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:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/religionandethicsreport/same-sex-marriage-and-the-challenge-to-the-churches/3832116

Harry Herbert's opinion piece can be accessed here:
http://www.nationaltimes.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/church-misses-big-picture-on-samesex-marriage-20120213-1t1jr.html

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.

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