The Dividing Church: When a Denomination Chooses Syncretism

“Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

But the people said nothing.” (1 Kings 18:21)

“Last week the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia adopted a motion to permit same-sex marriage for their churches. …

The deal is being packaged as a triumph for diversity, and a celebration of recognising the rights of people to marry whomever they wish. However, once we’ve stripped the rhetoric of its layer of spray paint, what’s left behind is good old-fashioned syncretism…”

– Murray Campbell doesn’t beat around the bush.

And he also encourages us all to pray for “the many Christians within the Uniting Church who have difficult conversations and decisions ahead of them”.

Uniting Church: Post 15th Assembly Pastoral Letter from the Assembly of Confessing Congregations

“In our view, the UCA Assembly has removed itself from the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

On behalf of the National Council of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations, we therefore say in the strongest terms possible, that we reject not only this decision, but the authority of the National Assembly and therefore stand aside from this Council of the Church. …”

The Rev. Dr. Hedley Fihaki writes on behalf of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations National Council.

Doubtless, many in the Uniting Church would value your prayers for wisdom.

Update:

The 15th Assembly’s Resolution on Marriage and same-gender relationships has been published:  Read more

Two doctrines of Christian marriage? That’s OK says Uniting Church theologian

“The headline conceals what actually happened in Melbourne this week. Without setting out to do so, the Uniting Church recovered its stated vocation of making visible unity in diversity. …

without disputing the biblical and theological validity of the traditional understanding of marriage … the Assembly has approved an additional statement on marriage for the Uniting Church, also biblically and theologically valid.

Two doctrines of Christian marriage? Two expressions of that in ‘the rites of the Uniting Church in Australia’? How does that work?

Well, that’s the kind of thing that the Uniting Church was always supposed to be able to manage: unity in diversity. …”

– Past President of the Uniting Church of Australia, Prof. Andrew Dutney, explains that ‘unity in diversity’ is what the Uniting Church of Australia is all about. (Did George Orwell have a word for this?)

Uniting Church chooses on Marriage

The Uniting Church of Australia will officially attempt to sit on both sides of the fence.

Here is a press release from the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia, meeting in Melbourne.

Emphasis added:

“The 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia has agreed to hold two equal and distinct views on marriage to honour the diversity of Christian belief among its members.

Meeting for the first time since last year’s change to Australian marriage laws, members of the Church’s national decision-making body, the Assembly, resolved to allow its ministers the freedom to conduct or refuse to conduct same-gender marriages.

“This decision follows many years of reflection, prayer and discernment, and I want to thank Assembly members for the way they have responded with grace to what is a difficult conversation for many people of faith,” said Uniting Church President Dr Deidre Palmer.

Dr Palmer acknowledged the ministry and struggle of LGBTIQ people in the Uniting Church over many years.

‘I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you,’ said Dr Palmer, directly addressing LGBTIQ Church members.

‘We also acknowledge those who for whatever reason have not been able to support this change – and your pain and difficulty in this space.’

‘Please rest assured that your rights to follow your beliefs on marriage will be respected and protected.’

‘I thank you all for modelling a loving Christian community, holding together and caring for each other, across our diversity of strongly and faithfully held views.’

Members of the Uniting Church’s 15th triennial Assembly have been considering the change to the marriage policy and other issues since Sunday 7 July at Melbourne’s Box Hill Town Hall.

During the meeting, they heard advice from theological and legal experts and had the opportunity to speak to proposals for and against the changes.

The proposal that was adopted on Marriage and same-gender relationships seeks to accommodate a range of views by adopting an additional statement of belief.

The existing statement of belief is that marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life.

The new additional statement of belief says that, “For Christians, marriage is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life.”

The proposal also acknowledges the diversity of religious beliefs and ethical understandings within the Church, and that they have been “developed through continuing faithful discernment and held with integrity on matters relating to sexuality and marriage.”

The proposal determined that the Church is able to accept this diversity within its life and make the decisions necessary to enable its ministry and members to act with integrity in accordance with their beliefs.”

– Source: Uniting Church of Australia, 13th July 2018.

UCA Assembly still considering Marriage changes

“Members of the Fifteenth Assembly continued their consideration of proposals on marriage and same-gender relationships.

In response to requests from Community Working Groups, the Evening Session of Day 3 was set aside to hear further information.

Fifteenth Assembly members then had the opportunity to make two-minute statements in response to the information, proposals or anything else.

The matter will be revisited later in the meeting.”

– That’s all that has been released so far on the Assembly website.

Crunch time for the Uniting Church of Australia

The Uniting Church of Australia’s 15th Assembly meets in Melbourne this week, 8th – 14th July 2018.

The theme of the 15th Assembly is “Abundant Grace, Liberating Hope”,

However, the big question to be decided is whether the UCA will submit to God’s word in Scripture, or adopt a new doctrine of marriage – marriage being between any two people, regardless of gender.

A growing number of UCA ministers and Church Councils have have attached their names to this statement:

If the 15th Assembly of the Uniting Church adopts these proposals in or close to their current form, we humbly state that in accordance with our prayerful convictions, we will not accept these decisions, and we will stand apart from them in ways that we will determine after the Assembly meets.

More from the Assembly of Confessing Congregations. Much to pray about.

Update: 15th Assembly blog:

“Monday July 9 will see the start of the marriage debate. From 2 pm the eight proposals that have now been confirmed will be presented in order of their receipt. This session will continue until 3.30 pm. It is purely a presentation and information session and given the number of proposals will certainly take up this time. …”

J. D. Greear elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention

“This afternoon the Southern Baptist Convention—the largest Protestant body in the United States and the largest Baptist denomination in the world—elected 45-year-old pastor J. D. Greear as its 62nd president, the youngest man to hold the office in 38 years. …”

– Justin Taylor has some background at The Gospel Coalition.

Forty Days of Prayer for the Uniting Church

“Uniting Church in Australia President-elect Dr Deidre Palmer invites all UCA members into 40 days of prayer and action in the lead up to the 15th Triennial Assembly meeting.

‘We offer these prayers to you recognising that there will be many words flooding over us all as we prepare for this journey together…”

– Do pray for the Uniting Church of Australia. Take the time to read their 40 Days of Prayer and Prayerful Action to better understand why you should.

Response by former UCA President to Uniting Church Same-Sex Marriage Proposal

In July, the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia will vote on a proposal, brought by the Assembly Standing Committee, to change the doctrine of marriage and understanding of marriage within the UCA to be for any ‘two people’. Many see this as a ‘make or break’ moment for the UCA.

Dr. James Haire, ninth President of the Uniting Church in Australia, has published his response to the proposals. Quite apart from Biblical reasons to oppose them, he believes they would make it impossible for the Uniting Church in Australia to continue to exist according to its founding documents:

“The final sentence of Paragraph 2 of the Basis of Union (Of the Whole Church) states: ‘The Uniting Church declares its desire to enter more deeply into the faith and mission of the Church in Australia, by working together and seeking union with other Churches’ …

proposals (b), (c)(ii) and (d).1 are likely to cause further fracturing of relations between the UCA and other Churches in Australia, and certainly are likely to go against any moves to seek ‘union with other Churches’.”

Read it all here. (PDF file.)

And, from Peter Bentley, National Director of the Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church in Australia:

“In a nutshell, my view is that the adoption of the proposals would make the Uniting Church cease to be the Uniting Church as we know it, even it still has the legal name. … The grand experiment of ‘Uniting’ that was begun in 1977 as a church movement that was not ‘its own denomination’, but part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church would simply be no more.”

– Read this, and related articles, in the June 2018 edition (PDF file) of Confessing Congregations’ magazine “ACCatalyst”. (Photo: ACC.)

The Wrath of God Poured Out — The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention

“The last few weeks have been excruciating for the Southern Baptist Convention and for the larger evangelical movement. It is as if bombs are dropping and God alone knows how many will fall and where they will land.

America’s largest evangelical denomination has been in the headlines day after day. The SBC is in the midst of its own horrifying #MeToo moment. …”

– Southern Baptist Seminary President, Dr. Albert Mohler, laments as ‘The #MeToo moment has come to American evangelicals. This moment has come to some of my friends and brothers in Christ.”

Church of Scotland to moves toward conducting same-sex weddings

“The Church of Scotland has moved a step closer to allowing some Ministers and Deacons to conduct same-sex marriages in the future.

The General Assembly voted 345 by 170 to instruct the Legal Questions Committee to prepare legislation with safeguards in accordance with Section 9 (1A) of the Marriage Scotland Act. …”

– Report and image from The Church of Scotland.

Related:

Bathurst schools bombshell: Scots buys All Saints’ College

“The Presbyterian Church of Australia in NSW – owner of The Scots School, Bathurst – has been confirmed as the new owner of All Saints’ College. …”

– Report from The Western Advocate.

See also: Presbyterian Church agrees to buy All Saints’ College – Diocese of Bathurst.

Image: All Saints’ College.

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