A Reflection on Biblical attitudes to Marriage

Note to Margaret Court: the Bible isn't meant to be read that literally


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Margaret Court’s views on homosexuality do not reflect those of most Christians.
The Conversation/Shutterstock

Robyn J. Whitaker, University of Divinity

Margaret Court is wrong to claim marriage is “a union between a man and a woman as stated in the Bible”, as she did in her open letter to Qantas, or that a “biblical view” of marriage is between one man and one woman, as she did on Channel Ten’s The Project last week. She is even more wrong to suggest she is being persecuted for her views. Here is why.

Reading the Bible to determine the shape of contemporary marriage is not an easy task. It is an ancient collection of 66 books, written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic), and spanning over 1,000 years of human history. Much of the Bible was written 2,500 years ago, when family life was very different.

In the Hebrew scriptures, Abraham fathered children with his concubine as well as his wife, and Moses likely had two wives (one of whom is presented as problematic because she was a foreigner). Famous biblical kings, like David and Solomon, had entire palaces full of often dubiously acquired wives and concubines that served as symbols of their power and status.

The reality is families in the Bible reflect the patriarchal structures of their period. Women were considered commodities to be married off for political alliances, economic reasons, or to keep families connected. They had no autonomy to choose their partners.

Polygamy was common, as was the use of slaves as sexual concubines. I don’t hear anyone advocating a “biblical view” of marriage suggesting we return to those particular scenarios.

In the New Testament, Jesus said nothing about homosexual relationships or marriage, except that people should not divorce. This teaching is widely ignored by many Christian denominations today. Most likely, Jesus’ concern in speaking against divorce was for the vulnerable place in which it left women, given they could not usually earn their own money or inherit.

Marriage was allowed in the New Testament, but the most prolific writer, Paul, thinks celibacy is preferable for a Christian. When Paul writes “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), he presents an ideology profoundly disruptive of patriarchal family structures, gender roles and hierarchy.

This kind of Christian teaching led, if anything, to a breakdown of traditional marriage structures (in ancient terms). For example, the option to remain celibate and live in community (such as a nunnery or monastery) was a radical, attractive and liberating alternative to arranged marriage for women in earliest Christianity. Jesus’ own mother, who is an example of faith in the church’s tradition, appears to have left her husband and other children at home to follow her itinerant son.

Not all opinions are of equal weight. While Margaret Court remains one of the most phenomenal sportswomen in Australian history, this does not qualify her as a spokesperson for Christianity on marriage equality. Nor does being a self-appointed leader of a church she created.

Indeed, if Court applied the literalism with which she reads Genesis to the whole of the Bible, she’d find herself in hot water, since 1 Timothy 2:12 explicitly forbids women teaching or having any authority over men. This kind of culturally bound ideology is precisely why biblical scholars and mainstream Christian churches do not adhere to a literal interpretation of this ancient and diverse text.

To criticise and expect a higher level of discourse from a public figure is not bullying nor persecution. Court willingly put herself into the public space by writing an open letter to Qantas. She could have lodged her complaint privately with the company if she wished to remain free of public comment.

There is nothing inherently Christian about the so-called traditional arrangement of the nuclear family. You can find that model in the Bible if you look for it, but it is not the dominant view. Nor does the Bible condemn what we understand to be loving, mutual LGBTQI relationships today.

There is nothing like the contemporary concept of sexual orientation in the biblical text. Where the Bible does appear to condemn homosexual acts it condemns same-sex acts that are rape, adulterous or represent imbalanced power dynamics, such as an elite male with a youth. Interestingly, these same power dynamics are not critiqued when an elite male takes a young woman as a sexual concubine; a sobering reminder of the patriarchal worldview that lies behind the text and ancient fears about penetration and masculinity.

Concepts of family and marriage have evolved and changed throughout human history, including within the church. Modern Christian families can be made up of gay couples, straight couples, single people in community, childless adults, foster parents, step-parents, grandparents and biological parents. It is their faith that makes them Christian, not their family structure nor sexuality.

The ConversationMany Christians are not represented by the views we’ve recently heard from Margaret Court, nor those espoused by the so-called Australian Christian Lobby. In fact, quite the opposite. Christian values of love, justice and inclusion found throughout the Bible are why so many Christians support marriage equality.

Robyn J. Whitaker, Bromby Lecturer in Biblical Studies, Trinity College; Lecturer, University of Divinity

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

ABM Appeal for Lent

The Rev Yulki leading a baptism service at Numbulwar. © Diocese of the Northern Territory/Ruth Brigden, 201

ONE OF THE THREE PROJECTS FOR LENT 2017 - ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER MINISTRY

From remote communities to regional towns and big cities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians play an important and too often overlooked role in the church and community. In Numbulwar, on the coast of Eastern Arnhem Land, the Reverend Yulki Nunggumajbarr (pictured) has been able to sit together with members of the Northern Territory Ministry Development Team to develop liturgies in the language of her people for special services such as Easter and Ash Wednesday.

Your support will be used to assist with the establishment and growth of ministry by and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Anglican Church of Australia.

This project is non-tax deductible.

PACIFIC EL NINO EMERGENCY RESPONSE

ABM Appeal for PNG

According to a recent report by the PNG Church Partnership Program (CPP), an estimated 140,000 people in Papua New Guinea are suffering severe food and water shortages as the result of the ongoing El Nino weather system.
The situation is worsening with successive crop failures, malnutrition prevalent amongst children, increased cases of typhoid, diarrhoea and pneumonia, and reports of desperate families exchanging women and girls for food, or abandoning them due to the inability to support them.
The Anglican Church of PNG is actively working with others from the Australian government-supported CPP to support affected communities who live mainly in the Southern Highlands and Western provinces, including the areas of Popondetta, and Dogura.
ABM is seeking to raise $50,000 in the coming months, now that Initial Response funding from the Australian Government (DFAT) has ceased. Since this appeal was launched in November 2015, donations contributed towards the food relief in Kerina Evangelists’ College but now more help is urgently needed.
Your gift will provide food and water emergency supplies in drought affected areas of Papua New Guinea and aid the Church in responding to this environmental crisis.

Donate to ABM online here - click link

World Environment Day

World Environment Day

Every June 5, World Environment Day is commemorated.  The day was established by the United Nations General Assembly 1972.  Its aim is to encourage people to be active in supporting sustainable and equitable living and to become more aware of the role communities play in changing issues.

This year, as the day is falling on a Sunday, we will be remembering our responsibilities to this beautiful world, which we see as the creation of our loving God, for a home for us, and for us to care for and protect, not just for us, but for future generations .

In our services on Sunday we will be pick up these themes and use some of the resources the Diocese has provided.

Friendship Group Meeting May 21

Friendship club meeting - Roz

Last week at the Friendship Group on Saturday afternoon, we heard a very interesting talk by Roz from the Citizen's Advocacy Group. This group has been funded by the Federal Government for over 35 years to assist vulnerable community members with intellectual disability who have little or no support from family.

Click here to read about their work. It also gives ways for anyone who may be interested in helping in this excellent work can get in touch with the group.

This was just another of the interesting Saturday afternoons put on by the Friendship Group under the special care and leadership of Tony and Cynthia Annels. Do put the dates (3rd Saturdays - check newsletters for details) in your diary and come along - all are welcome.

 

St George's Cathedral declared as sanctuary

St George's Cathedral GetUp Rally

Hundreds gathered on the hot Monday evening to protest the plans to return 267 people to families and children presently on the Australian mainland.  The Dean of St George's Cathedral, Very Rev. Richard Pengelley, declared the Cathedral a place of sanctuary for asylum seekers threatened with being returned to off-shore processing.  Although the medieval legal protection of churches being able to offer sanctuary no longer exists, there is a strong moral impetus for declaring churches and cathedrals across Australia places that will offer sanctuary.

The recent High Court judment impacts the lives of 267 asylum seekers who are currently living in Australia, 91 of them are children including 37 babies.

The decision by the High Court was made on the law, but the law was changed retrospectively by the government, after the legal action was taken out, last year to give them backing for the arrangements they had been following for years, and were now threatened.

The High Court decision may be according to the law of the land, but it is not moral. To send children and families, including babies born in Australia back into indefinite detention, in spite of their having done nothing illegal in seeking asylum, a right defended under UN charters to which we as Australians are signaturies, is inhumane and unjust.

The government is well aware of this, and that conditions in Nauru are appalling or otherwise there would not be the need for secrecy, for militarisation of Department of Immigration and Border Protection Officers, or for harsh whistleblower legislation to prevent people speaking out.

These people live in terror now that they will, with their families, be sent back to Nauru.

These camps are no place for families, and most especially for children. Many professions of the the medical and caring professions have given evidence before Senate Committees, and spoken publicly, of the immense harm that is being done to children in these places, harm that may well last a lifetime.

Many doctors and nurses have put their careers in jeopardy, defying new federal laws which threaten jail to health workers who speak out against the harsh conditions in the immigration detential centres.  Last year more that 400 doctors stood together demanding children be released from detention.

Now many churches across Australia have come on board to declare that they will offer sanctuary to any of these families about to be sent back to off-shore processing.

Click on link to see pictures from the rally.

Let them stay

let them stay

Let them stay

 

This Monday night at St George's Cathedral, the people of Perth will stand for sanctuary and call on the government to not deport 267 people seeking asylum. Will you be there?

In breaking news, Premier Daniel Andrews has just offered the entire state of Victoria as a sanctuary for the 267 people Malcolm Turnbull wants to deport to Nauru.

This act of moral leadership comes just days after churches around Australia boldly offered sanctuary within their walls to these people. A true act of compassion and political defiance.

And State Premiers and churches aren't the only institutions facing off against the government. Over the last three days, hospitals, doctors and teachers have all stood up against our government, who are still set to deport these people to hell on earth.

This swell of civil defiance is momentous and powerful. But for it to to work, we as community members need to back them up.

On Monday night, tens of thousands of people will stand up across Australia to demand the government keeps these 267 children, men and women safe in Australia. We'll stand for sanctuary and demand the government let them stay. Will you be there?

What: Perth Stands for Sanctuary – rally to #letthemstay
Organisers: Welcome to Australia
Where: St George's Cathedral, Perth
When: Monday 8th February
Time: 6pm - 7.30pm
Bring: A sign that says Let Them Stay
Click here to RSVP and invite your friends and family

This Monday is our chance to stand with the courageous faith leaders, doctors, teachers and lawyers who risk personal penalty for standing in the way of heinously immoral government policy by fighting for these people's protection.

Among them are paediatricians - who are refusing to discharge their young patients, on the grounds that Nauru is so hellish a place to send a child that it would breach their duty of care to do so.

Others are teachers to some of the 50 school-aged children set to be deported – who have reached out to advocates, asking how they too can act to keep their students in their classroom, not dragged back to detention camps.

And in spite of this incredible groundswell of defiance, the government still appears ready to put these vulnerable men, women and kids on planes to hell on earth. A huge public mobilisation backing in the courageous civil disobedience from our churches, schools and hospitals is our best bet to stop that happening.

Let's show that Australians stand for sanctuary. See you there?

Shen, Sally, Aurora and Alycia for the GetUp team

Let them stay

let them stay

Let them stay

 

This Monday night at St George's Cathedral, the people of Perth will stand for sanctuary and call on the government to not deport 267 people seeking asylum. Will you be there?

In breaking news, Premier Daniel Andrews has just offered the entire state of Victoria as a sanctuary for the 267 people Malcolm Turnbull wants to deport to Nauru.

This act of moral leadership comes just days after churches around Australia boldly offered sanctuary within their walls to these people. A true act of compassion and political defiance.

And State Premiers and churches aren't the only institutions facing off against the government. Over the last three days, hospitals, doctors and teachers have all stood up against our government, who are still set to deport these people to hell on earth.

This swell of civil defiance is momentous and powerful. But for it to to work, we as community members need to back them up.

On Monday night, tens of thousands of people will stand up across Australia to demand the government keeps these 267 children, men and women safe in Australia. We'll stand for sanctuary and demand the government let them stay. Will you be there?

What: Perth Stands for Sanctuary – rally to #letthemstay
Organisers: Welcome to Australia
Where: St George's Cathedral, Perth
When: Monday 8th February
Time: 6pm - 7.30pm
Bring: A sign that says Let Them Stay
Click here to RSVP and invite your friends and family

This Monday is our chance to stand with the courageous faith leaders, doctors, teachers and lawyers who risk personal penalty for standing in the way of heinously immoral government policy by fighting for these people's protection.

Among them are paediatricians - who are refusing to discharge their young patients, on the grounds that Nauru is so hellish a place to send a child that it would breach their duty of care to do so.

Others are teachers to some of the 50 school-aged children set to be deported – who have reached out to advocates, asking how they too can act to keep their students in their classroom, not dragged back to detention camps.

And in spite of this incredible groundswell of defiance, the government still appears ready to put these vulnerable men, women and kids on planes to hell on earth. A huge public mobilisation backing in the courageous civil disobedience from our churches, schools and hospitals is our best bet to stop that happening.

Let's show that Australians stand for sanctuary. See you there?

Shen, Sally, Aurora and Alycia for the GetUp team

Our outreach through ABM

Lent Appeal 2016

Our Australian Anglican Board of Mission

There is so much to do in this world of need, and acting alone, we can do so little, but together we can make a difference.  This is why, in this parish we support the work of the Anglican Board of Mission which works to bring Christ's love and hope into so many areas in the countries around us. 

Abm's Five Marks of Mission

Witness to Christs's saving, forgiving and reconciling love for all people

Build welcoming, transforming communities of faith

Stand in solidarity with the poor and needy

Challenge violence, injustice and oppression, and work for peace and reconcilliation

Protect, care for and renew life on our planet

Throughout the year we continue to support ABM - many generously donate directly to this mission agency, we have special appeals like the Advent and Christmas Appel, and through the sale of coffee at morning tea time, as well, as from time to time, special fund raising activies.

You will notice the various appeals in the newsletters, and will also see the ABM Pew Reflections, which will also be published on the website this year.  Go to their Home Page  

and read more about, this our own mission outreach in a world crying out for help.

Do support the Lent Appeal that will soon be launched in the parish.

ABM Lent Appeal

The Anglican Board of Mission

This is our Australian mission agency which works in the countries of our area to give people new life and hope, to show the love of God revealed by Jesus, and be agents of change for good. 

Abm's Five Marks of Mission

Witness to Christs's saving, forgiving and reconciling love for all people

Build welcoming, transforming communities of faith

Stand in solidarity with the poor and needy

Challenge violence, injustice and oppression, and work for peace and reconcilliation

Protect, care for and renew life on our planet

 

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