St Stephen's same-sex marriage sign sparks backlash

WRITE STUFF: St Stephen’s minister Reverend Tim Abbey says his congregation strongly supports the traditional definition of marriage. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK	 061515csigns2

WRITE STUFF: St Stephen’s minister Reverend Tim Abbey says his congregation strongly supports the traditional definition of marriage. Photo: CHRIS SEABROOK 061515csigns2

A BATHURST church’s public message of support for traditional marriage came from a place of love, not hate, says the local minister.

And St Stephen’s Presbyterian Church Reverend Tim Abbey is not backing away from the message despite an avalanche of online criticism yesterday.

Reverend Abbey said he had been surprised by the fierce reaction to the church noticeboard message that reads “1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage So Says Jesus – Matthew 19”, but he was pleased to see the question of same-sex marriage being openly discussed.

He said the message was put on the noticeboard last week as a number of federal politicians and church leaders spoke out suggesting Jesus would have supported changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act.

He said the response within his church had been very positive.

“The motivation was that we support speaking up for a Christian point of view and what Jesus was about,” Reverend Abbey said.

“We love all people regardless of their sexuality but, as a church, we are called to listen to Jesus.

“It’s amazing that such a simple thing as supporting the traditional view of marriage as reflected in the Bible for the benefit of society could create such a reaction – and lot of the Facebook reaction was actually quite hateful.”

Reverend Abbey said while he expected same-sex marriage would become a reality in Australia, he did not believe support was as high as the 75 per cent figure often quoted by the same-sex marriage lobby.

He said he hoped the message would not alarm young parishioners who might be struggling with their sexuality.

“If they are coming to our church then they will know that God loves them and that we are all sinners and we all struggle,” he said.

“If we just take the message in isolation then the danger could be that it looks like homosexual people are being portrayed as the only people who have a struggle, but there are plenty of heterosexual people out there who have their own struggles as well.

“I would hope they would pick up that we love all people and that we are all called to trust Jesus’ word on how life works.”

But local same-sex marriage supporters were not feeling the love from St Stephen’s yesterday.

Bathurst Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gay (PFLAG) spokeswoman Helen Jagoe said the “1 Man + 1 Woman” message showed ignorance and a lack of understanding for the gay community.

“Two people who love each other have the right to have that relationship acknowledged and ratified by the community, and we are all entitled to the same life choices,” Ms Jagoe said. “When people, because of their sexuality, are denied that choice they become second-class citizens.”

Ms Jagoe said St Stephen’s was reflecting an outdated view of marriage.

“Our community has moved beyond the traditional definition of marriage, fortunately,” she said. “Same-sex marriage offers no threat to traditional marriage – in fact, it can only strengthen traditional marriage when two people who love each other want to declare that in public.”

Ms Jagoe said PFLAG had been in Bathurst for 22 years offering advice and support for families of young people as they came out as gay.

“But the fact we have less demands on our time now is a good sign that there is less prejudice and discrimination and more understanding than in the early years,” she said.