Statement from Wesley Mission, Sunday, 13th April, 1997

THE PRESIDENT MUST ACT!

A STATEMENT FROM WESLEY MISSION, SYDNEY, WHY THE UNITING CHURCH CANNOT ALLOW SELF-CONFESSED HOMOSEXUALS LIVING IN A SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP, TO CONTINUE IN CHURCH LEADERSHIP.

The public revelation by a minister working in the Assembly of the Uniting Church, (Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon) that she is living in a lesbian relationship and feels no contrition or remorse and does not intend to correct the situation nor resign from her position, has placed the Uniting Church in Australia in a position of deep compromise where the President of the Assembly must take some responsibility for the discipline and counselling of Assembly staff. The President cannot remain silent and do nothing. Either the President must uphold the Biblical basis of the church or he must be seen as derelict in his duty.

Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon's decision to reveal her homosexual relationship before the Church's Assembly in Perth, had forced the Uniting Church to indicate publicly whether it holds to its Basis of Union and the faith we affirm in common. Whatever future Assemblies may decide is irrelevant. The President must act on the constitutional, confessional and regulatory decrees of the Church in place now. The President, Rev John Mavor, must resolve the issue for these reasons:

1. The Uniting Church must be seen to be obedient to the scriptures. In Dorothy's explanation of her situation there is not one word about sin, the necessity of repentance, the acceptance of forgiveness, the reality of conversion, the possibility of a new start with new life or the grace of God which can make a person new in Christ Jesus. The whole central purpose of the coming of Christ to redeem us from sin and enable us to live a life of holiness and righteousness is ignored. But the church cannot ignore the scriptures. It must live under the scriptures according to the statements in our Basis of Union. We cannot dismiss the scriptures and live as if anything goes. The President must see the scriptures are affirmed.

2. The church believes in accepting the sinner, but does condemn the sin. When Jesus confronted a woman who had been living in sexual immorality and adultery, he accepted her but required of her that she sinned no more. He did not applaud her. The church does not reject Dorothy as a sinner in need of forgiveness. But it must reject her as a church leader who intends to go on sinning while she works as a minister of the Gospel. Dorothy is not rejected because she is a lesbian, but because, as a lesbian living in a relationship with a person to whom she is not married, she is at the same time seeking to give leadership in the church. Any person, male or female, hetero-sexual or homosexual, cannot continue as a church leader and openly, defiantly, continue to sin. To accept her in leadership is to undercut the whole concept of sin and Christ's death upon the Cross to free us from sin.

3. At the heart of the Gospel is the doctrine of conversion. We believe a person can be changed by Christ's power to become a different person. It means that it is possible to have a complete change of life and life style. A person is not born into the church and therefore takes its privileges as a right, but is re-born by obedience to the Gospel and by being willing to walk in a new life. Those ministers who admitted their homosexual relationships at the Assembly show no evidence of that. The Uniting Church Assembly should have called them to repentance instead of applauding their continuance in sin. The President must affirm the possibility of conversion.

4. Our faith is not based upon feelings but upon the facts of what Christ has done for us. He died to set us free from sin. Talk that simply emphasises feelings but says nothing about how we are saved and changed by Christ, is simply self-righteousness and a denial of Christ's freeing us from sin. No minister can be in a position of leadership who does not confirm the simple basic truths of the Gospel, that Christ has died for them, they have been forgiven and re-born, and they will live according to the Scriptures a life of holiness and obedience, avoiding every form of immorality and lust.

5. The church cannot make exceptions for some of its own. For example, another minister who reveals he is living in an adulterous relationship with a woman cannot continue as a church leader. He is immediately brought before the church's Sexual Misconduct Complaints Committee, counselled, told to change his life-style, and if he refuses is dismissed from ministry. That has happened to a number in the past ten years. Dorothy McRae-McMahon says she has not been in any breach of the church's codes of conduct. That is completely false, and she needs to be counselled about the church's standards. The church cannot accept a proposition that because a person is a lesbian then that relationship is different and she can continue in leadership because homosexual people have an inherent right to sin that heterosexuals do not have.

6. While such leaders stay in their positions openly living in a homosexual relationship, they are destroying the morale and efforts of people in our congregations who have been converted, repented of their sin, ended their wrongful relationships, and who live lives which are faithful within marriage and celibate in singleness. The Apostle Paul would do nothing that would cause another to stumble. Any church leader openly sinning causes others to fall into sin, gives no example of the life-changing power of Jesus Christ, denies the faith, and demoralises others who are seeking to live a life of holiness unto God.

7. The Uniting Church upholds the faith once delivered to the saints and which is held in common by all other denominations. We are not a church of different beliefs, different standards and different morality. All other denominations - Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Pentecostal, The Salvation Army and so on - hold that church leaders must live lives of sexual propriety and morality and if they err, for whatever reason, they cannot continue in their leadership. All these churches reject an open, defiant person living in a homosexual relationship in leadership as living in sin. The Uniting Church is part of the universal Church and cannot make up rules to suit some of its own.

8. Homosexual leaders in the church have led a double life. They have pretended to be, to the Church and to its members who have paid their salaries, that they are Christian ministers living the accepted standards of the scriptures. Dorothy has admitted hiding her situation. She says the church called her into positions of leadership. But such a calling was not on the basis of her living a double life. She has betrayed the trust people have placed in her and her office. She acknowledges that she has a passionate life to be lived and was determined to hold as many years of her life so she could offer what she had to offer and not collude with those who would try to put an end to the way she was living. She cannot now live as if that double standard does not matter. Transparent honesty is required of leaders, not cover-up.

The President cannot allow this situation to continue. The President has a responsibility to give spiritual leadership and encouragement to the church, to represent the church and to give counsel as required. Reports indicate clearly the attitude of members of the Uniting Church. The recent National Church Life Survey indicates the gay lobby is welcome within the membership of the Church but not in leadership. The response to the Interim Report on Sexuality shows that the membership of the Uniting Church overwhelmingly (82%) does not accept the gay lobby agenda. It shows that 89% of congregations do not approve of homosexual leadership. It is believed that the independent assessment of the 8000 responses shows 91% of churches and members responding did not approve of homosexual practise or homosexual leadership within The Uniting Church. The President has plenty of support from Uniting Church members. He should release that report the Assembly Standing Committee has ordered kept hidden and act on the attitude of members and congregations of the Uniting Church.

The President should counsel Dorothy McRae-McMahon to resign from leadership because by her own admission she has placed the church in a position where it must uphold its standards and faith. Other self-confessed homosexual ministers living in such relationships also should be counselled, and if no changes are forthcoming, be urged to resign.

There is clear precedent and definite guidelines. The President has no option. The President must act.

Gordon Moyes

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