Belinda Groves – 3 September 2017

Dear Friends      

From 12 September voting forms for the same sex marriage plebiscite will start arriving in our letterboxes, and we will have roughly two months before the poll closes on 7 November. This is not going to be an easy time, and I fear for how divisive and destructive it may be within Australian society and particularly within Australian churches.

How do we navigate our way when some in our churches sincerely believe that faithful and biblical living cannot include same sex marriage and others sincerely believe that it can? How are we to live and work and worship together when – as this sign from Scots College in Adelaide spells out – we hold different views?

I have been in Adelaide this week, at a retreat for the ‘city’ church pastors (e.g. Central Baptist in Sydney and Collins Street in Melbourne and Canberra Baptist!) and Simon Carey Holt, from Collins Street, and I were talking about the Scots Church sign “Not all Christians oppose marriage equality”. Many of you follow Simon and know he supports voting ‘yes’ (www.theage.com.au/comment/im-a-baptist-minister-and-ill-be-voting-yes-for-samesex-marriage-20170819-gxzzik.html) but, while we were discussing whether this sign was even-handed or not, he mentioned that although he was outspoken about his own views, he had resisted ‘badging’ the church in any way, putting up rainbow flags for example. The church, he said, must leave its doors open to anyone and everyone. Perhaps clinging to this idea of the open hospitality of God – that God welcomes all people – is the first step on the difficult path ahead of us.

The second step is to admit the sign is right. We do disagree, but we must not stop there, but have the courage to speak what is on our hearts and minds to each other, and the grace to listen. This is scary stuff! We are all afraid of rejection. All anxious not to disrupt the peace. But even if we ultimately cannot share the same view, I believe that courageous sharing and graceful listening will result in coming closer together – not being driven further apart.

What does such sharing and listening require of us, however? It requires us to recognise another truth in this sign’s message; that we are all – regardless of our different views – brothers and sisters in Christ. This is also a hard truth to embrace. It is much easier to retreat into separate camps, to deny the faith of others; but it was not said of the first Christians ‘see, how alike they are!’ but ‘see, how they love each other’!

We are called to walk the path of peace; welcoming all people, speaking our convictions with courage, and loving those who agree with us and those who don’t.

Belinda

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