Schism fear in Uniting Church debate on gays

08 Jul

There is a summary report in today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

Three years after its historic vote on gay ministry, the church’s national assembly yesterday began a three-day debate on an issue that has prompted defections of ministers, believers and an entire regional congregation. The 2003 decision, Resolution 84, allows individual presbyteries to appoint gay clergy in a move that church leaders insist reaffirms the autonomy of presbyteries, but which conservatives say endorses gay ministry and oversteps the boundaries of biblical orthodoxy.

Conservatives have threatened protests and a possible walkout.

Church delegates discussed eight proposals that ranged from the full inclusion of gays in church life to the explicit rejection of the “ordaining, commissioning or inducting” of practising homosexuals. All agreed that Resolution 84 had caused deep division in the church.

Visit the The Uniting Church site too: as it says, “While sexuality and leadership might be the only issue reported on radio, television and in newspapers the Assembly will be considering a number of other matters.” The Assembly site is here.

I guess I will be discussing these matters at church tomorrow with Vlad, Dorothy McRae-McMahon, and others. A bit, anyway.

The main role of the church, I believe, is — to use a very old-fashioned phrase — the imitation of Christ, and that is something the church conspicuously fails to do at times, and conservatives can be among the very worst in this respect, it has to be said. Jesus himself, it appears, had quite a peck of trouble with the conservatives of his own day after all.

The problem conservatives have, whether they be protestant, Catholic, or whatever, is that the certainty they crave just cannot be had. Biblical literalism, for example, is both morally and intellectually bankrupt, and no amount of wishing or clinging to old ways will change that. And yet the Holy Spirit, it may be argued, still speaks to the world.

I have been reading two books just lately which I shortly will review in tandem, as they make interesting bedfellows. Both are flawed. Both are also very good. They are The Twilight of Atheism by Alister McGrath (2004) and The End of Faith: Religion, Reason and the Age of Terror by Sam Harris (2005). More on that later.

In my eccentric habit of following the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer lectionary, I am currently reading the Book of Acts. This is a very valuable source for early Christian history, but if you read it as a biblical literalist you will end up in deep trouble, because, while in many respects a very good source, it is tendentious and at times highly inaccurate as history. You don’t have to go cruising with Dan Brown or get over-excited by the Gospel of Judas to know that.

As I said on my old Books and Ideas blog (linked above at Book of Common Prayer): “So what are we to make of the Bible? Anthony Freeman addresses this on Radical Faith, and I commend him to you. ‘Whatever more it may be, it is never less than this: part of our world, a human product situated in a particular place, at a particular time, and in a particular culture’.” But it still inspires.

One thing the conservatives in the church usually get wrong is their delusion that being gay is a “lifestyle choice.” It isn’t; it is part of who one has been created to be, if that is one’s nature. It is something one discovers, not an affectation one assumes.

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Posted by on July 8, 2006 in Aussie interest, Current affairs, Events, Faith and philosophy, gay life/issues, Religion


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