Ezekiel 34.11–16, 20–24
The Uniting Church acknowledges that God has never left the Church without faithful and scholarly interpreters of Scripture, or without those who have reflected deeply upon, and acted trustingly in obedience to, God’s living Word. In particular the Uniting Church enters into the inheritance of literary, historical and scientific enquiry which has characterised recent centuries, and gives thanks for the knowledge of God’s ways with humanity which are open to an informed faith. The Uniting Church lives within a world-wide fellowship of Churches in which it will learn to sharpen its understanding of the will and purpose of God by contact with contemporary thought. Within that fellowship the Uniting Church also stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission. The Uniting Church thanks God for the continuing witness and service of evangelist, of scholar, of prophet and of martyr. It prays that it may be ready when occasion demands to confess the Lord in fresh words and deeds.Basis of Union, 1992 version
Last night, we enjoyed the a cappella singing of Daisy Chain and we also welcomed the Brisbane Pride Choir here at West End Soul. What a great night it was!
It’s only right then that today we look at the history of the Uniting Church’s response to and reception of LGBTIQ people. To make it a sermon, I’ll weave something of my journey in with the history.
Let’s start in 1985. I turned 32 that year, the year I started my studies as a theological student. NSW had just decriminalised homosexuality and the Uniting Church there needed to formulate its response. Gordon Dicker, a good theologian and gentle human being, was Moderator of the NSW Synod at the time and chaired a group to address this question. The committee concluded that the Bible did not support homosexuality, but Dicker also wrote
[However] we did say that people with homosexual orientation should be welcome in the church, eligible for church membership and other suitable roles.
He produced a book, Homosexuality and the Church, and suffered savage abuse from people who disagreed with him. I enjoyed the book, but I have no idea where my copy is now.
Fast forward to 1997, in Perth. I was out of college, ordained, and attending the UCA Assembly for the second time. The Assembly is the national council of the Church and meets every three years. The Assembly has authority to determine the Uniting Church’s position on areas of doctrine.
This 1997 Assembly received a report called Uniting Sexuality and Faith, but did not act on it. The Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress was opposed to any consideration of bringing LGBTIQ people into the full life of the Church, as were more conservative elements of the Assembly.
A young woman came out at the 1997 Assembly, along with a number of others. Subsequently, we became and remain good friends. Three years later, at the 2000 Assembly, she asked if I would be one of the respondents to a questionnaire she had prepared as part of her PhD studies. I recall one question:
If you were convinced that the Scriptures taught that loving homosexual relationships were wrong, would it change your mind about accepting LGBTIQ people?
I answered No. It wouldn’t change my mind.
That was a big call for a former fundamentalist.Continue reading