The Struggle to Uphold the Biblical View of Marriage in Australia
Editor's note: With last week's passage of an amendment to redefine marriage in Australia in favor of same-sex couples, the country's pastors are now faced with the decision of whether to resign their status as authorised celebrants of the novel Marriage Act. Tasmanian pastor Campbell Markham mailed the following letter to Australia's Attorney General on the same day the Governor General signed into law the country's redefinition of marriage.
Dear Senator Brandis,
Today, with profound sadness, as the Governor General signs into law the redefinition of the institution of marriage in the Commonwealth Marriage Act, I resign my status as a Minister of Religion registered under the Act, and relinquish my Celebrant’s Number, T2816.
I thereby revoke my right to conduct weddings as a recognised agent of the Act, and sever any other official connection to it.
I resign for three reasons:
1) The “Commonwealth Marriage Act” is from today no longer concerned with marriage: with the exclusive, lifelong union of one man and one woman, freely entered into. Although the novel Act retains the word “marriage,” it now uses this word to refer to something very different to marriage, to something in fact repugnant to the nature and purposes of marriage.
Marriage brings together the two different and complementary sexes of humanity, and the two incomplete parts of the human reproductive system. The novel Act no longer recognises the unique importance of this union, but instead obfuscates and undermines it by applying the word “marriage” to the union of any two adults.
And marriage binds together and protects a man and a woman in sexual relationship, and the children that are very often born out of such a relationship. The novel Act does not do this. On the contrary, it legitimises the removal of children from their natural parents.
2) The Sacred Scriptures clearly delineate what sexual activity God has determined to be right and wrong. Sexual intercourse was given by the Creator to one man and one woman joined in marriage. Fornication, adultery, prostitution, incest, and homosexual practice is forbidden as a misuse of our reproductive organs and sexual desires.
The novel Act, by contrast, places homosexual acts, forbidden by God, on a moral level with male-female married sexual intercourse.
3) The novel Act will be a root and tool of injustice. It is not just for adults to unnecessarily give up their responsibility to love and raise the children that they conceive. In fact it is manifestly cruel to abandon one’s offspring in this way. The novel “Marriage Act” legitimises and institutionalises this injustice.
Nor is it just to unnecessarily sever a child from their biological heritage: from their natural family tree of parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. The novel Act legitimises this injustice.
And it is not just to unnecessarily remove a child from the protection, love, and daily care of the mother and father who conceived and bore them. In better days our nation stood united against this kind of injustice, inflicted upon the children of the Stolen Generation, and the children of forced adoptions. The novel Act, rather than protecting children against this, actually institutionalises the destruction of this sacred parent-child bond.
For these reasons my conscience cannot permit me to remain an authorised celebrant of the novel "Marriage Act." I cannot give any semblance of legitimacy to something so manifestly immoral and unjust.
My position is now this: I am sworn as a citizen and a Christian to obey the governing authorities of Australia. My highest allegiance, however, belongs to Jesus Christ, whom God has made King of kings and Lord of lords by virtue of his public resurrection from the dead, attested by scores of eye-witnesses. Where the laws of Australia contradict the laws of King Jesus then I must choose to obey Him.
These therefore are my intentions:
1) Though same-sex couples will now “marry” under the novel Act, I will only recognise male-female unions.
2) For two thousand years it has been the privilege and duty of Christian pastors to marry those under their care. My calling and ordination to the pastorate compels me to go on with this duty. I will continue therefore to marry couples who can be rightly married, whether they are Christian or not, and will submit to whatever civil penalty may be attached to such action.
3) I will support those male-female couples who, for whatever reason, do not want to register their marriage under the novel “Marriage Act.” I will be ready to marry them in the sight of God and according to his laws, and will submit to whatever civil penalty may be attached to such action.
4) Love for my nation compels me to fight for the recovery of marriage: for the recovery of our understanding of what marriage is, for the sacred exclusivity of the marriage bond, for the permanency of marriage, and for the recovery of our responsibilities as husbands and wives for each other and the children that we may bear. This recovery work will likely take many centuries, there is no time to waste.
5) And love for my nation compels me to help ameliorate the damage that the novel Act must cause. Men and women who have forsaken their children will need to be called to repentance and healing, and will need to recover, if at all possible, their responsibilities to know, love, protect, and provide for their children. Children who have been unnecessarily removed from their natural parents experience a deep sense of pain, rejection, and loss, and will need to find healing and, wherever possible, reconciliation to their parents. Those who have given themselves to sexual acts that God has forbidden will also need to find his forgiveness and healing.
I will point all people to Christ. He can heal those who have been hurt and broken by the dissolution of marriage. He loves us, and died to set us free from all the painful and destructive effects of sin.
Today the bright star of marriage sets behind the dank horizon of blind and selfish populism. It is a day to weep. But it is not a day to despair. For marriage is obscured, not destroyed.
In time we will see again what today we despise. In time God’s gift of marriage will once again arise in the collective heart of our nation, to be respected and enjoyed for the incalculable treasure that it is.
For this bright distant dawn all Christians will work and pray.
Campbell Markham is a Presbyterian pastor in Hobart, Tasmania. He blogs at Campbell Markham: Thoughts and Letters.