The headlines read “Uniting Church Minister will marry gay couple” (Canberra Times) and “Uniting Church minister Roger Munson only religious celebrant able to perform same-sex marriages in ACT” (ABC). But Munson is not a UCA minister, according to the church.
Roger Munson performed one of the more high-profile gay marriages during Canberra’s short season of same-sex marriage, presiding over the marriage of the Deputy National Director of Australian Marriage Equality Ivan Hinton, to his partner of 11 years Chris Teoh. They had been married in Canada five years ago.
Canberra Times journalist Peter Jean reported “Christian church leaders remain at the forefront of organised opposition to the legalisation of same-sex marriage. But Mr Munson, a Canberra Uniting Church minister, is a registered celebrant under the ACT’s marriage equality law and will preside at the wedding of a male couple this weekend.”
Jean told Eternity, “I rang him and asked him if he is a Uniting Church Minister, and he said ‘yes’”.
“I asked him if it (marrying a same sex couple) would cause trouble for him, and he said it would ‘if he was still attached to a parish. But as it is I don’t expect difficulty’.”
However Eternity has sighted two sets of correspondence from the National President of the Uniting Church Professor Andrew Dutney which make it plain that Munson is not a Minister of the UCA.
“Mr Munson is not a Uniting Church minister” Dutney wrote in a letter to the Assembly of Confessing Congregations. “He is an Anglican minister. I am advised that he once served in a Uniting Church placement as a minister from another denomination but is not in that placement any longer. I am also advised that he is not engaged in the process of seeking to be recognised as a Uniting Church minister. I do not know why he would have identified himself as a Uniting Church minister to reporters.”
Munson was a “seconded” minister at St James, Curtin for two years, finishing in 2012. There may have been some local confusion about Munson’s status – Eternity has been told he was on a local list of ministers. Dutney adds in his letter “The General Secretary is contacting the Presbytery of Canberra to encourage them to indicate to Mr Munson that it is not appropriate for him to identify himself as a Uniting Church minister and to request that he correct any future report to that effect.”
“The subtleties are often lost in the press,” Roger Munson told Eternity. “But I am an Anglican Priest who has worked in a Uniting Church parish here in Canberra, and continued to do locum work in Uniting churches in Canberra.”
“I think they [the Uniting Church] are probably just embarrassed.”
“I work here for them but the technicality is that I am not [a Uniting Church Minister] because I have not been officially received into the Church.
“If I were to go into another placement I would complete that work, because that is a definite requirement, now. They have tightened the regulations.”
Bishop Stuart Robinson of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn told Eternity that Roger Munson “is not a Priest in good standing with this diocese and has no licence or authority to minister in Canberra and Goulburn.”
Roger Munson described his experience of conducting the wedding for Ivan Hinton and Chris Teoh as “very good”. “A lot of my Uniting Church friends were very supportive and were celebrating with me,” he added.
The Uniting Church definition of marriage remains that marriage is the life-long union between a man and a woman. However the Uniting Church’s National Assembly has initiated a study on the theology of marriage.More