The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) reconvened its 16th Assembly meeting earlier this month (6-9 May 2022), with the theme “Dwell in Love”. The triennial gathering took place on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
“Throughout the meeting, the many diverse languages of God’s people were heard. At the start of each day, members recognized the lands they were on in the language of the Gubbi Gubbi people. The Northern Synod led the chanting in Kriol and Yolŋu Matha. As part of Bible studies led by students from Nungalinya College, the Bible was read in 11 First Nations languages. Prayers were offered at other times in Fijian, Dinka, Korean and Tongan,” reports the summary published by UCA.
The Assembly continued the business members started when they were forced to meet online in July last year, due to Covid. A number of important resolutions were passed, primarily focused on extending love for the vulnerable in society and exploring new opportunities for discernment and renewal within the denomination.
“One of the most significant moments of the meeting was the historic Covenant Renewal between the Uniting Church of Australia and the Christian Congress Uniting Aboriginals and Islanders, which took place during worship on Friday evening. Second Peoples participating in worship were invited to kneel for an act of confession in a gesture of deep humility, and together we recommitted ourselves to the practices of reconciliation and the journey of solidarity in search of the kingdom of justice and peace. of God on this earth,” said the UCA Reports.
A resolution on climate justice was also passed at the rally. It “commits the Church to take seriously the voices and wisdom of First Peoples on climate change and the care of creation and calls on Church councils and agencies to join the Assembly in committing to net zero emissions by 2040″.
One of the most significant moments of the meeting was the historic renewal of the alliance between the Uniting Church of Australia and the Christian Congress Uniting Aborigines and Islanders.
The Assembly agreed to prioritize advocacy for aging and aged care to ensure the dignity and care of older Australians, and to establish a new annual day on the Church calendar to recognize the contribution seniors.
And another decision which may be of particular interest to Christians of other denominations, was the adoption by the UCA Assembly of a proposal which invites the church to “listen again to the words of continuing witnesses of recent and contemporary contexts” through engagement with three documents from other churches. , to challenge, renew and strengthen the faith of the united Church”. This will involve examining three ecumenical documents, including Pope Francis’ influential encyclical Laudato Si’.
The Assembly also “acknowledged the harm that the practices of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ have caused to the mental health and well-being of the rainbow LGBTIQA+ community that is loved and created at the image of God”.
“We are committed to educating ourselves, developing resources for our Church, and actively working to prevent this evil so that we can create spaces of inclusion and celebration where all of God’s children feel fully welcome, safe. and free to be themselves,” UCA posted on their Facebook Page on Tuesday.
“Conversion therapy” has been banned in Victoria, Queensland and the Australian Capital Territory. The Queensland bill defines conversion therapy as “a treatment or other practice that attempts to alter or remove a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity”. Exactly what this does and does not include differs in each of the Bills (see here for a detailed response from the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities, within the Victorian Premier’s and Cabinet Office to questions raised by Eternity).
During the debate leading up to the passage of the Victoria Bill, some Christians expressed concern that the ban on conversion practices posed a potential threat to the religious freedom of Christians. In contrast, the UCA has expressed support for legal efforts to curb the practice. The recognition given to their National Assembly is therefore a logical consequence.
For context, the UCA is the only mainstream Australian denomination to affirm Christians in same-sex relationships, although there are also smaller denominations including the Metropolitan Community Church and the New City Church. The UCA allows ministers to choose between two marriage rites that reflect “two equal and distinct views on marriage” in order “to honor the diversity of Christian belief among its members.”