‘Yes’ and ‘No’

‘Yes,’ or ‘No’, were what Australians of voting age had been asked to indicate in the same gender marriage postal survey held recently. ‘Yes’ or ‘No’? These two words have occupied the minds and conversations of Australians of various persuasions for the last few months.

On Wednesday of last week, the outcome of the survey was made public, and as it stands, 61.6% of the country voted ‘Yes’, in favour of same-gender marriage, while 38.4% voted against it. However, this doesn’t mean that it is written into law. Yet. However, it is an indicator to the Australian government of the mind of the people in this regard. It is anticipated the government now begins the process towards making lawful same-gender marriage.

Like yourselves, I was thinking about how others would respond to the survey result. Would there be massed hysteria, wanton violence and blood in the streets as people reacted because it didn’t go their way? Thank God nothing of the sort occurred and here’s hoping nothing of the sort would transpire in the future. Earlier in that same week, and prior to the results of the survey becoming public, I received by email, a pastoral letter courtesy of the President of the UCA, Mr Stuart McMillan. Here’s an excerpt of what he wrote:

“Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus.
The week ahead will be challenging for our community and our church, as the results of the Government’s voluntary postal survey on same-gender marriage will be released. We are in challenging times facing a range of disturbing issues all of which go to our common humanity – our inherent worth to God and to each other. This affects how we speak and act and, as disciples of Jesus, we are called to reflect upon what the gospel asks of us. This week we have been meeting together in Sydney and sharing our heart for the Church, the whole people of God. Every human being is of equal value to God. From the creation story to the birth of Jesus and our own baptism, we assert that every person is created in God’s image, and our worth is without question. Our humanity is made whole in Jesus Christ. Whatever the result of the postal survey, many people in our community will feel hurt, some deeply. Our families and friends who are LGBTIQ have found the whole survey incredibly difficult, and indeed unsafe. Many of our families and friends in the broader community have also found this time disconcerting. There has been a great deal of anger, fear and hurt, for which we grieve. The question for us is how we will act as the church now, and in the weeks and months ahead. We must care for each other, acknowledging that most of our congregations will host a diversity of opinions, as does our community. We cannot use our roles in the church to tell people what to think, to criticise, or to abuse, others”. *

‘Yes’ or ‘No’ are choices we make in our lives daily. Whatever your thoughts and however you are feeling at the outcome of the survey, we have the opportunity, again, to choose ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. For example, we can choose ‘Yes’ to treating with respect and dignity those who have opposing views to our own, and conversely, we can choose ‘No’ to any attitudes and actions we might be tempted to take that would marginalise and dehumanise other people. That said, choosing, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are at the heart of who we are as disciples of Jesus Christ, who commands his followers to love their neighbour. So, a response to President McMillan’s question as to ‘how should the church act now, and in the weeks and months ahead’ could simply be in choosing ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.

As you choose ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ I want to conclude with the words of St Paul in his letter to the Christian church in Thessalonica, and, still relevant for ourselves in the present: 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I’ll say, ‘Yes’, to that!

* LGBTIQ- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersexual, Questioning.
The full text of President MacMillan’s letter is available on the online version of the congregation newsletter. A hard copy can be made available upon request.

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