23 August 2017

Dear Axis and Friends of Axis,

In a few weeks’ time, all Australians who are registered to vote will receive a postal plebiscite (ballot) on same sex marriage. I urge all Christ-followers to vote. Scriptures are clear that although Christians are not of this world, we are to live in this world and should “conduct ourselves in the world with integrity and godly sincerity, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace” [2 Cor 1:12]. As a result, not voting should not be an option. A head-in–the-sand response will not make this issue go away! All of you should vote, and if you’re not registered to do so, the deadline is in a few days.

Whatever your opinion on this issue, it is unquestionably foundational to the structure of our family and society. When anyone (special interest groups, governments, civilisations) suddenly redefines the meaning of key cultural words—in this case, “marriage”—everyone should beware! We need only remember Communist Russia or Nazi Germany, where people deemed “former persons” or “non-persons” met with chilling ends. A more recent example in Western culture is the attempt to redefine assisted “suicide” or mercy “killing,” because those words implied that it was somehow wrong and you shouldn’t do it. All religious worldviews aside, simply examining the socio-historical ramifications of redefining a society’s language to accomplish “kinder”, “more loving” or “better” ends, charts a course on treacherous terrain at best and on sinking sand at worst.

In this debate (and it should be a debate rather than a character-maligning shouting match!), both sides should understand and respect the other’s views. These are the touchstones of debate—an art/science largely lost in our age. Those who advocate for a redefinition of marriage need to understand that deeply-held faith convictions (of Christians and other faith-based beliefs) should not be equated with bigotry or hatred. For Christians, these convictions are based on God’s Word, which is the fabric of both our belief and practice. To judge these convictions as “intolerant” is a self-defeating argument. To say, “I cannot tolerate your intolerance,” puts us in mind of the pot and kettle.

On the other hand, I am profoundly saddened by those who would use the Scriptures and Christian doctrine as a club to bash and even condemn the LGBTQ Community! In John 8:1-11, Christ’s response to the woman caught in the act of adultery—a sexual act outside of God’s design for marriage—ought to be the benchmark for any response from a Christian on the issue of wrongdoing, particularly this one! He did not condemn the woman and challenged those with stones in their hands to throw them if they were sinless or drop them if they weren’t. Jesus also did not ignore her sin: “Go leave your life of sin!” He said.

As a Christ-following pastor, I endeavour to preach and teach the Word of God and its principles. My personal convictions are based on these. Yet I cannot and will not attempt to make a person’s choices for him/her. God’s creation design is clear: He made complimentary binaries (light & dark; heaven & earth; sea & land; plants & animals; male & female, etc.) as building blocks in His design. He also gave us the freedom to change or jettison His design. We do so at our own peril, but He gave us that freedom nonetheless. All people matter to God and therefore matter to me (whether they agree with me or believe what I believe). As I love God, I will love my neighbour…every neighbour.

God’s Word is crystal clear about His design for marriage—one man and one woman for a lifetime. As one who knows the pains of divorce, I am acutely aware of His vision for marriage, and my failure to adequately reflect it! As you interact with me—a divorced pastor—I ask two things of you: 1) love me enough to not condemn me; and 2) love me enough to tell me the truth about my error. If we’re honest with ourselves, that’s what we all should desire. Give me grace & grit: I need both! Those who don’t want to hear both grace and truth should carefully examine what they’re missing and why.

Whatever the outcome of the postal vote, Axis Church will continue to illuminate the grace and truth of Christ in North Lakes and beyond. We will continue to invite folks to come as they are and become who they’re meant to be. I must emphasize, however, for Christ-followers to achieve an outcome consistent with your convictions, you must vote. Don’t be part of “the silent majority”. This vote gives every citizen an equal voice. Don’t squander the opportunity! For more information about our views as a Wesleyan Methodist Church, please read Rev. Rex Rigby’s official letter at https://www.facebook.com/WMCAust/. There is a wealth of information—through various links—regarding this issue.

Onward & upward,

Joel A. Heron—Lead Pastor, Axis Church