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.
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.
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””
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.
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”.
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.
On what biblical basis can we justify the decision of the Uniting Church, to marry same gender people?
The following blog has been co-written by myself and my wife, the Rev. Elizabeth Raine. We have a lifelong commitment to the faithful and critical study and interpretation of scripture, and to contextually-relevant missional engagement with contemporary society. We offer these reflections as a way of encouraging serious reflection on the biblical rationale underpinning the recent decision by the Uniting Church, to endorse the marriage of same gender couples alongside the marriage of a male and a female.
The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia calls us to hold to our core convictions with passion and determination. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Basis articulate something of those passionate convictions about God, Jesus, the Spirit, and the Church. Paragraphs 5 and 11 set out the way that we approach and appropriate the Bible.
Each of these paragraphs supports the way that the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church has made a decision about marrying same gender people.
The Basis of Union of the Uniting Church in Australia commits us to being a people oriented to the shaping of “fresh words and deeds”. In that document, we learn of the ways that we can go about doing this.
The offering of our fresh words and deeds requires of us, both deep reflection, and trusting obedience, to God’s living Word, who is Jesus, present in our midst as the sign and promise of that “new order of righteousness and love” which is the mark of the kingdom of God.