21 Mayfield St
13 November 1996
Assembly General Secretary
PO Box A2266
I enclose my response to the Interim Report on Sexuality. I commend the Task Group for the many hours of hard work they have obviously put into producing it and the challenge to examine the roots of our faith and to come to grips with change within society.
There have been a number of points in the document that I have affirmed. However, I strongly oppose its general philosophy, methodology and conclusions. It is for this reason that I have found it desirable (though arduous) to respond to it at length, paragraph by paragraph
The general philosophy that appears to have underlain the work of the Task Group has been to prepare the Uniting Church in Australia - its councils and members - for a change away from the traditional understanding of human sexuality and towards an acceptance of homosexual and other acts that have been proscribed by the Christian Church historically and ecumenically.
The methodology of the Task Group has included reading overseas reports on sexuality which have been largely rejected by the Churches to which they were presented, producing their own literature affirming the desired direction of change, and the Year of Listening for which the Resource Kit seemed most likely to bring forth stories of abnormal sexual behaviour and pain. Within the present document, almost every commendable statement has been progressively eroded away towards persuading us to endorse what is quite unacceptable and contrary to Christian principle. This methodology has been suggested by the terms of reference from the Assembly Standing Committee (Appendix I, 2 (b)). The "witness of Scripture" and the use of "moral laws" are made subservient to "situational ethics".
While the Interim Report has made a number of helpful observations which the Church needs to address, the general conclusions must be rejected. For instance, whatever the origins of the homosexual orientation, it cannot be accepted as "normal" and homosexual acts and lifestyle must continue to be proscribed; the grace of God in forgiveness and change must continue to be offered to all homosexuals; the ordination of self-avowed practising homosexuals cannot be accepted, nor the liturgical affirmation of homosexual relationships...
The membership of the Church has little confidence in the ability of the present Task Group to produce an acceptable Report for Assembly - which would need to be so radically different from the present document. Any descriptive Report needs to state clearly the weight of opinion against the present document.
The 1997 Assembly needs to affirm strongly that Christ's expectation for his people is that we be celibate in singleness and faithful in marriage. This will give clarity within the Church (and community) and will help focus our compassionate care for and ministry to all sexually broken people.
Unfortunately, the protracted debate on these issues has raised expectations for some who have looked for the Church to depart from its traditional understanding and who are not seeking grace for personal change. The debate has therefore already caused division and loss of membership in the Church. I believe that for the Uniting Church to affirm the basic conclusions of the present report would be clearly schismatic, since such action would represent departure from the understanding of human sexuality affirmed universally, historically and ecumenically by the Christian Church - including the accepted understanding of sexuality within the three Churches which came together to form the Uniting Church on 22 June 1977. We cannot continue this debate on and on. Only a strong and clear lead by the 1997 Assembly can prevent further erosion of our credibility as a Christian Church into the future.
Yours in Christ Jesus,
(Rev.) Peter J. Blackburn