Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I know many of you have been encouraging others to support the "Coalition For Marriage". And I fully respect you for that. However, I have not signed the petition, and do not intend to do so. I want to explain why.

Strictly speaking, I agree with the aims of the "Coalition". As an evangelical Christian, I believe that God really does join people together in a union called marriage. And if the state is to provide the best protection for the vulnerable, it first needs to identify those entities and institutions that exist in society. So I would ideally want the state to identify marriage correctly (as between one man and one woman), so that it can provide justice most effectively.

But I've been thinking about the following points too, in making my decision not to support the "Coalition":

(1) Marriage is something God does, not something the state does. So even if the state does adopt what I see as an incorrect definition of the word "marriage", that will do nothing to affect the actual institution of marriage. In contrast to the "Coalition", I see the legal definition of the word "marriage" as a relatively insignificant issue.

(2) We live in a deeply plural society, and (as a non-Anglican) I do not recognise the state as belonging to one group in society more than to another, nor do I recognise the state as having a role in adjudicating on matters of deep division, nor do I think Christians should seek to use the state to impose our view on others. The way forward is surely to seek consensus and compromise through reasoned and courteous discussions, and not through assertive displays of our power and influence.

(3) We follow a Lord who was mocked, marginalised and crucified, and who calls us to take up our "cross" and follow him. His priority in ministry was reaching the weak, vulnerable, marginalised and oppressed members of society, and never to seek the public honour of his name. Following him means our concern should not primarily be to stand up for our own rights, or for the public honour given to Christianity, but to serve and give ourselves for the weakest in society. I see absolutely no concern for the weak and vulnerable in the campaign of the "Coalition". No arguments are put forward that if the legal definition of "marriage" is changed, this would result in oppression for vulnerable people. Instead, the campaign appears to be solely an attempt to secure, at whatever cost, the public privilege given to the Christian understanding of marriage. This attitude strikes me as deeply un-Christian.

(4) The tone and scale of the campaign have, I think, done great harm to the public perception of Christianity. The impression among many that traditional Christians are homophobic bigots has been reinforced by this campaign. I want to distance myself from that.

(5) On the same-sex marriage issue, I do see a way forward that would satisfy the deepest concerns of all parties. If the state no longer defined the word "marriage", then there could be equal access to civil unions for same-sex and opposite-sex couples, and no one would be pressurised to speak of "marriage" in ways that conflict with their sincere beliefs. I would urge all my brothers and sisters to seek solutions of this nature, so that we may follow what Paul said: "If possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18, ESV).

Yours in Christ,