Canadian churches hope to see 'gay marriage' law reversed

OTTAWA, Ontario (BP)--Christians across Canada are being urged to contact their representatives in Parliament and encourage them to support an upcoming motion to reopen the debate over "gay marriage."

Such a motion by the Conservative government could come in December, and it could be the first step in a process to overturn a 2005 law pushed through by the then-Liberal government legalizing "marriage" nationwide for homosexual couples. Newspaper tallies say Conservatives may not have the votes to pass the motion, but churches across the country aren't giving up.

On Nov. 9 more than 40 denominational and religious leaders from various backgrounds released a "Declaration on Marriage" defending the natural definition of marriage and requesting Parliament and the rest of Canada to re-think the issue.

"Changing the definition of marriage involves a repudiation of millennia of history and experience," said the declaration, which was signed by Baptist, Catholic, Islamic, Mennonite, Methodist, Orthodox and Pentecostal leaders. "Redefining marriage as being 'between two persons' eclipses the essence and full purpose of marriage; the inner connection between marriage, the complementarity of the sexes, procreation and the raising of children is lost. "When severed from its nature and purpose, marriage becomes simply a euphemism for a committed relationship between two consenting adults. Such an understanding diminishes both the sacred and civil dimensions of marriage and fails to promote the common good of society."

Even before "gay marriage" was legalized, there were concerns about the curtailing of religious freedom in Canada. Christians there now believe it could get worse.

In 1997 Hugh Owens, a Saskatchewan man, placed an advertisement in a newspaper citing four Bible passages to denounce homosexuality. That sparked a lengthy court battle that saw him fined $4,500 for violating the province's human rights code. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal finally overturned that decision earlier this year, but Christians said the damage to religious freedom already had been done.

Last year the Alberta Human Rights Commission, after receiving complaints from two homosexual citizens, began investigating a Catholic bishop over comments he made about "gay marriage." His views, published in a newspaper column and in a letter to parishioners, expressed traditional biblical beliefs about marriage and homosexuality. The complaints eventually were withdrawn, but not before the bishop was forced to hire a lawyer, the Catholic Register reported.

Additionally, several provinces have forced out marriage commissioners who refused to preside over "gay marriages" on moral grounds.

Gerry Taillon, national ministry leader for the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists (CCSB), said there are other concerns.

"Let's say a gay couple wants to get married and the church has a hall or a fellowship center," he told Baptist Press. "That's a pretty big issue because it could be seen as an infringement of human rights to deny them that ability to get married."

The CCSB has posted letters on its website, urging churches to get involved in the issue and to contact their member of Parliament, commonly known as an MP. Also, the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada has downloadable resources on its website for churches, including bulletin inserts focusing on the "gay marriage" issue before Parliament.

"The most important thing to do is [for a church member to] write their MP and voice their opinion, and hopefully they will say they're against gay marriage," Taillon said.

National groups such as Focus on the Family Canada are urging churches to put a policy in place outlining how their property can and cannot be used. By not doing so, experts say, a church is risking having a complaint filed against it in the future by a homosexual couple looking for a "marriage" facility.

But the issue of "gay marriage" presents more than legal problems, Taillon said. It also presents complex spiritual ones.

"What if a gay couple has two children and [the couple is then] converted to Christianity? Whether we like it or not, those are their parents," Taillon said. "That's going to be very complicated. We're going to say, 'OK, now that you're converted, you must abstain from homosexual behavior.' We're going to say that you must not live together. But it's going to be complicated if they've raised kids and those kids are 4 years old."


Resources for Canadian churches are available online at: http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/social/marriage.asp.

For information about the national debate in America over "gay marriage," visit www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage.