UNITING NETWORK EXPRESSES CONCERN REGARDING TIME FOR CONSULTATION ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM EXPOSURE DRAFTS

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church in Australia, expresses its concern around the short period to respond to the Exposure Drafts on Religious Freedom and Associated Legislation released today.

Co-convenor Rev. Peter Weeks commented that “It is our view that there is no need or demonstrable evidence for new religious freedom legislation. It is our position that existing legislation that permits discrimination against LGBTIQ people in religious organisations is not only wrong but not theologically sustainable.”

Rev. Weeks further commented, “The Liberal National Coalition Government put the LGBTIQ community through an unnecessary and vitriolic postal survey campaign over an extended time period. That process created significant mental health issues for the LGBTIQ community that are still reverberating within the community today.”

“The Ruddock Inquiry was held in secret, and the final report withheld from the community for an extended period. During the development of these proposed pieces of legislation, there has been extensive consultations with communities of faith in developing these drafts, however there has been no consultation with the LGBTIQ community, who are the clear targets of these draft legislation.”

“There is just over a month for the community to comment on the exposure drafts which are extensive and their implication to the LGBTIQ community potentially severe.

We strongly call on the Prime Minister and the Attorney General to undertake a significant consultation period with the LGBTIQ community and delay any attempts to bring legislation to Parliament until the middle of 2020 at the earliest.”

Uniting Network will provide additional information and details on our specific concerns with the draft legislation once we have had an opportunity to digest and analyse them thoroughly.

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OTHER BACKGROUND INFORMATION FOR MEDIA:
Contact Jason Masters, Secretary – 0407780110, jasonmasters@me.com

Resources for Open and Affirming Congregations.
The Uniting Church LGBTIQ network has launched a new suite of educational resources for congregations, study groups and individuals. The resources cover a range of topics from how to become “open and affirming” to queer young people, children, language, gender identity, sexuality and the Scriptures. All can be downloaded from http://www.unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au/open-and-affirming-project/

UNITING NETWORK EXPRESSES CONCERN IN RELATION TO PRIME MINISTER MORRISON’S COMMENTS AROUND CRICKET AUSTRALIA’S TRANSGENDER POLICY

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church in Australia expresses its concern around the commentary attributed to Australia’s Prime Minister Morrison concerning the release earlier this week by Cricket Australia of its policy for transgender athletes local to elite levels.

Co-convenor Hannah Reeve commented that “the Prime Minister, since coming to office, has made some negative comments concerning transgender people, a community who have some of the highest suicide rates in our society.”

Hannah further commented, “Uniting Network welcomed the policy position of Cricket Australia as a fair and balanced approach to ensure the inclusion of transgender people in their sporting code.”

Secretary of Uniting Network, Jason Masters, added “We know from the global sporting study “Out on the Field”[i] that LGBTIQ people leave sport due to the way they perceive being treated as an LGBTIQ sportsperson.  Eighty percent of the Australian study participants stated experiencing or witnessing homophobia in sport. We also know that one of the mechanisms to improve people’s mental health is engaging in sporting activities. On the one hand, the Prime Minister is very concerned, appropriately, around mental health issues across Australia, and we are thankful the Prime Minister in his election promised to increase funding for LGBTIQ mental health services. It is disappointing that the Prime Minister on the other hand is effectively adding to the mental health issues of transgender people by making, what we at Uniting Network believe, are not fully informed and inappropriate comments.”

Jason Masters stated that “Cricket Australia is not the trailblazer in this space, and many other sporting codes already have transgender inclusion policies with sports as an example as Volleyball Australia having policies for addressing transgender people at elite levels dating before 2012[ii]

Jason Masters concluded “part of our disappointment is that earlier this year the Australian Human Rights Commission, Sports Australia and The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports issued the “Guidelines for Inclusions of transgender and Gender Diverse People in Sport”. I call on Mr Morrison to be aware of where the sporting sector is moving in this area, and more generally around the inclusion of transgender people in all aspects of our society.”

Finally, Hannah stated “As a community of Christian LGBTIQ people we call on all to be respectful and inclusive of transgender people. We would be delighted to meet with the Prime Minister to further discuss our concerns with him.”

Download a PDF copy of this statement here.


[i] http://www.outonthefields.com

[ii] http://nswvolleyball.com/images/members/MPP_27_July_2012.pdf

Media Release | Open and Affirming resources launched at Synod meeting

A suite of 15 new resources have been launched with the aim of supporting Uniting Church congregations which seek to fully affirm LGBTIQ people, same-sex couples and families.

“Uniting Network is proud to have produced a comprehensive series of resources on LGBTIQ related topics to assist congregations and faith communities who are looking to explore what it means to be inclusive and affirming,” announced National Co-Convenor, Hannah Reeve.

“The resources address issues such as coming out, gender diversity, rainbow families, language, marriage and queer young people. These are important pastoral and justice issues for church members,” stated Ms Reeve.

The series also contains guidelines for becoming an Open and Affirming congregation, an overview of current Uniting Church policies and a discussion of human sexuality and the Bible.

Ms Reeve thanked and congratulated the Rev Dr Rod Pattenden who co-ordinated the series, with the support of a team based in Newcastle which included the LGBTI Project Officer with Uniting NSW/ACT, Claire Allen.  “The team have done a superb job in covering a diverse range of topics, in leaflets which are concise, readable and relevant at this time for our church and beyond.”

The Open and Affirming resources are available at www.unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au or by request to affirming@unitingnetworkaustralia.org.au

Contact Hannah Reeve, 0438 386 383

Uniting Network Australia express great relief that marriage will continue to be available for LGBTIQ people within the Uniting Church

Uniting Network Australia expresses great relief that the July 2018 decision of the National Assembly of Uniting Church to allow Ministers and local churches to choose whether to conduct or host weddings under the 1997 definition (“man and woman”) or under an additional definition (“two people”) remains in place as Clause 39(b) of the Constitution will not be invoked.

We are thankful to the people of the Presbytery & Synod of South Australia for their wisdom and discernment at yesterday’s meeting not to invoke this clause, meaning the necessary threshold to halt the decision cannot be reached by the 6-month deadline.

This relief is tempered by the anxiety this whole process has caused. With the postal survey last year, local pre-Assembly discussions and the inquiry into religious freedom, the LGBTIQ community has continued to be under the microscope especially by other Christians over the last 18 months. This builds on 6 years of consultation across the whole church on the topic of marriage and the previous 30+ years of regular debates about our place within the church and its leadership. There is a cumulative effect with all of this that continues to impact the mental and spiritual health of people and even the most resilient have felt the strain.

According to Co-convenors Hannah Reeve and Peter Weeks: “A lot of people are feeling tired and broken in our church right now, especially those who are LGBTIQ and as leaders within Uniting Network we continue to hear stories of profound pain and angst. These ongoing discussions are not an inconvenience or a purely theological debate to us – this is about our relationships and our families and it has continued to hurt deeply.”

We call on the Church as a whole to now enter into a period of healing as we move forward together in our journey towards reconciliation of all people. We ask that the Church also publicly acknowledge the human impact of these processes and reflect on how this can be better handled in the future.

“The church should be a place where everyone can be fully themselves and honest, wherever they are at in their story,” Ms Reeve and Rev Weeks said. “We look forward to ministers and couples continuing to use the additional ‘two people’ marriage liturgy and are relieved that weddings can continue to go ahead as planned.”

We assure the President and General Secretary of our continued prayers for them and other UCA leaders as they lead the Church on this journey.

For further information contact the Co-convenors:
Hannah Reeve (0438 386 383)
Rev Peter Weeks (0416 176 349)

Uniting Network Australia calls for action to end formal and informal LGBT Conversion Therapy

Uniting Network, the LGBTIQ network within the Uniting Church of Australia is not surprised by the horrendous impact on members of the LGBT community reported in the study released this week entitled, “Preventing Harm, Promoting Justice – Responding to LGBT conversion therapy in Australia”.  

The report highlights the individuals interviewed:

“knew from an early age, that they were same-sex attracted or transgender;
Faith and service to their respective faith communities was at the centre of their lives during the period they were subject to gay conversion and related therapies;
Each person carries deep grief, and, in some cases anger, over being told they were ‘broken’ and needed fixing; and
All have experienced a profound sense of loss at the lives they had taken away from them.”

We endorse the recommendations issued with the study’s report and call on all levels of government in Australia as a priority to:

Prohibit both professionals and other peoplefrom processes that aim to change, suppress, cure, heal or repair a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.  Any person breaching such a prohibition should be subject to significant criminal charges.
Provide urgent funding for support programs to support people still dealing with significant mental health and family issues resulting from ‘conversion therapy’.
Add clauses to Commonwealth Government Chaplaincy funding agreements prohibitingany attempt to change a school student’s sexual orientation or gender identity either directly or by referral and establish training programs that all such chaplains must complete on the potential harm to children through such conversion therapies’ and failure to validate their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Make Counsellors a protected title under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, requiring Counsellors to be registered with an appropriate oversight body established in association with APHRA and in NSW HCCC/HPCA.  A code of practice should state that providing LGBT conversion therapy and not supporting a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a breach of professional standards.

Further, and outside of the report, we call on all religious organisations to denounce the “call to celibacy” for LGBT people, which is another form of abuse being instituted by some religious organisations as they have realised the unacceptability of “conversion therapy”.

Finally, we call on all religious organisations in Australia to explicitly state their rejection of LGBT conversion therapy, and any statements along the lines that LGBTQ people are disordered, broken or otherwise not whole individuals.  It is our view that involvements in activities such as ‘conversion therapy’ and these types of statements fail upholdthe fundamental premise and hope provided by Jesus Christ, who calls all of us to “Love God and to Love one another”, with no exceptions.

For further information contact:

Jason Masters on 0407780110 or uniting.network@gmail.com