Statement to the Uniting Church in Australia from the Uniting Network Australia’s 12th Daring Conference, Melbourne 12 June 2016
Greetings to the Uniting Church in Australia from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer (LGBTIQ) members, their friends, family and allies.
We strongly re-affirm our belief in the church as an inclusive Gospel community in which all may participate fully using their gifts and talents. We expressed our concern at the way LGBTIQ people, our families and our relationships are so often caught in the middle of political struggles in society and theological and cultural struggles in the church.
We reflected on the potential of civil marriage equality and how the church may respond. In conversations with the Doctrine Working Group concerns were expressed about the inadequacy of “same gender” language for intersex people who are unable to marry at all if they choose to identify officially as intersex, and for transgender people who are forced in the majority of states and territories to divorce after gender transition. We encouraged the Doctrine Working Group to go beyond polling the views of various groups to a process that encourages and enables conversation among groups that hold diverse views on religious marriage.
We noted the common ground among Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC), multicultural/cross cultural communities and the Uniting Network Australia in a call for contextual theology that acknowledges that marriage is a matter for broad kinship relationships rather than individual rights.
We resonated with the call from the multicultural/cross cultural network to value hospitality as a way forward for the LGBTIQ communities. In these discussions we heard about the importance of ‘space for grace’ amongst multicultural communities and how it can be extended to include the LGBTIQ community.
We heard the voices of LGBTIQ Christian people from migrant communities about the complexity of marriage and the experiences of these communities within the church. We also heard from those identifying as Fa’afafine, and their experience of sexuality and fluidity of gender identity in other cultures, which differs from a Western understanding. Hearing these perspectives further enriched our understanding of the complexities in cultures which are not based on an Anglo-Saxon tradition, and the impact Christianity has had on these cultural perspectives of sexuality and gender.
We also heard from an openly gay Imam of the struggle of LGBTIQ Muslims in the wider Muslim community. We heard from UnitingWorld on experiences of LGBTIQ communities in some of our partner churches, focusing particularly on Sri Lanka, and the pressures and impacts on family and cultural traditions in those countries.
We had discussions on the impact that civil marriage equality may have on people’s sexual ethics, creating a broader opportunity for society, and in particular religious communities, to consider what makes a relationship good and just.
We heard of the work being undertaken by GIN SSOGIE (Global Interfaith Network of Sex, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression), an organisation of LGBTIQ people from many faiths and cultures engaging in conversations on the commonalities they share.
We met with the president, Mr Stuart McMillan and had the opportunity to voice our concerns about the potential plebiscite regarding civil marriage. We raised a deep concern about how the church will respond if a plebiscite is called and how it will offer leadership within church and society and promote a strategy of harm minimisation for the LGBTIQ community. We encouraged the church to show pastoral sensitivity in conversations in congregations and the wider community and to remember that this is not just an issue, but about people’s lives and families.
Uniting Network Australia recognised the progress made in the Aged Care sector across the nation to support LGBTIQ communities, and celebrated that some Synods have been recognised with awards, including a national award for LGBTIQ employment.
At our Business Meeting we agreed to the formation of “Uniting for Marriage Equality” to work in the public space to advocate for civil marriage equality as members of the Uniting Church in Australia, firmly believing that while the Church’s conversations on marriage have their own integrity, we cannot put on hold our call to be responsible citizens advocating for the Common Good.
At this conference we have practiced hospitality theology in the sharing of conversations, meals and communion and we look to the day when our church respects the full diversity of God’s creation, and embraces our diverse family and kinship communities.