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Uniting Church may suspend Same Sex Marriages

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) may have to suspend same sex weddings only a few weeks after the church’s new marriage rite for gay marriages came into effect.

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Votes marshalled by conservatives at UCA regional and state councils may mean the motion (called a “proposal” in the UCA) that set up a second rite of marriage alongside the traditional one has to be reconsidered.  The church’s national assembly adopted the two ‘equal and distinct’ forms of marriage rite earlier this year. Same sex marriages have begun to be held in UCA churches that have adopted the new marriage service.

The UCA Constitution has a never-before-invoked clause that allows for decisions of the National Assembly  to be suspended. This requires votes from at least “half the at least half the Presbyteries” (regional councils within a Synod – basically state bodies in the UCA),  or at least half the Synods. These councils can ask for a decision to be suspend on the grounds that is is “vital to the life of the church” and there was “inadequate consultation beforehand. there is a six-month time limit.

A letter from UCA Assembly General Secretary Colleen Geyer says “I write to inform you that there is a possibility this section of the constitution will be invoked within the timeframe allowed with respect to the decisions of marriage made at the 15th Assembly. This possibility could occur as early as November 2018.” The letter is addressed to all UCA ministers.

“If this does happen, from the time the president notifies the church that the decision is suspended, no same-gender marriages will be able to be performed by Uniting Church celebrants, nor can the newly-approved marriage rite or statement on marriage be used, until further consultation occurs and the assembly meets again to determine whether to affirm, vary or revoke the original decision.”

Synods voting to reconsider the marriage change include the Northern Synod – which covers the top part of the country – and Queensland is approaching the halfway mark for presbytery (regional council) votes, according to a buzzfeed report. SA, possibly the most conservative part of the UCA, could vote to suspend the marriage decision as well. The SA Synod is due to meet on November 15.

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