Australian archbishop calls for the church get out of the civil marriage business

“It might be time to make sanctioning legal marriage a matter purely for the state,” says Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, has called for a rethink of the church’s relations with the state as registrars for civil marriages. The Writing in The Age on 6 July 2015 Dr. Freier said: “It might be time to make sanctioning legal marriage a matter purely for the state.” The recent US Supreme Court ruling and the Irish referendum authorizing gay marriage “will surely provide impetus in Australia to move towards legislative change” he observed. The historical place of the institutional church in Australian life had changed radically over the past two hundred years he said and “will never again have the same dominant position as society’s conscience and moral guardian. Christian advocates must accept that we are one voice among many, even though it is often a voice of considerable wisdom and experience.” In light of these changes “it might be thought anomalous that the church remains the state’s representative when it comes to performing marriage,” Dr. Freier wrote. “It might be time to make sanctioning legal marriage a matter purely for the state,” and have Australia adopt a European-style format of marriage registration. The civil notion of marriage was not the same as Christian marriage, which is “ordained by God, that the vows have a particularly sacred character because they are explicitly made before God, and that the closeness and intensity of loving sexual relationships which are proper only within marriage teach us something of God’s love.” He added that it was “no longer reasonable for us to expect that the state’s approach will be as prescriptive and demanding as the Christian understanding, but nor is it reasonable for the state to expect Christians to give up their comprehensive and long-standing view.” Now was the time for a “revisiting of the delegation of a state function to all sorts of independent citizens, whether religious or civil celebrants, may produce separation of state and non-state actors in this important and foundational institution of marriage.”

 
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