Moderator's pastoral message about changes to marriage laws

Greetings in the name of Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ!

We have entered a new era in the life of our community and our church with the new legislation passed by the Parliament this week legalising same sex marriage.  Many will find this time disconcerting, others will remain unconcerned and many will wish to celebrate. This is as true for our church as it is for our wider community.

The Uniting Church remains committed to further discernment, through prayer, biblical study, openness to the Holy Spirit, and conversation with other disciples and our community. This process will continue until the Assembly Meeting in July 2018.

At the heart of our discipleship is the question: how best can we bear witness to the crucified, risen Christ in the world around us?

When people want to polarise, blame, or use the language of violence, we will speak of God’s justice and reconciliation. When people condemn, or demean people’s humanity, we will be advocates declaring the wholeness we have in Jesus Christ. When people call for division, we will pray for the unity we discover in the Spirit of the living God.

This will be a challenging, even difficult time for many, as the world we know shifts around us. This will equally be a time when our LGBTIQ sisters and brothers hear themselves welcomed and affirmed. How we act now is a reflection of the way we follow Jesus Christ.

Pray for each other, for our community and for our leaders in the Church.

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

[Ephesians 4.1-5]

When the new law regarding Same Sex Marriage is finalised and details to be determined, there is no immediate change to the role of Uniting Church Ministers as Marriage Celebrants.

Uniting Church Ministers are given legal permission to marry under the Rites of the Uniting Church in Australia, and these rites cannot be changed until the National Assembly Meeting in July 2018 at the earliest.

This means that, if requested, a Minister cannot agree to marry a same sex couple, if and until the Marriage Rites are altered. This is probably accurate for the ministers and priests of most other faith traditions across Australia.

It is also important to note that no Uniting Church Minister is compelled to marry anyone, so is therefore free to refuse the request to perform any marriage ceremony. This status has been in place since the inception of the Uniting Church, and is true for all religious celebrants.

If you would like to discuss this, please contact your Minister, Pastor, Presbytery leadership or I am very happy to speak with you.

In Christ

Moderator, Rev. Simon Hansford