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