Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Equal Marriage

Today in the UK Parliament a debate is taking place on whether same-sex couples should be permitted to marry in England & Wales. This is a matter that has caused much division and discussion within Parliament, within society at large, and within the Christian churches of Britain (and further afield).

At issue, it seems to me, is the understanding in the popular mindset of what marriage is and is about. For many marriage is a sacred, even sacramental act: a life-long union of one man and one woman which provides the setting for the physical expression of love, for the procreation and nurture of children, and for the stability of social society. Any proposed changes that counter that traditional - some would say God-given - interpretation of marriage strike at the heart not only of the institution but of society itself.

For others, marriage - if is it necessary at all - is the context in which mutual affection, desire and love are expressed between two individuals, irrespective of their gender. If a man and a woman, two men or two women wish to publicly confess their love for each other and covenant to a life-long commitment to one another, then why shouldn't they? What matters is that society provides them with an occasion to express the depth of their relationship in a way that is meaningful to them and to their friends and family, irrespective of whether this is in a secular or religious context.

In my own thinking I have been slowly moving towards this second, more accommodating view of marriage. Whether marriage is open to all, irrespective of their particular orientation, makes no difference to my marriage of nearly 25 years: it does not undermine my relationship with my wife nor make it any less real and valid an expression of our love for each other. So why should my lesbian and gay brothers and sisters be denied the opportunity to publicly express their love in the same way?

We are all who and how God and society have made us to be; created equal in the eyes of God; equally loved and redeemed by God. This is a matter of equality, of justice, as the matters of race and gender are. While there are still rivers to cross in the fight for true equality, let us not fall at this hurdle (horrible mixed metaphors, but you get my drift ;)).


  1. I agree John. Much of my received view of marriage was, I now recognise, based on tradition and the culture in which I was raised, not on Scripture. So far as Civil ceremonies are concerned, it is a committment by the couple and acknowledgement by the State that a stable relationship is "good" for society, so sexual orientation has no relevance - so "marriage" for all. Within the Church it is a sacrament and my personal view is that the Church should be asking God's blessing on all sincere committments - in fact it has no right to withold. I do however also have to recognise that some (many?) religous people take a different view, so it should be left to individual churches / faith groups to work out their own understanding - much as we have with women priests. Or is that just sitting on the fence? Donald Milne

  2. Marriage is only a sacrament in the Roman Catholic Church, I think. For Protestants it's simply a contract which God blesses. A sacrament is a symbol of the nature of God that actually embodies that nature in some way. The logic of which is that God is in essence male-and-female (which begs the question as to why the tradition calls God "Father, Son and (masculine) Holy Spirit). But I don't recall any of this being part of the discussion. It sits uneasily with Paul's "neither male nor female in Christ" and John's "where true love is, God himself is there".