Some Melbourne Uniting Church clergy will defy the national organisation’s opposition to blessing gay and lesbian relationships at a service for same-sex couples later this month.
The new Sacred Union Ceremony will take place on June 12 at Brunswick Uniting Church as part of the biennial Uniting Network Australia (UNA) conference of GLBT Uniting Church members.
Rev Leanne Jenski from South Australia’s Blackwood Uniting Church told Southern Star the ceremony was an important step to reignite discussion in the church about recognising same-sex relationships.
“Some sections of the church will see it as something that won’t have any significance at all … we want to make a political statement to say it’s time the issue gets on the church agenda,” Jenski said.
Jenski and her partner of 14 years Rev Susan Wickham — also a Uniting Church minister — will be blessed in the ceremony along with two same-sex couples from regional Victoria.
“For me to participate in it will be a statement of hope for the fullness of a [formal] service one day … it’s something we’ve longed for,” Jenski said.
“We hope to make our relationship legal in marriage one day, like other couples who’ve been together for a long time and have the right to get married.”
The Sacred Union Ceremony liturgy was developed by the UNA. Members will meet with Uniting Church in Australia president Rev Alistair Macrae the day after the blessing to hand over the liturgy so the church can consider using it officially.
Jenski said she hoped the church hierarchy will take the liturgy seriously and adopt it.
“There would be many in the church who wouldn’t be happy for that, but because we haven’t been afforded a marriage ceremony … we’ve written it in such a way that we hope it would be acceptable to put into the usual liturgy book of the Uniting Church one day,” she said.
“This is a union for God in the presence of God’s community and we want to acknowledge that with a public affirmation from the church.”
UNA co-chair Rev Dr Robert Stringer said the church had ignored gay and lesbian couples “too long”.
He said it was hypocritical to accept gay and lesbian ministers but not recognise or celebrate their relationships.
“Gay and lesbian couples demonstrate the same love and commitment as straight couples,” he said. “The Uniting Church needs to reconsider its entire understanding of committed relationships and marriage.”
The UNA will hold its ‘Daring to Join’ conference on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, starting June 11.
A booklet including the liturgy for Sacred Union ceremonies will be launched during the conference.
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