The two big decisions and what it means for us
Posted in News
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.