This is the text of an email I sent the national leader of the New Zealand Baptist churches a month ago.
We haven't met, but I'm a long-time adherent of Wellington Central Baptist. I'm writing to you about your signature on an open letter to Parliament opposing same sex marriage. It's the second time you have signed such a letter to my knowledge.
I'm not going to traverse the arguments with you because neither of us will change the other's mind. What I will tell you is that my long association with NZ Baptists is at an end over this issue. I won't be one of the 20% of New Zealanders you and the other church leaders claim to have behind you. Neither will I be told what to think on the matter.
I cringe when I see Christ's church being held up as the touchstone of social conservatism and I think you are ill-advised to perpetuate that stereotype. While you undoubtedly strongly believe the position you are promoting, the effect of your support will be to further reduce the claimed 20% of regular churchgoers. How do you think it got so low in the first place?
I hope you will reflect on the message your support for this position sends to the people whom you claim to lead.
I never received a reply.
The open letters against same-sex marriage are signed by many churchmen, not just the Baptists. Nevertheless, the Bill legalising same-sex marriage will pass in New Zealand and in many other countries, and in a generation the Church will accept it and people will wonder what all the fuss was about. It’s yet another instance of the Church being on the wrong side of history, just as it has at various times opposed rights for women, rights for people who aren’t white and the rights of people not be enslaved, among many others.
It does make me wonder what the Church is really for. Churchgoers will normally say something like they are there to serve Christ. But the Jesus of the Bible doesn’t go around blasting minorities – quite the opposite. He helps people who aren’t like him and includes society’s outcasts. The only people he is recorded as having got angry with were the religious hypocrites of his day. It’s sad that so many people today use his name to spread hate for people who don’t look or act like they do.
The Christian churches need to a take a long hard look at themselves. They have become a by-word for mindless prejudice. Any journalist seeking a socially conservative quote need merely phone the nearest Christian minister, or so it would seem. In fact, there are many people in churches who like me aspire to the good things that Christ did and wince at the way their so-called leaders resist any kind of change.
I find it sad that an institution founded in the name a good man has such a deservedly poor reputation. I say that I’m sad, I suspect Jesus would have been furious.