The Uniting Church of Australia (UCA) reconvened its 16th Assembly meeting earlier this month (May 6-9, 2022), themed “Dwell in Love.” The triennial meeting was held on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
“Throughout the Assembly, the many different languages of God’s people were heard. At the beginning of each day, the members recognized the land they were in in the language of the Gubbi Gubbi people. The Northern Synod led the singing in Kriol and Yolŋu Matha. As part of the Bible studies conducted by students at Nungalinya College, the Bible was read in 11 First Nations languages. At other times, prayers were said in Fijian, Dinka, Korean, and Tongan,” the summary published by UCA reports said.
The Assembly continued the business the members started when they were forced to meet online in July last year because of Covid. Several important resolutions were passed, primarily aimed at extending love for the vulnerable in society and exploring new avenues for discernment and renewal within the denomination.
“One of the key moments of the meeting was a historic renewal of the alliance between the Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, which took place in worship on Friday evening. Second, people participating in the worship were invited to kneel before a confession in a gesture of deep humility. Together, we recommitted ourselves to reconciliation practices and to travel in solidarity in search of God’s kingdom of justice and peace in this country,” the UCA reports.
A resolution on climate justice was also passed at the meeting. It “promises the Church to take the voices and wisdom of First Peoples on climate change seriously and care for creation and calls on Church Councils and agencies to work with the Assembly to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.”
One of the key moments of the meeting was a historic renewal of the alliance between the Uniting Church in Australia and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
The Assembly agreed to prioritize advocating for aging and care for the elderly to ensure the dignity and respect of older Australians and to establish a new annual day on the Church’s calendar to recognize the contribution of older people.
And another decision that may be especially important to Christians of other denominations was the approval by the UCA Assembly of a proposal that invites the Church to “listen again to words of continuing witnesses from recent and contemporary contexts” through engagement with three documents of other churches, to challenge, renew and strengthen the faith of the Uniting Church”. Three ecumenical documents, including Pope Francis’ influential encyclical Laudato Si, will be examined.
The Assembly also recognized the damage that so-called ‘conversion therapy’ practices have done to the mental health and well-being of the LGBTIQA+ rainbow community, which is loved and made in the image of God.”
“We are committed to educating ourselves, developing resources for our church, and actively working to prevent this harm to create spaces of inclusion and celebration where all children of God feel completely welcome, safe, and free to express themselves. Are,” the UCA said on their Facebook page on Tuesday.
“Conversion Therapy” is prohibited in Victoria, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory. The Queensland bill defines conversion therapy as “a treatment or other practice that attempts to alter or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” What exactly that does and doesn’t include differs in each of the bills (see here for a detailed response from the Commissioner for LGBTIQ+ Communities, within Victoria’s Department of Premier and Cabinet, to questions from Eternity).
During the debate that led to the passage of Victoria’s bill, some Christians expressed concern that banning proselytizing practices posed a potential threat to Christian religious freedom. In contrast, the UCA voiced support for legal efforts to curb the practice. Therefore, the recognition made at their National Assembly is a logical next step.
For context, the UCA is the only mainstream Australian denomination that affirms Christians in same-sex relationships. However, some smaller denominations include the Metropolitan Community Church and New City Church. The UCA allows ministers to choose between two marriage rituals that reflect “two equal and different views of marriage” to “honor the diversity of the Christian faith among its members.”