THE UNITING CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA
Level 8 222 Pitt StreetSydney
Sydney South NSW 1235
Phone: (02) 8267 4202
Fax: (02) 8267 4222
November 17 2003
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As many people within our church are aware, a decision made by the national Assembly in July 2003 - it's commonly called Resolution 84 and deals with matters of 'membership, ministry and sexuality' - has caused a great amount of discussion and. in some cases, great pain in our church's life.
Some of the concern has been about the decision itself and some about the processes that led to Assembly making the decision it did.
Since that decision every Synod has met and many councils of the church have been hard at work in understanding and dealing with it.
At its November meeting the Assembly Standing Committee (the group elected to oversee the work of the Assembly between meetings) has once again heard of the cost and division this matter has caused for many - but not all - within the church.
As a body the Assembly Standing Committee (ASC) carefully and prayerfully considered the pastoral responses needed to take our church forward.
We believe we have developed a genuine road map to the next Assembly, so that people are able to take part in the process of discerning the doctrine of the church with regard to people in committed, same-gender relationships being in leadership positions.
While the polity of the Church has always meant that a Presbytery might ordain such a person, the ASC has heard the voice of the church indicating that it wants this matter to be addressed by the Assembly itself.
In essence we have set up a three-step process that will allow the breadth of the church to be heard on this matter and, through our presbyteries and Synods, prepare for decisions on this issue for the 2006 Assembly, if it sees fit.
The process is:
The request for responses from Councils and Congregations to Assembly Minute 03.12.04, and additional information, will come under separate cover early in the new year. We feel it is very important for our whole church to engage in this matter at a doctrinal level, as the basis of working towards a final resolution at a future Assembly.
Tasks groups and working groups, representing the breadth of the church, have been established to ensure this open process can take place.
We have also asked that every council of the church be mindful of the impact that their decisions and deliberations could make on other members of the church during this time.
This process is. I believe, a way forward promising deep engagement in Scripture, prayer, discernment and wider study. There was a strong sense within the ASC that this process should be consistent with the Basis of Union, especially paragraphs 5 and 11.
The Standing Committee is committed to make available quality resources reflecting a wide spectrum of views to enable this discussion to take place.
It is my hope and prayer that we are approaching a time of true blessing for our church, and that we will be open to grow in grace in this journey. I ask for your prayers for our church.
I enclose the actual Assembly Standing Committee minute, which spells out in full the resolution.
Grace and Peace
Dean Drayton ,
Uniting Church in Australia