10th September, AD2017
To my brothers and sisters at St Peter’s,
I want to write to you because of the postal vote to change the definition of marriage. This is a big decision for ourselves and our country. As I often say, it’s important to understand our principles before deciding what we will do in practice.
As a church we trust the Bible is God’s word to us so that we can know him. At creation God created humanity in his own image, male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). God’s design is that marriage is a life long union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, which is why “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
Jesus affirms this view of marriage as God’s design seen in the union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9).
And yet marriage is even more than a description of a relationship between two people. God’s good design in marriage is a living illustration of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31-32).
Our Anglican church marriage service says, “Marriage is a gift of God our creator. It is a symbol of God’s unending love for his people, and of the union between Christ and his Church.” (APBA 2nd order). The national general synod this week reaffirmed this teaching: “The General Synod (i) recognises that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman” (Motion 16.21). Faithfulness in Service, our national code of behaviour, expects of clergy and church workers “chastity in singleness and faithfulness in marriage.” (FIS 7.2)
Given these truths, I will be voting no to redefining marriage and I encourage you to do the same.
As Christians living in a democratic society, we have the privilege of being asked our opinion. Voting is not imposing our view on others, but exercising our freedom of speech for the good of our country.
We know that affirming the goodness of marriage is a challenging and daring stand to take as so much of mainstream and social media actively supports same sex marriage. Yet opposition to redefining marriage is not a homophobic reaction. It is based on our deeper concern to uphold the authority of Scripture. To affirm the Bible’s teaching on marriage is a costly call on every person, married or single, heterosexual or homosexual.
We are convinced that all human beings are created equal in God’s sight. Our identity is found in being made in the image of God, not our sexual expression. The slogan, “marriage equality” calls for equality based on a different understanding of what marriage is. I acknowledge that affirming the goodness of marriage can leave same-sex attracted people feeling less than equal, but the Bible teaches that our value is in being human, not our sexual expression or orientation. I want to assure all those who are same sex attracted that they are valued, loved and welcome at St Peter’s. Please pray that our church family continue to welcome everybody with equal care and compassion.
We also acknowledge that this is a cause of distress and pastoral concern for many in our church community and our families, friends and colleagues. I want to encourage and support all who seek to listen and understand the challenges this presents.
I think there are reasonable concerns about the consequences of same-sex marriage for the raising of children and freedom of speech. There are also solid counter-arguments to those in favour of redefining marriage. For example, many relationships are marked by love, but that doesn’t mean they are marriages. I encourage you to engage with this debate with a generous, kind and humble heart.
However, most of these don’t address the heart of the issue for us as Christians. We believe God is the good and loving creator who knows how best to live in the world he has made. We trust that following Jesus is the way to “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10), both in this life, and for the one to come. Regardless of the outcome, our confidence is that Jesus is Lord seated at the right of God in heaven. Please keep proclaiming him, that we might help everyone grow in Jesus Christ.