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Evangelical Presbyterians’ Statement On Same Sex Marriage

Last week, Presbyterian Affirm, of which some of the Laidlaw faculty is involved, released a statement on same-sex marriage. It was put together over the last few weeks with a number of evangelical Presbyterian leaders considering how they should respond to the move toward same-sex marriages. Clearly, this is not a statement from Laidlaw College. Nor does it represent “the Christian” view, as Christians differ on this issue.

I wondered, however, if readers of this blog would be interested in considering it and, with great respect to other points of view and in the spirit of Christian grace, give their own perspectives on the statement and how Christians can respond. Here is the statement:


PRESBYTERIAN GROUP OPPOSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

Presbyterian AFFIRM, a widely-supported conservative network within the Presbyterian denomination, is speaking out against the Bill which would allow same-sex couples to marry, declaring its views in a “Statement on Marriage” (see below). Presbyterian AFFIRM believes that “marriage is a unique human institution and treasure” which has “always been about the pairing of a man and a woman”, and that re-defining marriage to include same-sex couples would unhelpfully confuse the meaning of marriage.

A spokesman for Presbyterian AFFIRM, Dr. Stuart Lange, said: “We believe, that despite some isolated voices to the contrary, the great majority of active Presbyterians in this country want the definition of marriage to be retained as the union of a man and a woman, and that (as Helen Clark and Tim Barnett said in 2004) ‘Marriage is only for heterosexuals’ and ‘Civil Unions are an acceptable alternative’.”

STATEMENT ON MARRIAGE

Marriage is a unique human institution and treasure, universally recognized as the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife.
Marriage has always been about the pairing of a man and a woman, and it is a deeply-embedded human pattern. It is inherently related to the natural male-female capacity for procreation, and to the responsibility for raising children. Marriage is thus unique in its very nature, intrinsically different from any other type of human relationship which society may recognise. The concept of same-sex “marriage” is a contradiction in terms. To change that would in effect re-define marriage itself, and would demean the understanding and practice of marriage held by the vast majority of New Zealanders. It is not a “human right” for a small minority to re-invent marriage for everyone else. Parliament should not agree to such a radical social innovation.

Traditional marriage and family is very good for society.
Marriage is greatly beneficial to the stability and wellbeing of society. Stable families with a loving father and mother still generally offer the optimum context in which to raise children. In a country with so many social problems, Parliament must be careful not to allow a further undermining of marriage by confusing its meaning.

The claim that the current Parliamentary Bill is about removing “discrimination” is unconvincing. 

Marriage is freely available, but it is not a right which individual citizens are always able to exercise. Because of the inherent nature of marriage, society rightly licenses couples to marry only if they meet certain conditions: if they are adults, if they both agree, if they are not already married, if they are not closely related, and if they are of opposite genders. That is what marriage is about. Nobody is required to be married. There are also existing alternatives, of equivalent legal status.

Society has already made generous provision for same-sex relationships to be recognized in law as effectively equivalent to marriage.
If the issue is about “equality”, then Civil Unions should be sufficient, given that they are of equivalent legal status to marriage, with partners in Civil Unions having the same protection under law as married couples (and similar rights except for adoption). Those entering Civil Unions have often regarded them as equivalent to marriage, in effect a “civil” marriage. If in fact there are any inappropriate inequities between Civil Unions and Marriage, Parliament should amend the Civil Union legislation, not the Marriage legislation.

The intent of this Bill appears to be a political move to further increase the societal normalization of homosexual relationships.
To proceed, Parliament would need to be sure that advancing such an agenda would be for the good of society as a whole.

This Bill may be a strategy to help same-sex couples gain the right to adopt children.
Access to full adoption rights by same-sex couples needs to be discussed directly and openly, separately from this Bill, and with primary consideration for the welfare of children. 

For Christians and many others marriage is sacred, the God-ordained bond of a man and a woman.
The Christian ideal of marriage lies behind all New Zealand’s marriage legislation, and is part of our national heritage that should not be abandoned lightly. Christians believe that marriage is the gift of God, defined by God, and approved by God. On the basis of the teaching of the Bible, Christians believe that God’s intended context for sex, reproduction and family is loving, faithful marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage is not just a social custom or a legal contract which can be drastically re-defined to suit human thinking. Marriage is recognized by the State but does not belong to it. Marriage as given by God reflects the essential complementary role of male and female as created in the image of God. It is grounded in nature, and in basic male-female physiology. The concept of same-sex “marriage” is spiritually offensive to many Christian people, who still constitute a very significant proportion of this country’s population and its voters. It is also objectionable to many cultural minorities and non-Christian faiths. The Church does not seek to impose its convictions on everyone else, but can and must speak up for what it believes is right and true, and for the good of families and society as a whole.
Presbyterian AFFIRM, August 2012

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, one of New Zealand’s largest mainstream church denominations, does not currently have a specific policy on same-sex marriage, but since 2006 it has ruled that people who are in relationships outside of faithful marriage between a man and a woman should not become ministers or leaders in the church.

For further comment, contact:
Dr Stuart Lange, Co-Chairman Presbyterian AFFIRM, Ph. 09-832-5775, 021-0224-2957


What do you think?

by Dr Mark Keown (Senior Lecturer – Theology, Mission & Ministry) Disclaimer and Policy

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