The appointment of Rev Gordon Moyes to the NSW Legislative Council to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Elaine Nile on health grounds is unexpected, but not surprising. Moyes will join Rev. Fred Nile as the second member of the Christian Democratic Party in NSW’s upper house.
In 1984, Moyes joined Nile in defying official Uniting Church policy, and opposed the decriminalisation of male homosexual behaviour. At the time, Nile had the Sunday night religion spot on 2GB and Moyes was at 2CH. Moyes then replaced Nile at 2GB, but was dumped by the station on 18 August 2002.
Since moving to Sydney in 1980 to become the superintendent of Wesley Mission, Moyes has become the Uniting Church’s most vocal opponent of lesbian and gay people. That year he commenced his anti-lesbian and -gay campaign by successfully leading a campaign to stop the Paddington Uniting Church from leasing a church building to the Metropolitan Community Church.
Moyes joined the Uniting Church in 1980, following more than 10 years as a minister in the fundamentalist Churches of Christ. He was chosen to replace Rev. Alan Walker as the superintendent of Wesley Mission, and has never been in agreement with the Uniting Church’s broad and liberal approach to theology and social issues. Unlike Walker, Moyes’s social conservatism has never been matched by his predecessor’s critiques of capitalism and racism.
Under Moyes’s supervision, Wesley Mission has grown as a large social welfare organisation. It has been said, however, that while its type of church-based welfare is reasonably good at providing support services, it has failed to research and advocate for policies which might address underlying social problems. Wesley Mission frequently discriminates on the grounds of sexuality. These actions are permitted under NSW’s inadequate anti-discrimination legislation.
Moyes’s opposition to lesbian and gay people in the church reached a new high point in 1997 when he led Wesley Mission to threaten to withdraw funding from the wider Uniting Church, following Rev. Dorothy McRae-McMahon’s decision to out herself as a lesbian grandmother at the 1997 Perth Assembly of the Uniting Church. McRae-McMahon resigned, and Wesley Mission backed off. But Moyes’s anti-lesbian and -gay campaign has continued.
In February 2002 Moyes publicly attacked McRae-McMahon and other UCA clergy on 2GB. The radio station sacked Moyes last month, replacing him with the liberal pro-lesbian and -gay UCA minister, Rev. Bill Crews. 2GB will shortly issue a public apology to McRae-McMahon. In April 2002 Moyes launched a written attack on feminist theology and what he called the lesbian presence in the Uniting Church. Moyes is still under investigation by the Uniting Church Synod for his remarks on radio.
Most Uniting Church leaders do not share Moyes’s theology or social views. But they claim that they do not attack him on the grounds that it would give Moyes additional publicity and prestige.
There is no doubt that in the Legislative Council, Moyes will join Nile, most members of the coalition and other conservatives to oppose an equal age of consent for gay men. In the March 2003 election, he needs barely four percent (plus preferences) of the vote to be elected for an eight-year term, so this is virtually guaranteed. What other policies and legislation he will support remains to be seen, but his approach to lesbian and gay people is neither Christian nor particularly democratic.
-“Warren Talbot is a convenor of the Uniting Church’s network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. These are his personal views only.