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Here's where Australian churches stand on same-sex marriage

Jackson Ryan, Lifehacker Australia

Last week, Australians began to receive postal survey forms enabling them to have their say on whether or not same-sex marriage should be legalised. For some people, this is a matter of conscience and human rights but for others, the vote is based on their religious beliefs.

The various churches and faiths of Australia have all taken different stances and provided different reasons for how their constituents should vote. We've collated the views of eight major faiths: from Hillsong Church to the Australian National Imams Council.

Whether you're an atheist, Church goer, or somewhere in-between, it's important to unpack how the other side thinks - it's the only way a civilised debate can take place. (Even if you'd rather argue than debate, knowledge is definitely power.)

With that in mind, we've decided to list the public stance of eight Australian Church organisations on the Marriage Law Postal Survey. Please note, out intent is not to provide a soapbox for discrimination. We're simply presenting the "official" opinion of some of Australia's largest organised religions so you know precisely where they all stand on the issue.

Catholic Church of Australia

The Australian Government announced there will be a postal plebiscite on whether Australia should change marriage to include “same-sex marriage”.

Ballot papers will be sent out on Tuesday, 12 September and all votes must be received back by Tuesday, 7 November.

Please vote No, to keep marriage as a unique relationship between a woman and a man.

Marriage is:

The Church views marriage as a unique relationship between a woman and a man.

Marriage is also a fundamental institution for all societies because of its importance in uniting spouses as potential parents and in providing for the upbringing of their children. It has therefore been understood as the union of a man and a woman in all cultures and religions until very recent times and is still so defined in international law and the law of most nations.

The recognition that marriage is between a man and a woman is not the assertion of bigotry, religious dogma or irrational tradition, but a recognition of human ecology. It does not preclude persons of the same sex entering into other legal relationships.

To insist that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman is not a criticism of other kinds of relationships. By recognizing this particular type of relationship our community and its marriage laws do not unjustly discriminate against other relationships: rather, our community and its laws recognize the essential connections between male-female bonding and child-bearing, and between children and their natural parents. The Commonwealth has an interest in ensuring that children have the benefit of those connections.

Redefining marriage would deliberately create motherless or fatherless families, which would deprive children of at least one of their biological parents, and would put the preferences or interests of adults before the right and interests of children.

Hillsong Church, Senior Pastor Brian Houston

In less than a month, Australians will receive the ballot papers which gives us all the ability to cast a vote on the issue of same sex marriage. Hillsong Church already functions well and without impediment in other parts of the world where same sex marriage is legal, and as long as we are not forced through legislation to compromise our biblical convictions, we can quite comfortably continue to function whatever the outcome of this plebiscite.

However it must be emphasised that for Christians to obtain an outcome consistent with their beliefs, they must vote. I believe that many Australians who are often referred to as the ‘silent majority’ feel strongly on this subject but allow louder and often more aggressive voices to control the public dialogue. This plebiscite provides us all with an equal voice and we should not waste this opportunity.

Uniting Church of Australia

The Uniting Church has for some time been conducting its own independent discernment on marriage.

We acknowledge that there is a diversity of opinion in our Uniting Church community on the issue of same-gender marriage.

We have always tried to maintain a respectful conversation on this subject between the councils of our Church and to work constructively across our membership.

In our current conversations on marriage the Uniting Church is seeking to hold a ‘space for grace’ - engaging in respectful conversations with one another, guided by the Spirit, sharing our stories and understanding of marriage and same-gender relationships in culturally appropriate ways.

Our commitment to our own process of prayerful discernment means that Uniting Church leaders will not be recommending any position to members in relation to the 2017 postal plebiscite, should one take place.

The Uniting Church in Australia currently understands marriage as ‘the freely given consent and commitment in public and before God of a man and a woman to live together for life’.

We are also committed to being an inclusive Church that embraces LGBTIQ people as full members and to culturally appropriate discussion about relationships and marriage across our diversity.

We will consider carefully the implications of any future changes to the Marriage Act.

Regardless of any legislation change, we will continue our own process of discernment in relation to same-gender marriage in a way that reflects the Uniting Church’s commitment to uphold Christian values and principles.

These values and principles include the unique worth of every human being, religious liberty and personal dignity, and a concern for the welfare of the whole creation.

Seventh-day Adventist Church Australia

Proposed changes to the Marriage Act, allowing the marriage of two persons without regard to gender, are drawing significant media attention and public debate after the Australian Government committed to a plebiscite on the issue at the most recent federal election. Representatives from a range of political and community groups are speaking out on the topic of marriage. Some openly support introducing same-sex marriage while others strongly advocate that Australia retain the current legal definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman. It’s an issue that’s being discussed not only in government circles but also in schools, universities, hotels, hospitals, private homes and in our churches.

With growing pressure within society to change the definition of marriage, we, as leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia, felt that it was important to restate and reaffirm the Church’s view on this issue. As a result, we have produced this small booklet, which we submit for thoughtful and prayerful reflection. The intent of the booklet is to present a biblical perspective on marriage and to help you understand some of the potential consequences of redefining marriage, including the implications for freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience.

We live in a messy and imperfect world. We recognise these are complex issues but it’s important to talk about them. The topic of marriage is one of the most vital conversations we can have, but we need to approach it respectfully, reflecting God’s love for all people. We hope that this booklet will support you in the conversations you’re having in church, the workplace, over the fence and at the school gate.

Lutheran Church, Bishop John Henderson

It is understandable if Australians, and along with them the members of the Lutheran Church, are ever so slightly confused about what is going on. Coupled with that confusion are rising concerns about a lack of guarantees of religious freedom in the possible legislation, and a raft of consequences which would effectively hinder the work of the church in society, including welfare, education and public debate.

The Lutheran Church has never been alarmist. Because of our faith we can always see the hand of God at work. We have worshipped, worked, and served in Australia now for 180 years, in which time we have seen and weathered many changes. We will also weather this change, should it happen. We will increase our focus on God’s grace in his Son Jesus Christ, and the promise which does not decay, spoil, or fade away.

When it comes to the popular vote, individual members of the LCA will vote according to their conscience, but the church and its pastors continue to teach that marriage is the union of a man and a woman voluntarily entered into for life. We know that our human weakness means that such marriages are not perfect, but they remain God’s good design for the well-being of the human race.

They also released this statement, in 2015, in regards to their position on conducting same sex marriages:

So if the government were to change the law on marriage, the LCA would not be obligated to change its position on marriage. LCA pastors will not conduct same sex weddings. The legal requirement under which a religious celebrant conducts a marriage is that it be in accordance with the rites of the Church.

Anglican Church, Archbishop of Sydney The Most Reverend Dr Glenn Davies

Most Australians love Jesus’ teaching that we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. It’s a good principle to live by.

Jesus also taught that “no one has greater love than that they lay down their life for their friends”. This too is widely recognised as a worthy aspiration for us all. You’ll find it set in stone on lots of ANZAC monuments in our towns and cities.

Similarly Jesus’ teaching on marriage is something we all respect: “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder”. Somehow, we all know that this is right.

Jesus said that from the beginning marriage has been the result of a man leaving his mother and father, joining to a woman and the two becoming one flesh. So faithfulness is a good thing. Enduring together is a good thing. And a partnership between two people of the opposite sex is a good thing. We shouldn’t tear apart this good thing that God has put together.

Once this was obvious for all Australians. Now Australians are hearing voices say that marriage is not about a man and a woman; that gender doesn’t matter at all to marriage. A new definition of marriage is being put forward, which claims that it is simply about two people who love each other and want to commit to each other. These advocates want the Government to change the legal definition of marriage so that can happen.

This is a big change. And it’s a long way from the good picture of marriage given to us by Jesus and the Bible – that God gave marriage to men and women, for their own good, for the good of children and for the good of human society. If we love our neighbours we will want good things for them. So we should be prepared to speak up for God’s good plan for marriage in the conversation our country is now having.

But how do we do this? How do we explain the relevance of God’s pattern for marriage to a secular nation? What does the Bible really say about marriage? And how can we answer questions people have – especially from those who don’t believe in God? What are the consequences for everyone if we don’t speak and the definition of marriage is changed? The material on this website goes some way to helping Sydney Anglicans in the conversations we’re having in the workplace, over the fence and at the school gate. I commend this material to you and encourage you to talk about the goodness of marriage for all Australians.

Australian National Imams Council

The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) affirms that Islam sanctifies marriage as only being between a man and a woman. This has been the view held by all major faiths including the traditional Judaeo-Christian beliefs and other traditions throughout human history.

The Quranic revelations and Prophetic teachings with regard to the institution of marriage make this clear. Islam places the family unit at the heart of a healthy society, and in this context, the right of children to be cared for and raised by both a mother and father is one that must be protected. Islam also explicitly and unambiguously states that marital
relationship is only permissible between a man and woman; any other marital relationships are islamicly impermissible.

ANIC strongly believes that all members of our pluralistic society should be able to express their views on marriage, in a respectful manner and without fear of reprisal or unwarranted criticism which fails to respond to the issues at hand. We therefore call for respectful and responsible dialogue.

This article was originally published by Lifehacker Australia. Read the original here.

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