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Church leaders: respect dignity, freedom and love

Wed 22 Aug 2012 In: Features View at Wayback View at NDHA

A group of more than fifty clergy and laity from a variety of Christian traditions have signed a public response to a pastoral letter which the Roman Catholic bishops have addressed to young New Zealanders. It gives the bishops’ views on the Marriage Amendment Bill currently before Parliament. The Revd Glynn Cardy of St Matthews-in-the-City, Auckland believes the bishops’ letter cannot be regarded as a pastoral one, certainly not for the LGBT community and children of that community. “It is an attack on gay and lesbian people and their families couched in an ecclesiastical cope of respectability but based on erroneous assumptions” he said. The Revd Dr Margaret Mayman of St Andrews Presbyterian Church in Wellington says the bishops have brought issues of scripture into the public debate with their inference that God only endorses one man and one woman marriages. “They have also claimed that homosexuality is unnatural, as are LGBT relationships” she said. ”Their comments about the “family” infer that children in LGBT families are not in real or proper families”. “The bishops’ letter is the Catholic bishops’ attempt to influence public policy. Sadly what they are offering young New Zealanders is misinformation and questionable teaching from Scripture” says Cardy.   “From the Beginning of Creation” Pastoral Letter from the Catholic Bishops of New Zealand to young New Zealanders Dear Kiwis of Generation Y As the people who entered adulthood in this millennium you are being wooed by politicians and advertisers. Your choices will help shape our nation. One such choice is the present legislation about amending the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. The lobby that promoted and achieved the Civil Unions bill now say that this does not go far enough. We would like you to consider carefully the wider implications of this major social change. Why should you care? Marriage is a fundamental structure in our society. Every one of us was born into a family, each of us has parents. The legal status of married couples is a long-established recognition by society of how important the family unit is, most especially to the children who grow up in that family. How marriage is defined affects us all; changing that definition will have many consequences, including with respect to adoption and throughout the education system. Some consequences will be unexpected and unintended. This is no small matter, nor quibbling about words; this is an attempt tore-engineer the status and structure of family life in New Zealand and elsewhere. Why oppose? When Jesus was discussing marriage with his disciples he observed "From the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." (Mark 10:6-9) The reality, as Jesus observed, is that male and female pair with each other. Males and females are different and complementary, each has a significant role to play in the nurturing of children. We come from one family and we set out to make another one. Marriage is not merely a human construction, it is the legal recognition of something natural. Civil law reflects and protects human nature. Society promotes and affirms the married state for the sake of the couple and for the sake of their children. The Church considers marriage to be the first blessing from the Creator and celebrates it as a sacrament. Christians did not invent marriage; it has been part of every human society throughout history. Legislators did not invent marriage; when the laws were written they were taking account of a pre-existing reality. We address this letter to you, rather than only to church members, because of the universality of marriage. Marriage promotes love and generates life. Love, friendship, and commitment exist in many forms, but only the bond between one man and one woman, intending to live together and hoping to have and raise children, is dignified with the name and legal status of "marriage". The couple vow to love and honour each other and New Zealand law and custom have responded by recognising that commitment and honouring it with a unique recognition. Is this simply a question of equal rights? Marriage is never a universal human right. Not all persons can or should be married. While the immediate focus of the current proposal is whether a marriage must involve a man and a woman, the argument for change applies far more widely. Claiming "freedom of preference" and a universal "right to marry" would call monogamy itself into question. This denies the right to the truth about what marriage is, and about what the Church teaches on sexuality and marriage. For the sake of married couples, their children and society as a whole, we ask you to oppose any change to the legal definition of marriage. The multidenominational letter to the Catholic Bishops: “Dear Gentlemen, We write in response to your recent pastoral letter to young New Zealanders addressing the Marriage Amendment Bill coming before Parliament. We too are members of the Christian community yet hold a different view. We think it’s time the Church recognizes and encourages those in same gender relationships who wish to pledge their love and fidelity to each other in the rite of marriage. “We know that your Church has generously and compassionately offered pastoral love to many thousands and yet has often, like other churches, remained silent on issues of justice and the full inclusion of gay and lesbian men and women in our community. You have from time to time also made statements continuing to regard LGBT people as abnormal. You now seem to be fearful of their wish to celebrate their love in committed relationships. “Marriage has been expressed in many different forms over the centuries. In the Bible marriage was often polygamous, often did not presume sexual fidelity from the male, usually assumed male dominance, and usually was about property, inheritance and kinship. The Biblical pattern for God-ordained marriages is that different kinds of unions were accepted in different places and times, evolving in tandem with broader cultural shifts. To suggest, as you do, that marriage based on Biblical precepts is frozen in stone and cannot develop or change, is to ignore reality. Even within your own historical tradition, fresh Biblical insights and understandings, often led by Papal encyclicals, have brought changes in attitude and direction. “The Adam and Eve text you refer to is a mythic story which has woman being fashioned from man’s rib. Historically it has not been interpreted as presuming the man will have only one wife. The text was used by Jesus to prohibit divorce, a position most churches have repudiated, but was not to promote a nuclear family of dad, one mum, and kids. “Your affirmation of ‘the family’ does not acknowledge this changing nature of marriage over the centuries. The equality, mutuality, and love that the Church now expects in a couple’s relationship and sees as the essence of marriage is quite recent in human and Christian history. Your statement that marriage is about ‘hoping to have and to raise children’ seems to ignore the fact that many couples today choose not to have children, or are of an age or state of health where it is not possible, or that many children are raised in families where one or both of the biological parents are not present. You also seem to ignore the many thousands of NZ children who are currently being parented by same gender couples, to whom you should also extend your pastoral care rather than your implied condemnation of their families. “Your approach to what is ‘natural’ does not seem to take account of the peer-reviewed research from the scientific community over the last 20+ years. You seem to be overlooking that homosexuality is present in many species, and not just when there is overpopulation. You seem to be overlooking that sexual orientation for the vast majority of people is not a choice. You seem to be overlooking that a failure to re-examine the Bible and Church teachings in the light of modern day science is to be culpable of continuing to perpetuate prejudice. “While we concur that ‘not all persons can or should be married’, it is markedly unjust that any heterosexual couple can decide to be married, while a same sex couple who may have shared and displayed a committed love for decades are denied. Your inability to acknowledge this injustice damages your credibility. “As fellow Christians we call on you to re-consider your position in the light and hope of the Spirit of Jesus, and ask you to respect the dignity, freedom, and committed love of same gender couples to enter into the rite of marriage. Revd Dr Susan Adams (Anglican) Peter Bargh (Anglican) Revd Clare Barrie (Anglican) Dr Margaret Bedggod (Anglican) Revd Jenny Blood (Anglican) Revd Clare Brockett (Presbyterian) Revd Richard Bonifant (Anglican) Robyn Brown (Anglican) Revd Glynn Cardy (Anglican) Revd Dr David Clark (Presbyterian) Revd Ray Coats (Methodist) Revd Geraldine Coats (Methodist) Emily Colgan (Anglican) Revd Jo Crosse (Anglican) Revd Anthony Dancer (Anglican) Revd Brian Dawson (Anglican) Revd Dr Jenny Dawson (Anglican) Revd Martin Dickson (Presbyterian) Revd Christopher Douglas-Huriwai (Anglican) Revd Don Elder (Anglican) Revd Erice Fairbrother (Anglican) Revd Tony Franklin-Ross (Methodist) Revd Dr Lynne Frith (Methodist) Revd Diane Gilliam-Weeks (Presbyterian) Revd Dr Frank Hanson (Methodist) Revd Dr Mark Hendrickson (Anglican) Revd Wilf Holt (Anglican) Revd Christopher Honore (Anglican) Revd Dr Geoff King (Presbyterian) Revd Dr Matthew Jack (Presbyterian) James R Langton (Anglican) Revd Dr Warren Limbrick (Anglican) Revd Heather Lindauer QSM (Anglican) Revd Dr Margaret Mayman (Presbyterian) Revd Ann Mellor (Anglican) Revd Peter Minson (Anglican) Revd Linda Murphy (Anglican) Rosemary Neave (Anglican) Revd Clay Nelson (Anglican) Dr Elizabeth Niven (Anglican) Revd Canon Paul Oestreicher (Anglican) Revd Fraser Paterson (Presbyterian) Revd Edward Prebble (Anglican) Red Anne Priestley (Anglican) Revd Sande Ramage (Anglican) Revd Diana Rattray (Anglican) Revd Ian Render (Anglican) Revd Sandy Robertson (Anglican) Revd Dr Keith Rowe (Methodist) Revd Dr John Salmon (Methodist) Revd Bob Scott (Anglican) Revd Fr Ngira Simmonds (Anglican) Revd Chris Swannell (Anglican) Revd Peter Sykes (Anglican) Revd Vicki Sykes (Anglican) Revd Michael Tamihere (Anglican) Tom Watts (Quaker) Revd Jeremy Younger (Anglican) Petra Zaleski (Anglican) LIVE COVERAGE Daily News will report live from Wednesday's Marriage Equality street march through downtown Wellington and throughout the bill's presentation to Parliament, with team coverage from our journalists and photographers along the march route, within the Parliamentary Press Gallery and amongst the bill's supporters in the public gallery. - 22nd August 2012    


First published: Wednesday, 22nd August 2012 - 11:27am

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