Australia’s Uniting Church to allow same-sex weddings in churches

Australia’s Uniting Church has changed its rules to permit same-sex couples to marry in its churches.

The United Church is the third largest Christian denomination in Australia behind the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, with nearly a million followers according to the 2016 census.

The church’s national assembly this week agreed to allow same-sex weddings for the first time, after Australians voted overwhelmingly for same-sex unions in 2017.

Wedding bands (File photo)

Under the new rules, the Uniting Church will hold “two equal and distinct views on marriage  to honour the diversity of Christian belief among its members” – one inclusive of same-sex marriage and one expressing that marriage is between a man and a woman.

The resolution “allows its ministers the freedom to conduct or refuse to conduct same-gender marriages” depending on their individual views.

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer says: “This decision follows many years of reflection, prayer and discernment, and I want to thank Assembly members for the way they have responded with grace to what is a difficult conversation for many people of faith.”

Directly addressing LGBTIQ Church members, Palmer said: “I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you.”

Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer

She added: “We also acknowledge those who for whatever reason have not been able to support this change – and your pain and difficulty in this space.

“Please rest assured that your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will be respected and protected.

“I thank you all for modelling a loving Christian community, holding together and caring for each other, across our diversity of strongly and faithfully held views.”

The church says it was “developed through continuing faithful discernment and held with integrity on matters relating to sexuality and marriage.”

The new inclusive policy states: “Marriage is a gift God has given to humankind for the well-being of the whole human family.

A depiction of the crucifixtion of Jesus Christ (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty)

“For Christians, marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.

“It is intended to be the mutually faithful life-long union of two people expressed in every part of their life together.

“In marriage two people seek to encourage and enrich each other through love and companionship, experience the fruitfulness of family, contribute to the well-being of society and strengthen the mission of the church.”

It adds: “In giving themselves to each other in love, two people reflect the love of Christ for his Church.

“In marriage, two people are called to live together faithfully, and to love each other with respect, tenderness and delight.

“They share the life of a wider family and community and may be entrusted with the gift and care of children. They help to shape a society in which human dignity and happiness may flourish and abound.

“Marriage is not to be entered into lightly or selfishly, but responsibly and in the love of God. It is a gift of God and a way of life that all people should honour.”