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Uniting Church stalls on same-sex marriage decision

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The head of the Uniting Church in SA has appealed to “angry” and “disappointed” worshippers to stay with the church after the South Australian branch failed to reach a decision on whether to continue to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.

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As InDaily reported on Friday, the South Australian Uniting Church Presbytery convened over the weekend – one year after the nation voted in favour of marriage equality in the Federal Government’s contentious postal vote – to discuss the future of the church’s historic decision in July to allow ministers to conduct same-sex marriages.

A meeting of the national General Assembly of the church in July approved two definitions of marriage – allowing pro- and anti-same-sex marriage ministers to make their own choice about whether to marry same-sex couples.

Marriages under the decision began in September, but the conservative wing of the church remained desperately unhappy and has been fighting to have the decision revisited.

Under the complex church rules, if enough presbyteries demand more consultation within six months of the July meeting, then the decision would be suspended.

Some interstate branches of the church have already voted in favour of more consultation, leaving the decision of the South Australian presbytery and synod the deciding factor in whether the church will suspend same-sex marriages.

In a pastoral note sent today, Moderator (head) of the Uniting Church in SA Reverend Sue Ellis confirmed that the South Australian meeting was unable to reach a decision.

“The national implications of the proposal have resulted in the calling of a special meeting to discuss the proposal further (sometime before 12 January 2019),” Ellis wrote.

“The Interim General Secretary will advise members of the Presbytery and Synod the date of the special meeting in the next couple of weeks.”

The South Australian synod’s inability to reach a decision has angered worshippers on both sides of the debate, and has created uncertainty for some same-sex couples with wedding plans scheduled for next year.

In her pastoral note, Ellis admitted that “a few people” had left the church, while others “have been waiting for the results of their meeting to decide if they will stay or go”.

“I know many congregations are feeling deeply disappointed and disempowered by the decision-making processes of our Church,” she wrote.

“I appeal to congregations and members who are angry or feel they have had enough.

“Please honour the difficult and heart-wrenching work of the people who have given their whole selves for three days for the sake of our Uniting Church congregations and organisations.

“We have started on this journey together so let us remain together to see it to its conclusion.”

The Interim General Secretary will announce the date of the special meeting in the coming weeks.

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