Note to Scottish Government Ministers on proposals for legislation in favour of homosexual ‘marriage’ unions
The Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland passed a motion in May 2012 which authorised the Religion and Morals Committee to make representations to the Scottish Government minister in the event of any proposed future Bill which would legislate in favour of marriage between homosexuals. As Convener of the Committee I am grateful to my MSP Dr Alasdair Allan for arranging this meeting with the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP who announced the proposal of a Bill on this issue.
This brief note sets out the scriptural reasons which oppose in principle any Bill which would have the effect of legalising homosexual marriage. While the terms of a Bill have not yet been proposed and while the consultation on such a Bill might have the effect of further changing the terms of any enactment, this note sets out the principled opposition of the Church to the theory of homosexual marriage from an exclusively Biblical perspective.
The unique position of the Church
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland does not consider itself, nor does it at any time wish the Scottish Government to consider it to be a mere lobby group or voluntary body with a distinct set of opinions. We assert our claim to represent the Reformation Church of Scotland which has always bound itself to the teaching of Scripture on social, moral and political issues affecting the community or the Church within it.
Lord MacKay of Clashfern addressing a Synod of Bishops of the Church of England in words equally if not more applicable to the Free Presbyterian Church in the Scottish context, made the following important statement with which we entirely agree:
“When the Church speaks on a social issue its responsibility is to apply that wisdom (of the oracles of God), after a careful consideration of the relevant teaching of the Bible, to the issues involved. I regard this as very different from a pressure group seeking to have its own opinion accepted. The Church, in these circumstances, like its Divine Master, teaches with authority. The fact that it may not be accepted by many people is nothing new.”
An issue of public morality
It is our firm conviction that homosexual marriage legislation would materially affect public morals in this country. This is a very significant moral issue with repercussions for the present and future generations. That it is considered by the Scottish Government as an issue of morals is suggested in the terms used when the planned bill was announced. The Scottish Government has decided that to implement legislation is “right” and that not to do so would perpetuate unfairness and inequality. This claim explicitly asserts that a moral standard of right and wrong is being applied. We must earnestly press on our rulers that the one and only absolute standard of morals is the law of God and that homosexual marriage is at variance with it in a fundamental way.
That the issue of homosexual marriage is viewed as a moral one is also suggested by the fact that MSPs including Government Ministers, are to be given a “free vote” on this legislation. Such an approach is usually reserved for clear matters of conscience, such as abortion or euthanasia. We firmly contend that being a matter of conscience homosexual marriage is an issue of morality. This being so, the question immediately arises as to what the moral standard for decision-making in this issue ought to be. Here the Scottish Government displays its complete lack of moral direction in that every MSP is called on to do what is right in his or her own eyes. Such moral relativism is to reject morality altogether and makes the question one to be decided by numbers rather than principles. A moral issue decided by force of numbers in a Parliament or indeed in an electorate renders the decision process an amoral one.
Scripture reasons opposing homosexual unions
There is but one ordinance of marriage known to man and recognised in civil societies and the distinction between civil and religious marriage is neither accurate nor legally legitimate. Marriage according to the Bible was instituted by God and does not belong to any State, democratic opinion or representative government in any nation. The nature and regulation of marriage is given in the Bible with sufficient clarity that every nation may recognise it and order its affairs to preserve it, as has been done in all civilised communities from the beginning of time. The present proposed changes are neither civilised, natural or legally legitimate and, it is our firm contention, they are utterly unbiblical.
1. The scriptural model and standard for marriage is the marriage of the first man and the first woman by God in the Garden of Eden when it was inculcated for mankind to the end of time “therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) In this we are clearly taught that:
a) a man should only be married to a woman – his wife.
b) when a man and a woman are joined together in marriage they become one flesh before God
c) every member of the human race has a father and mother who ought to be one flesh in marriage
d) there is no other relationship recognised as equivalent to marriage by scripture - only the union of a man and a woman as one flesh
e) the union of a man with another man or a woman with another woman is not a union whereby they are one flesh and therefore is not marriage
2. Although unions other than the only legitimate marriage union were known to be practiced and are referred to in the Bible, the scriptural definition of these other unions is that they are, in varying degrees sinful. The homosexual union is especially described and depicted as sinful being an abomination to God.
a) the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of forming and practicing the union of men with men and are described for this as sinners before the Lord exceedingly and for their sin they and their cities were destroyed with fire as an example to all following generations. (Genesis 13:13, 18:20, 19:1-29 and 2 Peter 2:6)
b) the practice of homosexual relations is described as “uncleanness,” as the “dishonouring of the body,” as “vile affections,” as “against nature,” as “unseemly,” as being given over to a “reprobate mind” and as “not convenient (or unfitting)” and they that do such things are declared by God to be “worthy of death” (Romans 1:24-32)
c) those who were once guilty of the sin of homosexual uncleanness and who were converted to the Christian faith are described in the Bible as having been “washed” and “sanctified” and their former sin is depicted as including them being “effeminate” and “abusers of themselves with mankind” (1 Corinthians 6:9)
3. While many sins are described in the Bible as especially hateful to God and while the Bible clearly teaches that those living in homosexual relations may find repentance, forgiveness and reformation, yet it identifies such solemn judgements against this sin and describes it in such dreadful terms that all should fear it and flee from it as especially provoking to God.
It follows that any Government legislation designed to create a marriage relation between homosexuals is contrary to the teaching of scripture and is against the moral law of God. It is for this reason that the Church must and will stand firmly against any such legislation and must continue to declare the mind of God in relation to this particular sin.
Other scripture reasons against the proposal
There are further scriptural reasons for our decided protest against any proposed legislation:
1. The process of consultation on what is a moral issue was itself immoral and deeply flawed in principle as well as being flawed in the actual implementation. It is our belief that the Scottish Government is increasingly working within a moral vacuum in matters of social policy. What is perceived to be the voice of the people obtains and directs in the making of laws. We reject this standard of morality utterly and warn that to make laws on this basis will be most dangerous for our nation. We therefore do not and cannot join with those who have called for a referendum on this important moral issue. No democratic voice, however strong, can ever justify an immoral law.
2. The proposals are destructive of the scriptural relations between Church and State which are enshrined in our constitution. We recommend to the Scottish Government the relation between Church and State which was established at the Reformation, confirmed at the Glorious Revolution and embodied for all time coming in the Act of Security contained in the Treaty of Union. If adopted in the 21st century, the Establishment Principle would protect the Church of Christ, ensuring that it was assisted and promoted by the Government. The Reformed Church would in turn provide moral direction in matters affecting the nation. This is the only safe relationship with the Church which the present Scottish Government should contemplate. The equivocation and plainly unscriptural decisions on moral issues emanating from the present National Church, make it all the more necessary for the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland to prayerfully place before our rulers and lawmakers the teaching of the Word of God on this and similar important moral issues.
3. The proposal will undermine the ability of the Church to solemnise marriages which use a schedule that recognises homosexual marriage. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland presently has a place on a list of Churches whose office-bearers are entitled by law to solemnise marriages and to sign the marriage schedule in its present form. Any alteration to this arrangement or to the schedule so contrary to the biblical principles of those immediately involved and which is likely to fatally compromise their ability to continue in this function with good conscience may render necessary a separate ecclesiastical registration of marriages. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland considers the proposals for change to be so extreme that legal action and judicial review will of necessity be an option open to them as interested parties in this issue.
We therefore most solemnly urge the Scottish Government to abandon its proposals for these scriptural reasons and to legislate for the promotion and preservation of marriage as God’s ordinance, defined, protected and honoured by Him in the Bible. We vehemently protest against any forthcoming legislation destructive of biblical marriage and refuse to recognise its legitimacy at any level.
On behalf of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland
David Campbell September 2012