniting churches.

Continue reading “A diversity of religious beliefs and ethical understandings”

In celebration of diversity

Today, I celebrate diversity.  My church has been wrestling in an intense process for a week (and for many years before that, through numerous conversations and processes), regarding “a diversity of religious beliefs and ethical understandings” that are held amongst its members.

We have determined that “the Church is able to accept this diversity within its life and make the decisions necessary to enable its ministry and members to act with integrity in accordance with their beliefs”.

Continue reading “In celebration of diversity”

Abundant grace, liberating hope

The 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia met in Melbourne for the week of 8-14 July, 2018. The theme of the Assembly was Abundant grace, liberating hope. I was one of twenty one members of the Uniting Church in Western Australia who attended. Here are my reflections on the week.

Continue reading “Abundant grace, liberating hope”