My experience made me a strong advocate of marriage for gays as well as straights.
In the late 1980s I represented the Uniting Church on the Churches AIDS Pastoral Care and Education program and volunteered with the Victorian AIDS Council. I was privileged to accompany several young men through to their deaths. Many had no family or partner support. They were isolated, lonely and afraid of public censure.
In striking contrast, Ian’s* and Dave’s* home reflected the strength, beauty and depth of their long-term relationship. Ian was determined that his beloved partner’s death would be at home, surrounded by love and care.
Ian rostered friends and volunteers to accompany Dave when he, Ian, had to be at work or asleep. I was awed by their mutual tenderness, gentleness and strength in the face of deep sorrow and imminent bereavement. The Bible beside Ian’s bed looked worn from constant use.
In the middle of Dave’s last night, Barry the care team member, woke Ian so that Ian could hold Dave through to his last breath. Ian then carried his grief to St Ignatius Church for two hours of meditation and prayer. Barry went off to his day job as a school principal. I stayed with Dave’s body and started on the phone list.
The funeral service, in a Uniting Church, was organised by Dave’s family. They had rejected Dave when he came out as gay and still refused, after more than a decade, to recognise Ian. In the service, Ian was relegated to the back of the church with us, the carers. He was mentioned once, but only as an organiser of care for Dave. Their mutual love was blocked out. Such ferocious disrespect would have been impossible if Ian and Dave had been able, legally, to marry.
The Churches have every reason to value and advocate for committed, long-term, monogamous relationships without distinction of gender.
*Not their real names
The appointment of Dr Jennifer Byrnes quoted: “The Synod Standing Committee discerned that Dr Byrnes has the considerable gifts and graces to embody and implement the leadership and change that is being envisaged in the executive officer role and indeed the life of the unit.”
Why should a leader with gifts and graces be saddled with a bureaucratic title, ‘Mission and Capacity Building Unit’? Why the need for the term ‘Unit’? Dr Byrnes writes “ I am looking forward to the challenge of bringing many of our shared hopes for a thriving church to fruition.” With these wonderful words and the Biblical descriptions of the Christian life as full of grace, could not a more appropriate title be found?
Heathcote Uniting Church
Central Goldfields, VIC
(Ed’s note: We agree Louise. One of Dr Byrnes’ first tasks when she begins in her new role is to come up with a new title.)