In Australia, churches speak out on gay marriage

By David Crampton
Posted Jun 19, 2012

[Ecumenical News International] Heads of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Greek Orthodox churches in Australia used the pulpit to pressure politicians to oppose same-sex marriage ahead of a federal parliamentary debate.

Two separate bills, from the Green and Labour parties, were tabled in parliament on June 18, along with a standing committee report which made no recommendation to legislators. Most submitters supported changing the marriage laws to include same-sex couples.

In letters read out at church services during the weekend,  Greek Orthodox leaders encouraged parishioners to write to their legislators, while Catholic church leaders said “legislating for same-sex marriage will change the meaning of marriage for everyone.”

Anglicans urged opposition to the redefinition of marriage. “It is a contemporary tragedy that marriage is so little understood or honored,” the letter from Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen said.

But Perth Anglican Archbishop Roger Herft said the pulpit was an inappropriate platform to campaign, as it was not the role of the church to have its members lobby politicians.

Sydney Baptist pastor Mike Hercock said the letters were fear-mongering, and urged Christians to make up their own minds. “They are persecuting their own who happen not to toe the party line,” his statement said.

In a submission to the standing committee, Catholic Archbishop George Pell said only couples designed to be procreative should marry.

However, committee chair Graham Perrett, who is Roman Catholic, wrote in the committee report that passage of the legislation, which will not oblige clergy to conduct same sex marriages, will ensure equal rights in Australian society.

“Catholics in Australia don’t all necessarily speak with the one voice of Archbishop George Pell,” he later told Ten News.

A vote on the bills is likely later this year but Perrett has said he believes the majority of legislators don’t share his views. Supporters may stall the vote should Opposition Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott, who opposes the legislation, continues to deny his party a free vote to prevent legislative change.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will permit Labor a free vote, while personally opposing the legislation.


Comments (6)

  1. Father Clark Powers says:

    On this side of the great Pacific pond it seems a bit strange to see Baptists being more sensitive and accepting than Anglicans to socially provocative issues. I guess people are a bit upside down on that side of the globe!

  2. Dean Uphoff, MD says:

    The RC archbishop clearly has his head on wrong (most of you will be able to supply a more apt metaphor) when he suggests reserving marriage to procreative couples. This obviously excludes a large number of heterosexuals as well as spiting the same sex couples. Any infertile man or woman would be excluded, including those over the usual age of procreational sex. Maybe it’s time for the churches to get out of the marrying business and leaving the legal aspects to the civil authority. Church adherents could have whatever church celebration/ blessing they want/ need after the civil rite. The conservative archbishop of Sydney laments the failure of the populace to understand and honor marriage but fails to explain why same sex marriage is a threat to heterosexual marriage and why same sex couples should not be allowed to honor this institution by participating in it.

  3. Marylin Day says:

    Thank you Dean Uphoff – exactly my feelings…

  4. Ede-Jo Madden says:

    Are not Matrimony and Marriage two different institutions?

  5. Julian Malakar says:

    Marriage is part of sacraments of Christian religion, established by the will of Almighty God, and expressed His will thru words in the Bible in different occasion, mainline Christian voices against popular world political demand, established thru media propagandas. Democratic voting power cannot change will of God, but have great impact on spreading Gospel of Christ to save souls of His creation. That is the main reason we hear main line Christian started talking against political influence in the Kingdom of God. Procreation is part of objective of marriage sacraments.

  6. Tim Mildenhall says:

    A word from someone on that ‘upside down’ side of the globe. This article takes elements of the story but doesn’t tell it with balance.

    For instance, the baptist union of NSW (by definition representing the majority of the baptist people of that state) has issued a statement entirely at odds with the quoted Baptist pastor. The (Anglican) Archbishop of Sydney is not the head of the church in Australia last time I checked – that is something reserved for Jesus Christ. The Archbishop of Perth’s public stance on homosexual marriage is open, clear, theologically founded opposition on all counts. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney did not quite say marriage is reserved for procreative couples.

    Oh, and the Labor Party is the LABOR Party, even though labour is spelled labour in Australia – the party isn’t. And the second bill did not come from the Labor Party, rather, a member of the Labor Party introduced a private members bill. The ‘submitters’ were not those who authored the report of the standing committee, as the article seems to suggest. Rather, the committee invited submissions from the public, and to my mind, about the only safe conclusion to draw from the fact that this inquiry has generated the largest numerical response ever of a federal parliamentary committee inquiry, is that it is an issue that people feel strongly about.

    As for Father Powers’ comment on being sensitive and accepting – since when did respectfully disagreeing with someone over something you both feel strongly about become being insensitive or not accepting?

    Dean Uphoff – I take exception to your imputed motive for George Pell. What evidence have you produced to indicate any spite in his stance? Disagreement, public opposition yes. Your statement is an unwarranted personal attack on the man. Now if you were to argue against his reasons, not just what was inaccurately reported, but what he actually said, then you might have credibility.

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