Concerning the Assembly General Secretary's statement of church policy on homosexuality: a letter in reply to the response to my original letter of 16 July 1997

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30 July 1997

The Rev Gregor Henderson
General Secretary of the Assembly
Uniting Church in Australia
PO Box A2266
Sydney South NSW 1235

Dear Gregor

Thank you for your considered reply to my e-mail and letter concerning your statement, Current Policy on Homosexuality. I appreciate the detailed attention you have given it, and the fact that you were responding to advice on the needs of the Church in consultation with other relevant leaders. Unfortunately the manner of its preparation only tends to illustrate how the very serious situation we are in is compounded by the separation of the Assembly staff and committees from the Church at large. It is further illustration of what should have been obvious at the Assembly: that you cannot without great damage have leaders proceed with proposals which are not supported by a large majority of members. You are surrounded by a very unrepresentative group of people, who are too greatly influenced by a libertarian ideology that is not accepted by most mainstream Christians.

Your response highlights the importance of addressing the question of how free individual office holders and other councils of the Church are to depart from what has generally been received as the doctrines of the Church in the absence any specific determination by the Assembly. It is part of the meaning of ordination, for example, that ministers accept that they are subject to a discipline concerning what they teach, while the resolutions of the Assembly would form only a minor role in shaping the doctrines which they uphold. Related to this very basic principle is the question of whether certain matters of policy have doctrinal implications. It should be obvious that if any council can make any policy it choses within the limits of its powers and without being limited by doctrines of the church which have been widely received and affirmed in our traditions but have not, in the relatively short history of the Uniting Church in Australia, been the subject of any resolution of the Assembly, then we would soon be in deep trouble with false teaching and conflicts between different councils, ministers and officers of the Church. The process of disintegration which is already well advanced would be greatly accelerated. As I have tried to emphasise in other contexts, you cannot have unity in diversity without catholicity.

There is of course much more that could be debated in detail, but I hope that this basic question of how our doctrines must guide our policy decisions will be addressed with good effect before it is too late.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely,

David Beswick

Note: See the note at the end of the document giving the original letter for what has happened since.

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