Synod 2017 has heard feedback of what Vic/Tas members think about same-gender marriage and what they would like the national Uniting Church Assembly to keep in mind as it prepares to discuss the church’s position next year.
On Sunday working groups convened to discuss same-gender marriage and what the Uniting Church’s approach should be.
Two facilitation group leaders, Rev Rachel Kronberger and Phil Morris, presented a summary of the groups’ conversations to the general meeting of Synod on Tuesday morning.
Ms Kronberger outlined some of the hopes the groups expressed about what was going to occur at Assembly.
There were hopes the Church would be open to equality, safe and honest conversation, deep listening and respect; as well as accepting diversity.
A particular hope was that the Church listen to the voices of LGBTIQ, CALD and First Peoples.
There was also a desire for a clear theology of marriage.
Three working groups expressed the hope that the Church would change the definition of marriage to being “between two people”.
The groups expressed concerns over the conflict, disunity and potential schism the subject could engender in the church.
There were also concerns the members and congregations could be marginalised, left behind or pressured to conform.
A concern was voiced over people “engaging with Scripture rather than people”.
Some groups were concerned by details such as whether a same-gender marriage could be conducted in a church building and what would happen if ministers or congregations disagreed.
There was a concern that the Australian Christian Lobby claimed to speak on behalf of all Christians when it didn’t represent the views of the Uniting Church.
One group warned of rushing to decision and another of the danger of indecision.
In its preparation to discuss the topic, Assembly was asked to affirm that what matters is “the quality of relationships not just gender”.
Another group thought it might be useful to hear from sister churches that had grappled with the issue.
Assembly was called on to develop resources for informed and respectful conversation, and possible alternative marriage liturgies as well exploration of legal issues and a code of ethics.
There was a delicate balance to be struck between the nuanced recognition of diversity in the church but also finding a prophetic voice of leadership.
The generational difference was noted with some concern that the Church would alienate younger people who viewed same-gender marriage as non-controversial.
Moderator Sharon Hollis thanked the facilitation team for their report and said a written version would be given to Gen Sec Mark Lawrence who would provide it to the Assembly Standing Committee.
Ms Hollis commended members on the way they had conducted conversations on same-gender marriage.
“The level of respect, generosity – you could feel it in this Town Hall,” she said.