A Church To Allow Same-sex Marriages After Vote in South Australia

Last year, the Uniting church's national assembly agreed to give individual ministers the choice to marry same-sex couples. However, conservative members of the church pushed for the national assembly to reconsider its decision.

Some of the church's presbyteries — council's which have oversight over state ministries and congregations — requested further consultation.

A deciding vote made on Saturday by the South Australian presbytery was 51 to 49 per cent in favour of not referring the issue back to the national assembly.

"It was right down the middle," Reverend Sue Ellis, moderator of the Uniting Church in SA, said.

"They needed at least a 67 per cent majority [to refer the issue back to the national assembly] and it was nowhere near that."

Matter was 'vital to the church'

Under church rules, if enough presbyteries requested further consultation within six months of the decision being made, same-sex marriages would have been suspended while a review was undertaken.

The Uniting Church said presbyteries in the Northern Territory and Queensland referred the matter to the national assembly, deeming it a matter "vital to the life of the church".

"Across the whole of Australia most people don't see that this is vital to the life of the church," ‘Reverend’ Ellis said. "Only a few have said it's vital to the life of the church."

Ellis said she was prepared to marry any couple who wanted God's blessing, but that ministers still had the right to choose.

"The actual assembly decision allows for two beliefs on marriage," she said.

"So the people who hold a conservative or traditional view of marriage, being between a man and a woman, will continue in that belief and will continue to teach and practice that belief.

"And those who uphold that two people can be married, of any gender, will teach and practice that belief and continue it." This is essentially an identical argument that proponents of WO in the Seventh-day Adventist Church have presented in support of WO (1995, 2015).

A sign supporting marriage equality at the Church of the Trinity Uniting Church in Adelaide.

A sign supporting marriage equality at the Church of the Trinity Uniting Church in Adelaide.

LGBTIQ Christians felt the impact of discussion

Ellis said the past few months had taken a toll on Christians from the LGBTIQ community.

"It's been a very difficult time… they're very relieved that the decision will continue so that their marriage plans will continue and not be disrupted," she said.

She said LGBTIQ people were still welcome within the Uniting Church, even though there was still a clear division of opinion on same-sex marriage within the South Australian presbytery.

"You have congregations that are very warm to LGBTIQ people and welcome marriage between those people since the Government law has changed," she said. "The people who identify as LGBTIQ know which churches and which ministers would want to give a Christian blessing onto their marriage."

In a statement, LGBTIQ advocacy group, the Uniting Network Australia said many Christians from their community felt relieved but tired and broken.

"The LGBTIQ community has continued to be under the microscope especially by other Christians over the last 18 months," the group said. It’s not fair.”

Conservatives to instigate 'contingent' plans

‘Reverend’ Rodney James said LGBTIQ people were welcome at the Uniting Church, but said the decision not to review same-sex marriage would pose challenges for Christians in understanding the "truth of God. It's not a supermarket where you can just take the brand you like," he said. I believe this decision will cause enormous disruption and disintegration of the Uniting Church… the principle of diversity is reigning over the principle of what is the truth of God.”

James also said the result of the vote was predictable and "contingent plans" had already been drafted by conservative members of the Uniting Church. But they appear to be outnumbered.

This outcome serves as a warning to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, to not compromise on biblical distinctions between male and female roles and relations.

“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16).