Meredith Knight (she, her)
Christian; Lesbian; 78er, Chorister, Activist
Decades of involvement in activism for justice, equity and equality have only added colour and glow to Meredith’s presence and personality. Having experienced and witnessed firsthand the suffering that LGBTIQA+ people of faith have undergone in the past 5 decades, Meredith’s optimism, humour and playfulness dance side by side with her perceptiveness, sensitivity, resoluteness and attention for the minoritized, the marginalised and the earth that is crying for justice.
Meredith stands against a mandarin yellow background wearing a black 78ers’ ‘The First Mardi Gras’ T-Shirt that has words and pink triangles. She wears a biker’s helmet adorned sequins and vest both designed in the hue of the pride rainbow, and has rainbow coloured biker’s fingerless gloves and has a pair of rainbow triangle earrings dangling from her earlobes
Reflections from Meredith:
“I am a theologically progressive Christian who is a member of both Pitt Street Uniting Church (since 1984) and Metropolitan Community Church, Sydney (since 1976). My faith sustains me through my conviction that God is absolute love and loves me fully and unconditionally. I take confidence in the Christian scripture that states that nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Christ Jesus (Epistle to the Romans 8:38). The main way that I experience this love is through being part of inclusive and loving community. The teachings of Jesus Christ inform my ethical and moral vision in that it compels me to treat Earth and all her creatures with kindness, justice and mercy.”
“An important part of my spiritual practice is to attend a weekly church service. I lead a very busy life working full-time and I am actively involved in a number of community groups and choirs. Sunday morning is my opportunity to stop and consciously focus on my faith and that which gives my life deeper meaning. The service prepares me for the week ahead. It is good to be amongst people with whom I have a deep connection and who know and love me as I do them.
My two congregations are like family to me. It is also good to be amongst people who have a similar understanding of faith and life and who seek to live lives which are open and expansive; committed to social justice and the greater good. I also love singing the hymns and songs which I commonly find to be a deeply meaningful and joyful experience. Singing is an important part of my faith expression and there are hymns which are integral to my faith journey such as Here I am Lord and Come as You Are (that’s how I love you). Times of silence and prayer during the service (and as part of my daily routine) draw me into the present moment, quietening my overactive, self-critical and constant ruminating mind which is essential to my physical and emotional well-being. “
“A vital part of my spirituality is environmental activism. I have participated in protests, and other actions with Extinction Rebellion and with Ecopella environmental choir with which I sing. My Christian beliefs compel me to take an active stance because humanity is called to care for the earth, not to exploit it. We need to protect it for future generations of all of Earth’s inhabitants. Jesus called religious and political leaders to account. He stood up against the powers that caused oppression and destruction. I can imagine Jesus doing that today in our context of climate crisis.”
“Homosexuality has been a deeply contentious issue to most Christian denominations including the Uniting Church in Australia of which I have been a member since its inception in 1977. However, the UCA has been willing to engage with the topic which has been a long, and at times, arduous process.
I was a member of the first Assembly UCA committee which was charged with undertaking a comprehensive study into the nature of homosexuality specifically in relation to biblical, theological, pastoral, physiological, psychological and legal perspectives. The report Homosexuality and the Church was published in 1985. The report called for responses from UCA members. The committee had to read and summarise the letters received and these were released in a second report called Responses to Homosexuality and the Church. As a young lesbian in my mid-twenties, I found reading the responses jarring because the majority were homophobic, many vitriolic. Those responses were a reflection of the prevailing views in the broader society. LGBTIQA+ people were treated as pariahs, especially gay men as it was at the height of the HIV/Aids epidemic and the general community predominantly blamed the gay community for its contagion overwhelmingly regarding it as the gay plague.
Fast forward 38 years and the Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) has come a long way in respect to the acceptance and inclusion of queer people (as of course, has secular society). It has been a costly process for many in the UCA. In the 1980s, Pitt Street Uniting Church was one of the only congregations that was open and affirming and we too paid the price especially our minister at the time, Rev Dorothy McMahon (later, Rev Dr Dorothy McRae McMahon). Today, many more congregations are open and affirming. Congregations are now free to employ queer ministers and we are greatly enriched by their gifts. Since marriage equality was passed into Australian law in 2017, Uniting Church ministers have been allowed to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples.”
“A recent example of how Uniting Church congregations are evolving came when an LGBTIQA+ community arts organisation required a performance space in February 2023. A Uniting Church congregation, which had a history of being ultra-conservative, reached out and offered its church for the concert, free of charge. In his email to the music director, the minister said that the congregation was eager to offer the space. He said that the congregation acknowledged that they hadn't treated the LGBTIQA+ community well in the past but were now determined to do so.
I am proud of the Uniting Church for its willingness to grapple with the hard questions and to make positive and meaningful change. In its ongoing commitment to issues of social justice, including sexuality and gender, the Uniting Church continues to faithfully live out the call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sadly, no institution in the Western world has been as damaging to LGBTIQA+ people as formalised Christianity. There are elements within the Christian church which continue this harmful persecution and oppression. However, fortunately today, there are many Christians who fully and unconditionally accept LGBTIQA+ people.
The Uniting Church has made significant positive strides in this respect. I would like to see the Uniting Church advance justice for LGBTIQA+ people by openly denouncing discrimination and persecution of LGBTIQA+ people wherever it exists, both nationally and internationally. On a national level this would include highlighting problems with proposed anti-religious bills that would likely result in the discrimination of LGBTIQA+ people and denouncing conversion therapy, discrimination against staff in church schools and instances where those with a public profile make inflammatory statements about LGBTIQA+ people. The church also has a role to play in educating its members about LGBTIQA+ issues and fostering the building of relationships.”
“On an international level, advancing justice for LGBTIQA+ people would probably best be done by supporting organisations that work to change the draconian laws of those countries that persecute LGBTIQA+ people.”
Photographed by Andrew Ratter of Studio Commercial