When I set out to start off Theology Review, I in no way had the intention of having so much content based around the homosexuality debate released here on the site. However, this week, the debate has once again hit the news. This time concerning the upcoming Postal Plebiscite that is to be held in Australia. So it’s worth covering once again.
In this article, I will briefly outline what the Plebiscite is and the details that any Australian readers may need to know. I will also particularly be covering the statement released by Brian Houston of Hillsong Church, one of the biggest and most influential churches in the history of Australia.
What Should We Know About the Postal Plebiscite?
The Postal Plebiscite was announced in early August. It is a postal vote (now with the option to vote in a paperless manner) on same-sex marriage. Its intention is to ask the people of Australia to say yay or nay to same-sex marriage. This in of itself is very important to note, as this was not the case for the USA or the UK. Where the Supreme Court made the decision for the people of America, and the UK public never get a say in the matter. To vote people living in Australia had to register to vote (similar to how things have worked here in terms of the General Election and the EU Referendum).
There are some key dates in terms of the Plebiscite which voters should be aware of, they are:
Tuesday, September 12 — Voting forms start being sent out.
Wednesday, October 11 — Requests to replace damaged or lost form closes.
Friday, October 27 — The date all Australians are strongly encouraged to return forms by.
Tuesday, November 7 — Final deadline to return forms.
Wednesday, November 15 — Survey results released.
On the outside looking in we can see that this is a really important issue to the Australian government. As they are allotting a little under two months to vote (56 days to be precise). The results will be announced just over two months after the opening of voting (64 days). We will aim to cover the results here at Theology Review following the announcement of the results in November. Needless to say, this is an important issue, the culture treats it as such, so the Christian community should have their voices heard on this matter.
Brian Houston, Senior Pastor of Hillsong Church (Sydney, Australia) recently released a statement ahead of the plebiscite. Let’s take a look at what he said.
Brian Houston on the Australian Postal Plebiscite
On Friday 18 August, Hillsong Church released a statement from Brian Houston on this important decision. Although the statement is brief, let’s look at some of the key highlights, you can read the full statement here.
“I urge all Christians to be a part of the upcoming postal plebiscite on same sex marriage. Whatever your view on this issue, it is undeniably one that is important to the fabric of our social structure.”
Houston is no why quiet about this issue here, it is an issue that is highly important to the fabric of our social structure. Add to that the fact that this matter is being voted on by the people of Australia, this didn’t happen in the US or the UK, we were just expected to fall in line with the decision that was made. Now in the UK and the US, we face the situation where if we don’t affirm homosexuality we’re homophobes at the least, and bigots at the worst. I would fully support Houston’s comment here, voting on this matter is very important, so if you’re reading this and you happen to be from Australia, then get out there and vote.
“Changing the definition of marriage has wide-reaching ramifications and should not be taken lightly by any society. All Australians should be a part of this process, not just a select few.”
Once again this is spot-on, I don’t agree with everything Hillsong says and does, however, this is absolutely correct. I raise the US and the UK here, how many legal cases have we seen been raised because of Christians not affirming gay marriage, a lot (most notably with Ashers Bakery here in the UK). The reality is that if gay marriage is agreed in the plebiscite, then it is a change to the definition of marriage. And if the homosexual lobby gets it way Australia may find itself in a similar place to us here in the UK, and in the US. The ramifications of changing the definition are huge, and it should be taken lightly as Houston right says.
“For Christians, the issue is also a matter of faith and biblical teaching, something that should never be mocked or downplayed by those with opposing views. I believe God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. The writings of the apostle Paul in Scripture on the subject of homosexuality are also clear, as I have mentioned in previous public statements.”
Houston once again rightly says what this boils down to for us as Christians. It is a matter of faith and Biblical teaching. The reality is that the Bible is very clear on this issue as Houston accurately states. Both the Old and New Testament (including Jesus’ own words) confirm that homosexuality is immoral in the eyes of God. Now if you’re reading this and for the affirmation of homosexuality in any way, then I want to ask you a question. What shows more integrity, pandering to the views of those who are pushing for the affirmation of gay marriage, or to stay true to the teachings of God, Jesus, and His word (the Bible)? If you were to ask me, it would be the latter. As Houston says, scripture is clear on this matter, all the way through. Whether you disagree with it or not quite frankly is irrelevant, as God’s word trumps our opinion.
“Throughout this entire debate, some on both sides of the argument have failed to understand and respect the views of others. Some of those advocating for change to the definition of marriage have confused faith convictions with bigotry however they must understand that Christian – and other religious – beliefs are extremely important to those who hold them and in fact are vital to a tolerant and free society.”
Yet again Houston makes another accurate statement here. If a Christian does not affirm homosexuality, it does not mean that they are a bigot or a homophobe. That is a false conclusion that pop culture has forced out into the open, and unfortunately, people who don’t take the time to truly investigate this issue has bought this decree hook, line, and sinker. I’ve met lots of gay people over the years, in fact, a good friend of mine I had at secondary school days was gay. In the conversations I’ve had with them, they’ve all came to the understanding that for those of who are Christians it is spiritually inconsistent to alter the teachings of God to make it more palatable to the culture. While they didn’t agree with my views, they did understand that as a Christian it wouldn’t be right to acquiesce to the culture. This leads me to ask the question of why can’t everybody be as mature as that?
“Sadly some also use Christianity to alienate and even condemn those who are gay and dismiss their desire to pursue happiness. As a Christian pastor, I will always teach and preach according to Scripture and my personal convictions, but I cannot make other people’s choices for them. God created humanity with a free will, and I care about all people including those who believe differently to me.”
This is also true. On one side of the fence, we as Christians have to face the fact that we are not in a position to condemn those who are gay, particularly outside of the Church. If someone is a non-believer they cannot be held to God’s standards. However, if they are in the Church, this is a different matter entirely. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 that we are to judge those inside the Church, but God is to judge those outside. Even with this being the case, sometimes some of us who are believers take it a little too far. We all need to remember that at the end of the day, we’re all still sinners, and God has to forgive us all.
“However it must be emphasised that for Christians to obtain an outcome consistent with their beliefs, they must vote. I believe that many Australians who are often referred to as the ‘silent majority’ feel strongly on this subject but allow louder and often more aggressive voices to control the public dialogue. This plebiscite provides us all with an equal voice and we should not waste this opportunity.”
In Houston’s final comments in this statement, he states the importance of voting. Once again this matter is a very important matter, one that we as Christians should be engaging with. Voting here is crucial, no matter where you stand, with God’s word, or against, you need to have your voice heard. So if you’re an Australian reading this article, can I please encourage you to vote in this postal plebiscite. Your voice should be heard.
Statement from Pastor Brian Houston, Senior Pastor, Hillsong Church Re: Australian Same Sex Marriage Postal Plebiscite, Marriage Equality Postal Plebiscite: What You Need To Know, Process for Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey, Postal Plebiscite: ABS Will Offer Aussies Overseas a 'Paperless Vote'