This is a statement that I read out at Shepparton Baptist Church on the 20th August 2017 regarding the upcoming survey on same sex marriage.
There is a lot of media attention and discussion going on around the upcoming survey on same sex marriage. I felt it necessary to make a brief statement on this.
Firstly, want to let you know that I am not going to tell you how to vote. How you vote is between you and God. If you aren’t praying about it, I strongly ask that you do. There are people who have already made up their minds, one way or the other. We are not fulfilling our responsibility as followers of Jesus is we are not prepared to allow God to speak to us about this. So, before you vote, please be in prayer about what you are to do.
Secondly, I will withhold publicly announcing my personal opinion because i don’t feel it is helpful to pastorally care for all people that I come in contact with. People may feel that this is a cop out. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. For me, in the position I am in, it’s a lose/lose situation. In part because of the political nature of the issue and also because the issue has become polarised without any room for anything except for a strong yes or a strong no. Let me give you two examples.
- If I were to publicly announce that I am going to vote yes, I immediately have many people within this church community and other para church/political groups condemning me. I become ostracised from the community with which I belong.
- If I were to publicly announce that I am going to vote no, I immediately become labelled as a homophobe. My, and our, ability to minister to all in our community becomes severely restricted.
So, you can see that it is unhelpful to make public statements if I seek to continue to minister to people in the city of Shepparton.
For your information, the current BUV stance on marriage is that it is between a man and a woman. That’s the official stance. There are many churches within the BUV that are public about being “for” same sex marriage. There are also many churches that are public about being “against” same sex marriage. It is an extremely contentious issue, even within our churches.
For me, I would like to ask you to remember 2 passages of scripture when it comes to this current issue, same sex marriage. The first is;
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The other is from Mark;
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
The truth is that whatever decision you are going to make, it must fit within what Jesus tells us here. Some will see that the most loving response is to be “for” same sex marriage because it shows love to people within this group in our community. Others will see that the most loving response to other people in our care is to maintain marriage as it currently is.
This issue has caused the church in Australia to be divided in a very ungodly way. We (as in the Churches of Australia) are currently operating contrary to Jesus’ command to love one another. We are happy to spread hate and division on this topic (and others). We must find a way to express our opinions in such a way as to represent Jesus and his commandment. My encouragement is to consider how you interact with other Christians on this topic. We must work out how we can differ in theology and still be united. Hate is not ok. Division is not ok. I honestly don’t think Jesus is happy with how His church is behaving towards one another.
We could talk endlessly on the pro’s and con’s of allowing same sex marriage to be part of Australia’s constitution. And we have. The reality is that we live in a democracy. In a democracy, the majority decision is what needs to prevail. My prayer is that this vote will settle this issue so that we can return our focus to loving God and loving others as ourselves. There are plenty of other issues in our country that need our time, energy and prayer.
For us as a church, the issue is not whether we should vote yes or no to same sex marriage. The issue for us is how to respond in a Godly, Jesus like manner.
I am happy for the church to provide information regarding how to vote on this issue. I am also happy for there to be robust discussions. As long as those passages are in the forefront of your mind.
Go well and remarks will be moderated.