Respectful conversations needed

david marrPENNY MULVEY

The perception of Christians that respected journalist and commentator David Marr expressed on the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday was both confronting and troubling.

When Mr Marr dismissed all Christians in a short discussion around possible funding of the marriage equality plebiscite, we recognise this view might come from a place of feeling personally victimised by some Christian groups.

However, Mr Marr please know that it is not the fundamental impulse of all Christians “to put the boot in to gay men and lesbians”.

On Friday both the Uniting Church President Stuart McMillan and the Anglican Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, issued statements reminding church members to be aware of their tone in any public discussions on marriage equality and the proposed plebiscite.

Mr McMillan urged people to choose their words carefully.

“We are committed to being an inclusive Church that embraces LGBTIQ people as full members and to culturally appropriate discussion about relationships and marriage across our diversity,” he said.

“Within the grace space, this is possible. But it will require conversations from the heart and being truly present for one another.”

Archbishop Freier said that marriage equality is not a theoretical issue for many people, but one that directly impinges on their lives.

“We understand that sometimes gays, lesbians and others have felt judged and rejected, even ostracised, inside the Church and that we have to be much more pastorally sensitive in future,” he said.

These are important statements from two significant leaders within the Australian Christian community – moderate, compassionate, and seeking to bring some measure into a highly charged debate.

As discussion turns to whether the federal government should provide funding for a ‘no’ and a ‘yes’ campaign for the proposed marriage equality plebiscite, it is not surprising that the Australian Christian Lobby and the conservative Sydney Anglicans become the dominant focus for the media.

Crosslight encourages the national media to recognise that these two groups do not speak for all Christians.

The Uniting Church seeks to grapple with many of the big issues facing our world. We acknowledge that our knowledge is flawed, but as Mr McMillan reminded us, the way we interact with each other is through mutuality and respect.

The debate about marriage equality could be described as a ‘messy middle’ for Christians. Firstly, as Mr McMillan said, the people of God in the Uniting Church in Australia have to work out how they engage “with one another within the Christian community recognising the range of theological diversity.” There is no common voice on this topic.

And then he asks, “how do we engage with the wider Australian community?”

For Stuart McMillan, the answer to holding respectful conversations comes from the heart.

“In this we do as the Scripture urges us, we show by our love for each other God’s love for the wider community.”

Unless we want to be defined by the most strident voices, we should heed such advice.

Image by National Library of Australia via Twitter.

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