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Baptists add threats to gay marriage opposition

Mon 9 Nov 2015 In: New Zealand Daily News

The Baptist Church has reaffirmed its opposition to same-sex marriage by forbidding their pastors from officiating over such unions, backed by a threat of church support for their registration as a celebrant being withdrawn and possible loss of use of church premises by whole congregations. It is understood that conservative members of the church have for some time been attempting to secure this official position of the church as this will be difficult to overturn. No mention of the same-sex marriage issue being voted on has appeared on the NZ Baptist Facebook blog despite it including coverage of other issues voted on at the hui. But Daily News understands that three resolutions relating to the issue were put to a vote during a national hui at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Tauranga late last week. The resolutions followed the recommendations of a working group tasked with looking at the church’s stance on same-sex marriage.   The resolutions, which were passed and come in to immediate effect, act to “uphold the sanctity of the biblical understanding of marriage” and confirm that the Baptist Church will not allow it’s pastors or churches to have any part in same-sex marriages. The first resolution says “The Baptist Union of NZ Assembly 2015 continues to uphold the sanctity of the biblical understanding of marriage, understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman”. It passed with a 97 per cent of the vote in favour. The second resolution affirmed that no Baptist Church will conduct same-sex marriages or allow properties to be used for same-sex marriage services. This resolution passed with 83 per cent of the vote in favour. The final resolution, passing with 78 percent of the vote in favour, and perhaps the most revealing of all three, stated: “If a Baptist celebrant conducts a same-sex marriage ceremony, the marriage celebrant, in the first instance, will no longer be nominated to the Registrar of Marriages by the Baptist Union of NZ.” Those voting had the options of voting in abstention, yes or no. However, voting forms apparently did not have a box for those wishing to have their abstentions counted. Reaffirming that no Baptist Church Pastor is able to perform same-sex marriages, it is believed the wording of the third resolution, specifically the words, “in the first instance”, acts as a threat to any who may contemplate going against this. Any pastor who carries out a same-sex marriage would immediately be deregistered as a celebrant however it is understood by Daily News, that the executives would not take immediate action but rather, in an attempt to deter pastors from this, the pastor in question would have to face their peers at the next national hui and be reprimanded. The NZ Baptist Union formed by an act of Parliament in 1923, establishing six core beliefs and allocating the ownership of all church property to a trust on their behalf. Seeking to amend the 1923 act - and add a core belief that marriage is between a man and a women - a group of pastors have recently proposed that the church ask the New Zealand government to amend this act as a way for them to get around the issue. The threat is believed to extend to the property owned by the trust and the actions of each individual church and pastor could jeopardise the congregation's access to the property. During the 2013 marriage equality debate, the Baptist Church stayed on sidelines, with no official position regarding same-sex marriage being confirmed publicly by the Baptist Union.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Monday, 9th November 2015 - 4:24pm

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