The St Kilda Baptist Church has been a place of unconditional welcome for people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity for more than 20 years.
In the context of our nation’s current postal survey, we express our solidarity with the whole LGBTQI+ community, troubled that matters of identity and deep personal intimacy are being subject to sometimes coarse social debate. We lament the history of much of the church in condemning, rejecting and tormenting people whose natural sexual orientation was not expressed in the dominant heterosexual terms. We recognise Jesus’s example as one of welcome to all those who were disrespected by political and religious leadership as he embodied the truth that God had drawn near to all people. As a church community we are constantly inspired and challenged to be followers of Jesus in honouring and celebrating all human life.
As a faith community considering Same Sex Marriage we recognise that there is a diversity of thought and opinion held within our congregation and we strongly hold the Baptist conviction of “freedom of conscience” for all people. It seems to us that we can both respect diverse viewpoints and work through a process that allows us to speak collectively as a church. Through respectful conversation, we have heard and honoured a broad spectrum of views; through a process of communal discernment, we have decided to join our voice to others in support of marriage equality.
It seems to us that unconditional welcome implies support for social structures that celebrate and recognise faithful, loving, lifelong union for all people. This for us is a fundamental issue of justice. We recognise that the rights that are expressed in marriage are fundamental human rights and are diminished if confined to heterosexual union.
From our Christian tradition we would contend that all loving intimacy is a gift from God and worthy of celebrating as sacred union. We have spoken passionately and openly with one another about these things, heard one another’s stories, dreams, concerns and fears and we have accepted that unconditional welcome also embraces people within our faith community and within our society who hold different views and convictions.
As a result our church’s rainbow colours embrace both diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity AND the gift of being a cohesive community in which people can safely hold different opinions. Perhaps the most powerful statement we can make at this time is the statement of being a loving community that can hold difference with reverence and care.