I took the
following post from the Insights Mailing List. It seems to have been
mailed out to Victorian Clergy. Walter Abetz is the Victorian Chair of
Our VIC Synod's General Secretary
(Robert Johnston) has responsed today to a public challenge by Walter Abetz
re. Assembly's validity in passing Resolution 84.
One of the questions was whether EMU was consulted. The other one was
whether congregations or councils who did not support "gay
ordination" could be taken to court.
Here is Robert's email response:
through which they went is spelled out in the Supplementary report of the
ASC to the Assembly.
Subject: RE: Synod Gen Sec's letter 29th July
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2003 09:09:30 +1000
1. The Involvement of EMU members in the forming of Proposal 84.
The Assembly Standing Committee did form a Task Group to get different
parties together before the Assembly, to avoid having a multitude of
different proposals which would be hard for the Assembly to deal with. It
did this because EMU national leaders had written to the ASC asking for
clarification, and also because there was a proposal coming from this Synod,
and because both EMU and Uniting Network were reported as having a number of
different proposals which they wished to bring.
I have asked a number of people who were at the meeting in Adelaide. They
make it clear that one of the EMU representatives was strongly opposed to
anything suggested; others were hopeful of finding a way through. Mary
Hawkes [National EMU Chair] was appointed to the continuation group so that
she would be aware of what was developing and to enable input into the
developing document. She was sent every email that went to everyone else. It
is true that Mary did not agree with the direction of the proposal and I am
told, said so on a couple of occasions. Graeme Humphris (an EMU member and
Moderator-elect in SA) was also on the continuation group, and told me that
he had agreed to the proposal coming to the Assembly, as a reasonable
compromise. I think it fair to say that he was amazed at the reaction when
it did come to the Assembly from like-minded colleagues, and I believe that
he was not in favour of it after he heard how people were interpreting it.
The key point is that the resolution came in order to recognise what had
already been resolved by the Assembly, to recognise that there are strongly
held different viewpoints within the UCA, and to ask people to live in peace
with one another, despite differences. The resolution does not adopt either
view as the view or policy of the Uniting Church; it simply notes that these
views are held by Uniting Church people. It does not seek to
"relativise" celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.
This is not a standard which the Uniting Church in Australia has ever
adopted. It has been proposed to the Assembly twice and on each occasion the
previous question was moved and passed. I can find no evidence of it ever
being adopted by any of the three churches coming into Union.
I actually do not agree that these
are "mutually exclusive positions". I would hope that those who
support "cisafim" also support "right relationships",
but want to go further than that position. I don't find either statement
complete. I think that reducing human relationships and sexuality to slogans
is less than helpful; they are a lot more complex than that.
2. Exemption from discrimination
under Equal Opportunity legislation.
Walter, you clearly have a strong
view that your exemption from discrimination under Victorian equal
opportunity legislation is threatened by the Assembly agreeing to Proposal
84, and that therefore the UCA has no doctrine against homosexual behaviour.
I can find no evidence that it ever did have such a doctrine. In any case,
one needs to read the whole of the legislation, not just Section 75 (2) (a).
As you would remember, the UCA asked for specific legal advice on this
matter before the last Assembly, and obtained it from a former Equal
>Opportunity Commissioner. I will quote from part of that advice:
The Victorian Act contains the broadest 'religious' exemptions in Australian
anti-discrimination law. Section 75 (1) of the Victorian act provides that
Part 3 (which prohibits discrimination
generally) does not apply to the ordination of ministers of religion, the
'training or education of people seeking ordination ...' and 'the selection
or appointment of people to perform functions in relation to, or otherwise
participate in, any religious observance or practice'. Section 75 (2)
excludes 'anything done by a body established for religious purposes that
(a) conforms with the doctrines of the religion; or (b) is necessary to
avoid injury to the religious susceptibilities of people of the religion.'
Section 75 (3) extends the operation of S.75(2) to 'anything done in
relation to the employment of people in any educational institution under
the direction, control or administration
of a body established for religious purposes.' Section 76 protects the
practices of 'religious schools'.
Section 77 of the Victorian Act provides the broadest possible exemption for
individuals. It excludes, also from the
operation of Part 3, discrimination 'by a person against another person if
discrimination is necessary for the first person to comply with the person's
genuine religious beliefs or principles."
However, as pointed out at the time, these exemptions do not apply to
vilification or harassment.
Walter, you are free and welcome to continue associating with those with
whom you disagree, and as your brother in Christ, I hope we can continue
discussing and seeking together for the Church what is God's way forward for