|SUPPLEMENTAL ARTICLE: Concerning the introduction of civil unions: the Christian biblical response|
by Peter and Jenny Stokes
It is with great sadness that we bring this message to you today. For 12 years we have been called to be ‘watchmen on the wall’ and to encourage the Christian church in Australia to be salt and light in the community according to God’s truth, His Word. We appreciate that this document is rather long but it is a vitally important issue that we all need to deal with, this does not simply concern the people in the ACT, it is a national issue.
From time to time we have been required to challenge our own brothers and sisters in Christ about the social or political positions they hold and promote. This is never something we do lightly.
The Australian Christian Lobby and some Christian denominations and pastors in the ACT are rightly opposing the introduction of a Civil Union Bill because it is "like marriage" - but, rather than stop there, in the petition, and similarly in the ‘Statement of Concern’, they have actually called for the ACT government to "instead introduce legislation that would allow for the registration of same-sex and caring relationships, which does not mimic or diminish marriage, such as is in force in the state of Tasmania".
We accept that this position may have been adopted with good intentions, perhaps because it is seen as the lesser of two evils, but we do not think that is the biblically correct way to deal with such an issue. We have made this clear to ACL, but have been unable to persuade them to change.
We have also spoken with a number of people in the ACT who signed the petition or support statement but had not understood that they were actively promoting a same-sex register, not just opposing the Civil Union Bill. This petition and ‘Statement of Concern’ are to be presented to the ACT Government in the next few days as the "Christian position" and the Civil Union Bill will be debated this week.
We do not believe the position presented in both the petition and the ‘Statement of Concern’ can be substantiated from God’s Word - and no biblical substantiation has been given for such a position.
We believe we have followed Scriptural principles in first trying to deal with this issue ‘privately’, according to Matt 18. We have also spoken with a number of other Christians, Pastors and Christian groups who deal with theological and social ‘policy’ and they all agree with our concern about this matter.
It is because there has been no change of position by those advocating this stand that we bring it before you today.
We too are open to the same scrutiny by others should we appear to promote what is contrary to God’s word. We are all part of one body. We do not want to divide the church; we want to build it up. Sometimes there will be disagreement and that can be healthy, providing we are always prepared to submit to His Word as the final authority.
We believe this matter is far too serious to be ignored and has the potential to set a very dangerous precedent for our whole nation. Although we would like to, we cannot simply turn a blind eye because this is now a public matter, as it is being promoted as a ‘Christian position’ in the political arena in the ACT and as a future strategy for other states and the Commonwealth parliament.
The biblical position
The Bible states in Proverbs 14:34 "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace/reproach to any people."
Hebrews 13:4 states "Marriage should be honoured by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
Homosexuality and any ‘other’ form of sexual ‘relationship’ other than marriage between a male and female is clearly a sin – a ‘disgrace’ or a ‘reproach’ – to any people.
God instituted marriage, not man – therefore the only ‘right’ relationship is that of a man and a woman – not only for them, but for the children who would be a natural blessing resulting from such a relationship.
We believe that to actually advocate the introduction of any form of relationship ‘rights’ or recognition that would cause, assist or encourage people to accept and further normalise sin is totally outside the mandate of the Christian church, regardless of what it is called.
Some would say that because we live in a society that largely ignores the Christian values that built its benefits, we should not be trying to ‘force’ (some don’t even seem to want to persuade) society to follow Christian principles. While we understand that view, it is a very different position for the church to actually ‘propose’ and ‘promote’, to actually call on a government to introduce, laws that endorse relationships which God says are wrong. Even if it is to lessen what is being already promoted by governments.
We are not called to compromise with the world (James 4:4) – we are called to "stand in the gap", "hold fast to what we have and resist evil. Ezekiel 22:30
What about compassion?
The ‘Statement of concern’ being promoted in the ACT also states that "we affirm our strong commitment to removing any form of unjust discrimination for homosexuals."
What is "unjust discrimination"? Is this a biblical position? We would suggest not.
Compassion for those who cannot change their personal circumstances is Godly and we must not discriminate against such people, but compassion that endorses bad choices is indeed misguided. It actually prevents people from understanding that their actions could have serious consequences both in this world and for eternity. Not discriminating against wrong choices and behaviour attempts to shield people from God’s justice.
God allows the pain, or painful circumstances, which result from sinful actions and attitudes in order that people might understand their error and turn from their sin. To remove such pain or discomfort would be to hinder Christ’s redemptive work and encourage sinful pursuits.
It is not our position to make people ‘comfortable’ in their sin; the loving thing to do is to try to save them from their circumstance. Christ says it is better that you suffer loss now and repent, than spend eternity in Hell. (Mark 9:43-50).
All sin should be discerned as wrong and receive due admonition from the community and from God. The Bible warns that one day ‘good will be called evil and evil good’. Is this not what we do when we ‘normalise’ relationships that God says are wrong?
A society that does not discriminate against those things which are bad for society is doomed. Hence God’s judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah was for not only the act of sexual immorality but the tolerance and acceptance of it by most of the people.
Whilst homosexual ‘people’ should not be discriminated against, their social, sexual and lifestyle choices, and their relationships, are quite another matter. Homosexuality is a reproach to any person and to all of society. It must be challenged and those who promote it must also be challenged.
Society must discriminate in favour of heterosexual marriage. The normalisation, acceptance and giving of ‘rights’ to any other form of relationship discriminates against marriage. It does not matter if it is called a civil union or something else – it is anti-marriage and should be opposed.
Civil unions versus relationship registers
Homosexual activists openly state that regardless of what same-sex ‘relationship rights’ are called, (civil unions, relationship register, etc.) in effect, they can all amount to the same thing; it is what is contained in them that is important.
"Australian National University law lecturer, Wayne Morgan, who was consulted on the drafting of both the Tasmanian and ACT laws, said that their legal effect is very similar. "Both laws give virtually the same rights and entitlements. In this respect they are the same law under different names", Mr Morgan said." http://tglrg.org/more/182_0_1_0_M/
Wikipedia says that a relationship register is one of the forms of civil union. The online encyclopaedia states "Many different types of civil unions exist. Some are identical to marriage in nearly every respect except name; some have many but not all of the rights accorded to married couples (sometimes called registered partnerships); some are simple registries (also called domestic partnerships.)
"Registered partnership is one of several terms for a civil status similar to marriage, typically created for the purposes of allowing same-sex couples access to the legal and social benefits of traditional marriage." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Registered_partnership
There may indeed be a different ‘perception’ of something according to a name, but it is ultimately what is contained in government legislation regarding relationships that matters. The content determines how close to marriage it becomes. Our position, as described above, states that all forms of relationship recognition denigrate marriage and are against biblical teaching, thus what they are called is mere semantics - they are all wrong.
In NSW a ‘couple’, same-sex or ‘other’, can simply sign a register or hold a formal ceremony before the Lord Mayor or a ‘celebrant’ to formalise their ‘relationship’ under the Sydney City Council ‘Relationships Declaration Program.’ A ‘relationship register’ has been established by the Council.
Only 22 Couples registered in the first year despite Sydney being the largest homosexual community in the country and that ANY residents of NSW can register their relationship.
In NZ, where their Civil Union Act allows same-sex and heterosexual couples to register a relationship, a simple registration or a ‘ceremony’ before a civil celebrant is allowed. Of the 5070 same sex couples recorded in the 2001 census, only 377 couples, or 7.5%, actually formalised their relationship with a civil union in the first year.
Clearly the demand for same-sex marriage, civil unions or relationship registers is a political tool to normalise homosexuality. Giving ‘rights’ to a minority group normalises them and sends a message of respectability. They also mean that they have to be treated with ‘equality’ in society, even in the education system.
The fact that the new ACT Education Minister is a self confessed homosexual highlights the caution required in promoting any further acceptance of homosexuality, regardless of what it is called.
There is now clear evidence of a natural progression from a ‘relationship register’ to the introduction of same-sex marriage. It may take some years but once the door is open it will happen.
The Netherlands have already traveled this same road they introduced ‘registered partnerships’ in 1998 and same-sex ‘marriage’ in 2001.
Sweden passed their Registered Partnership Act 11 years ago – today, most of the community believe there is no difference between a ‘registered partnership’ and ‘marriage’. Most political parties now support such a move. There are now strong moves to allow ‘gender-neutral’ marriage".
Creating a new relationship or registering an existing one?
Mr Stanhope has suggested that a civil union ‘creates’ a relationship whereas a relationship register simply registers an existing relationship.
This is nonsense. In either case there is already a ‘relationship’ of some sort. All that either type of ‘recognition’ does is formally ‘register’ that two people are a couple. Even the biblical concept of heterosexual marriage does not ‘create’ a relationship - it publicly affirms one so how could it be different for any lesser form of recognition? A Christian marriage may change the nature of a relationship where two people have been celibate prior to their marriage ceremony, but it does not ‘create’ a relationship. We sincerely trust that God has already done that.
It is claimed that calling for a ‘relationship register’ for any ‘significant’ or ‘caring’ relationship (as is the case in Tasmania) is not directly supporting homosexuality.
If that is the case, then why does the petition specifically mention same-sex relationships?
We know of no ‘brothers’ or elderly ‘friends’, or even carers who have been campaigning for the ‘right’ to ‘register’ their relationship. In Tasmania only 63 same-sex couples have registered in the first two years – and NO caring relationships have been registered.
In fact this ‘extension’ of same-sex registration to ‘others’ appears to have been first proposed by the NSW homosexual lobby in 1994 to persuade the NSW government to give them these ‘rights’
Finally, the ACT already has a ‘Domestic Relationships Act’ (DRA) that allows for a formal legal agreement - a ‘Domestic Relationships Agreement’ (subject to the law of contract) to be established to state that a ‘domestic relationship’ exists between two people. It gives legal protection for any two people as long as one is not being paid to care for the other.
This removes any argument that ‘people’ in the ACT are discriminated against in their ‘private’ relationships.
Marriage is the biblical foundation of human society – and we believe that it is the only form of sexually intimate ‘relationship’ that Christians can endorse.
We can see no ‘biblical’ justification for the Church to ‘recommend’ ungodliness to any civil authority. This actually shields governments from taking responsibility for the bad legislation they introduce and the adverse consequences that follow.
It is not our place to propose un-Godly laws as a compromise, as "compassion", or to win a political battle, an argument or a debate.
The establishment of formal ‘civil unions’ or a ‘relationships register’ would mean that the ‘people’ of the ACT are actually ‘normalising’ and ‘encouraging’ those relationships. It takes it out of the private and makes it public.
This is something society, and to an even greater degree the church, does at its peril.
This paper has not been entered into lightly. We accept that some people may indeed be hurt by it. We have weighed that in the balance against our mandate as ‘watchmen on the wall’. We believe that the biblical responsibility is to uphold biblical truth even when this means having to speak against a position held by others.
If you believe we have erred in making this statement, we ask that you approach us directly with a clear biblical reason for your concern.
If you agree with our position, we would ask that you do not run off with a big stick to chastise or admonish anyone – we can all make mistakes in our enthusiasm to serve the church and/or the political process.
Please commit your concerns to the Lord in prayer. Pray for divine intervention to bring about a biblical response and to establish unity in the Body according to His Word.
If you have taken action that, in the light of the above you wish to reverse, then we encourage you to do so as soon as possible as this matter will go to the ACT government very soon. We also ask you to please do so graciously.
The petition, support statement and other documents regarding the ACL campaign on civil unions can be found at http://www.acl.org.au/act/index.stw
Re the Netherlands http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_unions_in_the_Netherlands
Peter and Jenny StokesSALT SHAKERS
PO Box 6049, Wantirna, Victoria, 3152
Ph (03) 9800 2855
O413 084 145 and 0413 084 146