Conservative Christians’ anti-marriage equality lines ‘betray gospel of grace’, says reverend
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.
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.
A marriage equality sign is seen on the exterior of the St Michael’s Uniting Church in Melbourne.
Protesters hold up banners at an anti same-sex marriage rally in Sydney.