Divine decision: churches split on indigenous Voice vote

indigenous voice

As the clock ticks down to the October 14 Australian referendum on the Indigenous Voice, religious leaders in Australia are under the spotlight.

Despite the political risks of taking a stand, some urge these leaders to move beyond mere words and show decisive support for the constitutional change.

Francis Sullivan, who formerly led the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, minced no words in his call for action.

“This is not a time for dilly-dallying. This is a time for leadership,” Sullivan declared.

He expressed concern that the constitutional change’s legal intricacies are muddying the waters, causing some church leaders to waver despite their earlier, unequivocal support for the Indigenous Voice.

Sullivan weighed in saying, ”This is a moral issue for the church, not a legal one.”

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has already endorsed the Indigenous Voice in writing, but Sullivan is pushing for that endorsement to be backed by concrete actions before the referendum deadline.

Voice vote a “hell of a mess”

Fr Frank Brennan SJ, a long-time advocate for Indigenous rights, recently spoke at a gathering in Victoria.

Brennan described the Voice referendum as “a hell of a mess,” but is still urging people to vote “yes”.

I’m one Australian who stood up and said, ‘I don’t think the wording is perfect, I don’t think the process has been perfect, but we’re left with an invidious choice,’” Brennan said.

“Do we choose some wording which may not be perfect, or do we say No and we put this off to another day?”

Brennan says Catholic social teaching and decades of papal support for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples provide strong grounds for Catholics to vote Yes on 14 October, he said.

Religious community divided

However, the religious community remains divided on the issue.

While Anglican leaders have voiced support for the constitutional change, some within the church are cautioning that the “view from the pew” may not align with the bishops’ stance.

“I think the bishops will find that they have been singing in their own bathroom on this one,” Fr Peter Macleod-Miller, the rector of St Matthews Anglican Church in Albury.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently attended a Uniting Church service in Sydney, pledging bipartisan oversight for the Voice’s legislative setup if the majority votes in favour.

Simon Hansford, a Uniting Church minister, argued that Christian teachings inherently support the Voice, as they call for aiding those who are marginalised.

Despite considerable support from its member councils and other Islamic leaders, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils has yet to reach a consensus and the Australian Christian Lobby has yet to declare its stance on the matter.


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