Uniting Church in Australia votes to allow homosexual clergy
Evangelical members of the Uniting Church in Australia, made up of the country's Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches, say they are "horribly close" to leaving after today's vote to allow the ordination of homosexual clergy.

"It looks to me…that there is a real risk that some elements of the church will just say, 'Well, that's it,' and pack their bags and go," Mary Hawkes, spokeswoman for the Evangelical Members within the Uniting Church (EMU), told the AAP. "I'm not sure that the church is ready for that."

In one Australian state, Hawkes told reporters, about 3,000 evangelicals were planning to leave the church—Australia's third-largest, after Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism—because of the vote. But Hawkes promised to try her "very best to persuade everybody to do absolutely nothing this year except pray and talk and find a way forward."

Still, she said, "If there's going to be an exodus, my hope is it will be a mass exodus—I don't want people going in dribs and drabs."

EMU, which represents 300,000 active members (among the 1.2 million Australians affiliated with the denomination), opposed the move, as did the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress. But about 85 percent of the denomination supported the policy, which says individual presbyteries may "accept people for ordination, candidature for ministry or placement in ministry on a case-by-case basis."

The vote "clarified the situation in the church and sought to maintain the unity of the church, by acknowledging our diversity of understanding and interpretation," Uniting Church President Dean Drayton said in a press release. "The Assembly has decided that we are a diverse church, we have great and genuinely held differences, but instead of allowing these differences to divide us, we will hold together in something greater—our love of God and our love of the Uniting Church itself."

But there's more to being a church leader than loving God and the denomination, said Anglican Bishop Peter Tasker in a statement released by the Diocese of Sydney (he's standing in for Archbishop Peter Jensen, who is traveling overseas). "Leaders in our churches should be above reproach and be those whose lives exemplify the very biblical and Christian teaching that they are duty-bound to give," he said. "It is painful to us now to have to point out to the Uniting Church that today's decision raises important questions for biblically minded Anglicans, such as those in our diocese, over the future recognition of the ministries of any Uniting Church ministers who are partners in a homosexual relationship."

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Archbishop of Canterbury tries to mend Church of England homosexuality rift:

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Jeffrey John speaks:

Same-sex marriages:

  • Methodists divided over same-sex unions | Battle lines have begun to form within the United Methodist Church over a recent endorsement of same-sex unions by the church's regional governing body (The Daily Times, Ottawa)

  • Also: Local church leaders differ over gay issue | Local United Methodist Church leaders have lashed out against a recent measure by the church's regional governing body officially endorsed same-sex marriages and the ordination of homosexual ministers (The Daily Times, Ottawa)

  • The stakes | Why we need marriage (Maggie Gallagher, National Review Online)

  • Gay 'marriages' ahead | High court decisions in Canada and the United States and a pending lawsuit in Massachusetts will finally force "gay marriage" to the top of the nation's legal and cultural agenda (The Washington Times)

  • Study finds gay unions brief | They last 1-1/2 years on average (The Washington Times)

  • Pastor quits TV to fight gay marriage | David Mainse is stepping down as host of the long-running evangelical television show 100 Huntley Street to commune with Canada's aboriginal people and campaign against same-sex marriage (The Globe and Mail, Toronto)

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More on sexual ethics:

  • Catholic and Anglican Primates reject gay faithful | Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a' Nzeki and Anglican Primate Benjamin Nzimbi yesterday spoke with one voice against gays and lesbians (East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya)

  • Church report on gay issue leaked | The document says Christians share fundamentals such as faith and baptism, rather than beliefs about sexual conduct or blameless personal behavior (BBC, video)

  • Also: Harries paper sparks fear of 'stealth' reform | A fresh row over homosexuality broke out yesterday when evangelicals said that a new document intended to inform debate on the issue would encourage liberal reform by stealth (The Daily Telegraph, London)

  • Gay church's dean may exit denomination | Ministry credentials surrendered as inquiry of pastor nears end (The Dallas Morning News)

  • There's no stopping them now | If it weren't for homosexuality, the "mainstream" Christian churches would get barely any press at all (Mark Steyn, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Banish the druids | Consensual sex trumps traditional boundaries (Richard Nadler, National Review Online)

  • Sodomy ban should have ended sooner | Biblical scholars have shown that anti-gay interpretations of Biblical passages are based more on current prejudices than on historical readings of the texts (Robert N. Minor, Kansas City Star)

  • Call off the canon fire | Conservative Christians who try to make sexuality a key test of orthodoxy are on dangerous ground (Martyn Percy, The Guardian, London)

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  • Also: Pulpit defense of hate mail minister | Parishioners have come out in support of a Methodist minister at the centre of a hate campaign involving a series of poison pen letters (The Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, England)

  • Also: Preachers blast slur campaign from the pulpit | Methodist Church leaders were today taking the dramatic step of attacking a whispering campaign focusing on the personal life of a Stoke-on-Trent minister which has split the city's circuit (The Sentinel, Stoke-on-Trent, England)

Sex abuse cases:

  • Ruling shifts focus to church documents | With the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a California law that made it easier to prosecute sex offenders, a judge's decision on whether to force the Los Angeles Archdiocese to release priests' personnel files is taking on greater importance (Associated Press)

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Possible Methodist-Anglican covenant:

Church life:

  • Church disaffiliates from Southern Baptist roots | Pastor says name change does not reflect any hard feelings toward its former denomination (Harwich Oracle, Mass.)

  • Old church center of storm | Plans to demolish an aging, unused South Side church building have preservationists criticizing the decision and a city law exempting the structures from landmark protection (Chicago Tribune)

  • Cash crisis prompts shakeup | The Church of England is launching a radical review of its finances after warnings from dioceses that they could face bankruptcy (The Guardian, London)

  • World alliance faces Southern Baptist revolt after vote | Southern Baptist Convention leaders are threatening to secede from the Baptist World Alliance after the international body voted last week to accept the moderate-led Cooperative Baptist Fellowship as a full-fledged member (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

  • City agrees to pay church to settle building dispute | Evanston has agreed to pay $350,000 to a Vineyard church it had illegally barred from worshiping in a former office building (Chicago Tribune)

  • Children in church? No question | When a congregation pledges support to parents, members should expect joys and challenges (Karen DeFilippis, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Summertime and outdoor services | To keep their members within the fold, many places of worship are foregoing air-conditioned chapels in favor of outdoor church, equipped with beach blankets, lawn chairs and insect repellent (The New York Times)

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Ten Commandments battles:

  • Christian leaders urge commandments rally | Leaders of the National Clergy Council and Christian Defense Coalition want to rally hundreds of Christians to kneel around the Ten Commandments monument on display in a Montgomery, Ala., courthouse — an act of civil disobedience they've already tried outside abortion clinics (Associated Press)

  • Christian clergy urge civil protest if Ten Commandments is removed (Tuscaloosa News, Ala.)

  • Moore's mum on possibilities for monument | Alabama Chief Justice said he won't decide what he will do about the monument until the appeal is over (The Birmingham News, Ala.)

  • Decalogue or Eleven-alogue? | Anyone counting the number of commandments appearing in photographs of the monument's two tablets of the Law — something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one but the author of this column has bothered to do — can't help blinking (Forward)

  • Commandments will test high court | Here's a message for all those happy folks who are cheering the U.S. Supreme Court's pragmatic turn away from conservative ideology toward moderation: Reserve judgment until the Ten Commandments problem is settled (Marianne Means, Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

  • Biblical display at Capitol may go | A 6-foot-tall granite monument of the Ten Commandments that sits across from the state Capitol could meet the same fate as some Bible verses at the Grand Canyon: They could be banished (Arizona Daily Star)

  • Monumental decision: Council to decide next step on Ten Commandments ruling | The Ten Commandments monument in Cameron Park could have a permanent home on Main Street outside Christ Episcopal Church, if the Eagles Club is willing (LaCrosse Tribune, Wis.)

  • Also: Find a private home for commandments | Now that a federal court has ruled that a monument depicting the Ten Commandments cannot be in a city-owned park, La Crosse city officials need to cut their losses and move the monument (Editorial, LaCrosse Tribune, Wis.)

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  • Franklin commission blesses Commandments display | The Franklin County Commission has become the latest Northeast Georgia government to become part of a national campaign to publicly display a version of the Ten Commandments (Athens Banner-Herald, Ga.)

Pat Robertson:

  • Pat Robertson loses it in attack on high court | If his followers pray hard enough, God might make these sick and elderly justices see the wisdom of retiring, he said, although the underlying suggestion seemed to be that if they don't, they could be struck dead (Sheryl McCarthy, Newsday\)

  • And on Earth, Pat's will be done? | He fell into one doozy of a tailspin and is apparently so dizzy from the landing that he's called for a "prayer offensive," aptly named because it is indeed an odious abuse of the gift of prayer (Connie Schultz, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland)


  • More than one take on Scripture | The devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose (Pat Cunningham, Rockford Regiester Star, Ill.)

  • The meaning behind the words | Are the Bible, Torah and Koran meant to be taken literally? (Daily Pilot/Los Angeles Times)

  • Some hotel nightstands looking beyond the Bible | Bucking a ubiquitous hotel industry tradition that dates back to 1908, the Borgata has nixed in-room Bibles in favor of stocking its lobby library with loaner editions of the Gideon Bible and 12 other religious texts, from Jehovah the First Godfather to the Bhagavad-Gita (USA Today)

  • Also: Bible losing its monopoly in hotel rooms | Something as simple as a ubiquitous Bible in hotel rooms reflects our level of respect for the faiths and beliefs of others. (Bill Maxwell, St. Petersburg Times)

  • Everything is illuminated | For William Dalrymple, the Lindisfarne Gospels is more than a marvel of Celtic Christianity. Its Italianate portraits and Egyptian patterns make it the first great work of multicultural Britain (The Guardian, London)


  • In the name of God | Book raises the specter of religion twisted into violence (USA Today)

  • Author raps modernist view of Jesus | In Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Richard A. Horsley compares ancient Roman imperialism to what he calls modern American imperialism (The Boston Globe)

  • What heresy? | The things NeoGnostic seekers want in Christianity—experiential insight, mysticism, a direct link to God—are already there (Frederica Mathewes-Green, Beliefnet)

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