SAME-SEX UNIONS DIVIDE CHURCH

Uniting Church ministers who oppose same-sex marriage say they are being “pushed, harassed and bullied” out of the church by progressives at the helm of Australia’s third-largest denomination.  The Reverend Lu Senituli, minister of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations of the Uniting Church Sunnybank on Brisbane’s south side, said a fissure in the church was widening between large conservative congregations such as his mostly Tongan church, and inner-city churches and leadership “who want to drive us out to make way for the new church”.

Mr Senituli said the issue had come to a head since the “yes” vote in the national plebiscite on same-sex marriage.  “They are using church procedures and withholding of funding and all sorts of tactics to get us to toe the line,” he said.  “I have people sitting in my congregation taking notes so they can report on me to the church and have disciplinary measures enacted against me.”  However, the Uniting Church says ministers have freedom to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages and can continue to teach their belief that marriage may only be between a man and a woman.

Mr Senituli’s church is a member of a breakaway body in the Uniting Church established in 2004 called the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, set up for congregations that reject the progressive line on accepting gay clergy and same-sex marriage.  “The church now has two faith statements, or integrities on marriage,” Mr Senituli said.  “One is that marriage is between a man and a woman, as according to holy scripture. But the second integrity is the covenant of love between two persons, regardless of sex.  “In practice it’s impossible to live our faith under these two integrities as they are contradictory.

When a minister makes a statement to a presbytery to say we will not celebrate same-sex marriage, from that point the presbyteries, the regional body, begin to put the pressure on in every way.  “They start turning off the funding tap if you don’t toe the line.  Life becomes extremely difficult.  Regional bodies are working in collusion with liberals in congregations who find orthodox preaching offensive.  “I was removed from the national body on doctrine because my views didn’t represent the diversity of the Uniting Church.  But I represent a thriving church with hundreds of members who hold traditional, scriptural views and my church has six services every Sunday.”

A spokesman for the Uniting Church in Australia Assembly and the Synod of Queensland said ministers and celebrants authorised by the Uniting Church had the freedom to conduct or to refuse to conduct same-gender marriages.  “They can continue to teach their belief that marriage may only be between a man and a woman, and can continue to use a marriage liturgy that reflects that conviction,” the spokesman said.  “At the same time, we expect all our members to respectfully engage with those who may hold different biblical and theological views to their own, and to show respect to LGBTIQ Uniting Church members.

“All parts of the church are accountable to our governance and regulations and when matters of concern arise in particular congregations, the Uniting Church has systems in place to manage those concerns.  “The matters raised are being addressed through appropriate processes, with ongoing consultation with the congregations.  They are un­related to the minister’s or the congregation’s understanding of marriage.”  Mr Senituli’s church adopted its current name, changing its signage from Sunnybank Uniting Church in defiance of church leadership to make clear its opposition to same-sex marriage and as a protest against allegedly being bullied on the issue.

The national chairman of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, Hedley Fihaki, backed Mr Senituli’s claims, saying about 150 of the Uniting Church’s 800 congregations were ACC members.  He said ACC assemblies that had changed signs and logos to distinguish themselves from progressive congregations had received letters warning them they would no longer be under the protection of the church for issues such as insurance.  “The Uniting Church doesn’t see the dilemma we are in.  You can’t have these two doctrines co­existing together, in our opinion,” Dr Fihaki said.  “The Bible is very clear on this.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

Print This Post Print This Post