Has God Changed Marriage? Pre 2018-Assembly Reflection.
The first Question was, --“Should same-sex marriage be legalised?
Fact check; A guide to the official position of most main Australian Churches
»This chart first published by ‘Eternity Newspaper’ in August 2017 is a guide of official positions of main Australian Churches adopted towards the Commonwealth Government re-defining the meaning of marriage. »
Note: it does not aim to explain how each church understands Christian marriage.
»This Chart outlines that most churches stand in agreement that the public-good is best served by recognising marriage as a male-female gender relationship.
» The Basis of Union, Para11, requires us to listen carefully to other churches when it says, “ We acknowledge that the Uniting Church lives within a worldwide fellowship of churches in which she will learn to sharpen her understanding of the will and purpose of God”.
»Although in 2012 the Uniting Church confirmed that it understood marriage as a two-gender relationship, in the chart above it publicly appears to re-position itself as neutral, offering ‘no advice.’
»It is pointed out that although the Uniting Church Basis of Union declares that “We live and work---within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” The Uniting Church response places this important relationship with other churches and congregations under considerable stress.
»In a diverse world, some now think of the Uniting Church as a pioneer and courageous national leader that is ready to lead other slow faltering Australian churches. They believe the best way to offer compassion and justice to LBGTI people is to provide both traditional and same-sex marriage or blessing services. While compassion and justice for marginalised people in our society is important, it fails to seriously consider alternative ways of expressing genuine acceptance. In an attempt to be compassionate and culturally relevant, the Uniting Church has affirming LBGTIQ people to be full members of the Uniting Church. Sadly, this fails to distinguish between acceptance of people and responsible practice. It seems to by-pass guidance by the Spirit through the Scriptures, the wisdom of the church through the ages and the considered positions of other churches. After years of discussion and prayer it appears the Uniting Church is positioning itself to go its own way and to step beyond the importance of listening and relating to other Christian churches.
»The question remains:
Will the Uniting church now be so influenced by pubic opinion; the result of the 2017 plebiscite and its pastoral concern to conclude that Christian marriage is an ancient anthropology that is socially determined and can be changed?
Will the Uniting Church, with compassion, discern the Holy Spirit’s voice within the church universal and the scriptures to recognise marriage as an enduring institution of creation given by God. Will it uphold the spiritual and social significance of marriage and the historic faith once entrusted to the Saints?
The Holy Catholic (Universal) Church Speaks
The Uniting Church
The Marriage Declaration of Purpose, Order of Service, UC Assembly 2005, reads,
“In the life-long union of marriage we can know the joy of God, in whose image we are made, male and female---Husband and wife, in giving themselves to each other in love, reflect the love of Christ for his Church”.
The 13th National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia 2012 resolved to acknowledge the current position on marriage set out in the Assembly Minute 97.31.12. In part, that minute refers to these words. “It is intended to be the mutually faithful lifelong union of a woman and man expressed in every part of life together.” The church also affirmed LGBTIQ people as full members of the Uniting Church and continued to discuss same gender relationships in “culturally appropriate ways”.
As proposed by Uniting Network.
The stated aim of this network of people within the Uniting Church is to provide a pastoral liturgy / service to people in committed, same sex relationships (Sacred Union Ceremony) and to encourage a reconsideration of the current policy in the Uniting Church on the doctrine of marriage.
The Assembly of Confessing Congregations within the Uniting Church provides a reasoned critique of this proposal that in part says, “They, (the Network) regard the idea that ‘heterosexual marriage’ as ordained by God—but as a culturally conditioned arrangement that needs ‘to evolve as other patterns for human relating emerge’ The implication is plain. The acceptance of same-sex marriage entails the radical revision of marriage that, henceforth, must be understood as a relationship between two individuals, regardless of gender.”
“The basic problem with the proposed Sacred Union Ceremony is its Gnostic or spiritualised understanding of what it means to be a person. The Network’s view says,
our essential humanity is defined, not by our sexual differentiation as male and female, but by our individual ideas, beliefs and feelings. The ACC says, therefore, the ‘sacred union’ of same-sex partners is not, as claimed, a legitimate development of the biblical concept of marriage but a denial of its clear, unambiguous testimony that life-long union in marriage is determined by the complementarity of male and female. (Gen.1:27; 2:24) The Sacred Union Ceremony presupposes that sexual differentiation is a secondary characteristic of conjugal love, the primary characteristic being individual attraction and commitment.
It is clear that this is a failure to recognise God’s fundamental creation of male and female, with marriage being the personal and physical union of a man and woman. If individuality, consent and sexual fulfillment are sufficient grounds on which to approve relationships between same-sex marriages then it is logical for the Uniting Church to also prepare pastoral liturgies for people in polyamorous, polygamist and adult incestuous relationships etc.” (Doctrine and Theology Commission ACC within the UCA. Sep. 2011.)"
Listening to the Spirit embodied in the Church
Pastoral Letter: Assembly of Confessing Congregations in the Uniting Church. (Pastoral letter regarding the changes to the marriage laws. National Chair Rev Dr Hedley Fihaki. 2017)
“We wish to reassure all our members and the wider church as a whole, that all ministers within the ACC remain committed to the Basis of Union and will therefore not officiate at any same-sex weddings nor take part in the blessing of same-sex unions. We reject any suggestion this action is unloving or unjust.” See (https://assembly.uca.org.au/doctrine)
“The ACC strongly encourages the July 2018 National Assembly to maintain the UCA’s position on marriage and warns that should the National Assembly redefine marriage or craft liturgies to bless same-sex unions, then the church “would stand no longer on biblical ground, but against the unequivocal witness of Scripture. A church that took this step would cease to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.”
Church of England Evangelical Council, Gospel, Church and Marriage.
“We recognise that some fellow Christians no longer accept the Church’s teaching on marriage, singleness and sex but, because it is an integral part of our calling to be holy, we cannot treat this teaching as an ‘optional extra.’ We believe this teaching is both apostolic and essential to the gospel’s transforming purpose and thus must be compassionately and clearly proclaimed and explained in and by the church.”
No to Gay Ministers. ‘Eternity,’ May 2012.
A strong line against gay ministers has been confirmed as official Australian Anglican Church policy. A “protocol” passed by the Anglican Bishops reaffirms policies passed by earlier Anglican meetings. “The undertaking in this protocol specifically relates to standards of behavior required of persons being considered for ministry,” a spokesperson for Phillip Aspinall, the Primate (Head Bishop) told Eternity. “In effect it is an understanding not to ordain, license, authorise or appoint persons whom the bishop knows to be in a sexual relationship outside of marriage”
Do Other Churches share the Catholic understanding of Marriage?
“Most Christian Churches in Australia (indeed around the world) broadly share the Catholic understanding that marriage relates only to the union of a man and a woman. This is despite the differences among the Christian denominations on the theological and sacramental understanding on marriage. On 24 August 2011, 50 National and State leaders of the Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, Lutheran, Orthodox, Presbyterian, Pentecostal Churches, Salvation Army and Seventh Day Adventist Church signed a comprehensive statement “Revising marriage.”
The Lutheran Church of Australia, Bishop Pastor John Henderson. May 2015.
“For Lutherans marriage is not a sacrament belonging to our salvation, but an order for the welfare of human society. If the rules of society stand in clear contradiction of the Word of God, the church is not bound by them.-- God instituted marriage as the union between a man and a women. While same sex union may be based on romantic attraction, mutual affection and promises of long term commitment, it is not an estate given with creation and embedded in the fabric of society from time immemorial.--Theologically speaking, therefore, a same-sex union is not only contrary to God’s design, but it does not have the fundamental features that give marriage its unique quality.
Archbishop Stylianos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of Australia.
“Our Orthodox view is contrary, not because we have hostile feelings towards our fellow citizens who think or decide differently, but because the proposed alteration to the traditional form of marriage (between a man and woman) is diametrically against the sacredness of marriage and of the family, as taught by the Christian faith and Greek Orthodox tradition.”
Australian Church Leaders. August 2011.
“Nineteen Australian Church leaders, on the eve of the ALP Federal Conference vote on marriage issued a joint statement on the meaning of marriage and urged the Federal Government to protect the existing definition of marriage in Australian law and to not change the meaning of marriage by adding to it different kinds of relationships.”
Catholic Church: Reported in the Catholic Weekly
“Marriage has been protected and supported by the law because governments have recognised its contribution to the good of society.--The family based on strong, happy marriages plays a unique role in generating children and providing the best environment in which children can be nurtured and educated. It helps to ensure the future and wellbeing of society.”
Australia for Christ Church February 2018. Dr Luis Cabral.
"Our position as a church is clear in that we stand by the Word of God and we believe this needs to be respected. The Bible clearly states that marriage between a man and a woman, and as a matter of our faith and teaching this is what we believe. At our church, we love and respect all people regardless of their views or sexuality. However, we will continue in the teachings of God, knowing that He has given us free will and choice to follow Him.”
Helpful Christian statements about God’s Design and Marriage.
‘First things’, Anglican Bishop, N.T. Wright on Gay Marriage. January 2016
Nature and narrative point to complementarily by Matthew Schmitz, 6.11.14
“When anybody—pressure groups, governments, civilisations—suddenly change the meaning of key words, you really should watch out ---The word ‘marriage’ for thousands of years and cross-culturally has meant man and woman. -- I find that sort of stuff chilling, the attempt to change an ideology within a culture by changing the language.” (It is more than a cultural metaphor)
“With Christian or Jewish presuppositions, or indeed Muslim, then if you believe in what it says in Genesis 1 about God making heaven and earth-- the binaries in Genesis are so important - heaven and earth, and sea and dry land, and so on and so on, and you end up with male and female. It’s all about God making complementary pairs which are meant to work together. The last scene in the Bible is the new heaven and the new earth, and the symbol for that is the marriage of Christ and his church. It’s not just one or two verses here and there which say this or that. It’s an entire narrative which works with this complementarity so that a male-plus-female marriage is a signpost or a signal about the goodness of the original creation and God’s intention for the eventual new heavens and new earth.-- If you are saying marriage now means something which would allow other such configurations, what you are saying is actually that when we marry a man and a woman we’re not actually doing that stuff!!! This is just a convenient social arrangement and sexual arrangement and there it is…get on with it.
If that’s what you thought marriage meant, then clearly we (the church) haven’t done a very good job in society as a whole and in the church in particular in teaching about just what a wonderful mystery marriage is supposed to be.---Sorry, you can vote that (marriage as a social/cultural construction) if you like, you can pass it by a total majority, but it isn’t actually going to change the reality.”
Is God Anti-Gay ? Sam Allberry, the goodbook Company 2015.
“In his own teaching Jesus reinforces the sexual ethics of Genesis 1-2. He characterises all sexual activity outside marriage as evil. “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” Mark 7:20-23.
The term we translate as “sexual immorality” is the Greek word ‘porneia,’ an umbrella term for all sexual activity outside marriage. Such behavior Jesus describes as evil and defiling. Elsewhere, Jesus reinforces the permanence and exclusivity of marriage.” p19.
Human Marriage is meant to reflect something of God’s nature.-“The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Duet.6:4) The particular Hebrew word for “one” is (ehad) is not primarily a mathematical observation—that there is one of him, as opposed to two or five. It is an assertion about God’s nature. He is one. There is a unity to Him. We see in the Bible that this God is Trinity- he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.-Three persons. But all that this triune God is, does and says is perfectly integrated. One.
This same word is used in Genesis 2:24 to describe the union of the man and woman in marriage. They become one (ehad) flesh. Marriage is a wonderful God-given way for humanity to reflect the unity and diversity that is seen in the Trinity. God’s oneness is not sameness, as though the three persons of the Trinity were identical to one another. It is unity in difference, not uniformity. And the same is true of the union of a man and women. There is this same kind of oneness that comes when male and female are united in this way. The same is not true of gay sex. Two men or two women cannot become one flesh. They cannot become one (ehad) in the way that God is one and in the way that a man and a woman are one. This is not to say that commitment and faithfulness cannot be present in a gay relationship p21.
Human marriage is meant to reflect the grace God shows to his People in Christ
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery---but I am talking about Christ and the church. Eph. 5:31-32. Paul is saying that marriage is about the relationship Jesus has with the church. It, too, is a union between two different yet complementary entities. The church is not the same as Christ and Christ is not the same as the church (a wonderful truth given the imperfections of the church). And it is because Christ is different to his people that he is able to draw them to himself, pledge himself to them, and have them be united to him. Human marriage is a reflection of this supreme, heavenly marriage between Christ and his people. It is one of the reasons why Christians are resistant to allowing marriage to be defined in such a way as to include gay couples. A man and a man, or a woman and a woman, cannot reflect the union of Christ and the church; instead these only reflect Christ and Christ, or church and church. p22.
The Bible’s teaching on sex and marriage is the foundation for how Christians are to think about the whole issue of sexuality today. The teaching of Genesis, reinforced and expanded by Jesus in his own ministry is that sex is a good gift that God has given exclusively for marriage, and that in order for marriage to fulfill the purposes for which God instituted it, marriage must be between one man and one woman.
The true purpose of Marriage. John Piper, Billy Graham Evangelistic Ass.
“Marriage is God’s doing. Genesis 2:24 is God’s word of institution for marriage. But just as it was God who took the woman from the flesh of man (Gen.2:21) it is God who in each marriage ordains and performs a uniting called one flesh. Man does not create this. God does. And it is man’s power to destroy. This is implicit here in Genesis 2:24, but Jesus makes it explicit in Mark 10:8-9. He quotes Genesis 2:24, then adds a comment that explodes like thunder with the glory of marriage. “The two shall become one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.”
When a couple speak their vow’s, it is not a man and women or pastor or parent who is the main actor—the main doer. God is. God joins a husband and a wife into a one-flesh union. The world does not know this. This is one of the reasons why marriage is treated casually. And Christians often act like they don’t know it, which is one of the reasons marriage in the church is not seen as the wonder it is -- marriage is designed by God to display His glory in a way that no other event or institution does.”
Compiled: Rev EA (Ted) Curnow.