Conservative factions of the Uniting Church are allegedly pushing for a reversal of its 2018 decision to allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages.
Some of the factions – including the Assembly of Confessing Congregations – are threatening to take control of church property and finances, according to a report by the ABC.
“The main issue is an issue of faith — what is the Gospel? Same-sex marriage is just one of those issues,” the congregation’s chair, Reverend Hedley Fihaki, told the ABC.
“I think there’s a division not just between the Assembly of Confessing Congregations and the Uniting Church, but [also] … between evangelicals as a whole and the Uniting Church.
“I think the church is too quick to throw regulations at us, without actually sitting down and trying to understand where we are coming from.”
In response to the report, the Uniting Church has said the ABC’s piece contained “many factual errors, false allegations and misrepresentations”.
In a statement by Dr Deidre Palmer, President of Uniting Church, she said the story was based on the premise of division in spite of all evidence presented to the contrary.
“For those members who may be disturbed to read, see or hear this report, please be assured that right across the Uniting Church, leaders continue to work in good faith across our theological diversity,” she said.
“The Uniting Church in Australia Assembly’s decision to recognise two statements of belief on marriage remains in place.
“This decision allows ministers and celebrants authorised by the Uniting Church the freedom to conduct or to refuse to conduct same-gender marriages.
“I want to reassure all members of the Uniting Church – your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will continue to be respected and protected.
“The voices in today’s ABC report are in no way authorised by the Uniting Church, and they are certainly not representative of the abundant goodwill among our Church members, and the way in which we continue to witness to God’s abundant grace in our community.”
Last year, the church’s national assembly agreed to give individual ministers the right to decide whether or not to perform same-sex marriages, after their first meeting since the marriage equality postal survey.
The decision was discussed at a contentious Sunday morning service at the St Andrews Alphington Fairfield Uniting Church.
Several months later, some members brought forward a proposal calling for a suspension of the decision to be voted under Church rules.
The decision came down to a series of narrow votes over months, and came close to bringing about a suspension.
However, at the Presbytery of South Australia meeting in January, the conservative push fell short of gathering the required support to bring about a suspension.