Yes

I am a Christian, a person deeply formed by the Church and its gospel. Even more, I am a Baptist minister. For the past thirty-five years I have given my life to understanding, living and proclaiming the message of Jesus. It is because of this, not in spite of it, that I’ll be voting ‘yes’ in the upcoming plebiscite on same-sex marriage.

There is nothing that goes to the heart of human identity as much as our sexuality. It is that God-given reminder, persistent and powerful, that we are made for relationship—intimate, covenant relationship. When our need for intimate communion with another human being is violated through the horrors of sexual abuse, cheapened through sexual infidelity, or invalidated through sacraments of love that exclude, it is not only our rights that are threatened, but our identity as those created in God’s image.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Saint Paul speaks of sexual failings as far more impacting than all others. “Don’t be immoral in matters of sex,” he writes, “that is a sin against your own body in a way that no other sin is.” Why? Because our sexuality takes us beyond a particular sexual act to our embodied nature, our personhood. It is certainly true that for the majority of people, sexual identity is most naturally expressed in heterosexual unions. For a small number, however, it is in same-sex relationships that they find who they are as relational beings. The truth is, those of us who are gay or lesbian are wired differently from those of us who are not. Homosexual longing is as natural to some as heterosexual longing is to others.

Of course, this is not the view of all Christians. Indeed, the majority of those within my own tradition disagree with me. Their perspective is that homosexuality is a dysfunction of identity—a failing of personhood that needs to be confessed and overcome. It follows, then, that allowing same-sex couples to marry will only legitimise a dysfunction God never intended. My experience says otherwise.

Through more than three decades of pastoral ministry, I have sat with countless men and women for whom their sexuality is most naturally expressed with persons of the same sex. Indeed, this expression of sexuality is as instinctive to them as left- or right-handedness, as given as the colour of their skin. Asking them to be other than who they are as sexual beings would be asking them to deny their very selves. Sadly, I have witnessed the denial of sexual identity lead people to dark places of despair, isolation, self-loathing and, sometimes, even death.

In much church commentary of recent days, church leaders are at pains to underline their love and respect for LGBTI people, claiming that their aversion to same-sex marriage does not equate with their denial of the integrity of same-sex persons or the worth of their families. The availability of civil unions, they will say, is an expression of this; never have the rights of the LGBTI community been more protected, they argue, and rightly so, but marriage is surely a step too far. The uncomfortable fact is, however, the churches these people represent have historically fought developments in LGBTI rights at every turn, and, despite the current tenor of conversation, the underlying belief has not changed: homosexuality is a dysfunction of personhood. Indeed, the entire argument against same-sex marriage rests on it. To claim otherwise is not only misleading; it is dishonest.

If homosexuality is not a dysfunction of personhood, but an expression of one’s being and identity in God, then withholding from the LGBTI community the most commonly accepted expression of loving, covenant relationship is wrong. We Christians fight for the sanctity of marriage precisely because we believe it is more than a legal contract between two people. It is a sacred and public bond through which two people promise fidelity to each other, to the family they form, and in the presence of the community that surrounds them. To quote advocate for same-sex marriage Rodney Croome, “The kind of choices, commitments and sacrifices marriage entails run to the core of what makes us human.” In my view, the argument to withhold these choices, commitments and sacrifices from same-sex couples in the context of marriage is not only a profound act of exclusion; it rests on dubious ground.

So, it’s a ‘yes’ from me.

Simon Carey Holt
Pastor, Collins Street Baptist Church
Melbourne

115 Comments

  1. I knew the was a reason I’ve always loved you bro. Your a champion for your honesty, compassion, and intelligent thinking. xx

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      1. Hi,
        I am glad as a church minister you are ticking the yes box in a survey but your article doesn’t deal with what God’s word says in sex marriage and relationships. So can you please open the Bible and discuss spercific passage that deal with this subject please?

      2. Hi Philip, I reckon this would only create frustration on your part (and mine) just because of the limitations of a forum like this one. I would commend to you a number of very thoughtful books that do the very thing you’ve requested. David P. Gushee’s ‘Changing Our Minds’ is a good place to start. Peace to you.

    1. Simon I’m all for loving gays. Jesus would. But why would He agree with the sin which is the opposite of what God made men and women for. It’s truly not logical. I’m sorry people are abused and hurt and evil things are done to them that can slant them towards alternate lifestyles, it truly breaks my heart. But I didn’t make the universe or the rules, and I’m not throwing the first stone. How do u justify this before God? You are saying that God made marriage between me and women, then what, changed His mind.? And didn’t tell anyone??You obviously have a great love for the gay community and good on you, but God hasn’t changed the law on the act of homosexuality. I agree love them and everyone else like Jesus would but please don’t get sucked in by satans lies.
      God bless you and your flock.❤️

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      1. Thanks for your comment, Christine. We’ll have to agree to differ on ‘what God made men and women for’ and the certainty you have about the intentions of God in these things.

      2. I honestly don’t understand how people can pick and choose the divisive and hateful rules that they feel suits them from the bible and pass it off as God’s love and acceptance. If we decided to take things literally we’d find much hate within the bible I fear – the work of man, not God. Simon, I personally found your speech to be the most heartening thing I’ve read in a long time, and it gives me hope, amongst a sea of hateful, demeaning speech, from people who call themselves Christians.

        Christine if you wish to take things literally, there are many other ‘rules’ in the bible which the Church no longer pushes upon people, why cling to this one? It’s fine that you don’t agree with gays getting married, but why can’t you let others be, to do their best to find happiness and love? Would you really seem them guilted, shamed and excluded? Whatever you believe about such rules, how can you justify such a response? You truly think this is what Jesus would want? How do YOU justify this before God?

        I am a gay man, and I sleep well at night knowing that in my every word and deed throughout my daily life, I do my best to be loving and compassionate towards others. Even those such as yourself. I’m sorry that you feel the need to take part in the public shaming and exclusion of those, such as myself that were born differently. I hope that one day you’ll be able to see things with much greater compassion, and much less judgement.

        Simon I think yours words are doing only good, even saving lives… I cannot tell you how much they mean.

      3. So well said, Darren! I couldn’t agree more. I am Christian, but I don’t see the bible offering answers on the issue of sexual preference in the 21st century any more than it does on slavery or the role of women in modern society. There are many rules in the Hebrew Scriptures which no Christian society has followed for hundreds of years, but the three examples above are from the New Testament and on each we should apply the values of Jesus and His love.

      4. Oh that satan’s a bugger isn’t he. I think it’s about time God changed his mind and stuck satan down.

  2. Thanks for some beautifully written and heartfelt words. I do wonder what Galatians 3:28 says to the claim underlying your post namely that, ‘There is nothing that goes to the heart of human identity as much as our sexuality. Galatians 3:28 claims that being ‘in Christ’ is more at the heart of our identity than gender, race or free status. I would think that being ‘in Christ’ would go to the heart of human identity and free us from being defined by our sexuality or anything else. What do you think?

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    1. It’s an incredible statement, isn’t it? “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

      It’s a startling affirmation that the things that once divided us into camps of social and cultural opposition are now united in our shared identity as the people of God in Christ. Yes, our individual identity is gathered up into our shared identity as the community of faith. But that can never mean that male and female are eradicated, that our cultural differences and stories are made irrelevant, or that the challenges of living in a broken and struggling world are not just as real as they always were. It means that all of this is gathered up into our identity in Christ. We come with all that we are, and all that we are is cherished in God’s sight.

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  3. Thank God, someone is posting about Christian principles as given to us by Jesus Christ such as love one another as I have loved you! Love them in my image! He does not mention anyone who is excluded from that love, or what the the so called abhorration is supposed to be- He just encourages us to love with our whole neart and soul! We are all children of God in His eyes, and we all partake of fellowship! Be kind go one another, accept our differences, and if you purport to be a Christian, listen to the words of Jesus and Him only, and do not distort His message of Love and Acceptance of one another!! Thank you for posting this! ❤

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  4. Thank you, Simon. I shared your beautiful article to rainbow fellowship in China. They are so touched and encouraged. They will pray for you in Lord.

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  5. Simon what would you say to being able to love someone but not necessarily agree with their decisions.

    I would like to think that as Christians we would clothe, feed and never turn away from compassion towards others as God tells us, but does that mean we should support behaviour that ultimately is a barrier between God and his creation? Does not the bible call us to give everything we have for Kingdom cause? I would have to ask you how do you believe that approving Gay marriage will advance the kingdom of God? Im not a hardline bible beater of any sorts, I believe every man is a sinner, everyday, until being restored in Christ, we are no longer slaves to Sin but we are indeed Saints that sin, our entitlement to inherit Gods love we only have by the sacrifice of Christ and this issue of Gay marriage has indeed highlighted to me my need to further grow in discipline in areas of my life that are inhibitors to my focus on God.

    There are a few alarming quotes in your well meant message some that stand out to me are.

    “homosexuality is not a dysfunction of personhood, but an expression of one’s being and identity in God” there is no way that this could be true for so many blaringly obvious reasons we could start in Genesis and find answers all the way through to Revelation and find so many things wrong with this statement.

    There are also other very concerning things to me in your article. Being an attendee of an Austrialian Baptist Church, I will be fowarding this article to the Australian Baptist Union for their review.

    Yours in Christ
    Michael Trama
    Church Member Mosaic Baptist Church Gold Coast QLD

    Reply

    1. Thanks for taking the time to respond, Michael. It sounds like you and I agree on our call to advance the kingdom of God in the world — the renewal of all creation in its fullness and beauty in all aspects of life. For me, enabling and freeing people — all people — to live the fullness of life and love in the context of intimate, covenant relationships is very much part of that. But I’m sure I’ll not convince you of that in a blog post.

      I do respect your right to express your concern about my views and ministry to the ABM, but I think you’ll find they are already well aware of my perspective on these things.

      Peace to you.

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      1. Would your ultimate goal when counselling these people be to know Gods love for them? Desire a relationship with God and be baptized into Christ thus denying themselves and taking up their cross?

        Can you provide a biblical example of a sexual relatinship between two men or two women that was considered a covenant relationship? I cant remember any.

      2. The call we all have — straight or gay, black or white, male or female — is to be enfolded in God’s love then as a response to that love to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Jesus. Of course, doing so does not preclude people entering into marriage. We can do both, and at the very same time!

    2. Oh, dear, what a terribly sad, and threatening, response to one man’s opinion. Hold the weight of the church over his head?! You are the Christian I fear. What is it that you are so profoundly frightened by, to respond in such a harsh way? What is it that threatens your faith in God (not your religion) in the words of this kind pastor? Correct me if I am wrong, but it was Jesus …Jesus …who told Peter to put away his sword (= angry treatening words) in a situation of fear. We would do well to remember that it was Peter who failed to realise that sometimes painful and frightening losses (= crucified Jesus) are followed by new revelations and new ways of living (= resurrection). Please, put away the sword.

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    3. Thank you I was hoping someone would. I’m deeply saddened by this and the fact it has no scripture reference it really is just an oppion and view.

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  6. Also from Romans: For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
    And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

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    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for the reminder of this passage from Romans. It is one of a short list of biblical passages that speak directly about homosexuality and requires some work from all of us committed to understanding and interpreting the bible for today.

      The text I quoted is from 1 Corinthians 6, and is more directed to the sanctity of the human body as God’s gift to us. God’s call is to treat that body as holy in God’s sight, for when we surrender to infidelity and cheap sexual exchanges, we violate the very identify God has invested in us. It seems to me that providing a context in which love between two people can be honoured in covenant before God has great value.

      I do grieve that a good friend, someone who has shared part of my journey with me, is disappointed in my stand on this issue. I can only assure you that my conclusion arises out of a deep concern for people and their freedom to thrive in God. I assure you of my prayers.

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      1. I saw your post on sexuality and saying yes to same sex marriage when reposted by a friend. I am shocked and saddened by it. You dress up your defence of this Godless decision to say yes, in intellectual language, of the flesh not the Bible. Gods word. Romans 1 will not be denied unless you take scissors and cut it out along with other passages of scripture that liberal theologians are wont to do. I knew you as a boy, growing up in a Christian family under the teaching of Rev TG Hinton himself a gifted theologian. I know you benefitted from theological trainining at evangelical colleges here and in the USA supported by at least one godly man who is now with the Lord. Where has it all gone so wrong for you now to post such contrary views to scripture seeking to influence peoples decisions to vote yes to same sex marriage. There is one sentence that concerns me even more, where you say ‘ those of us who are gay’ Is this a typo or are you including yourself in the gay community ? I believe this warrents clarification as the pastor of Collins St Baptist church. i look forward to your reply on fb page

      2. Dear Pat,

        I am so sorry that my post supporting same-sex marriage has caused you such disappointment. I really am. Indeed, I remember you well and continue to look back on my days growing up in the Dandenong church with great affection and gratitude. And Mr Hinton was a wonderful pastor and gifted teacher. In fact, I worked closely with him in his retirement when I was pastoring the Cranbourne church, and he remains one of the formative influences on my life.

        Since those Dandenong days, Pat, much has happened in my life and I’ve shared pastoral relationships with people from all walks of life, including those who are gay and lesbian. In that time I have been involved in two funerals for young men who, raised in the church, were never able to come to terms with their sexuality and felt so defeated and demeaned they could see no other viable option than to end their lives. And I’ve shared life with many more who have struggled to understand the apparent disconnect between the church’s teaching and their own stories. Gradually, through time and considerable struggle, I have come to a different understanding of sexuality. Still, my commitment to following the way of Jesus as faithfully as I am able has not changed. In fact, I do not see my support of same-sex marriage as a ‘godless’ decision, as you understand it, but one that flows directly from my faith in God.

        You are right, Pat; cutting Romans 1 out of the bible is not an option. In fact, I do not believe we can cut out any part of the bible nor ignore its truth. As well as the reference in Romans 1, there are five other references to homosexuality in the bible (Gen 19; Lev 18:22 & 20:13; 1 Cor 6:9-10; and 1 Tim 1:10) and none of them can be cut away. The challenge is though, there are many things the bible says that have become difficult to hold for Christians living in our age, and each requires some serious interpretive work.

        The bible demands that not only should the sexually immoral be judged, but they should be stoned to death, along with those who work on the sabbath, and those who insult their parents. Men are barred from trimming their beards and having tattoos. The bible outlaws usury as an evil in society — the system of loaning or borrowing money for interest. It bands women from speaking in church and demands that their heads be covered, outlaws divorce and affirms slavery as a natural aspect of life. Yet today we affirm women in ministry, we abhor slavery and demand that it be named, we use credit cards freely, and we have much more flexibility and grace around issues of divorce. So it continues. My point is not to suggest that all of these things are of the same importance, but they all have a cultural context that has to be understood. When it comes to those six texts about homosexuality, surely we have a responsibility to do the same. We may well come to different conclusions in all of this, as you and I do, but we have no choice but wrestle with these things.

        As for your final concern about my own sexuality, Pat, the sentence I used was this: “the truth is, those of us who are gay or lesbian are wired differently from those of us who are not.” I chose those words very carefully because I wanted to avoid the language of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that runs rampant in this debate, as though those who are gay or lesbian are a separate community of people, a different species even. That’s not the case. In my experience, these men and women live in the same neighbourhoods, sit in the same churches and inhabit the same families as all others. This is our issue. We are in it together.

        Thanks, Pat, for taking the time to write. I know my words will probably not lessen your concerns for me, but I hope that you can still accept me as a fellow Christian committed to the way of Jesus.

        Peace to you.

  7. Thanks so much Simon. this is an issue that is deeply important to me, thanks for sharing your wisdom! I too will be voting YES.

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  8. Thank you Simon, words of love and truth 😊 It breaks my heart that people are judged for expressing who they are.

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  9. Thanks for putting this out there, Simon. You are patient and tolerant in your responses to the comments. I am out of touch with the views in some of those comments, but they indicate a challenge for the 21st century church if parts of it are so much at odds with the beliefs of progressive and compassionate Australian society.

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  10. Simon
    Congratulations
    I applaud your Support for those that Need it
    Why a lot of Politicians and Clergy
    Dont Understand the Wrong
    They Do
    Well Done
    Simon

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    1. Hmm … where do we begin? Maybe with the dual commands affirmed by Jesus as the pivot of our spirituality, “Love God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of you mind and all of your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.” Do this, Jesus added, and you will know life in its fullness.

      I know that doesn’t do the full job, Kym, but at least it’s a start.

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  11. Thank you to all of those who have taken time to leave comments. I have chosen not to post them all, not because of my disagreement with their content, but out of concern for those who will read them. It’s good for us all to be reminded that our words, however sincerely held, can cause significant harm to those who read them. While I don’t much like having the validity of my own leadership questioned, or my sexuality, or to be disqualified as a Christian because of my view on one issue, I suspect we all have to cop those things amidst the strong feelings of public debate. But to say hateful and bitter things about a community of people with whom the critic clearly has no relationship at all, that’s not on.

    And to the man who describes in detail what he would like to do to me to show me how perverse homosexuality really is, I can only say ‘really?’

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    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for your post, your thoughts and your link to Millie’s story. I am afraid I can’t find anything on Millie at the link provided. It just takes me directly to the ACL website. And the link to the social science journal you mention is a link to a letter written by a lobby group against same-sex marriage. It would take some work to discern just where they get their ‘data’ from and how it is interpreted.

      Regardless, clearly Millie’s story is one of significant pain in the absence of her dad. I don’t discredit that pain at all. I have been in pastoral ministry long enough to know that each of our stories is unique and we cannot begin to understand or make a judgement upon another’s story.

      Where I have trouble with this approach, however, is this: If we take one person’s story of pain in a same-sex parented family, I’m not sure we can extrapolate from that the conclusion that every same-sex parented family will result in precisely the same dysfunction and pain. Not a week goes by that I do not sit down with someone who have been grieved and scarred by their family-of-origin story. And the vast majority of those are within ‘traditional’ families. And of course we have to be really careful that we don’t so idealise a home with a loving mum and a loving dad as the only chance we have at a full and complete life. That would leave a lot of my friends feeling like they were dealt a pretty crap set of cards. The reality is, if we are loved well by those closest to us, no matter what variation they come in, that is our best chance at developing into functional and giving human beings.

      As to the other two matters you raise — (a) research that ‘proves’ the dysfunctionality of same-sex marriages and the conclusion that “the majority of gay couples have no problem with sexual infidelity within a ‘committed’ relationship”, and (b) that religious freedoms are about to go down the toilet with the arrival of marriage equality, I have to say, Matt, to use an Americanism, I reckon you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid on those.

      For those of us on both sides of this debate, Matt, it takes a lot more than quoting our own lobby groups on the research they package up for us to make a particular point. Having read a summary of the proposed bill, I have no doubt that religious freedoms are well protected by the legislation that will eventually go before parliament. In fact, from my perspective, probably too much so. But I’m sure we won’t agree on that one!

      Take care

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      1. Thanks for the correspondence. Here is the link that should work for you: https://youtu.be/tgE3juldK-4
        Also, what do you think of this view by Margaret Somerville? http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2016/10/07/4552500.htm

        For the record, I am a former Baptist Church pastor (Syndal Baptist Church in Glen Waverley). I am not lobbying for any side. Neither do I work for ACL and the research I quoted comes from Social Science Research, a well-regarded, highly cited social science journal (ranking in the top 15% of Sociology journals by ISI). So who do we believe? Why wouldn’t you believe one of the worlds most respected and quoted Journals – ‘Social Science Journal’? The University Of Texas who conducted the Social Science Research is ranked number 32 in the world! The rankings enable people to compare the quality of research.

        Of course, it is easy to point out the deficiencies of traditional marriage and natural families. The issue is not, however, whether all or even most opposite-sex couples attain the ideals of marriage in relation to fulfilling the needs of their offspring. Neither is the issue whether marriage is a perfect institution — it is not. It is, rather, whether we should work from a basic presumption that children need a mother and a father, preferably their own biological parents. I believe they do. The issue is, also, whether society would be worse off without the aspirational ideals established by traditional marriage.

      2. Matt, I’m sorry if I inferred you were a lobbyist. I have no doubt that your perspective is your own and arrived at very thoughtfully. I don’t doubt these journal articles exist, or that they are reputable journals. I am more interested to know if you have read them yourself or only read of others referencing them. As with most academic research projects, we can, on both sides of a debate, cherry pick particular findings that suit our argument. I’m not saying you have done this, but those who distribute ammunition for debates like these (from both sides) do so shamelessly. I have learned to treat such material with a good deal of suspicion. It is not a matter of believing or disbelieving a particular finding in one piece of research. Rankings of particular journals do not preclude the need to refer to a wide range of research before conclusions can be drawn. That’s the real value of research. It has an accumulative worth.

        As it happens we had Margaret Somerville here at Collins Street just a few weeks back presenting on euthanasia. She is a wonderfully intelligent voice on many issues, always from a conservative viewpoint, but always compelling. Her reflections on marriage add substance to the debate as do the alternate perspectives of others.

  12. Hi Simon, I bless you for you desire to walk humbly in God’s sight, for setting aside ruinous and hateful remarks, and for writing, receiving and sharing words of love & also honest questioning. In these acts of service, you are building up the people of God, and making an invitation to all
    Bridget

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  13. In response to this line: “Asking them to be other than who they are as sexual beings would be asking them to deny their very selves”

    Doesn’t it say in Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me'”?

    Why do you promote the opposite of this?

    I am unmarried and I have a natural desire to have sex with women because that is how I was hardwired. It is in my bodily instinct. As a God fearing man however, I deny myself and my sexual desires to follow Jesus.

    If a christian man or woman is feeling isolated because they are denying themselves on any sinful desire, then it is your job as a minister to remind them of the love of Jesus.

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    1. Hi Michael,

      I’m just no sure that denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Jesus requires that we don’t get married. In fact, I am sure the prospect of getting married may still lie ahead for you, and what’s more, its entirely possible for that to happen because the sacrament of marriage is open to you. Unless, in the name of your faith, you have vowed your life to celibacy, I am sure that remains a delightful prospect! It seems, though, in the current situation in my country, there is no such choice for gay or lesbian people of faith.

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  14. From the heart of the Missouri Ozarks, this gay man and his partner thank you. I don’t expect victory – but if someone had told us 10 years ago when we met that we’d be reading a Baptist minister’s blog supporting our potential marriage, we would have told that person to back down on his medication! This is that divine transformation we’ve prayed for. Thank you for your courage – we both wish we could ease the road ahead of you.

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  15. I am not disappointed in your stand as that intimates I have the answer and you don’t, or at least I think I do. You are far more learned than me. I am saddened from somewhere deep in my soul though. We all see life through the glasses of our experiences and we each have to work out how much we look through those glasses to see God.

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  16. thank you. My partner of 17 years was the first baptist women in sole charge of a church in New Zealand. Ngaire Brader – she was a remarkable woman, and died of cancer over 10 years ago. She would be smiling to see this. God bless you on this journey. Love is love.

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  17. This debate has made me pray like no other. I deeply want to vote yes. I uphold the sanctity of marriage and place great importance on it. I wish that choice for everyone. I can’t thank you enough for your article and your considered responses. What I struggle with is the bible stating marriage is between a man and a woman. I appreciate the comment above we tend to pick and choose the verses we like to follow but how do Christians reconcile these verses with this debate? Any clarification is appreciated and will be thought about and prayed about. Thank you again Simon. Blessings

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    1. Hi Trish, your commitment to approach this issue with faithfulness to both God and neighbour is inspiring. Thank you. Certainly the creation story is the coming together of man and woman as one flesh, and in that one flesh expressing the image of God. From there marriage takes a roller coaster journey, evolving through time and expressed in multiple ways, many of them reflecting the fallenness of human relationships rather than marriage at its best.

      Of course the possibility of same sex marriage was not even thought of at the time of Jesus, and there is not much help in the sayings of Jesus about marriage that relates specifically to our current challenges. Thus looking for individual texts of scripture leaves us wanting. My own conclusion is that we have to back up from the need for individual proof texts to a broader theology of sexuality and marriage. This is where the hard work has to be done by people like you and me.

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      1. Hi Simon,

        You stated “Of course the possibility of same sex marriage was not even thought of at the time of Jesus, and there is not much help in the sayings of Jesus about marriage that relates specifically to our current challenges.”

        I beg to differ. Please read Romans 1:26-27 => 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men…”

        Remember, Jesus loves us but hates sin.

      2. I’m just not sure this helps with our current conversation about same-sex marriage, Mark. Of course, these are strong words from Paul about those who exchanging what is natural to their sexuality for what is unnatural. But I think my point still stands: “There is not much help in the sayings of Jesus about marriage that relates specifically to our current challenges.”

  18. Greetings all the way from London. Someone posted this link of Facebook and it was refreshing to read a thoughtful post on this issue, especially given all the hurt caused by so many Christians who haven’t looked into to the crucial context that the handful of bible passages around this subject are written in. There is an incredible amount of ignorance around human sexuality, and that it is a precious gift from God, and not a choice. So many want to live in a narrow legalistic view of Christianity where a literal translation of everything leads to bizarre outdated ideas – such as women can’t speak in church etc etc.

    Love has fulfilled the law, Grace leads the way, let’s live it out and include all the people that the church wants to exclude! I pray we can more like Jesus and a lot less like some of the church.

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  19. Thank you Simon. I’m Catholic and have been trying to compose something that captures how I feel about this, because of my strong faith, not despite it! You have done this so well and now I can just share it and say here here!! I thank God for your gift of writing in a “simple” way and for your openness to the Spirit which calls your to be honest and courageous…..supporting the rest of us to do so. Every blessing.

    Reply

  20. Oh, Simon, you have no idea how your compassionate and loving response has heartened me when it comes to some of the opposite (i.e. grossly demeaning and sometimes downright viciously hateful) responses that are coming from the Baptist church and most of its followers re the same sex marriage debate. I am a lesbian and a firmly committed Christian. I want to marry the woman I love. I am not afraid of the invective and the misleading ignorance that underpins so many arguments against SSM , but I am afraid for those whose sense of well-being and mental health will be either damaged or totally shattered by the public denigrating that now surrounds my community. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your message of love. You made me cry, in the best possible way xxx

    Reply

  21. Hi Simon,

    “Asking them to be other than who they are as sexual beings would be asking them to deny their very selves. ”

    Without trying to take you out of context, I question this argument with reference to Luke 9, 23-27, where Jesus talks about self denial as an integral part to being a Christian. What are your thoughts?

    James

    Reply

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for reading.

      There’s no doubt, in the context of predicting his own death by crucifixion, Jesus called his followers to a life of self-denial and sacrifice for the sake of others. This requires putting our own interests aside in favour of the interests of God’s kingdom. I am just not sure we can make this synonymous with denying our sexuality and sexual identity. After all, we are made in God’s image for intimate relationship. We are whole beings — body, mind, soul and spirit — and we bring the whole of who we are in service of God. I am simply arguing that this is so as much for homosexuals and it is for heterosexuals.

      Reply

  22. “Asking them to be other than who they are as sexual beings would be asking them to deny their very selves.”

    Denying ourselves, especially when it comes to our sexual desires, seems to be following Jesus 101.
    I feel you do a great disservice to people to encourage them to believe the lie that in Christ even a part of their identity is found in what they are sexually attracted to – whether heterosexual or homosexual.

    Reply

    1. No doubt, Simon, self denial is part and parcel of following Jesus … discipleship 101 as you say. And our sexuality is one of the great tripping points in living faithfully in response to Jesus. But to suggest that we are not made sexual beings driven to join our lives intimately with others is simply impossible from a biblical perspective. We are made for relationship, not only with God but with each other. As husband to my wife, I live my spirituality with her, not apart from her.

      Of course, there will be those who choose to take up the spiritual discipline of celibacy in order to provide a particular focus to a life of ministry. But there are many more who embrace the sacrament of marriage as a means of service and self-giving. Indeed, they discover the dynamics of self-giving in marriage and family in ways they would not discover in any other context. I would just hope for this opportunity for all Christians, not just the straight ones.

      Reply

  23. Thanks Simon, I really appreciated reading your article. As one who seeks to follow Jesus I have felt a pressure from other Christians to vote ‘No’ but, as someone who seeks to live missionally within the Inner-west of Sydney I have a number of valued friends who are gay or lesbian. One couple are really keen to marry and I have been in a dilemma; if I voted ‘No’ could I really justify why – I sensed within myself an act of betrayal, at the same time, if I voted ‘Yes’ I had a sense of betraying what seemed to be the ‘correct’ thing as a Christian to do.
    Shalom

    Reply

    1. I so respect your struggle, Geoff. It is such a complex issue. My sense is that starting the conversation within a particular context and community as you are doing lends such weight to the conversation. It reminds us that truth is never one-demensional but multi-faceted and complex. May you continue to know God’s peace and presence and you discern your way forward.

      Reply

    1. No, not at all Clar. Leviticus 18 – 20 cannot be dismissed as a ‘lie’ but is part of the bible we esteem as the word of God. Our task, however, is to discern its meaning in a very different age and context. There is so much in these three chapters that is difficult to apply to our lives today without the dual work of interpretation and discernment. I ask you to read these chapters carefully and notice this. Just as we cannot pick and choose the parts of the bible we accept as God’s word, so we cannot pick and choose the parts we apply with gusto while ignoring numerous others. If we take these chapters and others in Leviticus literally, word by word, we will not only be doing a lot of public stoning, we will also find many of our everyday practices in question. This does not mean we do not approach the two verses you’ve highlighted seriously — Leviticus 18.22 and 20.13 — but we read them discerningly just as we do with all the others.

      Reply

    2. By “real” do you mean they are useful and binding for Australians in the 21st century? I haven’t read Leviticus for decades, so I’m glad you alerted me to Leviticus Chapter 20. Scary stuff indeed!! The list of misdemeanors for which capital punishment is proscribed is shocking, even as a description of the attitudes of Israelites thousands of years ago. Some are crimes today, some are considered immoral and some are acceptable in modern society. If you want Christianity to be taken seriously as a relevant faith for modern times, I’d keep quiet about Leviticus 20. It’s interesting history but I hope we’ve moved along with the rest of the world from such an unfair and vindictive culture. And I’d be saddened if I thought Amnesty International has to overcome Christian protests in its attempt to eliminate the death penalty.

      Reply

  24. I am fascinated by the way those expressing the more conservative viewpoint tend to use the phrase “The Bible tells us” in this and other contexts. The Bible as I understand it, is a collection of historical documents and poetry in several different languages and written over several centuries. Of the six biblical references to homosexuality (correct me if I’m wrong) I believe one is from Genesis, a document with large use of poetic language. Two are from Leviticus, a book of law written for the priestly caste and intended as guidance for priests rather than all humankind, and three are St Paul, an interesting man with decided views but definitely a man.

    If people want to say “Jesus tells us”, “St Paul tells us” or “Isaiah tells us” that’s fine, but that’s not the rhetoric being used.

    Reply

    1. In part I agree with you, Angela. I too think that phrases like ‘the bible says’ are problematic because, as you say, the bible is a diverse collection of books that say many things, sometimes even things that appear to contradict each other. That said, I do believe the bible has a coherence to it as the Word of God and needs also to be taken as a whole. That’s why it’s so important to move away from proof texting on whatever issue is before us to a more nuanced and comprehensive theology of an issue. If we are to come at the particular texts that deal with homosexuality, then we need to do so in the context of a broader theology of sexuality. It’s only then can we make progress as those who esteem the bible as a source of truth for our lives.

      Reply

  25. Thank you Simon for being a loving voice for affirming Christians to be guided by. Your e-pastoral guidance is greatly appreciated. I have been reading through the comments and noting your respectful responses. I hope that I also can be as respectful when I exchange viewpoints with those Christians who support a “No” vote. It is so important at this time to be clear where you stand on this issue when the no” camp can be so loud. I have heard from people who have said that they have felt so isolated until they have read articles like yours. That’s why I choose to share your blog on Facebook, because it is an encouragement towards the Gospel of Grace and Love that we all believe.

    Reply

  26. It is no surprise to see that your misguided and un-scriptural views on same sex marriage have not changed over the years. What does surprise is that you so boldly proclaim your heretical views as one representing the leadership of the Baptist church in this country. That makes the vast majority of other Baptists in this country cringe, and causes them to be ashamed of their faith. THAT is something which you should reflect upon. You fail and betray your flock, shepherd. Your blog is self-serving and self-gratifying and attempts to speak for other Christians on this issue. You have stated that “Of course, this is not the view of all Christians. Indeed, the majority of those within my own tradition disagree with me. Their perspective is that homosexuality is a dysfunction of identity—a failing of personhood that needs to be confessed and overcome. It follows, then, that allowing same-sex couples to marry will only legitimise a dysfunction God never intended. My experience says otherwise.” Your claim to be able to identify “their perspective” is clearly of your own invention. It does not represent MY perspective as a practicing Christian and Baptist and I feel quite sure that it does not represent other Christians and “their perspective.” You have no right to determine what is the perspective of other Christians. I leave this comment with confidence that you will not allow it to be published. Sadly, such is the attitude of many proponents of the YES vote.

    Reply

    1. These are very strong words, Ian. I’m not sure there is anything I can say that will be helpful to you in this. I can only assure you that I have never claimed to represent ‘the leadership of the Baptist church in this country.’ I am the pastor of just one of the 250+ Baptist churches in Victoria and I do not and cannot speak for that wider community. That would be counter to our Baptist understanding of the church. Yes, I am sure there are many Baptists who disagree strongly with my perspective. I hear from many of them. Perhaps I do make them cringe sometimes, but I’m not sure I make them ashamed of their faith. That would give me credit for representation and influence I simply don’t have. We Baptists hold a diversity of views on a wide range of issues and enfold many perspectives on aspects of biblical truth. It’s been a wonderful strength of our tradition these past 400 years. I can only hope it continues. Peace to you.

      Reply

    2. Thoroughly agree with you Ian.This man should not be a Baptist minister and in fact should not be a minister in any denomination. Feel totally ashamed and shocked at how he manipulates sections of the Bible to justify his own warped ideas.

      Reply

      1. It would be good, Sandra, for you to see our ministry at Collins Street. Perhaps, on sitting with the people I sit with and understanding their stories, you might at least moderate your words about me and my ‘ideas.’ Even if they are a little warped! Peace to you.

  27. Paul told us to speak the truth in love. The truth is very clear that homosexuality is condemned in the Bible in both the Old and the New Testament as a sin and as clearly against the plan and purpose of God. That is truth! You know the truth! On the cross, Jesus love did not wipe out truth. Jesus death on the cross confirmed that sin will be judged. The Holy Spirit was not sent to wipe out truth. He came to convict of sin, righteousness and judgment. If ministers of the Gospel do not stand up for truth and righteousness, holiness and sanctification, who will? I tremble and weep as I read what you have written…

    Reply

    1. Annette, clearly you feel very passionately about this, and very certain about the nature of truth. I only wish we could ‘tremble and weep’ for the damage we have done in upholding this ‘truth’ in the face of the pain, rejection and judgement that so many have encountered along the way. I am so glad to be held by a truth much larger and more encompassing, more grace-filled and healing than anything the law of judgement and punishment can provide. Peace to you.

      Reply

    1. Hi Claudius,

      I’m afraid I’ve had to delete the rest of your comment. As you know, it goes south from there with long and rather graphic descriptions of my vile destiny along with those of ‘gay flesh’ etc. I am absolutely mystified by this approach to conversation, Claudius. Is this really your understanding of the good news of Jesus? I am so sorry.

      Reply

  28. Hi Simon, having been deeply troubled by how to vote and after reading all of the responses – only one makes any spiritual sense and portrays the love of Christ/God and his ultimate sacrifice and that is ““As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Gal 3.28. I doubt that God cares about the physical act but more that he cares about the commitment to each other between two of His creations. Personally I don’t believe in modern man-made marriage but have been married for 27 years, would happily have lived in so-called sin and been just as committed in the sight of God – not man. Thank you so much for this blog! – Jennifer

    Reply

    1. And may you find peace in your decision, Jennifer. We each have a responsibility, prayerfully and sensitively, to discern our way through this. Clearly you have approached the issue with great care and compassion. Thank you.

      Reply

  29. Simon, as a fellow Baptist from Qld who is also gay I am so encouraged by this article. Ive done a lot of reading to reconcile my faith & sexuality and coming from a conservative background it is the articles from those of similar backgrounds that I appreciate the most. I also admire your gracious response to those who disagree with you. My own church which ive attended my whole life holds to the “No” side and the pastor has made his views very clear through a series of sermons on Marriage.

    Reply

  30. Hi Simon, i did a rough survey of the comments and seems like the Yes is around 65% compared to 35% of those against. But I would have to say that when it came to character assassination and vitriol the reverse seemed to apply. I just wish the same passion existed by Christians against the way we treat modern slavery, asylum seekers, the rape of God’s creation, Domestic Violence, etc,etc.

    I do have a question; in the 2016 Census, 52.1% of Australians were listed as Christian (the way the stats are trending on this one the next census will put us in the minority), plus our constitution does not allow us to have a state religion, so do we have a right to subject those with no faith to comply with what we may see as God’s Law?

    As someone who has been blessed with over forty years of marriage I would like everyone to be able to enjoy a similar relationship regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Peace be with you and thanks for your example of grace.

    Reply

  31. Thank you Simon! Wonderful clarity on such a sensitive and complex issue! It is good to know that people like yourself are around and making some waves….. Bless you!!

    Reply

  32. Simon, I have gay friends. I don’t socialize with them and have lost contact with all of them. I respect your views but I believe you are wrong and I am mature enough to agree to disagree. But bear in mind God made man for woman and vice versa; for the Bible makes no bones about this. It’s not Adam & Andy. I agree there is on average about 1.5% of God’s creation that have some homosexual tendencies. However I do believe homosexual behavior is a choice. If you pursue it from any age, particularly a young age you will become a slave to it. No different to I was once a slave to pornography. Since coming to Christ and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I have defeated my slave addiction to it. It’s no different to “you don’t have to teach a child to lie” or love pornography. We are fallen, and anything we pursue (be it taboo such as pedophilia, homosexuality, promiscuity, bigamy, polygamy and other forms of sexual immorality) we become a slave to; Paul states it clearly in his epistles. Now, my only sex life and “lusting” is within the “Sanctity of Marriage.” Whilst I do agree there is an extremely small percentage of humans born with a dysfunction – it is clearly less than 1.5% (the world average homosexual demographic.) I strongly and with love and respect, disagree with your rationale and believe it goes against God’s Word and the spirit of our Righteous God.

    Reply

    1. Thanks for sharing your view, Chris. My only suggestion would be that you reestablish contact with you gay friends, listen to their stories, and understand their experience. You may find your theories about ‘choice’ and ‘dysfunction’ are challenged. Perhaps you’ll not change you mind on all of this, but at least you’ll understand it’s not quite as cut and dried as you imagine it to be.

      Reply

      1. I hear you Simon. However, that’s called empathy, not so much “obedience to Christ”. For Christ said “if you love me, you will obey My Commandments.” Particularly if we are “born again” in Christ….

        I love having sex and would love to have sex with women other than only my wife but under the God’s law, we can only have sex with our wives under the sanctity of marriage. Anything outside of “marriage” is sexual immorality. Jesus raised the bar; even if you think of it.

        I don’t hate gays or LGBTI. I see them no different to thieves, idolators, prostitutes, liars and the like. I love them as my neighbour but it doesn’t mean I endorse their practices…

        I guess we can just agree to disagree…

        Thanks Simon…
        Blessings…

      2. That’s a very honest response, Chris. Your admission that you love sex is a very human one, common to anyone who might read this. Where this very clear conviction that sex is only for marriage — that is, only for committed, covenant relationship — is that such a bond is, in your view, eternally withheld from gay and lesbian people. So while you can find a context to express your longing, so many other people will never do so.

        I have no doubt that you are not one that hates those who are gay or lesbian, Chris. But then to lump these men and women in with a bucket load of other ‘deviations’ in such a simple equation of guilt and judgement seems to me to fail the very neighbors you want to love.

      3. Still awaiting your reply. Thanks for your very kind response. Simon, I am not lumping these men and women in with a bucket load of perverse‘deviations’. Free will is very powerful and as Jesus said “you’re either for Me or against Me.” The Word of God is lumping them into perversion – not I. It is clear and very very frank regarding the subject matter. Leviticus (18:22 and 20:13) is crystal clear. In Romans 1:26-27 Paul pulls no punches. There are many other places that makes this “clear line & boundary” that the practice of homosexuality & sodomy “is absolutely sexual immorality.” Particularly where it says “thieves, liars, homosexuals shall not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Sex within the sanctity of marriage is sanctified & blessed by God, anything other than is clearly not. I believe your empathy is pandering to what Scripture states unequivocally as perverse. As you say, my honesty is no different to any red blooded male and we all would like to “sow our oats”. Whilst we “all” would like multiple partners, push boundaries our Just & Righteous God “makes no bones about classifying homosexuality into perverse and sexual immorality.” Not I nor millions of other upstanding secular Citizens or Christians. Our Lord’s Command is Righteous and I am obedient because I love Him with all my Strength, Heart and Soul. In fact I fear Him….

        Yes, Jesus did eat and drink with sinners, and homosexuals are sinners no different, our Lord and Saviour always did so in order that they may “repent”. He came so that they that they may repent. And in most cases they did. One thing Jesus always said when he gave them the benefit of turning from their sinful ways – “sin no more”. And that is the context that you, I or other born again Christians’ love them, no different to Jesus…. Homosexuals are no different to prostitutes, adulterers and other sinners. Even us born again Christians are still Sinners’; for Paul said no one is perfect, not one but we must all be obedient to Christ and repent constantly. That means we go out of our way to obey His Commandments. I am free from all my past habits, not unlike all repented Christians.

        Simon, you know what is the sad and worse thing about the Orlando massacre? It is that the homosexuals killed there “died in their sins”…. They have no more chance to repent.
        We can and do love homosexuals but we should NOT endorse what they practice. Theirs is a lifestyle choice; even “they can” and “many have” already repented and come to Christ, completely “free of their past transgressions” no different to I and millions of other Christians. The Holy Spirit (our Comforter) helps us to convict and keeps us from transgressing in our past sins! I can honestly say that. I am free from my past vices. May I kindly suggest you re-read Scriptures because I don’t see any Scriptures you quote Simon…

        That’s where I have a problem with your views and furthermore sanctifying them with a “Yes” vote to the very endorsement against God’s Holy Law of “for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”. To me YES in the vote is profaning God’s institution of Marriage. I don’t judge you and no one can. Notwithstanding we’re all answerable to our God ultimately. I am simply trying to understand your priority, empathy & “vote for a Yes” (going against our Lord’s Word) with these unrepentant sinners. In my views God’s Word is far more important than empathizing with them and going against His Laws…..
        Blessings…
        Chris

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