My mind and heart have been quite exercised in recent times as members of my church tribe (Churches of Christ in Australia) respond to the change in secular marriage laws that now accommodate same-sex union. The traditional discretion allowed to officiating ministers has been effectively withdrawn where same-gender applications for marriage are concerned as our “rites” will not allow it. To raise the matter in any of our forums is fraught with the risks of polarisation and disintegration. The Uniting Church in Australia, at last week’s 15th Assembly, adopted a position that allowed the existence side by side of a rite of marriage exclusive to a heterosexual relationship and a rite that allowed Ministers of the Word to officiate over same-sex unions.
On congratulating a Uniting Church minister yesterday on the step forward, the response was, “How ridiculous to hold two equal positions.” The pain and struggle of that communion’s 30-year debate are evident and will remain for some time to come.
However, the Uniting Church’s freshly articulated position, as liminal as it seems, is way ahead of my communion’s, where there is little opportunity to even raise the issue, let alone discuss it. Like the Uniting Church, we hold ‘unity in diversity” as one of our critical values. In holding “two equal views” on marriage, the Uniting Church is demonstrating that principle in a way that, in spite of looking ridiculous, models what it looks like.
Members of the Uniting Church now face the challenge of living with two opposite official views on marriage. How will they negotiate the space between these two views?
Cathie Lambert, a participant in last week’s assembly, offers this very thoughtful reflection on her blog at Deep Water Dwelling.
I would commend this reflection to our own communion, for I fear that much of the mainline church in this country is simply mirroring the cynical polarisation of our contemporary political scene as evidenced in the totally unnecessary and divisive plebiscite. Deep listening to our sacred text, collective lived experience of 2000 years and enlivening presence of Spirit is surely sufficient resourcing to counter such contemporary manipulations.
9 thoughts on “How will the Uniting Church hold two views on marriage?”
Indeed our Mob face a potentially divisive and difficult time, and perhaps time will be needed for a level of hysteria to subside.
The UCA have become very skilled at working through big differences. An interesting point raised in discussions after church yesterday was that fewer people now want to be married in a church building and minister can do choose to marry couples elsewhere. And can ministers perform a marriage ceremony outside of the rites of their denomination is they wish? Difficult, painful. And yes Cathie’s blog touches on these matters beautifully.
Thanks, Muriel. The provision in the Marriage Act is that religious celebrants cannot vary the rites under which they are registered. They can officiate in any location but must use those rites. If they wish to officiate using other rites, they must disassociate themselves from their denominational listing and reregister (either as the minister of a denomination that allows inclusive rites or as a civil celebrant). Much to negotiate and discern under our system that seems to be wrestling with due process.
Wow, much indeed to wrestle with! Interesting that the Marriage Act is so confining.
2 issues: 1.UCA clergy have always had option of choice re whether or not they marry a couple,and 2. UCA have devoted serious time & study to this issue – CoC have just begun – hopefully leaders & congregations,
will have discipline & courage to continue…..
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Yes a positve outcome for the UCA, despite a local trend to conservatism, the national body has gone another way. I wonder that the issues we have dealt with over the years, the petty moralisms, alcohol, sex, homosexuality, race, immigration, HIV, mixed marriages, refugees … the sickening litany of judgmentalism, might have better been approached by the love of Jesus rather than the OT wrath we brought to the table on each of these in many corporate discussions?
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Somehow the love of Jesus must win through lots of mixed up emotions – the fear that comes out as judgementalism, the wrath that disguises love and passion for the Way of Christ at all ends of the spectrum. Quiet listening hearts for all, away from the storm, seem like a worthy prescription in these times.
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There is only one scriptural view concerning marriage and that’s Jehovah God’s view and standard of the way a marriage is suppose to be. Anything added or changed from what is originally purposed for marriage is and does not have God’s approval (Genesis 1:27-28 and Genesis 2:24, Romans 1:26-28).
It is not left up to man or humans to direct the way they should live when it comes to marriage and living life in general (Jeremiah 10:23)