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'We think it's time' - church gay marriage moves gather pace

By Alan Austin - posted Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Shifts in churches and synagogues toward accepting gay unions are accelerating.

In On Line Opinion in May it was suggested that the early months of this year saw a change in wind direction towards ecclesiastical reform, after blustery breezes last year.

To extend the metaphor, that wind has definitely picked up since, making scoring shots near impossible for conservatives.


The latest gust is the election of openly gay minister Gary Paterson as moderator of the United Church of Canada this month. The moderator is sort of pope for Canada's largest Protestant denomination.

Dr Paterson's three-year papacy is partly administrative, partly ceremonial, partly pastoral and – a point widely acknowledged – hugely symbolic. He is married to another minister, Tim Stevenson, his partner of thirty years.

Reform within the global Anglican community advanced this month when Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckingham become the most senior Churchman of England to join a movement supporting same-sex marriage.

Out4Marriage is a cross-party and cross-religion campaign now backed by business people, community leaders, celebrities and politicians including deputy PM Nick Clegg.

Wilson joins prominent Anglican Dean of St Albans Jeffrey John in using the stiffening breeze to advantage.

"If you are gay, please don't judge God by the Church," the openly gay Dr John urged. "The official Church doesn't speak with integrity on this issue and so, frankly, doesn't deserve to be listened to."


Officially the Church of England remains opposed to gay unions, as critics of the bishop and the dean were quick to assert.

In contrast, the Episcopal Church in the US has moved to offer blessings to same-sex couples. The US Anglicans accepted the reform by a decisive margin – 282 to 82 – at their June convention in Indianapolis. The 1.9 million-member church is now the largest US religious body supporting same-sex unions.

A shot at goal by New Zealand's six Roman Catholic bishops this month was blown badly off trajectory. In a letter to 'Kiwis of Generation Y' they condemned the proposed Marriage Amendment Bill, claiming it would "re-engineer the status and structure of family life in New Zealand".

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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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