Diversity of views on equal marriage

Kerry Enright puts recent Irish and Scottish decisions about equal marriage in a wider context of Church discussions.

A week before Ireland voted for equal marriage, the Church of Scotland, a mother church to Presbyterians in New Zealand, made a decision with a similar spirit.

It decided congregations may now invite to work with them a minister who is in a same-sex civil partnership.

The Church is now considering whether that provision should extend to ministers in same sex marriages.

In making this decision, the Church joined other churches worldwide.

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States voted earlier this year to redefine the meaning of marriage to be ''a commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a woman''.

In both cases, a majority of the Church's regional bodies had also voted in support.

This involved thousands of church leaders across their respective nations considering relevant biblical, theological and pastoral issues.

However, Christians are not of one mind.

There is not an international consensus.

In the United States and Scotland many congregations distanced themselves from the national decision.

In New Zealand, churches have a similar diversity of view.

People involved in the discussion are not easily categorised.

An evangelical or conservative view is expressed in Mark Achtemeier's recent book The Bible's Yes to Same-Sex Marriage - An Evangelical's Change of Heart.

He uses classic evangelical arguments in support of equal marriage.

On the other hand, some people regarded as liberal argue that marriage is irredeemably patriarchal and a different term should be used.

Many people, both within and outside the Church, are shocked by the intensity of discussion.

Not for the first time, different understandings of shared beliefs are fiercely debated, to the point that core beliefs can seem sidelined.

Those in support of equal marriage seek to take seriously the pattern and context of biblical and theological teaching.

They cite the Church's history of reviewing previously accepted teaching, a history reflected in the Bible itself.

Those opposed see biblical teaching as straightforward and unequivocal.

They see the matter as a test of truthfulness and faithfulness.

Worldwide, on this and many other issues, there is a diversity of views among Christians.

Knox Church Dunedin is clear in its support of equal marriage while other churches hold differing views.

All agree that at the centre of Christian faith is the figure of Jesus Christ, whom all Christians seek to follow.

At the centre of his message is love, God's love and our love.

Christians continue to explore how best to express that love so every human being flourishes.

• The Rev Dr Kerry Enright is minister of Knox Church, Dunedin.

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