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 ...1