Monday, June 18, 2012

Archbishop’s letter ‘Redefining Marriage’

This past Sunday, a coalition of Churches in Australia had letters read to them from the pulpit. I'm unsure if the LDS Church in Australia participated in this same program.

Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop, Sydney, Australia
Dr. Peter F. Jensen, Anglican Archbishop, Sydney, Australia
Dr. Peter F. Jensen, Archbishop of the Anglican (Church of England) in Australia issued this letter. In response, I sent him the letter below:

Good Morning Sir

I write the following with the fullest degree of respect for you, your Church and your position on gay marriage.

At the age of 16 I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I appreciate that this of itself may cause you to have some doctrinal issues with my faith, but as a Christian I trust you can take it in face value.

At 19 I left home for my two year mission. It was an amazing experience, I spoke with hundreds of people and shared the message of the birth, death and resurrection of the Saviour. I taught of his redeeming love and the mercy of his atonement.

From about the age of 12 I had feelings for boys which I knew was not right in the eyes of the Church and for most in society. I prayed and prayed and at times fasted for help from Heavenly Father to remove these feelings from me.

As a young man in my 20's these feelings continued and finally at the age of 36 I resigned myself to the belief that gay was a part of who I was. I promise you it was not a choice that I'd made at some point to be gay. I would suggest that having been in the gay community for some time now there is a small group who do make that choice. However it's not my role to place judgement upon those people.

As with all Christians, the LDS perspective on marriage is one of sanctity and reverence. You may be aware that LDS doctrine teaches that marriage is of an eternal nature and one that is required to enter the highest degree of glory in the next life. Again, your doctrinal view will be different, but I share it here only to convey my respect and reverence for the institution of marriage.

In the final years before I "came out" I remember stirring some vigorous discussions in Sunday meetings around the issue of homosexuality and the institution of the family. At the end of the day, all gay people belong to a family. That family may have had a mother and father, or in many cases a single parent.

While LDS Church leadership has made statements like "homosexuality is the greatest threat to the family" and "gay marriage is the beginning of the end of the family" I was never able to get anyone to articulate clearly, exactly why that was the case. I personally feel that alcohol, drugs, abusive fathers and poor financial management are a greater threat to families than the actions of homosexual couples who may be our neighbours.

In my extensive reading on the topic of "gay marriage" I've come across many views. I'm supportive of the view that in no way should Churches be forced to facilitate a marriage between couples of the same sex. As I've shared with my friends, why would I want to share such a happy occasion with a body who despise my very existence. I would personally rally with you should there ever be a hint of government imposing such a law on Churches. Just as I claim protection under law for my rights, so Churches should be able to claim the same right.

But, is marriage a religious claim?

I don't believe it is. The current argument is a political one. If the Christian lobby feel so strongly against gay marriage, why are they not so zealous in suggesting that Muslim, Jewish, Hindu etc marriage also not be recognized? Because this is about denying gay people the ability to marry, not to protect the institution of marriage itself.

Can I propose a solution?

Perhaps government needs to remove itself from the business of "marriage".  "Marriage" is the domain of religious bodies. Government should only be able to issue licenses for Civil Unions while Churches issue certificates of marriage. This would be a fair and equitable approach, providing the same legal stance for all citizens under the law.

What about the children?

This is possibly one of the biggest issues and one which has caused great pain for many people in the gay community. The inference being that they are somehow less of a parent because their partner is of the same gender. The Christian lobby talk of the requirement for a child to have a mother and a father. 

No mention is ever made of the army of single parents who provide a warm and loving environment for their children. I grew up in such a home and have never felt I missed out when it came to volume of love a child should have in their life.

For those gay couples who adopt a child, there's perhaps only one source, dysfunctional heterosexual couples who have surrendered their responsibility of parenthood.

In Closing

I'm confident my position hasn't changed your views, but I hope it shows you there are people in the gay community who can have a civilised discussion on this heated topic.

As the debate commences in federal parliament today I hope all parties can behave in a dignified way.


Derek Bell
Mascot, NSW, Australia

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