Respectfully disagree

penny mulvey
PENNY MULVEY

OUR country and our churches are at a crossroads. As a nation, we have never been very good at disagreeing with each other without making it personal.

Social media has poured kerosene on a society that is already combative. Our political system is combative. Our legal system is combative. Our mainstream media is polarising. And social media has elevated the art of abuse to a whole new level.

Throw in an issue of such substance and importance as same-gender marriage and there is absolutely no room for nuance, ambivalence or uncertainty. And yet, many people do feel uncertain.

When the dust eventually settles following the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey and the potential introduction of legislation redefining marriage; will friendships have been trampled, families divided and the thread that holds our community together, ripped asunder?

My Facebook feed is overflowing with articles on same gender marriage. One Christian writer believed it was a call to arms for Christians, based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:34-39. “…For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…”

Others have spoken carefully of the need to protect the vulnerable, especially LGBTI young people, to ensure commentators do not bandy around thoughtless, damaging statements.

UCA Assembly released a statement following the federal government’s announcement of a postal vote, acknowledging the diversity of opinion within the Uniting Church.

“We have always tried to maintain a respectful conversation on this subject between the councils of our Church and to work constructively across our membership,” the statement reads.

“Our commitment to our own process of prayerful discernment means that Uniting Church leaders will not be recommending any position to members in relation to the 2017 postal plebiscite, should one take place. “Regardless of any legislation change, we will continue our own process of discernment in relation to same-gender marriage in a way that reflects the Uniting Church’s commitment to uphold Christian values and principles.”

Two ministers of the Uniting Church present their individual reflections on same gender marriage in this month’s Crosslight. Both these articles and people’s responses have been posted on Crosslight Online and the Vic/ Tas Facebook page during the past month. There is much at stake here – for Christians, for the LGBTI community, for the government, and for the nation. I do not dispute the importance of the matter we are debating. It is hugely significant. It changes forever the definition of marriage that has been accepted for centuries.

My question is what role do I play in impacting the tenor of the discussion? Am I causing harm? Am I reflecting Christ’s love and grace in all I say, post, comment? Do I have the courage to gently challenge others who are being disrespectful or even abusive? How can we hold our community together through this time, in particular our LGBTI brothers and sisters? Please pray.

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