Soon Australians will be given the opportunity to vote on whether to change Australia’s marriage law to include same-sex marriage. I want to encourage all Anglicans to exercise their democratic right and support the postal plebiscite.
Although the plebiscite is not legally binding, I believe that Parliament will find it hard to ignore the express will of a sizeable majority, should either side achieve that.
Anglicans, like other Australians, have a wide range of opinions on same-sex marriage, supporting or opposing it for a variety of reasons in accordance with their conscience and their understanding of the principles and issues. I do not presume to advise others how they should vote, though I myself intend to vote “no”.
I think Anglicans can provide, and indeed already are providing, a model for wider society in the courteous and eirenic way we disagree, respecting that each side’s position can be a principled and considered one, and without vilifying our opponents. The question will be discussed at General Synod next month, and I hope and trust that we will do so in the most generous spirit.
As I wrote to Australia’s Anglican bishops late last year, before Parliament rejected the first plebiscite proposal, if same-sex marriage becomes law the Church must accept that it will then be part of the landscape. We can still stand for and offer holy matrimony between a man and a woman as a sacred ordinance given by God, while accepting that the state has endorsed a wider view of marriage.
The doctrine of the Book of Common Prayer remains unchanged, that marriage is between a man and a woman, under God, forsaking all others until death parts them. I do not believe that the Anglican Church in Australia is likely to revise its doctrine of marriage.
But that said, the Church also understands the desire of two people to express their commitment of love and self-sacrifice to each other, and that Christians have not always shown the respect or perspective they should. We understand that sometimes gays, lesbians and others have felt judged and rejected, even ostracised, inside the Church and that we have to be much more pastorally sensitive in future.
As I suggested to the bishops, what matters is that we approach this question with prayer and confidence in the Church’s teaching as well as kindness in our speech towards those with whom we disagree.
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus