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Australia’s Uniting Church Wants to Recommend Its Pastors to Hold Same-sex Weddings
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of May 5, 2018) A preparatory committee for the next National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has endorsed the adoption of an internal report on the celebration of same-sex weddings. If the proposals of the Standing Committee of the General Assembly are finally adopted in July 2018, this Protestant church will be the first major Australian church to recommend its pastors to marry gay and lesbian couples and to accept LGBTQI persons without discrimination on the same basis as their other parishioners.
The United Church of Australia does not speak of “marriage between persons of the same sex” but rather of “marriage between persons of the same gender”, obviously because this title facilitatestranslationinto other languages (e.g. Korean, Tongan, Fijian, Indonesian and Chinese). Regardless of this semantic nuance, the report on marriage and same-sex relationships considers that the main arguments for or against same-sex marriage are legitimized by the Gospel, and so no one is right in the end. The UCA's internal report also states that scientific discoveries prove that homosexuality is perfectly normal.
The report also looks at the institution of marriage and concludes that its characteristics vary greatly according to time, culture and society. The Protestants' marriage culture thus corresponds only to one form of marriage among many others.
In any case, the report notes a gradual turnaround, with the trend towards gay marriage having gained momentum in recent years - also through the legalization of gay marriage in December 2017.
The next plenary session of the UCA National Assembly will take place in July 2018. If necessary, the new LGBT-friendly policy of the United Church of Australia will then be confirmed. But even though weddings between same-sex persons may officially be possible afterwards, this will not be binding: pastors can then still refuse to marry gays and lesbians.
The internal UCA report also provides for a change in official terminology. In the future, pastors will no longer marry “one man and one woman”, but “two persons”.
According to Wikipedia, the Unified Church of Australia has 243,000 members in 2018, making it Australia’s third largest church after the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church. The 2016 census attributed 870,000 members or 3.7% of the population to the UCA, putting it ahead of Muslims (2.6%) but far behind Catholics (22.6%) and Anglicans (13.3%). In Australia, about 30.1% of the people do not belong to any religious community. The UCA originated in 1977 from a schism and consists mainly of Methodists and Presbyterians.
In New Zealand, priests may refuse to marry same-sex couples. In civil weddings, however, registrars do not have the right to refuse to marry same-sex couples, not even based on “religious reasons”.