The two big decisions and what it means for us

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The November Presbytery and Synod Meeting, held between 15 and 17 November at Adelaide West Uniting Church, was described by many as the most emotional three-day meeting this Synod & Presbytery has ever experienced. Over the course of three days, more than 400 representatives from Uniting Church congregations and faith communities from across the state, had to make a number of decisions that have far-reaching implications not only for South Australia, but for the whole of the Uniting Church in Australia.

There were two particularly big issues up for decision. First, was a request for the Presbytery and Synod of South Australia to suspend the Assembly decision on same-gender marriage until such time as adequate consultation has been achieved; and second, a request for the Presbytery and Synod of South Australia to allow the establishment of a missional, non-geographic Presbytery.

Asking Assembly to suspend the marriage decision or not

Let’s look at what happened with the decision regarding same-gender marriages first. In July this year, the 15th Assembly meeting of the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) adopted two equal and distinct statements of belief on marriage – one that states marriage is between a man and a woman, and another that states marriage is between two people. If the Presbytery and Synod of South Australia votes according to 39(b) of the Uniting Church Constitution, they will join other Presbyteries across Australia who have made the same decision. It is important to note that the South Australian Presbytery and Synod decision would make the difference between suspending the same marriage decision until further consultation by Assembly occurs. After much debate at the Presbytery and Synod meeting and an official vote, it was decided not to make a decision – at least not at the meeting that was just had.

What does this mean? If the Assembly are not notified of a Synod’s decision to ask for a suspension within six months, the decision will stand. That means that the South Australian Presbytery and Synod have until 13 January 2019 to make a decision on the matter. The Presbytery and Synod has agreed to meet before that date in order to do so. It also means that many same gender couples will not know until January whether their intended weddings will be allowed to go ahead or not.

Establishing a missional, non-geographic presbytery

The Uniting Church in South Australia, unlike the case in many other states, currently operates as a single Presbytery and Synod. Traditionally, Presbyteries are arranged according to geographical location. At the November Presbytery and Synod meeting the decision was made to start working on restructuring the current set up of the Presbytery and Synod to enable the formation of Presbyteries, including at least one non-geographical Presbytery, within the bounds of the South Australian Synod.

This decision as to whether a restructure will occur was made by secret ballot, indicating the highly emotive nature of the decision. T

What does this mean? The Presbytery and Synod of South Australia will have to restructure, as there will now be more than one Presbytery. By the next Presbytery and Synod meeting in June 2019, members should be able to vote on proposals that outline how a new structure will work and how it will be defined. Until this time, there is a great deal of work to be undertaken by everyone involved.

What you can do

The UCA in South Australia will be navigating its way forward over the next few months in unchartered territory. The decisions and pending decision remain as highly emotive topics for members. Regardless of people’s personal opinions about where we are, and how the future will be, we need to continue in the faith that the Uniting Church is God’s church. Please keep those who will be involved in the decision-making conversations in your prayers.

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Comments (3)

  1. Euan McDonlad 21 november 2018, 20:30 Link
    Praying that the Synod upholds the Biblical and Jesus teaching on marriage.
    1. Bill Harris 21 november 2018, 22:55(Comment was edited) Link
      The Presbytery / Synod will need to ensure that there is wide consultation on the proposed presbytery restructure to ensure that members of all congregations, particularly those who were nit at the Synod become aware of what is proposed and have opportunity to express their own thoughts. People attending Synod are not 'reps' and often do not represent the different beliefs across their congregations.
      1. Robert Humphreys 22 november 2018, 06:10(Comment was edited) Link
        Very sad that the statement makes no specific acknowledgement of the continuing emotional pain of many people within the UCA are experiencing due to the actions of a minority using political process to prevent same gender couples seeking a Christian marriage ceremony in the Uniting Church. The UCA has had over two decades struggling with this matter. Enough is enough. Most UCA people are ok with same gender marriage. Lets move on from this needless furthet discussion position. Further the idea of a non geographic missional presbytery is contrary to the UCA's commitment to unity in Christ. In my view it is entrenching a needless division along unhelpful party lines.
        1. Janice Merritt 12 january 2019, 16:47(Comment was edited) Link
          The saddest part of this is that only a «minority» respect the Word of God enough to protest the inroads of humanism into Christian thinking.
        2. Colin Kupke 22 november 2018, 13:43 Link
          It would seem the hierarchy is procrastinating so that the 6 month deadline cannot be met, hence the UC will have 2 definitions of marriage, one of which is biblically based, the other to be inclusive of those who choose to be selective in their biblical views, seeking passages of scripture in an attempt to find a place to call their church.
          Are we attempting to hold a church together here, or should we, as a church, be seeking to follow the biblical definition of marriage?
          As a church we do well at being inclusive, regardless of our member's personal weaknesses (sin). But there is no wisdom in condoning sin or anything that is against biblical principle. As a sober alcoholic I understand what it is to struggle with «genetic» issues. I can shrug my shoulders and say it is because I was born this way, or some other issue gave me a tendency to become what I am. In 1 Timothy we read how a little wine is good for our health, and elsewhere in the bible we read that getting drunk with wine is a sin.
          For me to live out my faith I need to abstain from anything to do with alcohol. Abstinence, I believe, is an approach that the LBGIT community needs to consider when it comes to matters sexual.
          1. Danielle Bowden 22 november 2018, 18:09 Link
            I guess I am concerned that we are only asked to pray over these decisions and there is no request to study God's word to assist us in making these decisions. Personally I believe that God has given us his Word, the Bible, to provide guidance for life, both individually and corporately. I am concerned that there has been no directive from any of these articles about the synod meetings to personally and corporately read the Word of God for help in discerning the way forward. What does this say about the Uniting Church? Do we no longer corporately hold that the Bible is the true word of God?