The Ministers Who Say Yes
As of Friday, 21 September 2018, Uniting Church ministers are free to marry same gender couples if they want to do so. Following the decision of the 15th triennial Assembly meeting in July, a new optional liturgy was written that ministers may use.
As Uniting Church President Dr Deirdre Palmer told Triple J on Thursday, 20 September, the inclusion of an option for same-gender marriage is the result of a long discussion within the church. “This is a conversation that we’ve had for six years,” Dr Palmer said.
Four same-gender couples are set to get married over the coming weekend, the first to do so.
Insights spoke to two of the Uniting Church ministers who have indicated that they will marry same-gender couples.
Rev. Ellie Elia is the Minister of the Word at St Andrew’s Uniting Church in Glenbrook. After a recent congregational meeting that decided to allow marriages between same-gender couples to take place on the church’s property, Rev. Elia said that she would be willing to conduct these.
“As a straight, white, married, ordained woman, I was surprised by my own strong feelings of joy, relief and gratitude,” she said, regarding the congregation’s decision. “For those who have been directly affected by this issue, and those who have borne the brunt of a painful societal and church history, I just cannot imagine what they felt.”
According to Rev. Elia, while the decision was “a moment of celebration”, there is still work to be done.
“Like many congregations in the Uniting Church, my people hold together a rich theological diversity on many issues, including marriage,” she said.
“No doubt they will continue to practice patience, kindness, hospitality and good humour in the life of the congregation. Yet there will be vulnerability as we learn to wear our inclusive colours out in public. We are changing and we are growing and this growth and change is full of hope and trembling.”
“As I look forward to presiding at my first same gender marriage service, I feel the presence of those who have faithfully paved the way before me, and the privilege and responsibility of serving a congregation that is now ready to come out to its own community. I feel that this future blessing is revealing itself to us already, extending beyond ’two people’ to actually include the whole congregation and wider community.”
“To bless two people is to say that their loving and their living gives glory to God. To be blessed by God is to work for peace and justice and fullness of life for all.”
Andrew Johnson is one of the Ministers at Hope Uniting Church in Maroubra Junction. Rev. Johnson told Insights that he was also one of the ministers who plan to marry same-gender couples.
According to Rev. Johnson, his willingness stems from a reflection on God’s love, embodied in Jesus.
“In the scriptures I find that God has consistently been calling us into communities that strive for faithfulness, fidelity, compassion, and joy,” he said.
“All our relationships, especially those of marriage, should uphold those covenantal qualities.”
“In Jesus I hear of God-among-us willing to uphold these things, even when they seem to contradict regulation. So to most faithfully follow Jesus, I must always prioritise self-giving, compassionate love and not let traditional boundaries keep us from doing so. It seems to me that the gender of who you love, is far less central than the compassion and commitment of that love.”
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor