Lutheran Submission in Support of Australian Marriage Equality. Yup! You heard right!

A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality LGBT lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.

My very first post on this blog was about gay marriage some 80 posts ago.

I was shocked to see that 50 church leaders, including some of our own had signed a statement which was submitted to parliament opposing marriage equality.

I was dismayed that the combined churches couldn’t agree to make a statement of justice and compassion for those languishing in mandatory detention in Australia and yet they overcame centuries old  denominational barriers to join together to deny the LGBT community their right to marriage.

I was amazed that the theology presented in the letter was straight out of 16th Century Roman Catholicism and was  certainly not an understanding of sex and marriage that I have heard from any Lutheran teaching anywhere.

The Australian Christian Lobby were behind that letter and they have had their fingers in our collective Church pies again recently. On 2 December on the eve of the Labor Party’s vote on marriage equality, President Mike Semmler Joined with 19 other church leaders to send another opposing letter.

What i found most interesting was that the notification of this new letter contained this rider…

While not an official statement of the Lutheran Church of Australia, nor of President Mike Semmler, on the subject of same-sex marriage, the following document was signed along with other church leaders in order to present a united voice to government for the preservation of marriage in its traditional form.

Hmmmm, Maybe someone actually took notice in November when I posted 3 protest pieces objecting to the name of the Lutheran Church of Australia being associated with the thoughts expressed in the letter when the letter did not represent the theology or official position of the Lutheran Church.

Anyway, the church’s letter to the labor party can be seen here (1)…but read it later if you’re interested… coz I really need your advice on something else…

It occurs to me that if President Mike is free to make statements and put his name, (and therefore, by implication, the Church’s name) to documents and submissions that “are not official statements of the Lutheran Church of Australia” maybe any of us can do the same thing.

A Senate Committee is presently calling for submissions into the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill. I’m almost certain that our Church will make a submission, probably through the CSBQ. (If they don’t then someone REALLY IS taking notice of these posts ) Anyway…I got to thinking… maybe I should send my own submission that is “not an official statement of the Lutheran Church”.

Here is my proposed submission. Tell me what you think.

Dear Committee Members.

I am a pastor of the Lutheran Church of Australia however the views that I express here are my own and not representative of any official view of the Lutheran Church of Australia.

I write to voice my strong support for the Marriage Equality Bill that is presently before the parliament. 

Although there are many people in our church who would oppose marriage equality, I through my ministry and broad public contact am aware that there are also many people in our church who would give their wholehearted support to such a change.

It is my firm belief that the primary reason for the existence of the Christian Church on earth and in Australia is to speak the message of God’s love, justice and reconciliation as shown in the words and actions of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke up for the poor , the afflicted, the oppressed and the marginalized. Many Christian people that I am in contact with would , in Christian love , demand justice for the marginalized and oppressed LGBT community in Australia.

It is unjust that same sex couples cannot receive the same social acceptance and broad community celebration and support of their relationship that is only afforded by the institution of marriage.

Churches and social researchers alike, declare the social and familial benefits afforded to couples who are in the life long, loving and committed relationship defined by marriage. There are fewer health problems, fewer incidence of smoking, alcohol and other drug abuse. There are obvious financial benefits in the shared resources of a married couple. The community benefits from the  stability of that relationship and the long term care that the couple give to each other. It is unjust that these benefits should be identified and then denied to people simply because of their sexual orientation.

It is unjust that the children of same sex couples are not automatically afforded their right to a family life that is underpinned by the life long loving and committed relationship defined by marriage.

It can certainly be validated that children benefit from belonging in families that are strong, stable and supportive. However there is no credible evidence that those relationships must include a biological mother and father as the Australian Christian Lobby and others suggest. There is no evidence that, say,  adopted children are detrimented by their family arrangement or that the many existing adults in our society who have been raised by same sex parents have been detrimented in any way what so ever. It is unjust to prevent  same sex couples from marrying simply because of unsubstantiated theories which are , I believe, based on nothing but fear.

Jesus spoke of love and acceptance. He spoke of grace and generosity of spirit. The only time he had a “hard” word was against religious authorities who sought to impose their harsh legalistic agenda on the community. I am aware that many Christian people, even many from my own Church, would declare homosexuality a sin and therefore harmful to the life and soul of people who enter into homosexual relationships. I disagree with them but accede to them their right to their firmly held and sincere religious conviction. However, their views are precisely THAT… religious conviction, a matter of faith.

I do not believe that the theology of many of our Christian denominations in Australia would, if they were honest, support the view that churches have the right to use a legislative framework to enforce their religious convictions on the wider community.  Yet that is what those Churches who oppose the Marriage Equality Bill are trying to do. Their views are a matter of faith. Marriage is a matter of state and it is, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, incumbent upon the state to act with justice and equity to ALL of its citizens, including the LGBT members of our communtiy, in upholding their right to marry and form a family.

There is some talk within the Christian community that this amendment will somehow force Ministers of Religion to perform same sex marriages against their conscience. I believe the wording of the Bill makes it clear that this cannot happen. Even if the wording were not there, all Ministers of Religion in Australia know that they are already free to decide to either marry or not marry couples according to the restrictions and requirements of their various faiths. I believe the argument to be  a nonsense.

It is possible that the Lutheran Church of Australia or one of its representative committees, probably the Commission on Social and Bioethical Questions, may make a submission which would, I’m sure, oppose the proposed amendment. I would like to inform the Senate Committee that although such groups are authorized to speak for the Church, The Church has no formal statements in regard to marriage equality.

The church does have a statement on Homosexuality that has held it to be sinful and against the will of God. In recent years the Church has found this statement to be outdated and lacking in compassion. The statement is presently under review but no reworked document has been presented to the Pastors or Congregations of the Church for consideration or approval. As such I believe that any formal submissions from any other agencies of the Church would represent no more than the views of the members of those committees or agencies and would not necessarily reflect the views of the wider members of the church.

I thank you for the opportunity to make this submission.

Sincerely Yours

Pastor Neil Hart.

Well, Reader, What do you think? Do i send it? I’m just gonna sit on it for a day or so. But please make a comment. Lets me know what you think.

Did you ever think about making a submission yourself? Wouldn’t it be great to forward, say, fifty simple statements of support for marriage equality from people who publicly identify themselves as Christian? Wouldn’t it be great if the Christian submissions FOR the amendment outnumbered the christian submissions against it?

(1) http://www.lca.org.au/church-leaders-affirm-traditional-marriage-definition.html