Bishop’s Letter to the Churches of the Anglican Diocese of North West Australia – August 2015

Gary Nelson, Anglican Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of North West Australia released the following letter regarding same-sex marriage during the last week.


Bishop’s Letter to the Churches of the Anglican Diocese of North West Australia, August 2015

Dear friends,

I write to you as brothers and sisters in Christ who desire to live godly lives according to the teaching of God’s Word, the Bible.  There is an issue that is presently generating much discussion and political action, namely, ‘same-sex marriage’.  The Federal Parliament is likely to discuss legislation calling for a change in the definition of marriage under the Commonwealth Marriage Act 1961.  Currently, marriage is defined as,

‘the union of a man and woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’.  

This reflects a truth seen in many diverse cultures, faiths and communities across the globe.  In fact, it is consistent with the vast majority of nations who represent about 90% of the world’s population.  Only a small percentage of countries have changed their legal definition of marriage to include same-sex unions.[1]

Let me make the following responses to this current debate.

i)  a call to love and repentance

As Christians we are called to love our neighbours as ourselves and to repent of sinful attitudes and actions towards others.  Sadly many who are same-sex attracted have unjustly suffered and we condemn this type of treatment.  So let’s ensure our own attitudes are compassionate to all for whom Christ has died; and that our churches are experienced as welcoming and caring communities.

ii) model godly marriage

Ephesians 5 speaks of the marriage between a man and a woman as picturing the relationship between Christ and his church.  This is an incredible challenge to all married couples with its demand for sacrificial love.  Christians should be modelling marriage as shaped by the Bible.

Our Anglican marriage service reflects the Bible’s teaching by declaring three central purposes for marriage.  It states marriage is for the procreation of children; to enable a holy lifestyle for sexual expression; and to provide mutual companionship and help.  The service is built on God’s creational teaching that shapes marriage as the union of a man and a woman, publicly joined through mutual promises, committing them to a life-long exclusive relationship of love and trust.

The ‘one flesh’ essence of marriage arises from the complementarity of the sexes; as does God’s creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply (cf. Genesis 1,2).  At our most fundamental level humanity is complementary by nature and hence interdependent – this is where we find true integrity as individual human beings.[2]  Since this is God’s design, it is good for all of humanity.

iii) some implications

  • same-sex unions are not marriage

The Bible clearly teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman.  It also declares that homosexual acts are sinful bringing God’s judgement – as does all sin (Romans 118-32). This implies that the union of same sex people cannot share in the one flesh of God’s design for marriage since their union does not arise from complementary sexes.

  • calling same-sex unions ‘marriage’ breaks the link with children

God’s creation design for marriage ensures the link between children and their biological mother and father.  This is the means God has given to not only bless a man and woman in marriage, but society as well, through the creation of stable families across generations.

 

iv) some issues in this debate

  • ‘equality’ argument

Using ‘marriage equality’ as the focus for change claims the high moral ground without appropriate discussion or justification (i.e. who can be against equality??).  The equality sought is currently limited to same sex couples, but those who believe in for example, the marriage of a man with two women, could also use the equality argument.  So if you oppose this redefinition of marriage it’s easy to be labelled as old fashioned or even morally suspect.

But this must not stop us from voicing our concerns and legitimate viewpoint.

 

  • shifting the ground

Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions isn’t simply to enable freedom of choice about whom we can legitimately marry.  Rather, it shifts the ground for marriage so that its centre will become sexual choice and emotional commitment.  As well, it assumes that any generation has the right to redefine what constitutes the essential nature of marriage.  But marriage is not simply a private matter – otherwise there wouldn’t be any pressure to change the definition.  It’s not just a matter of allowing freedom for others, but what is best for Australian society and its citizens.

 

  • valid lifestyles

A redefinition of marriage brings with it the implication that heterosexual and gay sex are both valid and equally worthy of public affirmation.  This would lead to a demand for equal treatment in sex education in schools and hence the normalising of a gay lifestyle.  As a result children will be taught that there is no moral or other grounds for preferring heterosexual marriage to same sex marriage.

 

  • same-sex marriage will impact freedom of religion and speech

In countries where marriage has been redefined people who have disagreed with this change now face serious consequences, including vilification and legal punishment of both individuals and organisations.  In Canada, despite their Charter of Rights and Freedom providing for freedom of conscience and religion, the Christian view on marriage is increasingly not tolerated in the public arena.[3]  Redefining marriage places at risk religious freedom and freedom of speech.  Thus the rights of conscience, belief and association are impacted, endangering the rights of parents to educate their children according to their own beliefs.

 

Friends it’s time to pray, discuss and act.  Take time to contact your Federal member and express your opposition to any redefinition of marriage (see: marriagepetition.acl.org.au).

 

Yours in Christ,   Bishop Gary Nelson


[1] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/07/glance-same-sex-marriage-around-world
[2] See M. Thompson (ed), Human sexuality and the Same Sex Marriage debate, (APA, Sydney, 2015).
[3] See for example, http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/same-sex-marriage-and-the-persecution-of-christians-in-canada

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