Like many evangelicals across Northern Ireland, I was saddened that, for the first time, the Northern Ireland Assembly voted, albeit by a majority of one, in favour of a motion calling for same-sex marriage.
At the same time, I was heartened that the motion fell because of the DUP’s petition of concern.
The DUP has been criticised in some quarters for deploying that tactic, but surely the introduction of any change to the long-established and traditional definition of marriage would be of such huge significance that it really should have the support of both communities. Despite all the hype and propaganda from the LGBT camp and its supporters, I do not think that there is any overwhelming support for same sex marriage.
While the politicians are in the lead on this crucial issue, the churches also have a key role to play and it seems to me that the Protestant churches need to be more proactive than they have been. In advance of Monday’s vote, MLAs were bombarded with letters – often identical – from supporters of same sex marriage, but, by contrast, there were few letters from Protestant churches or individual Christians.
I know that many churches have been praying about the issue and that is to be welcomed. I also know that a few have written letters and issued statements. It is the duty of Christians and the churches to lobby and to speak out publicly. Surely more could be done by public morals and similar committees within the various denominations to articulate the Biblical viewpoint, and individual members of churches should be helped and encouraged to lobby MLAs.
Umbrella groups such as the Christian Institute, Evangelical Alliance and the Caleb Foundation also have a key role to play in helping to co-ordinate any efforts that are made. I do not wish to sound critical, and I am grateful for all that is being done to defend Biblical standards in society, but I want, in a spirit of genuine concern, to urge a greater level of intensity within the Protestant churches.
We might be on the wrong side of history in the eyes of some, but we are on the right side of the argument. God’s Word is clear on marriage, and the church and individual Christians have a duty to speak out in love but also with boldness. Let us learn the lessons of Monday’s vote. Churches have a window of opportunity between now and the next Assembly elections. It must be grasped.
Councillor John Finlay