Uniting Church rites for same-gender marriage are being prepared for use from 29 September after the 15th Assembly decided to hold two equal but distinct statements of belief on marriage.
At the Assembly meeting in Melbourne last month, members resolved to allow UCA ministers the freedom to conduct or to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages.
In a pastoral letter sent to congregations and other ministries of the Church, Assembly President Dr Deidre Palmer said the decision to hold two statements of belief on marriage honoured the diversity of Christian belief among Uniting Church members.
“I want to reassure all members of the Uniting Church – your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will be respected and protected,” the letter read.
“Church councils will have the right to determine whether marriage services take place on their premises.”
The Uniting Church’s statement of belief that “marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life” has been retained.
An additional statement of belief has been adopted.
That statement reads “marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.”
At the Assembly meeting Dr Palmer said the decision to hold two views on marriage comes after 30 years of conversation by the Uniting Church.
“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,” Dr Palmer said.
Dr Palmer also 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,” said Dr Palmer, directly addressing LGBTIQ Church members.
“We also acknowledge those who have not been able to support this change – and your pain and difficulty in this space.”
In an interview with the ABC following the Assembly’s decision, Dr Palmer explained some of the next steps.
“We will be working with presbyteries and synods so we have pastoral care in place. For many congregations nothing will change because they will continue to uphold the views they have about marriage,” she said
“As the president I am deeply concerned to hold together our unity in our diversity and I believe the Holy Spirit moved remarkably bringing us together.”
A liturgy for same-gender marriage is being prepared for approval.
It is anticipated the liturgy will be finalised by 21 September and ready for use later that month.
For a full Assembly wrap including former UCA president Andrew Dutney’s reflection on the same-gender marriage decision go to pages 13-16.