Thursday, 18 August 2011

Just whom does the Australian Christian Lobby represent?

If a recent opinion poll is anything to go by, a majority of Australian Christians believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

A Galaxy Research poll, released 16 August, found that 53% of Australians who identify as Christians support same-sex marriage, while 41% oppose.  67% of non-Christians support it.

A spokesperson for Australian Marriage Equality, Malcolm McPherson, himself a Christian, says the poll shows church leaders and Christian lobbyists who oppose same-sex marriage are not representative. 

The website Same Same reports on number of mainstream Christian ministers who have spoken out in favour of the reform.  See their full report at

“Christian groups that oppose marriage equality like the Australian Christian Lobby are entitled to their view, but they do not represent the majority of Australian Christians”, McPherson said.  “Clearly, most Australian Christians believe same-sex marriage is consistent with Christian values like justice, love, compassion and fidelity, not opposed to these values.”

SameSame reports that Christian leaders who have given their support to the campaign come from Uniting, Anglican and Baptist churches across Australia, and include Sydney minister and 2GB radio host Rev Bill Crews, who emphasised the distinction between religious and civil marriages in their report:

“In a secular and non discriminatory society gay couples should be as free to marry as any other human couple. If people wish to be married within a religious or spiritual institution’s framework then they should accept the rites and rules of that institution. However it is the state that legitimises all marriages.”

SameSame also quotes Melbourne Baptist Pastor Matt Glover, who says allowing same-sex marriages will benefit marriage as an institution:

“As a Christian minister, I believe that marriage is under threat from many angles, but also believe that recognizing same-sex unions will help return marriage to its rightful place in society.”

Another Baptist Minister, Rev. Nathan Nettleton of South Yarra, has contributed a substantial chapter to Speak Now titled: "Supporting Same-Sex Marriage as a heterosexual, Bible-believing Baptist Pastor.

After his recent appearance on ABC TV's program Compass, Rev. Nettleton was asked to state that although he is an ordained Baptist pastor, the opinions expressed were his personal views and were not seeking to represent the official position of any union of Baptist churches, or the majority opinion of Baptist people.

The group of Christian clergy known as Christians 4 Equality have now joine the Unitarians, Quakers, and the Metroplitan Community Church in publicly supporting same-sex marriage in Australia.

The Rabbinic Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australasia put their support for same-sex marriage on the record back in June.

However, the Australian Christian Lobby, which organised the rally in Canberra,  has dismissed the poll results as absurd.

"Certainly my work with Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox churches leaves me in no doubt that the great majority of their adherents don't support same-sex marriage," said Mr Wallace, the Lobby's Managing Director.

"I think a simple additional question on the poll that determined if the person actually attended a church might have made the result more informative," he said.

The Australian Greens responded to the poll results saying it gives a real reflection of the views of the Christian community.

"This poll confirms what we have known for some time - most Christians, like other everyday Australians, have no objection to marriage equality and believe that same-sex couples should have the same rights as heterosexual couples," the Greens' spokesperson for sexual orientation and gender identity, Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, said.

"All too often, we hear from a narrow section of the community, who beat the drum loudly against equality for same-sex couples and in doing so claim to represent the views of all Australian Christians.

"Over several years, I have been contacted by many Christians in strong support of marriage equality - mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who believe in treating all people with dignity and respect. Indeed many Christian leaders have been pushing this reform for some time." 

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