The Uniting Church Of Australia National Assembly has decided to allow ministers the freedom to conduct or refuse to conduct same-gender marriages.
The National Assembly has been meeting in Melbourne since July 7, the first time it has convened since marriage equality was introduced in Australia last year.
The National Assembly had earlier requested a report by The Working Group On Doctrine (WDG) to determine whether the church's existing statement of belief on marriage should change. The church currently defines marriage as “between a man a woman.”
The Working Group On Doctrine (WDG) released the report in May, recommending that the church “offer the rites of marriage to opposite-gender and same-gender couples, while allowing Ministers and Uniting Church authorised celebrants freedom of conscience to perform marriages or not.”
A new additional church statement of belief on marriage now says that, “For Christians, marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.”
Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer said on Friday: “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.”
According to the Church statement, Dr Palmer acknowledged the ministry and struggle of LGBTIQ people in the Uniting Church over many years.
“I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you,” Dr Palmer said, addressing LGBTIQ Church members.
“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.”