Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Churches divided on same-sex marriage

While the Rev. Alistair McRae, who is President of the National Assembly of the Uniting Church of Australia equivocated on the issue of same-sex marriage on ABC RN yesterday,  Rev. Harry Herbert penned a strong op-ed article strongly supporting the cause, published in today's National Times. (Herbert is Exec. Director of Uniting Care NSW/ACT.) 

Alistair McRae was interviewed on RN's vigorous new Religion and Ethics program, presented by Adam West, and the full report can be accessed at the website:

Harry Herbert's opinion piece can be accessed here:

SPEAK NOW carries other strong articles in favour of same-sex marriage by a Baptist pastor in Melbourne, Rev. Nathan Nettleton, and retired Uniting Church luminary, Rev. Dorothy McRae McMahon. Nettleton, who had previously testified before a Senate inquiry into changing the marriage laws, was thereafter required by church higher-ups to offer the disclaimer that his vews did not represent the Baptist church.

Last December,  Matt Glover, the Lilydale (Victoria) Baptist pastor who had expressed support for gay marriage, was sacked at a secret church meeting to which he was not invited. The Lilydale church office confirmed to The Age newspaper that Mr Glover was no longer senior pastor, but said the congregation had been instructed to remain silent.

RN's Adam West also interviewed New Zealander Rev. Dr. David Clarke, a Presbyterian minister newly elected to Parliament across the Tasman, about his 'left-wing' Christianity and his officiating at a ceremony honouring a same-sex union for NZ Labor's Deputy Leader, Grant Robertson.

We might well ask: if all of these folk claim to be interpeting the will of God, which side is this 'God' on, and whose version of deity rules public discourse? Will there soon be as many deities in the so-called Christian West as there were in ancient India? The whole matter of seeking to know the will of God is fraught with difficulty; to want to impose that version on the rest of the population is, too.

Franciscan friar Richard Rohr once said in another radio interview for RN: 'When religion doesn't move to what I call the mystical level, almost always the substitution for mysticism is morality.' (Religion Report, ABC RN, 15 Nov., 2006). Rohr used the term 'mysticism' simply to mean moving 'beyond external belief systems to inner experience'. Whether relying on the contradictory record of ancient texts as their yardstick, or listening to their so-called consciences, why is it that sincere men and women, using whatever means of communication with their deities, come up with such different rulings?

Neither of the bills to be debated in Canberra in the coming months requires ministers of religion to conduct same-sex marriages in their churches were the Marriage Act to be amended. Trying to impose wildly differing worldviews on the rest of us is eerily reminiscent of the diktats of fundamentalists in conservative religious societies where women are veiled and homosexuals executed.  This is not appropriate for a secular, multicultural society, such as Australia, where religious beliefs and practices are respected but remain, by law, a matter of choice.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Two politicians SPEAK NOW in the House

As Washington State's Governor signed same-sex marriage into law in the U.S., not one but TWO separate Bills were introduced in federal parliament in Canberra on Monday.

The first of these was from the Australian Greens member of the lower house, Adam Bandt, with the support of independent member Andrew Wilkie. 

Labor's Stephen Jones introduced a similar private member's Bill. What this double-barrelled approach will achieve is not clear at this stage.

Aware of opposition from church groups, the Jones version states that ministers of religion would be under no obligation "to solemnise a marriage where the parties to that marriage are of the same sex''.

"This provision will ensure that the principles of religion and religious freedom is maintained when it comes to the laws of marriage in Australia,'' Mr Jones said.

Wilkie also moved a motion asking politicians to make sure that any amendments to the Marriage Act would not force churches to marry same-sex couples, so both Bills contain these protections for the faithful. 

Debate was adjourned after the tabling of the bills and it could be months before they are debated in Parliament.

A week ago, the Greens announced they will move for a Senate inquiry into marriage equality, to investigate Senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s 2010 Bill. Gay News Network reports that marriage equality advocates have welcomed the move as a means to help build up support on the issue before a private member’s bill on marriage equality is voted on by MPs later in the year.

Speaking to reporters in Canberra, Hanson-Young said that there was a good chance that Australians would be celebrating marriage equality by the end of 2012.

“We know that there are some people who still don’t understand or don’t agree with the idea of removing this type of discrimination,” Hanson-Young said. “I am absolutely optimistic that we have a very good chance by the end of this year to be able to look back and say, ‘We did it’.”

National spokesperson for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Shelley Argent, said the inquiry would provide an opportunity for the “many thousands” of parents of gay sons and daughters to have their voices  heard. Argent urges people interested in supporting the Senate hearing to make submissions by April 2nd.

Those people wishing to take the simplest option may forward their letters and statements of support through PFLAG.
Submissions can be quite simple, stating why equality is so important to you, and you need to include name and address.

“We can give our children everything they need in life, but only the Government can give them equality,” Argent said.

Meanwhile, on Valentine's Day, comedian Magda Szubanski has come out passionately in support of the cause, outing herself in the process.