Baptists and same-sex marriage

I am a Baptist and I support gay marriage.

I know that among Baptists I am in the minority on this issue. I also know this sets me apart from friends and colleagues I hold in high regard. But that’s OK. Given our aversion to creeds, our adherence to freedom of conscience among believers, and our commitment to the autonomy of the local church, we Baptists have room to differ. And we do. What troubles me is the energy with which some gatekeepers of Baptist life move to distance our denomination from people like me whenever our view is made public.

Back in July last year, my good friend and fellow Baptist pastor Nathan Nettleton appeared on ABC television’s Compass program expressing his support for same-sex marriage. That this is his personal view he made crystal clear. The very next day, Australian Baptist Ministries (ABM) hurriedly posted on its website a press-release entitled Marriage is not for same sex couples, say Baptists, claiming ‘the numbers’ and firmly distancing itself from Nathan, painting him some sort of ecclesial lone-ranger. Most notably, it expressed ABM’s regret that Nathan should ‘fail to consult with Australian Baptist leaders’ before expressing his views on national television. In fact, Nathan is one of the most open and consultative Baptist pastors I know, and he certainly did talk with denominational leaders prior to his public appearance on the issue. That he and his position should be dismissed so easily is poor form on our part.

Last week another piece appeared, this time penned more personally by Rod Benson, consultant ethicist to ABM, in response to the ‘renegade Baptist pastor’ Mike Hercock. Like Nathan, Mike also speaks in support of same-sex marriage and does so publically. Boldly titled Baptists overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage, a statement correct in itself, Rod’s article goes on to rather crassly discredit Mike as a lone promoter of an un-Baptist, un-biblical and un-Christian position. Again this ‘renegade’ Baptist is isolated from the faithful majority and summarily dismissed.

I don’t know Mike personally, but as colleagues in ministry surely we owe him more respect than that. Follow the thread of comments that flow from these pieces and you find others in our Baptist fold who want us to ‘distance ourselves’ from Mike ‘until he admits his error.’ It sounds like the old practice of shunning is making a comeback.

It feels to me as though we Baptists are afraid of the public perception that we hold a diversity of views on issues like this one and I really don’t understand why. If ABM can write submissions and ‘policy documents’ on behalf of the majority—ones that I personally don’t adhere to and have never been asked to affirm by any representative Baptist body—why can’t we allow Mike to write his submissions without branding him a traitor to Baptist truth and goodness? Aren’t we bigger than that?

I have no beef with the right of all Baptists to state their views on this and any issue with conviction. Absolutely. But please, wherever we stand on this issue or others, let’s do so without discrediting the integrity of the one we disagree with, belittling their commitment to faithful discipleship, or, worst of all, distancing ourselves from them. After all, we are Baptists together in ministry and mission.

I, for one, stand with Mike and Nathan on this issue. I am well aware that we hold a minority view among Baptist leaders. But I am grieved deeply when our perspective on this issue sees us branded ‘renegades’ who fly solo or unauthorized edge-dwellers who tarnish the good Baptist name. We are not members of some marginal far left faction who can be dismissed because ‘the numbers’ are against us. Personally, I would like to think that I have a little more credibility than that. To suggest that my ‘error’ renders me an unfaithful disregarder of what is true and biblical is simply ignorant of my position and my ministry.

Rod Benson, a fellow Baptist leader I respect, makes the claim that he is ‘not aware of any other Baptist minister in Australia [apart from Mike], ordained or otherwise, who has taken such extraordinary steps to express his personal views on the subject of same sex marriage.’ While this may be true as some technical tally of words written, what it infers more broadly is simply wrong.

Let me say again as I have said in many other places and forums: I am a Baptist and I support gay marriage.

Simon Carey Holt
Senior Minister
Collins Street Baptist Church

74 Comments

  1. Thanks Simon. Your openness and clarity is a gift.
    Each time I hear the ‘majority of Baptists’ line I wonder…who are they? They are quite silent, except for a few high profile spokes-people, who claim to speak on behalf of- of whom exactly?
    And if the gospel says anything to us ethically, is not that we are to take the side of the minority?
    This is complex – which minority does that mean? The minority of Australians who oppose same sex marriage, or (claimed) minority of Baptists who support it?
    The minority of people in our country who will actually seek to implement the legal provision for same sex marriage, should it be available?
    I don’t know…but whenever we speak ‘as a follower of Jesus’ (Baptist or otherwise) it would seem counter-intuitive, unnecessary and undermining to our own ethic to claim ‘a majority view’.
    Thankyou for not speaking in such a way – for plainly owning your own convictions , and for contributing to our vibrant, robust life-giving theology standing where it belongs, in the public square, beyond our church walls and definitely out of the closet.

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  2. Thank you Simon. I agree with you. I appreciate the fact that you have linked this to our Baptist freedom. We need to discourage the kind of rhetoric which tries to silence different viewpoints. We need to celebrate our diversity. I also support gay marriage.

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  3. Simon, I believe why ABM can state that folks like Nathan or Mike (or others) are out of step with the Baptist community, is that the core belief of Baptists is that Jesus is Lord and all matters of faith and life are determined by Scripture. With respect, what the Bible says about marriage is pretty straight forward – marriage is male and female. It’s a fundamental expression to the image of God. So if folk are going to express public views that are inconsistent with what is revealed in Scripture, then we should expect some kind of (appropriate) representation.

    Our Baptist freedom and autonomy add a complexity to the debate I’m sure. But I’m not sure it should give us scope to publicly affirm what Scripture clearly does not. Perhaps if Scripture in no ways affirms something (and if anything speaks against it and for something else), but we still feel otherwise, it would be wise and worshipful for us to remain silent. This is not to say that we cannot speak about injustcie in how some folk are spoken of and treated. However this is a different issue to supporting God’s quite obvious and appparent design and purpose in creation.

    I say this with respect for you and your minsitry, having valued and benefited from it from afar.

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    1. Thanks Patrick. I really appreciate both your thoughtfulness and graciousness in response. I suppose where we would differ in all of this is where we go once we have affirmed the statement: ‘Jesus is Lord and all matters of faith and life are determined by Scripture.’ It seems to me our task as hearers, exegetes and interpreters of the Word is absolutely crucial in all of this. If we are to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus in the 21st century, then we need to bring the challenges of this age to the text and wrestle with how the text applies for us today.

      It seems we have done this with varying degrees of success on any number of issues in the past: for example, our responses to slavery, the role of women in church and society, our responses to divorce, usury, etc. While on these things we may still disagree, and often strongly, we all take seriously the challenge of interpreting scripture with equal measures of intelligence and humility, and then giving each other some room to move in different directions.

      So I would only plead for some room to move when it comes to what is ‘straightforward’ in scripture and what is perhaps more complex.

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      1. Hi there, I’m not sure of your name but I’m glad you dropped by. Thanks for your comment.

        Given I wrote this post back in 2012 I am a little surprised it has surfaced again somewhere, bringing a large number of hits to what was written to a very particular situation nearly five years ago. I am intrigued!

        My call for some room to move in this debate was more about ensuring that people of various perspectives on this issue can take different pathways without being excluded from the camp. It seems to me that if we are to move together as the people of God, shutting out particular perspectives is counter productive.

      2. Thanks for your reply, Simon. It raises more questions for me though. IE how can we “move together” if we are trying to move in different directions? Surely if we want to move together, we need to first agree on a direction.

        Tom

    1. CM, thanks for your prompt. What I was really wanting to do in this instance was to raise a hand for good, respectful and open dialogue which proceeds on the assumption that we are all endeavouring to follow Jesus in our response to issues like this one, even when we disagree. And further that our Baptist ecclesiology allows for this to be the case.

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  4. Thank you, Simon. Well said — and it needs to be said. One of the privileges of being Baptist is our diversity and our local autonomy. From the ABM website: “The church does not try to tell anybody exactly what they should believe, but each individual seeks the truth of God personally.” And “Baptist churches are often very different from each other. ..We have…no bishops and no hierarchies.”

    And just as we each wish to be respected, so we are obliged to respect the different view of others — and to do so with grace, and without attacking their character (‘ad hominem’). Thank you for your courage and grace in standing with Nathan and Mike and for all Baptists who think differently from Rev. Benson.

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    1. Thank you for your comment and your support honsec! Those principles laid out on our national body’s website make being a Baptist a wonderfully inclusive and empowering thing. We need to hold ourselves to them.

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    1. Hi Chris, it’s tall order to answer a question like that in a comment box! And I guess that’s where I struggle with the debate on an issue like this. It all gets reduced to sound bites and proof texts, as though it’s all very straightforward. As you know, I am sure, any issue of human sexuality is far from simple. As is the challenge of biblical interpretation.

      I guess to even begin answering your question, I would need to know where you stand on issues like women in ministry, divorce, usury, the death penalty. In all of theses cases and many others like them we have had to wrestle with what appears to be very straightforward biblical teaching and our interpretation of these teachings for today.

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      1. Hi Simon, thank you for your reply.
        I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t understand why you need to know where I stand in relation to those aspects as I was asking for how YOU biblically support gay-marriage. I understand how it is difficult to discuss these type of matters in this type of forum but can you please just write up the main points which you believe defend of gay-marriage.

      2. I don’t hear you being rude, Chris. I asked you that question only because I would need to know how you approach the interpretation of scripture before I could offer anything constructive in return. If you take the view that one does not interpret scripture, only apply what it says in black and white, then there is nothing that I could say that would be of any help to you. If, in regard to issues like those I have identified, you have wrestled yourself to understand how certain biblical statement can be interpreted in our current age and culture, then we have a good starting point.

      3. Yes, I understand that there could be a differing of how we may ‘interpret’ scripture. I would not say that one cannot interpret scripture as that’s what we all do to some degree, whether that is interpreting scripture as black or white or using a different ‘lens’. I would say we need to read it for who it was meant for in the biblical times, for example, Paul writing a letter to the Ephesians, taking into account the context, the language and the culture and prayerfully considering its application today. So at this point I am wondering how you biblically support gay-marriage? Thanks again Simon.

      4. I have read Mr Dyers paper, and he brings some points to light which are interesting. However, I think his personal desires for what he wants to be true are shown when he states that, “This issue will be examined here assuming the wider framework of loving and mutual human sexuality.” How can one examine the bible with such blatant bias towards scripture? Unfortunately, I believe his exegesis is preluding that experience interprets truth rather than allowing truth, i.e. scripture to speak for itself in the context it was written. As I’m sure you will understand this type of philosophy can lead to very poor, if not wrong, conclusions. What I’m asking is this, if the bible is interpreted through peoples experience, and its interpretation changes based on those experiences then where does that leave the bible offering anything that is consistent, like a moral framework? Dyer believes that peoples experience gives precedence for interpreting scripture but who’s experience? Do certain groups hold a monopoly over what is considered a ‘right’ belief? Or does everyone hold ‘truths’ to what scripture means to them? If that’s so, then aren’t we just doing whatever we want and believing whatever we want? Sorry I have posed many questions. But I think Murray Campbell’s “An Evangelical Response to Keith Dyer’s ‘A consistent Biblical approach to “(homo)sexuality”’’ offers some interesting thoughts on this entire matter and Dyers article – which you may have read already. http://mentonebaptistchurch.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/evangelical-response-to-keith-dyers.html. Please share your thoughts Simon. Thank you.

      5. …and I’m sorry if this looks divisive. It’s not my intention to be so or use Murray’s article in that way but just enjoying this open discussion and sharing with you and others about this issue.

      6. No need to worry about your questions appearing divisive, Chris. I only sense you wanting to take scripture seriously, as I do. But I also want to take human experience seriously. And I think this is where Keith Dyer is right in his general approach, even though I have read Murray’s critique.

        I think there are three things I want to say, though how well I can say them I am not sure …

        1. That Keith wants to situate the discussion of homosexuality within the wider framework of the bible’s understanding of human sexuality seems to me to be a good thing, and I struggle to see how this represents ‘blatant bias.’ Surely any exegesis of the bible’s response to a particular expression of sexuality must rest upon a more thorough biblical and theological understanding of human sexuality and what it means to be sexual beings. Its the framework for the discussion. From there we may come down on either side of the fence on homosexuality, but we all want to get beyond simple proof texting to a more rigorous theology of sexuality.

        2. Personally I hold the role of human experience far more highly in good biblical exegesis and in the development of good and life-giving theology. To suggest that the human story, human struggle, human longing–not just of the past but of the present–has no legitimate voice in our reading of the bible today or in the nurturing of our theology seems to run counter to everything I know about truth. I cannot understand truth as a box of pre-determined truths or dogmas that is dusted off, opened and applied to whatever challenges I face today. Truth is alive. It arises out of the constant dialogue between scripture, tradition and experience. So I suppose i want to give human experience more weight in the discussion that you are comfortable with.

        3. At the end of the day, Chris, I see my response to homosexuality as first and foremost a pastoral issue. My struggle to understand the teaching of the bible is as much driven by my desire to see people whole in Christ as it is to have well-defined boundaries of truth. I sense that you and I may never come to complete agreement about this issue, and that’s OK. I just need to better understand what the ‘good news of Jesus’ is for men and women who at the very core of they beings find that their sexuality looks different to yours and mine.

  5. Hello Simon, I really like your article its well stated and presented with grace, dignity and humility (something of a rarity). I think some are opposed to gay marriage because they are opposed to it, but of course this can’t be stated openly and so motivations are clothed within well selected verses therefore protecting themselves from any rebuttal. I have no issue with gay marriage and never have and I don’t need to go looking for verses to support or reject my OWN opinion or views I’m willing to say it’s mine and mine alone. Forgive me God, but I don’t really care what the text says or doesn’t say. I would rather be wrong about God’s rightness than right about God’s wrongness. Sometimes it’s possible to hold the “right views” but for the wrong reasons but of course as long as we can say “the Bible says this” our motivations are unquestioned.

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    1. Thanks for your encouragement Bob. I agree with your when you say that ‘some are opposed to gay marriage because they are apposed to it.’ My own sense is that there are many who find it difficult to support something so far from their own experience they find the difference repugnant. Many others, of course, feel strongly that a biblical approach to the issue precludes anything but rejection. And I have real sympathy for this perspective, though I cannot agree with it. And your critique of that is a good one for me to hear.

      I once had a wise minister say to me, ‘Simon, if you are ever faced with a choice between truth and love, choose love.’ I have always remembered that. While I acknowledge that this is, on one level, simplistic (and of course love and truth are often one and the same), I still see real wisdom in the words.

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  6. Simon, thank you for speaking out on such an important issue. It gives me hope that there are more and more people who are willing to say, “Hey, the sky didn’t fall in when Christians accepted that divorce as legally plausible — maybe gay marriage won’t be too dissimilar?”

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  7. Hi Simon; Thank you. I agree with your view on this. According to many it is a sin but then are so many other things we do and I do not know where it is rated that any sin is greater than any other. We should be loving all as individuals and seeing and encouraging the positive things in them not denouncing them for the parts of them or the views that we may disagree with

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  8. Thank you for your post. I read it through Simon Moyle’s facebook page where I put my comment: Thank you for your stand Simon. It saddens me deeply that often our non believing friends appear more sensible and even “Christian” than the church when it takes a stand against issues like same sex marriage out of fear of change. Our calling is to proclaim the Gospel of Love – in that there is justice – we are not called to demand morality of the world that many of us cannot maintain ourselves.

    Rowland Croucher has some excellent material on homosexuality and the Bible. The starting point being Walter Wink’s brochure. http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/23697.htm

    So easy to point the finger at others. So difficult to acknowledge how easily we miss the mark (sin) in our journey to love others.
    David

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  9. Simon, following my comments above, I’m genuinely interested what you (or other contributors) make on Tom Wright’s comments on the subject: http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/wright.htm

    Unfortunatly he hasn’t written specifically or extensively on the subject, so you have to go looking for his input to the debate. As you would know, he is arguably the leading NT scholar alive today. Even his small contribution I find forceful and persuasive and I feel one has to be very brave to stand in opposition to him.

    For me, as a follower of Jesus, this issue is firstly an issue of theology. One of the ways we love God and others is through doing good theology well (and with humility).

    I said earlier its pretty straighforward – not as a glib statement. I think we can safely say the following:
    – The biblical basis for marriage is rooted in Genesis 1-3, hence Jesus when asked about marriage goes straight back to the passage (Mt 19). This passage grounds the male/female relationship in the image of God and indicates that the unique union of marriage is male/female (*becuase* one was taken from the other)
    – Whenever marriage is discussed in Scripture it is always in relation to male/female
    – Whenever same sex intimacy is mentioned it is always in negative terms

    I think if you take Wright’s view about what happens whenever people move away from honouring God and relfecting his image, it makes sense of all the instances where same-sex activity is mentioned (e.g. Gen 19). The thread of thought in Scripture lines up very consistently and mitigates against modern attempts to reinterpret specific NT Greek terms in extremely narrow ways (interpretations which in fact don’t make sense with the flow of though in the various passages).

    To say all this is not to be unloving, unjust or be unwilling to change (as implied by some above); it is to take Scripture seriously in the attempt to remain faihtful to the one who loves us all and calls us to all to conform to his likeness.

    Cheers.

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    1. Hi Patrick, thanks for the link and the thoughtful comments. I can’t respond in great detail but let me say just two things, in no way doing justice to what you’ve written but important no less.

      No doubt, Tom Wright is a biblical studies legend! There is so much of what he has written that has been revelatory for me. So you are right, to disagree with him takes gumption! Then again, all scholars, not matter how great they may be, are fallible, so I don’t think that should make us fearful. On this issue I certainly differ. More importantly, many scholars of equal standing with Wright would come to different conclusions. Which reminds us just how complicated this business of biblical interpretation is!

      I would certainly differ with you on the conclusion that it is male/female that is most whole and complete ‘image’ of God in human experience. And I would differ in my understanding of the creation story and what is communicates about normative human intimacy, but they will be hard sells I am sure.

      What I do want to assure you is that I am not of the view that those who take a more conservative view of this issue are ‘unloving, unjust’ or rigidly stubborn when it comes to truth. While that may be the case for some, there are many others who sincerely seek to be faithful to truth and love in the same breathe. I just disagree with the conclusion they reach and have concerns about the pastoral implications in the life of the church.

      That will do for now. Back to marking!

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  10. Simon, I think your point about Baptists and how its ecclesiology leads to the possibility of diversity of views is very well taken.

    I must confess to a degree of confusion over the issue of same sex marriage that I have not sorted out. MY problem relates to the issue of the appropriate roles of church and state rather than anything else. Below I have attempted to unpack my confusion.

    The historical and theological issues at stake are sketched helpfully in a piece by Simon Barrow What Future for Marriage? on the Ekklesia web site.

    The interests of the state and the church in issues of relationships should be distinct, but we still have a massive confusion which goes back to the Christendom settlement. The state has responsibilities around assuring the protection, safety and well being of children, not directly but in holding parents and guardians responsible, and for legal issues around property.the church has responsibilities around supporting its members in the vocation of christian marriage and in carrying out their commitments to faithful discipleship in that role. As Simon Barrow observes:

    What is called ‘marriage’ today is essentially a civil contract which can be dissolved or re-entered as many times as necessary. Superimposed on that is a Christian ideal of lifelong fidelity which many accept as a ‘nice idea’ but which is not necessarily what they are really choosing, and whose basis in a community of faith they often do not understand or accept. Ekklesia

    Simon’s recommendation, for which I have a good deal of sympathy, is that we disentangle the respective roles of church and community groups and the state around the issue of marriage.

    Our current confusion between the civil (secular), juridical (legal) and sacramental (religious) meanings of marriage arises from the ‘Christendom’ assumption that religious understandings can be superimposed on society through the state, and vice versa.

    It is positive to enable people to express their civil commitments in legal terms which reflect the variety of long-term partnerships people are actually forming – and which offer as much stability, especially for children, as possible.

    What the church calls marriage is not just another name for a legal and civil arrangement – it is specifically about the kind of relationships made possible by God’s love and the community of people who seek to be transformed by this love through worship, common life, mutual forgiveness, and discipleship.

    If you try to force everyone in society into a one-size-fits-all legal arrangement you risk devaluing what is possible for different kinds of partnerships, sell short the meaning of Christian marriage – and end up in something of a no-win mess. That is where we are right now. Ekklesia

    And that is why I find it hard to enter into the current debate about same sex marriage. To take a position on the debate as it currently exists is to remain within the entangled confusions of the Christendom settlement. Much of the churches stance on marriage in the current debates is theologically confused and historically ill informed. Christians have no stake, in my view, in upholding the intervention by the state in upholding issues of Christian meaning with respect to relationships.

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    1. This is really interesting Doug. And though you confess to feeling confused, you communicate the conundrum very clearly! I certainly often hear marriage defended as ‘a Christian institution’ which is an odd presumption. My friend Nathan Nettleton has written helpfully on this. Thanks for lots more to think about!

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  11. Thanks Simon for such a wonderful, well thought and gracious article. Love and respect are far stronger than fear and hate. Hopefully more of us will realise the whole of Christendom will not collapse over the issue of same-sex marriage, just as it didn’t with anti-slavery and anti-discrimination issues.

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  12. Thanks Simon

    I love the fact that we can talk about and grapple with anything in our faith tradition, however I am often grieved by the way we go about that. A man who I am proud to call friend and fellow believer, Rev Matt Glover, was treated appallingly for stating openly what he believed. As I watched that unfold it seemed that the sin of how people interacted and treated each other (gossip, slander, anger, disrespect etc) was never discussed, talk about or dealt with. The fact that a great Godly man was suggesting that we treat all humanity (created in God’s image) with love, grace and respect and enter in dialogue with them was treated like it was threat to all that we stand for. That faith community (which out of respect I will not name) has had the spirit, life and soul sucked out of it and I personally know many people that are really struggling and are not in a very good way. The ripple effect of this chapter in the church is long and far and the way the surrounding community views that faith community I would suggest has changed forever.

    I speak as a humble sinner who is relying on grace big time. I also speak as someone who has some very close and amazing gay friends whom I love deeply. I will continue to love them as I myself am a gracious recipient of undeserved love through the life, death and ressurection of Jesus. My desire is not to be a dam of love and grace, but to be a river of love and grace in a way that bring freedom and revelation of our Creator to ALL of his creation.

    Hope my rumblings make sense. Simon I need some “Holt” time very soon. Coffee on the terrace please.

    Blessings
    Derek

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    1. You are a pastor Derek, and with a heart that loves so generously. May that always be the case. Situations like the one Matt and his community have faced are tragic and remind us all of the hazards of trying to follow Jesus in a very confusing world.

      Coffee anytime!

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      1. Thanks Simon. I’m sure I could do better on many occasions but I continue to believe that we are created for relationship and that can often be very hard but in my own experience doing the hard yards together is always worthwhile. I’ll text you to make a time for coffee

        Love and blessings brother
        Derek

    2. Derek — you’re my hero. Thanks for speaking like Christ and standing up for your friend. Matt Glover is a man who I deeply respect, and I wish with all my heart that we might follow his example in standing up for the underdog, even if it costs us.

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      1. I have sooooo much respect for Matt and like you think his stand is and was so bold. This issue is not going to go away and it presents an amazing opportunity for us as Jesus followers to live out or faith in the way we interact with each other. Hopefully we can, just as Simon suggests, treat each other with the respect and dignity that we hope others will treat us with. Great to hear from you my friend. We must meet at 7 seeds again real soon

        Blessings
        Derek

  13. O i love the way these comments are conducted! You have all just helped a very dark and jaded Christ follower who is sick and tired of hostility and unkindness so often displayed in controversial topics. Thank you for showing grace. Kodak moment 🙂

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  14. Hi Simon, I agree with you in a way that we should not depend on my own wills and desires to presume the meaning of God’s Words and His will. That is probably why we should alway put ourselves in a humble position while approaching God’s Words. Could I understand it in this way why you support gay marriage? Among hope, faith and love, love is the greatest. We may not necessarily fully understand an individual (sometimes we may not even understand ourselves –but God do which is my belief), but we still love him/her as each is God’s creature and God still love whose who even rejects Him yet. If this is why you support gay marriage, out of God’s love for us all, I agree with God’s love.

    However, there would be a question then. Once gay marriage is written into the consitution, how the next generation is going to be educated or explained to? Would the new statement and explanation about marriage cause confusion in young minds? If we assume that in a chrisitian school the students can be explained about God’s generous love and mercy to us all so hopefully they can understand God’s love and almightiness are above all, how about in non-christian schools? Would then the children be explained that marriage and love is about your own choices with purely freedom to love either a person of your own gender or not? What the word would be like…

    Hope my statement makes sense.

    Best regards

    Ning

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    1. Thank you, Ning. Good questions like yours should always lead to even better questions rather than definitive answers! But I’ll try to answer all the same.

      Yes, certainly love is pre-eminent in all of this. God is love, and I am called to love God and neighbour as the most basic expression of my Christian faith. But my support for gay marriage is not simply about loving a gay person and therefore allowing them access to the gift of marriage in spite of the fact that their ‘gayness’ is a result of their sin and rebellion against God. If that was the case, then I should rather call them to repent and become heterosexual. To really love someone is to want the best for them. If being gay is a sin then my love for them would mean I must help them find release from their sin.

      From my perspective, being gay is not a sin because it is not a choice. For my gay friends, it is who they are. Being gay is as intrinsic to their identity as my own right-handedness, or my introversion, or being an Australian-by-birth is to me. If this is the case, though it may relate to small minority in the community, why would I want to withhold from someone who is gay the gift of marriage–the most basic expression of covenant love and faithfulness between two human beings?

      As to your second question, there is great fear, isn’t there, about the uncertainty gay marriage would create in our society? There is a fear that if we open up the definition of marriage to include gay and lesbian people that this will corrupt the next generation and lead to the breakdown of the family unit as we know it. My own sense it that this fear is misplaced.

      Accepting people with black skin into a community does not make everyone ‘in danger’ of becoming black. Allowing people to be left-handed in a society where right-handed people dominate does not mean naturally right-handed people will now choose to become left-handed.

      It seems to me that entering into a marriage relationship is choosing to live in a committed and faithful relationship rather than being permissive and living in a way where anything goes. Rather, it is a choice to relinquish all other options in favour of a relationship of faithfulness and self-giving. Despite what the critics say, gay marriage is not about complete freedom for everyone to do what they choose. It is actually about providing for gay and lesbian people a means by which they can embrace faithfulness, loyalty, love and fidelity.

      I hope all that helps!

      Simon

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      1. Thanks Simon. Your further explanation really broadens my mind and it helps me to understand your view point much better. Honestly, I have very limited knowledge about gay people’s world and whether being a gay/lesbian is intrinstic or a choice or both (on the other hand, I think it is for God to judge rather than me when it comes to the word of ‘sin’ despite whatever). Meanwhile, I appreciate your explanation about the meaning of marriage.

        Perhaps my concern is ‘misplaced’ if being a gay/lesbian is really ‘intrinstic’. As if it is intrinstic, then other people may not have to worry about the being impacted or ‘infected’ into the homosexual model unless this is who they are (intrinstically). However, is that right that an individual’s materity is never purely out of intrinsic determinants or otherwise but rather a combination of his/her physiological growth and social-psychological development? If this is right, my concern is that how much impact the legalization of homosexual marriage can impact on next generations’ formation of the social-psychological being.

        As you said, sexuality is complicated. Sexuality has a lot to do with the reproduction of human beings. It is ancient and also part of the most original design of the nature. In this way, it is not that simple as skin color or being left-handed, though I understand that you gave these two examples to demonstrate that being a gay can be intrinstic and people who are not do not have to worry about it. Again, would that also be true that children who live in an environment which legalizes homosexual marriage may tend to be more tolerant within themselves about homosexual relationships — if this is the case, this seems to me is not just a question in Christian world but also for the whole human beings. Yes, science can enable reproduction between homosexual couple but are not all the science and medical methods further witness that God’s rules are golden? I probably think too much and I’d rather myself is over concerned.

        Again, I am just talking about my understanding and views here and is open to other views.

        Best regards

        Ning

  15. Ning also raises the very important question of the impact of our civic decisions on our children, and the models of life that we make available to them, and commend to them. This is an important part of the discussion for followers of Jesus to value, because it reminds us that we are not called to simply make decisions that suit us or which underwrite ideologies that we feel comfortable with. We are called to think of others, especially the vulnerable.
    At this point, you might feel that the argument could go either way. It could.
    I would like to offer the idea that legislation allowing same-sex marriage is not particularly confusing for our children. Our contemporary model of marriage is (perhaps unfortunately) based on attraction- within christian culture as much as anywhere. So rarely do we find christians marrying on any other primary basis, than attraction to their partner. Family arrangements or call to minister together or pragmatic domestic collaborations are usually secondary rationales. For children, attraction takes the form of friendship, usually, but not always with someone of the same gender. Both in their own childhood experience then, and as most of life for an adult married couple is spent not actually having sex, friendship is then a primary model by which children understand the connection between partners.
    Further to this, our heterosexual marriages, and again this is as common in christian culture as anywhere, are assailed by infidelities and divorces. Children find our professions of the stability of marriage based on attraction implausible. For their own future marriages and covenant relationships to be robust, we need more than simply a re-assertion that “one of each gender” is the best recipe. Deep revisions of the relationship between our sexuality and our personhood are required, across same and mixed gender combinations. Our children are more confused, hang on – I’m more confused! – by the heterosexual extramarital affair involving people who have made clear public legal sacred promises to another person, than by the gay couple who live faithfully in relationship with one another whether or not there is public or civic accountability. We impoverish our children when we speak as if only some of our relationships have sexual content. Our sexuality is invoked in some way in every relationship, with any gender, something we must be attentive to and learn the skills and graces to manage this precious and nuanced gift healthily in all circumstances. The difficulty for many of our children in the present culture is how exaggerated and extremetised sexuality is – beyond its healthiness or usefulness or beauty. I am concerned that the manner in which the current same-sex marriage conversation is fuelled by this, and in turns exacerbates it further in the consciousness of young and old.
    Finally, looking beyond the individualism of ‘marriage between two people’ – the presence of children in our lives reminds us that marriages, like all friendships are made up not of two people but of many. Our children are already part of families, most of which include a gay person. I have hardly ever met someone who, if I mention the gay couple in our family, doesn’t also refer to such a relationship in theirs. Here, as we speak of family, the invocation of marriage is an important civic and legal way in which we signal and covenant belonging. Thus, my children have a means for recognising all of their [legal] aunts and uncles.

    Reply

    1. Thank you Beth. Wise and pastoral as always!

      I am especially drawn to your comment: ‘Our children are more confused, hang on – I’m more confused! – by the heterosexual extramarital affair involving people who have made clear public legal sacred promises to another person, than by the gay couple who live faithfully in relationship with one another whether or not there is public or civic accountability.’

      I am reminded in this of Penny Wong’s recent statement, ‘I know what my family is worth.’ Perhaps children do too.

      Reply

  16. Excellent comments, Simon. Thanks for your thoughtful article. As an ex Baptist (now UCA) minister, I know how difficult it can be to hold views that are a little outside the mainstream.

    One of the reasons that I support same sex marriage is that of youth suicide. I understand that gay youth are up to 5 times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth. This is worrying. It reminds me of a bible verse: by their fruit they shall be known. A society that doesn’t care for its youth is a sick society in my mind.

    I read recently a study in USA where some states have had same sex marriage for a long time. In these states, the youth suicide rate has dropped. Young people growing up often have a lot of difficulty accepting their individuality and differentness. We are all unique. God has made us so. When a young person is struggling with their identity and see others around them are not able to live their life fully they can become depressed. When they see that others can be fully accepted and able to live their lives to the full it makes a difference.

    When a young person commits suicide it causes huge pain and anguish amongst their family and friends.

    It is pastoral reasons lie these that make me a very strong supporter of same sex marriage.

    Reply

  17. As a visitor to Australia coming from an portion of the world where this subject does not carry such dogmatic or intellectual back and forth I would like share the opinion of someone who came to the Cross fairly late in life. I have mellowed some in my bias against the homosexual community and the need to keep reaching out in love so that all may be saved. I think Christianity as a whole because of the secular world pinching in on it’s mission has become defensive and somewhat exclusive. That said, I cannot override the unnerrancy of God’s holy word and am reminded of the old almost paradoxical phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner”. We all fall short of the glory of the grace of God but are called to live out our salvation in love and seek to be Christ-like. In this context I have to refer to the Bible for whom Christ is called the Word. The Old Testament states, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable” (Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13). The New Testament agrees, listing “homosexual offenders” among a list of people who “will not inherit the kingdom of God” unless they are cleansed through Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Other passages are Genesis, chapter 19; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; and Jude, verse 7. However, it is important to note that the Bible speaks only of homosexual behavior (which would include lust—choosing to fantasize about behavior), not unchosen feelings. God will not judge a Christian guilty for his or her involuntary feelings. Sometimes it is said that the Bible does not record any words of Jesus about homosexuality, and therefore it must be acceptable to God. However, the Bible does not record sayings of Jesus about a number of other specific sins either. When people asked Jesus about marriage, He told them to remember what Genesis said about God’s plan for marriage (Matthew 19:1-12). So, in this sense, Jesus did have something to say about homosexual partnerships. God only blessed sex within the committed marriage relationship of a man and a woman. In closing, I have found refreshment , Christian warmth and some new insight to how we look at those on the outside looking in at Collins Street. I will continue to try to be a beggar telling another beggar where to find food but cannot embrace saying a sin is not a sin.

    Reply

    1. Dear David, thank you for taking time to put your response in words. I wonder how you came across my blog post, or perhaps you were visiting with us at Collins Street this past Sunday? Regardless, thank you for commenting so thoughtfully.

      Though we shall have to agree to disagree on the interpretation of biblical texts on sexuality, I do value those who can engage on this complex issue without insult or vitriol. I want to take the bible seriously as the Word of God, but the hard work of interpreting these texts for today is an on-going challenge and far from straight forward. Every blessing as you continue on the journey.

      Reply

  18. Many thanks Simon. I am an ordained Baptist Minister myself, retired and I support gay marriage also. I am gay myself, medically proven in electronic shock therapy arranged by a President of the Baptist Union in Qld. It was physically violent and highly abusive. I am still married to my wife after 41 yrs and I am not sexually active. Nothing has changed. Qld Baptist policy on gays, practicing or not, are that we are forbidden to lead, teach, exercise any ministry or do any act of Christian service. Non-practicing murderers, rapists and terrorits are just fine.
    Another church affiliated with the ACL arranged for Dr Michael Craddock from within their church to chemically castrate a gay teenager called Craig by prescribing cyprostat. When that didn’t work, they ex-communicated Craig, his parents put him out of their home on to the street, changed the locks and said they never wanted to see him again. Along with many other gay Christians I have done all I could to support him. He is doing fine now.
    When I was told at a Baptist Life Group that I was a f..g.t & a p..ft.r who was not welcome to even attend the church, I left and I the Baptist Church no longer forms any part of my life. It is very imp for people to know what churches affliated with the ACL actually DO to homosexuals. We just attend UCA now. UCA has no affiliation with the ACL.
    As others above have mentioned the real issue about the activities of the ACL is the serious detrimental effect on the mental health of gays. I wrote a paper on What Does the Bible Actually Say About Homosexuality. In the first month 7700 sent in emails about it and 7000 (90%) agreed with what I wrote. There were 350 gays who wrote in saying they planned to commit suicide over this but had decided against it. This is the link if you were interested.
    http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/13935.htm

    Reply

    1. Dear David, I am so very, very sorry to hear your story. The pain of it all must stay with you no matter how many years pass. The fact that you have remained with your wife throughout is an extraordinary thing, and a profound affirmation of the love that holds you together. If I can be of any further support to you (though I am sure you have many such friends) I am happy to do so in whatever way is of help. You are in my prayers.

      Reply

  19. We’ve recently seen the Anglican, Catholic and Greek Orthodox branches of the church using their Sunday services to make strong statements against gay marriage. Your sermon today was a welcome antithesis, a passionate and compassionate reminder that Biblical literalism can unjustly marginalise, oppress and exclude people. Thank you for your courage and conviction, Simon. I feel blessed to be part of a church that is socially responsive and progressive.

    Emma 🙂

    Reply

  20. Simon,
    I write as a Baptist, an active member of a Baptist Church, and one who has only today come across this blog. In fact, I came across this blog because I will shortly be relocating to Melbourne, from interstate. I will be living and working in the CBD, and looking for a place to worship. CSB was where I had hoped to be able to worship God. I must admit, however, that I am finding it difficult to imagine worship under the leadership of one who so blatantly expresses publicly views which are inconsistent with Scripture, and who says, on the one hand “I want to take the bible seriously as the Word of God” and on the other hand attempts to rationalize that with general comments about the difficulty of interpretation and application in the 21st Century. It would appear that you want to interpret Scripture through the lens of peoples experience and cultural norms and to do so claiming that it is an act of “love”. To do so, in my opinion, is a declaration of intent to disregard the Word of God and to set God’s people on a course of populism without a Biblical compass.
    Despite being asked several times to explain how you are able to Biblically support gay-marriage, you have not been able, or have not chosen, to satisfactorily do so, and have responded with platitudes about interpretation, and have turned the issue back on the bloggers by asking such questions as “how do you Biblically interpret issues such as slavery, women in ministry, etc.” It is a most unsatisfactory and irrelevant response.
    There are a couple of quotes which I want to address specifically. One is yours, and one is written by one who supports your views. You have stated that you once knew a wise minister who said to you ‘Simon, if you are ever faced with a choice between truth and love, choose love.’ Love, of course, is a direct and personal commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ (“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”) and is to be universal in its application to all, including practising homosexual people. Jesus, however, did not command us to “love” the acts and life styles of all people and Scripture explicitly speaks against homosexual practices. In connection with this, I want, also, to admit to the fact that I was involved, for a number of years, in an adulterous relationship with a Christian woman and I would defy anyone to say that we did not (and still do not) love each other intensely. Over time, however, we came to realize that “truth” is an absolute, and realization of that fact and of the truth which Scripture speaks about adultery meant that we had no option but to discontinue our relationship and to ask God’s forgiveness for stepping beyond His will and defying His commandments. It would have been ever so easy to choose “love” over “truth” which your wise minister advocates. It would also have been in defiance of God. There are, I believe, direct parallels between that story of mine and the story of those who would seek legislative gay-marriage.
    The other quote which I want to address is that by Ellen, who said: “One of the reasons that I support same sex marriage is that of youth suicide. I understand that gay youth are up to 5 times more likely to commit suicide than straight youth. This is worrying.” Indeed it IS worrying, Ellen. Youth suicide is a blight on our society, whether it be within the gay community or not, and one which we, as the Church of Jesus Christ, must address in love. That does not mean empowering people to live the lifestyle of their choice through our universal acquiescence.
    Clearly, my search for a place in the Melbourne CBD to worship God under Biblical leadership continues.
    Blessings,
    Ian

    Reply

    1. Hi Ian,

      Thanks for dropping by. I’m sorry my approach to this particular issue has caused this level of disappointment for you. You are not alone. And I’m sorry, too, that you search for a spiritual home in Melbourne has not found resolution yet. Indeed, there are many very good churches here in the city that would probably be a more comfortable fit for you than ours. One I encourage you to look at is ‘City on a Hill’ (http://www.cityonahill.com.au), a very engaging and interesting church that meets in the Hoyts Theatres at Melbourne Central. It began as plant of St Judes in Carlton, is soundly evangelical in its approach and takes a more conservative view than we do on this issue.

      I wish you well,

      Simon

      Reply

    2. Ian,

      Go ahead and disagree with Simon – thankfully, no one requires you to read this blog or attend CSB if you don’t want to. In fact, there are probably more churches in the CBD that agree with your views than agree with Simon’s! But surely it is ok for Simon to speak his opinion on a blog, even if that means some people won’t agree? The tone of your post says so much about the stagnant discussion on this issue, and perhaps reflects that you shouldn’t even bother reading blogs where you disagree! I know Simon personally and reckon he’s a great leader, and I don’t need to know his views on same-sex marriage to state this. There’s a lot more to ministry than one’s opinion on a single issue.

      Reply

      1. Hi Alison, thanks for adding a comment.

        Though I’m not sure if you and thankful to God for Ian and his comments or mine, I’m glad you dropped by. I’ve noticed my page stats have gone through the roof in connection to this article I wrote back in 2012. I assume someone has linked to in the last few days, bringing you and others here.

        I’m intrigued!

  21. Hi Julia,
    Thank you for your post. I may respond more fully a little later, despite the fact that your post is a nice polite way of saying “Well, we didn’t ask you to visit our blog or our church, anyway.” I do find it interesting that you suggest that perhaps I should not bother reading blogs where I disagree. That is a novel idea. I thought that the purpose of blogs was for the exchange of views, without which they quickly degenerate into mutual admiration clubs

    Reply

  22. I was a Baptist Pastor and returned Gia missionary, but now retired. I strongly support gay marriage as a conservative. My wife and I married 44 years ago. We have two children and several grandchildren.

    I am gay, medically proven in my case during electronic shock therapy ordered by a doctor who was President of the Baptist Union of Qld at that time, with the promise it would make me straight. They placed wires on your private parts that measured temperature changes and showed you about 1000 pictures of men and 1000 pictures of women over about 10 days. When my body temperature rose when I saw all those pictures of men, they delivered high voltages of electricity through wires that were also attached to punish me for being gay. The machine never recorded anything when I saw all those pictures of nude women. The Dr who did it confirmed that those tests proved I was born gay. Being gay is NOT a choice. I have yet to find a heterosexual who could tell me about the day they chose to be straight. I am not sexually active to keep the vows I made to my wife, but 44 years is a very long time to pretend to be someone I am not.

    The entire medical profession declassified homosexuality as an illness 42 years ago this year, and that period covered the entire 16 years I saw that doctor who was President of BUQ. He was using his position as a Dr to put me through very intense physical pain as an expression of his own homophobia. Not happy.

    BUQ’s written policy on gays, practicing or not, are that we are forbidden to lead, teach, exercise any ministry or do any act of Christian service, and that for me included turning up for a working bee, being on the cleaning roster or to help take up the offering. Non-practicing murderers, rapists and terrorists are fine.

    When we attended a Life Group at a Baptist Church for the first time, they raised the topic of homosexuality and they said I was a f.gg.t and a p..ft.r who was not welcome to even attend church. Keeping all this bottled up inside has caused me to have two lots of partial fundoplication surgery on my esophagus which is very major surgery. Why would anyone claim that being gay is a choice? The church no longer forms any part of my life. Enough is enough.

    My view of scripture on homosexuality can be found in a paper I wrote which can be found at
    http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/13935.htm In the first month after it was published, 7700 wrote back to the publisher and 7000 agreed with what I wrote. But 350 gays who planned to commit suicide over this wrote in and said they no longer planned to go ahead with it. Many families were reunited. A sample of those emails are near the end of my paper.

    Loving committed monogamous gay marriage is not condemned in scripture anywhere. It is not what the scriptures are talking about.

    For a gay person who holds to the traditional view of marriage, the WORST possible thing that can happen is to fall in love. They must walk away heart broken, and that has to happen every single time throughout their ENTIRE life. Something is terribly wrong.

    If you feel it necessary to attack me as a person for who I am, you first need to obtain my permission before you do that. I am now proud of being gay, and I enjoy being gay very much. The Baptist church’s clear policy of ensuring all gays intensely hate and loathe themselves has now failed.

    Many say to love the sinner but hate the sin. That’s interesting because it is the OPPOSITE of what Jesus said. He said to love the sinner, but hate YOUR OWN sin. (Tony Campolo)

    What you say about gays is not theoretical. It affects real people who God has created gay. Please take time to get to know us. Maybe you will find the same Jesus who you love and serve can also be found in us.

    Reply

  23. Well said Ron. It is so strange that as followers of Jesus we can so often “miss the mark” (sin?) so easily. We were never called to condemn or judge as Scripture shows but we were commanded to love God and our neighbour as ourselves. Love is God’s standard. Hatred and condemnation are not. I’m so glad you accept who you are and love being gay. What an inditement on any who claim to love Jesus who judge or condemn you or anyone else. Every blessing brother…

    Reply

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