Here’s Where Australian Churches Stand On Same-Sex Marriage

Here’s Where Australian Churches Stand On Same-Sex Marriage
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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 intolerance or 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.

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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.

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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.

” excerpt=”By now, many of you will have already received your Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey. But what if you accidentally lost it? Or what if it never arrived in the post? Fortunately, it’s possible to request a replacement form from the ABS. Here are the steps you need to take to receive a new form.”]

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.

Presbyterian Church of Australia, Moderator-General John Wilson

“The General Assembly urges congregations to support the ‘No’ case in opposing the redefinition of marriage.”

Without binding consciences, please read the following as a request from the PCA that when the government asks for your opinion that you consider supporting the “NO” vote.

The Australian Government plans to conduct a postal vote seeking the opinion of Australians on marriage. Ballot papers will begin arriving at our homes on 12 September, just a month from now.

The Presbyterian Church of Australia opposes the introduction of legislation for so called ‘same-sex marriage’. We affirm that the true definition of marriage is found in God’s Word: the life-long union of one man with one woman, voluntarily entered into, excluding all others.

It’s important to urge every Presbyterian Christian to engage in the process and vote, and to “support the NO case”. We ask every attendee at church to both register and vote, and then seek to persuade as many of their family and friends to do likewise.

There’s no doubt that the postal vote can be won in favour of the current definition. There is a large number of Australians, many of whom have not had their say, who affirm the common view of marriage as God-given and God-blessed.

Your participation will make a difference, but we need you to be earnest, active and in prayer about it. There are many powerful voices clamouring to tear down what God declares to be holy. The church must not be silent on this.

While we speak up and have our say, we do so with a gracious engagement and with respect for those with whom we disagree.

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With that said, there are still ways to procure a democracy sausage when you pop your vote into the post. Here are three viable options for your consideration.”]

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.

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  • Oh dear. I think this is one of the few occasions where Lifehacker has missed the mark.

    Firstly, if you’re going to write such an article, surely it’s pivotal to point out that this is a debate about SECULAR marriage, and that churches will be able to continue to enjoy the freedoms of religious practice they enjoy, some might say inappropriately. So none of the people interviewed need have personal fears that the outcomes will affect them.

    Secondly, if you’re going to ask religions to comment, then get a cross-section that represents the Australian demographic to some extent. There are so few Presbyterians and SDAs as to make their opinions inconsequential in this discussion. If they are going to be asked, how about a number of other religions that have been omitted? Why only one non-Christian religion?

    Thirdly, as a practising Anglican I am appalled that the views presented of the Anglican Church are those of the Archbishop of Sydney. The Sydney Diocese is widely recognised as being a hotbed of conservatism out of touch with most other Anglican Dioceses in Australia and their views are not representative of the entire Anglican Church, nor even the majority of Anglicans. Anglicanism in Australia is characterised. for the most part, by a liberal theology and an acceptance of others, although the icy fingers of the Sydney Diocese’s conservatism do spread into other dioceses. I completely reject the Archbishop of Sydney’s comments on this and many other issues, and I am reasonably confident that the majority, perhaps 2/3s, of Anglicans in Australia would agree with me.

    My understanding is that a majority of Catholics and Uniting Church worshippers also reject the stance of the conservative position within their own churches.

    The bottom line is that this is an issue of democracy and equity, and what the churches think about it is inconsequential. But if we are going to engage with the churches we need to recognise the secular nature of this debate, and the fact that these so-called leaders are quite happy to enjoy the freedom to say and do what they like in the name of their religions, but to use the democratic rights afforded to them to deny the rights of others. These is flagrant hypocrisy and out of touch with the fundamental teachings of all their religions, which are about love and respect.

    Ultimately, this article is just further tragic evidence that much organised religion is not only out of touch with people, but is, even more disturbingly, out of touch with integrity and social justice. Even as a Christian I can see how critical is that Church and State be at some distance from each other in such matters.

    Thankfully there are lots of loud voices within the Christian Churches in Australia who vigorously proclaim the Yes case. A pity that Lifehacker couldn’t seem to find them, although they seem to be the majority.

  • Religions are missing the point – as usual.
    In Australia, marriage is a secular arrangement, controlled by the government, not by religion (much as they would love you to believe otherwise).
    Whether you choose to have your wedding ceremony in a church or at the beach, you are not married until you sign the government issued form and receive your government issued licence. The rest is simply decoration.
    The ‘no’ case can only talk about ‘protections’ process and slippery slope because there is no rational and reasonable argument against the yes case. The protections are simply the legislative right to continue to discriminate, which are not actually in question, and are in fact state matters.

  • Ah, the pure bigotry of religion, and the religious.
    Can their hypocrisy be any clearer?

    It’s long past time that churches were pulled down, and religion relegated to the garbage bin of history.

  • After the Forced Adoptions (where they said unwed mothers were unfit parents) and the Stolen Generation (when they said aboriginals were unfit parents), I do not believe that any person or politician claim their faith and then say that same-sex couples are unfit parents.

    Especially since the government has apologised twice for destroying families, they allowed this “survey” to go ahead is obscene… Vote Yes is a vote that says families are self determining and have a right to decide who is a member of their family, the role they play and the title they have… and no one, and no govt has any right to say someone can not have two happily married dads.

    • Those who are against SSM believe that a committed heterosexual relationship provides the best chance for children – they should have the joy of belonging to their biological parents where at all possible, and have good male and female role models. That is every child’s right and should be the ideal we as a society strive for.

  • So, since these Christian ministers espouse the wise words of the good book, do they support marriage between a brother and sister, as was the case with abraham and sarah. Likewise, do Muslims support marrying off pre-pubescent girls without their mature consent?
    Lifehacker shouldn’t dignify these dinosaurs by giving them airtime.

          • Genesis 20:12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.


            PROBLEM: Abraham admitted here that Sarah his wife was really his “sister” (cf. Gen. 17:15–16). Yet incest is denounced in no uncertain terms in many passages (cf. Lev. 18:6; 20:17). Indeed, the Lord declared, “Cursed is the one who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother” (Deut. 27:22).

            SOLUTION: Abraham was not beyond sin, as his lie about Sarah to king Abimelech reveals (Gen. 20:4–5). And Abraham did admit that Sarah was “the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife” (Gen. 20:12). However, even granting this, there is no real proof Abraham violated any law for two reasons. First, the incest laws were not given by Moses until some 500 years after Abraham. So he surely could not be held responsible for laws that had not yet been promulgated. Second, the terms “sister” and “brother” are used with great latitude in the Bible, just as the terms “father” and “son.” Jesus, for example, was the “son” (i.e., descendant) of David (Matt. 21:15). “Sister” means a near relative, but it does not as such indicate the degree of nearness we understand by the word “sister.” Lot, Abraham’s nephew, is called a “brother” (Gen. 14:12, 16). Likewise, “daughter” can mean granddaughter or great granddaughter.

            Considering the age to which Abraham lived (175, Gen. 25:7), it is possible that he married only a granddaughter on his father’s side, or even a niece or grand niece. In any event, there is no proof that Abraham’s marriage to Sarah violated any existing incest law. But if it did, the Bible simply gives us a true record of Abraham’s error. When God called Sarah Abraham’s “wife” (Gen. 17:15), He was not legitimizing any alleged incest, but merely stating a fact.

  • The cover letter from the Adventists doesn’t actually say what their position is, just that they have a discussion booklet attached. Maybe an excerpt from that in an edit?

    Also, as others have said: Jesus had two Dads, and most Christians reckon he turned out OK!

  • Hi all,
    I found this article very refreshing… I particularly like the article of the one defending a yes vote for ssm, as any debate, it’s important to understand what people think. I also understand the vocals here and there are not looking for debate or arguments…

    Just thank you Lifehacker to present the religious views (even not all views, we will not finished anytime soon) in a clear way.

    “have love for one another” (John 13:35)

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