Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, has made a public intervention in the national debate over “Gay Marriage”. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he sets out his opposition:
We are in the midst of a sustained and brilliantly orchestrated campaign to radically alter the marriage laws of this country to allow same-sex marriage.
Three slogans carry the message: ”marriage equality”, ”marriage won’t change”, ”it’s inevitable”. Of course, the difficulty with slogans is that they are not arguments and, so, are hard to refute, except by slogans in return.
He then proceeds to deal with each of those three messages in turn. Here’s some of what he has to say,
In fact, all of us oppose ”marriage equality” if that means it is the right of every person to marry anyone they choose.
We may not marry a minor, for example, even if we want to and if the minor and his/her parents agree. There is a relevant difference. Nor may we marry a person already married. Bigamy is a crime, even if all parties agree to it. Likewise, siblings may not marry, even if they are past the age of having children.
If ”marriage equality” was meaningful, it should encompass all these possibilities. It does not.
In general terms, the ”right” to marry already exists. Any adult can marry provided that a proper person (not a sibling, minor, or member of the same sex) is also willing, for that is what marriage is. What we rightly lack is the right to marry anyone we choose without discrimination.
It’s not as though when marriage was defined we simply overlooked the possibility of two people of the same sex being married. We are not fixing an accidental omission. We would be changing a very deliberate, relevant exclusion.
Another slogan says extending marriage to include two men or two women would change nothing essential. Your own marriage would not change. There would be no bad consequences.
But it’s not true.
My marriage would be different. It’s no good asserting otherwise. When a society redefines one of its basic institutions, it affects everyone. I would have to find a different word for my marriage, or add the rider ”heterosexual” to the word ”marriage”.
Is it all inevitable?
The stylish and confident propaganda has become pervasive. Federal politics is in danger of being distorted. Those who are doubtful or opposed have been tempted to remain silent rather than be accused of promoting hate. But it is interesting that in 30 US states where the matter has been put to a direct vote (as against imposed legislative or judicial change), the majority voted against ”gay marriage”. There is also evidence of electoral fatigue in Britain and Australia.
Same-sex marriage is not inevitable. It is not even possible. It would be better for us all if the law reflected the truth human beings have always known. Social engineering cannot change realities as basic as these. But the consequences of an attempt may still be painful.
The letters page over the next few days should be interesting.
As well as this public stance, Jensen has also written to the parishes.
16 June 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is likely that sometime in the near future our parliamentary representatives will be asked to vote on a proposal to change the legal definition of marriage in order to allow for same-sex unions to be dignified by this name. I am writing to you to urge you to oppose this move as out of keeping both with the word of God and also of the best interests of our community.
This issue is not only serious in its ramifications but emotive and for some of us deeply personal. God’s love for all teaches us that we must not be glib or unfeeling as we discuss, pray and act according to our convictions. Nevertheless, Christians are led by the word of God itself to bear witness to our strong commitment to marriage understood as the public joining of two persons of the opposite sex from different birth families through promises of enduring, sustaining and exclusive love, consummated in sexual union.
The Lord Jesus quoted and affirmed the teaching Genesis 2, asking, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”’ (Matt 19:4,5). The Apostle Paul points to the deeper significance of this in saying that the union of a male and a female models the union between Christ and his Church, in which the Church is the bride of Christ.
Not all can be or should be married. We remember that the Lord Jesus himself was unmarried and we rejoice at the faithful witness of so many of our brothers and sisters who live lives of obedience and self-control to the glory of God. The love of God extends to all. But the Bible teaches, and our general experience shows, that marriage between a man and a woman is one of God’s blessings upon us as a race. Through it God allows for the pure expression of our sexual natures, for the faithful companionship of one we love and the opportunity for the nurture of children. Wherever possible, it is through marriage that identity of children is established and the life-long duty to honour one’s parents is made most easily possible.
It is a contemporary tragedy that marriage is so little understood or honoured and that so many people are denying themselves or others the experience of a public commitment and life-long union. Sexual promiscuity far from enhancing human life has cheapened it. Co-habitation is not an equally beneficial variant. Part of the difficulties experienced in so many marriages can be attributed to the general confusion which surrounds it. As never before, marriage needs to be understood and honoured so that it can achieve the human good for which God has designed it. The education of children must not be distorted by the state-imposed idea that a family can be founded on the sexual union of two men or two women as a valid alternative to that of a man and a woman.
The present demand for a change in the law to allow persons of the same sex to be declared married, only adds to the confusion by taking a God-given social institution for the creation and nurture of families and extending it to those who by God’s design and by nature cannot be married to each other. This is not a matter of ‘marriage equality’ nor of human rights, since the right to be married extends equally, but only to those who are qualified. For example, people already married are disqualified from marrying another, and siblings are rightly disqualified from marrying each other. Indeed, it is beyond the power of parliament to change the definition of marriage, although its laws should recognise the true definition and support it.
The parliamentary success of this revolutionary re-definition is not inevitable. It will help however if in the near future Christians who wish to stand for marriage, as instituted by God, would thoughtfully and courteously let their views be known to their Federal parliamentary representatives. We should speak up for the sake of love. However hard it may be and whatever pressure we may face, we do not love our fellow Australians if, knowing God’s grace and his written will, we do not speak up and point them to God’s plan for the flourishing of human relationships. I urge you to pray about this matter and write speedily to members of parliament expressing your support for marriage as at present defined and your concern that more be done to support and strengthen marriage and family life, as properly understood, in our nation.
Dr Peter F Jensen
Archbishop of Sydney
A couple of observations. There’s a fair degree of overlap between the two pieces and some obvious duplication of argument. The letter, however, contains a simple Biblical argument too which is notably missing in the op-ed. Some might argue this is a sensible understanding of audiences – the secular public don’t really care about “religious arguments” (although I think I can pretty well guarantee that those who write in against what Jensen had to say in the smh will complain about “religious interference” whilst ignoring the fact that there was not a single “religious” argument made). Others might have wanted just a little of Jesus in the mix. It’s not as though Jensen is unafraid of naming Jesus in public, quite the contrary. A deliberate choice though, nonetheless.
The letter to the churches is also helpful, not so much for seeking to persuade (since most Sydney Anglicans will side with Jensen on this one) but in that it encourages and equips Christians to speak out themselves on this issue.
Interesting days ahead as we inch ever closer to legislation.