In July 2018, at the 15th triennial Assembly, the National Assembly made a decision regarding the conduct of same-gender marriage in the Uniting Church in Australia. The full decision can be viewed online.

Prior to this decision, the Presbytery of North Queensland made a resolution which sought to direct those in that presbytery to a particular way of responding to the conduct of same-gender marriage.

Advice was sought from the National Polity Committee whether the Presbytery of North Queensland resolution could stand, considering the Assembly resolution gave authorised marriage celebrants and church councils the power to determine their own position regarding same-gender marriage.

In summary, the advice of the Polity Committee is that:

 The Presbytery, as a council of the church, can hold a position on same-gender marriage

It is possible for a council of the church to affirm a view on doctrine or theology where that doctrine or theological position sits within the acceptable range of views of the church.

 In this situation, the Assembly has determinative authority in relation to the church’s understanding of marriage and has clearly indicated that there are now two views of marriage that may be held with integrity within the church.

 However, the Presbytery cannot bind the discretion of other councils or members of the church

The Assembly, which has determinative authority on this matter, has also clearly granted “its ministers and members” the ability to “act with integrity in accordance with their beliefs”. This discretion cannot be curtailed by a Presbytery.


The Assembly decision on marriage is built on a key affirmation in the Basis of Union, that the congregation is “the embodiment in one place of One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”. It recognises the integrity of a congregation to be able to make decisions about its witness to the gospel in the world. The Polity Committee response protects that integrity.

The response also affirms the integrity of those who are authorised marriage celebrants to bear witness to the faith of the church within the diversity that the Assembly has determined.

Specific questions of referral from Queensland

  1. Given that the Assembly resolution allows for a freedom of conscience decision by ministers, can the Presbytery limit that freedom of conscience for any person seeking a placement in their bounds by building in a “policy filter” for placements?

Polity Committee response – No

  1. Given the freedom of church councils to determine whether same-gender marriages take place on their property, can the Presbytery in effect, limit that exercise of conscience by restricting the theological position of the person seeking a placement in their bounds?

Polity Committee response – No

  1. Given that the Presbytery’s theological position sits within the Assembly’s resolution, do they have capacity to exercise their discipline in regard to that position only? Are they obliged to accommodate the potential of both positions being held within their Presbytery?

Polity Committee response – They are obliged to accommodate the potential of both positions being held within their Presbytery

  1. Can a Presbytery resolve to bind all its committees to hold one theological position only in this matter?

Polity Committee response – No

Resources will continue to be provided by the Assembly and the Synod to assist councils of the church, and individual ministry agents in terms of making decisions in relation to the conduct of same-gender marriages within the Uniting Church.

Yours in Christ

Rev Heather den Houting

General Secretary
Queensland Synod