A couple of weeks ago I was part of two groups who made a submission to the Government Administration Committee in support of the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill.
Here is one of those submissions
Submissions on the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill
To the Government Administration Committee
Individual members of the Anglican Parish of Gate Pa, Tauranga
I Summary of Submission
The individuals who have signed this submission, all committed Christians, support the Bill.
II The Parish of Gate Pa
The Parish of Gate Pa is set in the Bay of Plenty. The parish has one church, St George’s, which sits on the hill-site of the Battle of Gate Pa which was fought in 1864. There are 189 people on the parish roll, including children.
The Battle of Gate Pa was one of the most significant in the whole colonial period, and is the only battlefield in a New Zealand urban area. It is a nationally significant site.
The battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga (which was fought on 21 June 1864) led to the confiscation of large areas of land and the beginning of the city of Tauranga. Before the battles, the Tauranga area had a large Maori population and a thriving Church Missionary Society mission station. The missionaries were inevitably drawn into the conflict and there are still sensitivities around the role and purpose of the mission, the battle, the subsequent land confiscations and the place of the Anglican Church in that process.
St George’s was built in 1900 as a memorial church for the soldiers and sailors who lost their lives in the battles. Since then it has become a place of reconciliation for both races and a venue and focal point for discussion about the New Zealand colonial war period. It is often used for lectures, forums and discussions, school and tourist visits, documentaries, religious observances and the annual commemoration of the battle.
The church building contains items that signify a Christian reconciliation and partnership between Maori and Pakeha people.
This theme of reconciliation has grown over the years to become an integral part of our faith and interaction with the wider community; to incorporate all people, and to live out God’s profound love of all people, irrespective of race, age, gender and sexual orientation.
This submission is not made by the parish as a whole. We are all individuals who are also members of this parish. Nevertheless, the position that we signatories take in support of the Bill rests upon our understanding of the Christian and Anglican way. We are aware that some parishioners and some Christians do not agree with our position.
III The basis of our support for the Bill
The principal aim of our diocese and of our parish is to “know Jesus and to make Jesus known”. The Jesus we meet in the gospels worked hard to break down the barriers that kept people from being part of God’s community. He spent his time with those on the very edge of his society including; widows, divorced women, prostitutes, the sick, the poor, Gentiles and Samaritans. To all of these he offered God’s life-giving love. He embraced them and included them in God’s reign. He challenged all of those who used the Mosaic Law to exclude people who were different from them, and who used it to proclaim a God who was only interested in the, so called, moral elite. He preached and lived reconciliation between God and all people, and between all types of people. It is this Jesus who we seek to follow. Anglican theology is, at its heart, incarnational. That means we believe the crucified and risen Christ continues to reconcile all people to God and to each other. We continue to meet this Jesus among those who are marginalised today, who are declared to be not good enough. This includes gay and lesbian people.
For these and other reasons, we believe that a 21st century expression of Anglican ideals must be inclusive and must encompass all people, no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity is. Further, we see no reason not to expect similar values to be expressed in the laws of the land. In this regard, we endorse the anti-discrimination rules found in the Human Rights Act 1993 and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, in both of which, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is illegal. This leads us inevitably to a non-discriminatory approach to marriage.
The legal concept of marriage is, in essence, civil not religious, even though the churches are given a privileged status with respect to the recognition of marriage celebrants. We acknowledge that some church-people do not want to recognise or take part in a religious marriage ceremony between same-sex couples. However, in our view, the proposed law does not force a change to any religious concept of marriage, but only to the civil concept. Nor ought the proposed law change compel clergy, who are opposed to marriages between same-sex couples, to celebrate them. On the other hand, the Bill gives those church-people who wish to recognise religious marriage between same-sex couples the legal opportunity to do so.
We therefore support the Amendment Bill.
Te pai me te rangimārie (peace and all good)
Rev. John Hebenton TSSF
Anglican Parish of Gate Pa
St. Georges Church
1 Church St, Tauranga
Aotearoa - New Zealand