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Wind shift in church gay union match

By Alan Austin - posted Tuesday, 22 May 2012

This prompted a counter letter signed by clergy supporting the legislation. Signatories – who now number nearly 80 – include Jewish rabbis, a Buddhist priest and prominent Protestant bishops, elected church officials and evangelical leaders from across Australia.

The second, progressive letter pretty much overwhelmed the first in both media coverage and impact on decision makers in Canberra.

The Australian Senate sought public submissions from across the religious spectrum. Of the thousands received the most scholarly and soundly researched appear to be those of progressives such as Professor Bill Loader.


Plays within the Catholic Church have been just as intriguing. Penalties for and against.

Sustained congregational applause greeted Seattle priest Father Tim Clark in April when he blocked a shot by his own Archbishop over Washington state's marriage equality law. The church hierarchy is urging the faithful to campaign against legalising gay marriage. Six local parishes have refused to comply.

The same week, the Vatican rebuked America’s Catholic nuns for “serious doctrinal problems”, including on homosexuality. The pope has appointed a bishop to investigate the nuns.

These plays followed intensifying match pressure earlier. Influential cardinal Carlo Martini, now retired, publicly split with the Vatican in March and expressed support for same-sex unions. As this arrived so did a scathing attack on the U.K. Government’s proposals to legalise gay marriage by top U.K. Catholic cardinal Keith O'Brien.

Also in March a priest in the U.S. was suspended after refusing communion to a lesbian woman at her mother’s funeral. So it’s a puzzling game plan.

The score had already gradually begun to even somewhat in 2011.


The conservative Presbyterian denomination in both Scotland and the U.S. moved last year towards welcoming gay couples into membership and accepting LGBTQ people in leadership.

The Anglican Church in rural Gippsland, Australia, appointed an openly gay priest to a parish post. The ensuing tackles were fended off comfortably by the local bishop. Many similar appointments were made around the world.

The John Jay Report prepared for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops brought into the open the reality of overrepresentation of active homosexuals in the priesthood.

The number of prominent lay Catholics supporting gay marriage increased. Added were former U.K. PM Tony Blair and ex-Premier of NSW Kristina Keneally. More than 260 theologians signed the document Church 2011 supporting civil unions for gay couples among other reforms.

Conservatives can still point to the scoreboard with satisfaction. But suddenly the game has got a lot closer. Especially now Barrack Obama has ripped off his tracksuit and run on to the field.

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nīmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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