Monday, 28 August 2017

The Marriage Law Postal Survey and Respectful Conversations

The Australian Government has announced the process it will follow for the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

Survey forms will be mailed out to all eligible voters from 12 September with voters asked to return the completed survey by 6pm on 27 October 2017.

Full details of the process are available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website.

As explained previously, the Uniting Church is conducting its own longstanding independent discernment on marriage and we will not be recommending any position to UCA members in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey.

I would however take this opportunity to again remind members of the need for respectful conversations on the issue of same-gender marriage.

As the public debate intensifies, we must redouble our efforts to choose our words carefully, including when we speak of our sisters and brothers in Christ.

For those who feel the need to share their views, pointed criticism of other Christians lacks grace and falls short of our stated ecumenical values.

In Paragraph 2 of the Basis of Union we state our belief that Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries.

We may disagree with each other on any number of issues as Christians, but as Paul said in Romans 12:5 “We belong to one another”. So please speak with love.

The Uniting Church’s official definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Also we are committed to being an inclusive Church that embraces LGBTIQ people as full members and to culturally appropriate discussion about relationships and marriage across our diversity.

Public speculation on how the Uniting Church might respond to a change in the Marriage Act is unhelpful, and distracts focus on our own discernment.

Under the Marriage Act, ministers of religion cannot legally solemnise a marriage without an approved liturgy.

Whatever the outcome of the postal survey and any subsequent changes to the Act, our Church’s position on marriage will remain the same until such a time as our national Council, the Assembly, decides otherwise and approves an appropriate liturgy.

This is not a matter in which individual Uniting Church congregations can act unilaterally.

I would like to acknowledge that this national conversation is difficult and painful for many.

If in the course of the public debate you experience sadness or distress and you need help, please seek support.

Stuart McMillan