Evangelical Alliance Ireland on the same-sex marriage Referendum

This is the text of a recent statement by EAI on the upcoming Referendum in May on introducing same-sex marriage.

Feel welcome to give your reactions and comments to what they say. (I should say that I have not had any involvement in this statement but I will be one of the contributors to the planned book mentioned below).

STATEMENT ON THE FORTHCOMING SAME-SEX MARRIAGE REFERENDUM

Issued 25 February 2015

The forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage has provoked debate among Evangelical Christians. Many of us have friends and family members who identify as gay or lesbian, and there are those who worship in our churches who have been profoundly impacted by same-sex attraction and relationships.

Evangelical Christians in Ireland hold a wide variety of opinions. A minority within our movement interpret Scripture in such a way as to sanction same-sex marriage. Others prefer to ignore the issue, not wishing to create controversy or to be labelled as ‘homophobic’ (a term that should be reserved for those who fear, hate or abuse, rather than as a description of anyone who holds a different view on the definition of marriage).

However, the majority of Evangelicals hold a conservative biblical view of marriage as a covenant between one man and one woman, united as one flesh in the sight of God for the duration of their lifetime. EAI urges Evangelicals to promote and affirm this view of marriage during and after the debate.

We remind all Christians that our primary goal is to represent the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. This is more important than winning a culture war. A ‘victory’ in debate is not a genuine victory if, in the process, we insult, belittle or treat others with disrespect or discourtesy. Those who address this issue should do so truthfully and graciously – and that includes our interaction with Christians who hold different viewpoints.

EAI does not expect the State to impose anyone’s religious views on anyone else. Under Irish law and the Constitution, married couples are currently favoured over other domestic arrangements (including unmarried heterosexual couples, same-sex couples and civil partners). It is fair to question whether a secular nation State should so favour married couples, or indeed why the State should have the power to control and regulate the definition of marriage. In its submission to the Constitutional Convention, EAI argued that the laws on civil partnerships could be amended to address inequality.

The referendum, then, is more to do with marriage redefinition than it is about equality. The meaning of words evolves over time but this is a deliberate redefinition of a term that carries a deeply spiritual significance for many.

In the past there was an assumption that everyone meant the same thing when they referred to marriage. The term ‘marriage’ is increasingly minimised to simply mean “two people making a public commitment to one another”. This ‘hollowing out’ of marriage may have a more profound effect on society than the issue of whether same-sex marriage is legalised. Such a redefinition makes ‘civil marriage’ indistinguishable from a civil partnership and certainly very different from the biblical covenant.

However, the majority of marriages are still solemnised in places of worship, according to the traditions and customs of that church (or religion). Irrespective of the outcome of the referendum, there is a need for discussion as to the relationship between religious and civil marriage.

In all matters, Evangelical Christians should vote according to their consciences. EAI would advise a ‘No’ vote in the forthcoming referendum on the grounds that the State is going beyond its legitimate sphere in attempting to redefine marriage itself.

[EAI is in the process of preparing a more detailed response to this issue in the form of a short book which will include multiple contributions to the conversation. This is scheduled for release in early April.]

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3 thoughts on “Evangelical Alliance Ireland on the same-sex marriage Referendum

  1. ‘In the past there was an assumption that everyone meant the same thing when they referred to marriage.’

    I’ve been struggling to get this redefining marriage stuff.I guess that I’m not sure that this sort of thing is true or an assumption I can make.Like when I look at the bible I can see the Bible lads with all their wives.And there is stuff like arranged marriages or marrying girls that are teenagers now.A man would be classed a paedophile with some traditional ways of marriage.I like a lot of this statement this though because it leaves room for conscience.

    • I think it’s true to say that for centuries marriage has been a communal and political ‘institution’ that provided the context for sex, the raising of children, giving them legal status, and the ordering of property rights. It’s primarily been a framework for having children and as far as I know, before new reproductive technology, that took one man and one woman. It has provided a context for family, stability, socialisation etc that has been supported by the state as a key element of social cohesion etc. For Christians, as the statement says, it has a whole deeper symbolism as a vocation and place for God’s grace to be worked out in relationships: husband / wife and parents / children.

      You’re right – it has changed. Romantic love between 2 free individuals leading to marriage is a pretty recent development. It’s this cultural shift that is one driving force for same-sex marriage – the ‘rights’ of the individual ‘must’ not be blocked by the state. The state is in effect saying it has little or no role in supporting or encouraging heterosexual marriage any more. ‘Equality’ and ‘justice’ are trump cards, even when played they mean changing the meaning of marriage fundamentally for everyone.

      I think this is a bad idea and bad law. But this is only a symptom of wider trends. The vision of marriage above is already collapsing. From a Christian perspective, I think this whole debate poses a challenge to the church – to live up to its own teaching on marriage. To be counter-cultural in the quality of our relationships – marriage, singleness, and how we love and treat those with whom we disagree.

      • thanks for the comment P, I agree with a lot of what you said.Enough of the intelligent and well thought out Christian leaders who I respect are saying the same sort of thing as you say so I’m trying to take it on board!But I don’t really understand why it would fundamentally change how you or I understand marriage if it was brought in.

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