I note that the Marriage Equality Bill passed its second reading in the New Zealand Parliament recently.  This doesn’t mean that it has become law.  It has to pass a third reading.  However the third reading is usually regarded as perfunctory.  This is no reason not to be vigilant in advocating its passage into law.

I was interested in an observation made by one of the law’s opponents.  One of our conservative Christian M.P.s observed that opponents of the bill had been so intemperate in their letters against the law to Members of Parliament that a number determined to support the bill.  In short exposure to intolerance determined conservative M.P.s to support a bill that they could have chosen in good conscience to vote against.

I find it interesting to note how a secular society can dictate what religious people may believe.  When this debate arose my fellow conservative Presbyterians argued that marriage between a man and a woman was an ‘fundamental Christian doctrine’.  However on enquiry the Presbyterian Church has not given it this status.  When the Statements of Fundamental Doctrines was produced it included The Apostles’ Creed, the Bible, God and Nature, the Person of Jesus Christ, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and Judgement and the Christian Hope.  It was a statement that arose out the Resurrection Controversies of the late 1960s.  The statements shore up a commitment to a traditional understanding of the Godhead and salvation.  It is a later cultural struggle that has added marriage to this list.

The Church remains contra mundum, opposed to compromise with the world.  In the debate over marriage equality it is clear that the world has set up the stakes.  The Church has accepted the gamble.  Perhaps that has always been the case.

If the opponents of marriage equality make it a fundamental doctrine of the Church then I wonder if that would be the same thing as stating that marriage is sacramental, returning us to pre-Reformation Church and falling from the Standards of the Reformation to which we have given nominal service.

If I read our accounts of the creation correctly then marriage was a gift from god to the first ancestors of humanity.  It is not a Christian institution; it is older than the laws of Judaism.  It is a gift to be practiced by all humanity.  The state registers marriage.  If the government wishes to broaden the criteria by which anyone can be covered under this registration then I, for one, do not oppose the decision.  Together we celebrate our humanity.

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