By Katie Shead

There is currently a ‘respectful’ debate on whether or not two people of the same sex or gender should be allowed to marry. Regardless of my own views on the subject, there is one major problem with this ‘respectful’ debate: it is not respectful at all.

The attitudes of some in the church towards LGBTQIA+ people, both before and after the announcement of a postal survey of the Australian public, has been exceptionally harmful, and, I would suggest, un-Christ-like. This has certainly been my experience as a member of a Sydney Anglican church.  At this point in time, I’m less interested in how you intend to vote.

What concerns me is that one of the almost certain side effects of the NO campaign is the creation of atheists, or, at least, of people who will want nothing to do with what they deem to be a hypocritical religion that preaches love from the pulpit one Sunday, while preaching hate the next; a religion that asks ‘what would Jesus do?’ and then ignores the answer.

The Jesus of the Gospels accepted everyone. He ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, he touched lepers, and shied away from no one. What would Jesus do in Australia today? Would his focus be telling LGBTQIA+ people that they want to abuse kids by adopting them, or would it be letting them know that they are wonderfully made, and loved by God?

Jesus died for all the peoples of the world, not just those who are cisgender and heterosexual. All. He offered forgiveness and restoration of relationship with God to all. He showed us this when he was faced with a man who couldn’t walk and told him ‘your sins are forgiven’ before healing his legs to show that he had the power to forgive sins.

This debate is strengthening a wall between LGBTQIA+ people and Jesus, and that wall is the church.

The church is stopping people from coming to Christ because of its treatment of LGBTQIA+ people. People are watching the actions of the church, now more than ever, and they’re not up to scratch. The church’s actions are also driving away Christians who can no longer stand the hypocrisy of an institution that seems to be no more loving than those who nailed Christ to the cross.

Of course I know that not all congregations condone this open season on LGBTQIA+ people, but when people look at the church they see those who shout the loudest, and, at the moment, the voices of those who cry out with the love that Christ lavished on us are in danger of being drowned out by those more concerned with the personal lives of others than their temporal and eternal well-being.

Cry out, let your voice be heard and remind both the Australia church, and society more broadly, that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Romans 5:8). To those supporting the NO campaign I would suggest thinking very hard about the impact that your words will have on the Australian people; it may not be what you intend.