The head of the anti-gay Assembly of Confessing Congregations (ACC) group within the Uniting Church in Australia [UCA] believes the church will move to formally adopt “sacred union ceremonies” to bless same-sex couples.

“On 12 June 2010 a sacred union ceremony, organised by [the Uniting Network Australia] UNA, was held at Brunswick Uniting Church in Melbourne,” ACC chair Rev Dr Max Champion warned in a recently published paper.

“The following day [Uniting Church] president Alistair Macrae received a copy of the liturgy used in the ceremony and advised UNA leaders that ‘if they want clarity in this matter they should consider the usual church processes for introducing it through the Councils of the Church for discussion, discernment and debate’.

“In the light of decisions at the 2003 and 2006 [Uniting Church] Assemblies that implicitly accepted same-sex relations among ordained ministers as a legitimate form of diversity in the UCA, it is not surprising that formal recognition of same-sex relationships is now sought.”

Champion wrote that he believed this would occur at the Uniting Church Assembly in July.

The UNA 2008 Daring Conference agreed that the development of liturgies which recognise gay and lesbian couples should be a high priority for the church. As a result, it published the booklet Sacred Union Ceremony in 2010.

The booklet provides three options for pastors: a gender-neutral version of the marriage rite; a “biblical covenant” ceremony; or a “commitment to love” ceremony while stressing that a sacred union ceremony should not be presented as a marriage service in line with the church’s current understanding of marriage as “the freely given consent and commitment in public before God of a man and a woman to live together for life,” as defined in 1997.

In related news, UnitingCare NSW director Rev Harry Herbert will be the guest preacher at a March 25 Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Sydney service.

Herbert wrote an opinion column in support of marriage equality which appeared in Fairfax newspapers last month and will speak from 10am at 96 Crystal St, Petersham.

MCC Sydney pastor Greg Smith said he expected Herbert would bring, “an encouraging message to us”.

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