Title: Marriage Equality and inclusive Christianity Credit: Features Saturday 20th October 2012 - 7:59pm1350716340 Article: 12414 Rights
Civil Unions separate off from mainstream society those glbti people who wish to have their relationships legally recognised but have no access to marriage, says a Methodist minister with a record of commitment to inclusiveness and equality. As such glbti people are unfairly marginalised and discriminated against, he says. The Rev. Dr Keith Rowe was a signatory to a recent open letter from church leaders from a variety of denominations taking issue with an anti-Marriage Equality letter being circulated by Catholic leaders to young Catholics. Rowe spoke eloquently at the funeral of gay Presbyterian minister David Clark reflecting on how the Presbyterian Church's anti-gay stance had caused Clark much pain in his life. St Lukes retained Clark, one of NZ's first clerics to come out publicly, as its popular minister until his death in March and Rowe, who had retired after fifty years as a minister including a term as President of the Methodist Church, has been filling in at St Lukes since then. The clock is counting down the final few days during which submissions can be made to the select committee considering Louisa Wall's Marriage Amendment Bill which would alter the marriage act to allow same-sex couples to marry and, incidentally, to adopt children as a couple instead of only one partner being able to do so as at present. In a thoughtful submission, reproduced here in full, Rowe addresses social and theological aspects of the Bill and argues in its favour. He writes: Rev Keith Rowe (l) at the funeral of Rev. David Clark. I support the marriage amendment bill before Parliament as printed. I have been a Minister within the Christian Church for almost 50 years, first as a Minister in the Methodist Church of New Zealand, then as a Minister within the Uniting Church in Australia and now in retirement as an active member of the Community of St Luke, a Presbyterian Church in Newmarket/Remuera. I am a former President of the Methodist Church of New Zealand. There are four brief points I will make in support of the bill and which I hope may assist the committee in its deliberations. My initial reaction was to assume that the provision for Civil Unions was a fair and reasonable response to the desire of same sex couples that their partnership enjoy the same legal recognition as marriage. Further consideration has convinced me that same sex couples are right in their request that their partnership be recognised as a form of marriage. In retrospect the provision of civil unions as it applies to same sex couples does have a ‘special case ‘ feel to it. The use of the term ‘marriage’ recognises without a shadow of doubt that gay, lesbian and trans- gender persons belong, without qualification, in what some may describe as ‘main stream’ society. In one sense, the word ‘marriage’ is just a word that could be replaced by other words like civil union. It is however the word that bears our society’s acceptance of intimate and enduring friendship. It bears within it deeply emotional as well as legal meaning. In spite of the many ways the institution of marriage is debased we have no other term describing intimate and lasting human friendship that carries such a depth of meaning. The issue before us raises the question, ‘who owns our language?’ It is, I submit, appropriate that the meaning of a word like marriage be modified or enhanced in the manner proposed as long as the essence of the meaning (i.e. recognition of a partnership entered into by two people who declare their intention to live together in a mutually supportive and lasting relationship) is not compromised. This extension of the use of the word marriage is appropriate as we move toward a society rid of inherited discrimination based on sexual orientation. The committee will be aware that there is no unanimity among Christians and their churches on this matter. With respect for their seriousness of purpose I must say that many of my co-religionists are using opposition to this bill to continue what has sadly become a crusade against the acceptance of homosexual people as full citizens of our society. This is regrettable and in my opinion denies the radically inclusive nature of Christian love. Churches and other religious groups will need to explore what this extension of the meaning of marriage means for them but in my judgement the inherited Christian understanding of marriage is elastic enough to embrace the proposal in the bill before us. I cannot agree with those who maintain that the bill undermines the depth of commitment and love that those currently married have poured into their marriage. The bill in no way represents a diminution of the importance of marriage as a building block for society, an embodiment of human affection and a setting where young life can receive nurture and love. Heterosexual marriage will continue to be universally cherished but it will no longer be the only embodiment of marriage and the depth of human love and legal responsibility that the term represents. Submissions to the select committee close this Friday. - 20th October 2012    
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