An Episcopal Pastoral Letter
THE POSITION OF THE METHODIST CHURCH IN MALAYSIA ON GAY MARRIAGE
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We live in changing times of global proportion. Key among these global changing tidal waves is the expeditious growing acceptance of gay marriage in the Western world which will change fundamentally the basic building block of society, which is, the family.
The trend of legalizing gay marriage is a matter of great concern for many, including those in the church. A BBC News article [10 Feb 2014 – Where is it Illegal to be gay? www.bbc.com] showed that in 1789, homosexuality was illegal in 126 countries. By 2014, about 92 countries had decriminalised homosexuality. A Pew Research Centre article [Gay Marriage around the World, 26 June 2015] states that currently 22 countries have legalised gay marriages. The Netherlands was the first to do so in 2000, and she was joined this year by Finland, Greenland, the Republic of Ireland and the latest nation that created the greatest of impact – the United States of America.
One source has listed Malaysia as among “79 Countries where homosexuality is illegal” [76crimes.com]. In this article the majority of the nations where homosexuality is illegal are found in Africa, and Asia including the Middle East and South East Asia.
We live in a world which has seen the discarding of the “self-evident truths of God” especially in the “trend setting” affluent and influential West - driven by forces such as increasing secularism and relativism that promote the view that each person should dictate his own moral imperatives. In the words of Ravi Zacharias, we live increasingly in a self-ruled “Autonomous Culture”.
To many, the latest legalizing of gay marriage in the United States of America that redefines marriage represents a decline of marriage marked by divorce, cohabitation and a world view that embraces almost limitless sexual freedom which started about half a century ago.
For the Church, just as no human institution has the authority to redefine the Gospel, so it is the same with the institution of marriage [which mysteriously reflects the Gospel in Ephesians 5:32]. The Lord Jesus Christ has declared that marriage as the Creator God has defined it, is from “the beginning” [Matthew 19:4-6, 8] woven into the very fabric of the creation of humankind.
The Bible plainly teaches the enduring truth that marriage involves one man and one woman. This complementarity between male and female [Genesis 2;24, Matthew 19:4-6, 1 Cor 7:2-16, Ephesians 5:23-33] over a lifetime union is for the purpose of the extension of humankind via the building of a family and providing a steady and sure setting for that family. This original definition of marriage has been well supported by history, psychology and nature, even as it is universally acknowledged that men and women are psychologically, emotionally and sexually designed to complement each other.
The Methodist Church in Malaysia has always categorically affirmed -
· The sufficiency of the Bible for salvation and Christian living ie – “In the name of the Holy Scriptures we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church” [Article V, The Book of Discipline 2012, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, p 22] and
· “the sanctity of the marriage covenant which is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman…We reject social norms that assume different standards in marriage. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, thus we do not support same sex marriage as it is against Christian teachings…” [Social Principles para 84 1.a, The Book of Discipline 2012, The Methodist Church in Malaysia, p 32].
There was also a GCEC sanctioned reaffirmation of this same position of the Methodist Church in Malaysia titled The Position of the Methodist Church in Malaysia on Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage that was issued on 24 August 2011 through the Episcopal Office then to a specific media context that reads:
“In accordance with the Bible, the position of the Methodist Church in Malaysia on homosexuality is as follows:
The Bible forbids all forms of homosexual intercourse, because such acts are abnormal and unnatural. The biblical model of marriage comprises one man and one woman, one husband and one wife. Jesus Christ affirmed and upheld this principle in His discourse on marriage.
The Bible is clearly against homosexuality. Therefore, churches that hold fast to biblical belief do not and will not support same sex marriage.
Although the church cannot accept or condone homosexuality and same sex marriage, it does not reject homosexuals. The church is willing to extend love, concern and assistance to them. Church services are open to all, including homosexuals. If they are willing to accept counselling, the church will help and care for them. There are Christian organisations that focus on assisting homosexuals in our country.
Nevertheless, the church categorically opposes homosexuality and same sex marriage, nor does it approve of supporters of homosexuality propagating same sex marriage in the name of Christianity.”
It is important for the church of this generation to think through and respond biblically and wholesomely to a host of issues surrounding human sexuality and the sanctity of marriage. The church will also have to grapple with practical measures in terms of having those with non-orthodox sexual orientation in the worshipping community. This will have a bearing on issues of participation, preparation for baptism, church membership, church discipline, leadership etc.
We must teach the truth about biblical marriage in our homes, reinforcing and shaping the teaching of the church on sexuality to our children. With great grace received comes great responsibility to shape the thought and life of the church for generations to come. This is not only the call and responsibility of the national or local church leadership, but of every Christian household.
In this way, we can be God’s intended source in bringing healing and hope to a sexually broken culture which has reached a critical point. In the course of doing this, we should never forget the biblical mandate that all persons are created in the image of God and deserve dignity and respect – notwithstanding their sexual orientation and preference. We must remember to love our neighbours irrespective of whatever disagreements that may surface consequent to conflicting beliefs about marriage. For the sake of the common good we need to live respectfully and civilly alongside those who may disagree with us.
However, the Methodist Church in Malaysia must be faithful to the biblical witness on marriage notwithstanding the current tidal cultural shift on marriage; we are also reminded to pray for God’s people in those countries that have legalised same sex marriage. The landscape may grow more antagonistic to a biblical sexual ethic [which is not new in the history of the church] but the church is defined by the Gospel. We as God’s people called Methodists shall continue in our biblical roots and Wesleyan tradition of insisting that the Gospel brings good news to all people, regardless of whether the culture considers the news good or not.
Rev Dr Ong Hwai Teik
The Methodist Church in Malaysia
06 July 2015
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