Con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians’ anti-mar­riage equal­ity lines ‘be­tray gospel of grace’, says rev­erend

The Guardian Australia - - News / Politics - Paul Karp

The Par­ra­matta Catholic Dio­cese and the St James Angli­can church have both re­jected the anti-mar­riage equal­ity lines of con­ser­va­tive re­li­gious lead­ers in Syd­ney.

In pas­toral let­ters to their flocks, the bishop of Par­ra­matta, Vin­cent Long Van Nguyen, sug­gested that Catholics vote ac­cord­ing to their con­science and Rev­erend An­drew Sem­pell warned that “slip­pery slope” ar­gu­ments em­ployed by the no cam­paign “be­tray the gospel of grace”.

In his let­ter of 3 Septem­ber, Sem­pell said that same-sex mar­riage is “not prin­ci­pally a faith is­sue”, not­ing that re­li­gious groups do not have a sin­gu­lar po­si­tion on it.

“The Aus­tralian


Lobby ... is nei­ther rep­re­sen­ta­tive of

the churches, nor is it a re­li­gious group ... it is a po­lit­i­cal lobby group that rep­re­sents the in­ter­ests of its mem­bers,” he said.

The of­fi­cial Catholic and Angli­can view of re­li­gious mar­riage is that only a man and a woman can wed. The Catholic arch­dio­cese of Syd­ney and the Angli­can dio­cese of Syd­ney are both part­ners in the no cam­paign’s Coali­tion for Mar­riage.

But the head of the Angli­can church in Aus­tralia, Philip Freier, has said there will be no “whole of church” po­si­tion on the postal sur­vey and dio­ce­ses in­clud­ing Ade­laide and south­ern Queens­land are not telling parish­ioners how to vote.

On Wed­nes­day Van Nguyen wrote that the postal sur­vey con­cerns “the le­gal def­i­ni­tion of civil mar­riage” and is there­fore “not a ref­er­en­dum on sacra­men­tal mar­riage as un­der­stood by the Catholic church”.

He ar­gued that, just as le­gal­is­ing di­vorce in Aus­tralia did not al­ter the church’s law, the Catholic church can hold to its re­li­gious con­cep­tion of mar­riage “what­ever the out­come of

the sur­vey or the even­tual leg­is­la­tion by the govern­ment”.

Van Nguyen noted the is­sue for many Catholics is “deeply per­sonal” be­cause they are same-sex at­tracted or have friends and rel­a­tives who are and are there­fore “torn” be­tween their love of the church and their loved one.

“It should not be a mat­ter of a sim­ple an­swer yes or no to the postal sur­vey. It should be an op­por­tu­nity for us to wit­ness to our deep com­mit­ment to the ideal of Chris­tian mar­riage.

“But it should also be an op­por­tu­nity for us to lis­ten to what the Spirit is say­ing through the signs of the times.”

Van Nguyen said that LGBTI peo­ple had “of­ten not been treated with re­spect” and the church should com­mit to af­firm­ing their dig­nity what­ever the out­come of the sur­vey.

Sem­pell wrote that he will be vot­ing yes in the sur­vey. He re­jected op­po­nents’ claims free­dom of re­li­gion will be in­fringed by not­ing that re­li­gious cel­e­brants will con­tinue to be per­mit­ted to con­duct wed­dings ac­cord­ing to their rites even if same­sex mar­riage is le­galised.

He said op­po­nents who were broad­en­ing the de­bate to is­sues of re­li­gious free­dom “ap­pear to be act­ing de­cep­tively”. Sem­pell warned the ap­proach “may well back­fire” and lead to calls to re­move priv­i­leges cur­rently en­joyed by churches, such as ex­emp­tions from tax laws and anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion laws.

Sem­pell ar­gued the church “too of­ten picks the wrong is­sues to pur­sue”, be­com­ing “ob­sessed with any­thing to do with sex” as op­posed to tak­ing on cor­po­rate greed, or cham­pi­oning the poor, marginalised and the en­vi­ron­ment.

He warned the church was on a “hid­ing to noth­ing” and risked be­ing re­mem­bered for it’s “le­gal­ism and judg­men­tal­ism rather than love”.

In ad­di­tion to church en­dorse­ments, Wal­la­bies star David Po­cock has backed up his long-stand­ing sup­port for LGBTI peo­ple by tweet­ing in sup­port of mar­riage equal­ity.

On Wed­nes­day, Po­cock’s team­mate Is­rael Fo­lau tweeted that he re­spected “all peo­ple for who they are” but per­son­ally he will not sup­port gay mar­riage:

Po­cock said that he would vote yes “for jus­tice and love”.

In 2011 Po­cock vowed that he would not marry his part­ner Emma Pa­lan­dri un­til gay peo­ple were legally per­mit­ted to do the same.

Pho­to­graph: James Ross/AAP

A mar­riage equal­ity sign is seen on the ex­te­rior of the St Michael’s Unit­ing Church in Mel­bourne.

Pho­to­graph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Im­ages

Protesters hold up ban­ners at an anti same-sex mar­riage rally in Syd­ney.

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