Archbishop’s letter ‘Redefining Marriage’
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