Huge Aussie church embraces gay marriage
SAME-SEX couples wanting to get hitched in a church can now breathe a sigh of relief.
This is because the Uniting Church of Australia has finally given the green light for such unions to take place inside its premises.
The church will now have two equal yet distinct views on marriage to show the "diversity of Christian belief" among its members after the denomination's national body met on Friday night in Melbourne's southeast.
Members of the church's national decision-making body agreed to adopt a second statement during a seven-day triennial assembly at Box Hill Town Hall.
"Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of two people to live together for life," the new additional statement reads.
Under the new ruling, ministers will be allowed to conduct - or refuse to conduct - same-sex marriages.
The existing belief statement reads: "Marriage for Christians is the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life."
Uniting Church president Deidre Palmer said the decision came after years of reflection, prayer and discernment, thanking members for their response to "a difficult conversation for many people of faith".
"I know that this conversation is painful and difficult for you," Dr Palmer said while 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."
Same-sex marriages in the church are expected to start taking place in coming months.
- Additional reporting by June Ramli