As Australia prepares to conduct a massive, countrywide survey asking residents if gay marriage should be legalized, Brian Houston, senior pastor of the Australian-based Hillsong Church, has spoken out in a statement published on his church’s website.
Houston opened his statement by encouraging all Christians to take part in the survey, regardless of where they stand on the issue.
“Whatever your view on this issue, it is undeniably one that is important to the fabric of our social structure,” he said. “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.”
Houston also made it clear where he stands on same-sex nuptials, pointing back to “faith and biblical teaching” to proclaim that he believes the Bible is absolutely clear on what constitutes marriage. That said, he also made a passionate plea for respect and understanding on both sides of the divide.
“I believe God’s word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “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 said people on both sides have made some unfortunate mistakes, with some critics of traditional marriage views assuming that Christians are motivated by bigotry. Others on the Christian side, he said, have used faith to “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,” he continued. “God created humanity with a free will, and I care about all people including those who believe differently to me.”
The preacher concluded his statement by noting that, whatever happens once citizens receive their paper ballots, he is confident that Hillsong will continue on without a problem, noting that the church operates fine in countries where gay marriage has already been legalized.
Houston said he expects this to be the case in Australia as well, so long as no legislation is passed that would impede peoples’ Christian convictions.
In the end, Houston said Christians must have a voice on the matter.
“It must be emphasised that for Christians to obtain an outcome consistent with their beliefs, they must vote,” he said. “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.”