A recent ABC broadcast was headlined, “Uniting Church threatens to split over liberal same-sex marriage stance.” Although the ABC generally refrains from ‘yellow’ journalism, this headline suggests a grab for attention on a ‘slow news’ day.
Of course, there are a few who disagree with the idea of same-gender marriage (what else could anyone expect?); however, the Uniting Church has a deserved reputation for holding together a very large range of theological beliefs within a single community of faith, based upon mutual respect for one another and recognition that God loves all of us. No one has been asked to change their beliefs about marriage, for every minister is given a free choice whether or not to marry same-gender couples, and every congregation is given the right to decide whether or not to host same-gender marriages. This is the only way a truly ‘uniting’ church can work. The thing it cannot do, and the thing that would be suicidal to its continuing goal of uniting all Christians, would be to exclude any genuine and well-founded interpretation of the faith.
Personally, I can’t understand why even the people against same-gender marriage are not proud to belong to a church that is open and accepting of everyone. It is inconceivable to think Jesus would not also be proud of such a church. But if people cannot bring themselves to belong to an open church, and want to associate only with those who hold similar narrow perspectives, I’m sure they will be able find a church home. There are plenty of such splinter groups that have broken away from the universal church throughout its history (See “By Schisms Rent Asunder” under “A Bob’s-Eye View” elsewhere on this website.)
It is always sad to see people leave the fold, but the church is guided by the Spirit and the Word; it is God’s creation and God is its master. In other words, the church is a theocracy, not a democracy; hence, it cannot maintain its integrity if it shapes itself according to what is required to keep all its members happy.
The Uniting Church did not make its decision without solid biblical and theological support, and the individuals who made the decision in the councils of the church did not do so without considerable prayer and consideration of God’s will. Without a shadow of doubt, the Uniting Church has been better for it, and its decision is a shining proclamation of the love of God. It’s too bad all of its members can’t see it.
*Yes, it should be “same-gender” in the title, but who can resist the allure of alliteration?
Bob Thomas, May 2019