Remember that meeting of Christian conservatives that lost its hotel booking last weekend, after a social media campaign by LGBTIQ activists?
The meeting still went ahead – at a secret location – on Tuesday. Like the original meeting, it was organised by Sydney Catholics, Sydney Anglicans, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) and the Marriage Alliance.
… they were unable to house the earlier event, due to threats of physical violence.
When Eternity called the ACL to ask about the meeting, Michael Stead – the Anglican Bishop of South Sydney – returned our call. Stead confirmed that the Mercure Hotel had told the groups that they were unable to house the earlier event, due to threats of physical violence.
When the meeting finally took place, there was a sense among participants of “is this what Australia will be like?” because of the same-sex marriage debate. Also, there was incredulity that the cancellation of the earlier meeting had not been a bigger story in the mainstream media.
Everyone who was invited to the cancelled event was able to make it to the second meeting. Instead of the original 100 invitees, 130 turned up. They included leaders from Jewish and Islamic and other ethno-religious groups, along with a broad range of Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and Pentecostal Christians.
While unable to name names, Stead told Eternity that the representatives included “national representatives” of church groups.
Traditional marriage coalition
The meeting discussed how a group might coalesce around defending traditional marriage in Australia, rather than forming a formal coalition to campaign in the plebiscite. As parliament makes it clearer whether a plebiscite will go ahead, “plans will became more apparent” said Stead about the possible formation of the traditional marriage group.
The sense from the meeting was that “it is premature to say what is going to happen”. But if the plebiscite does go ahead, a formal coalition may well be formed from those who attended Tuesday’s secret meeting.
Eternity can confirm that there also has been polling conducted throughout the traditional marriage camp. This includes earlier and more recent polling but, having talked to several participants, Eternity understands the results are under wraps.
Several leaders have said that they expect any plebiscite will be closely fought.
“If Malcolm Turnbull presides over a free vote on same-sex marriage during this parliament, he is a dead duck.” – Frank Brennan
By contrast to the secret ACL meeting, the Freedom for Faith conference at Melbourne’s Australian Catholic University (ACU) on Friday was open to the media.
Frank Brennan, Jesuit priest and professor of law at ACU, told the meeting that “if Malcolm Turnbull presides over a free vote on same-sex marriage during this parliament, he is a dead duck.”
Although an opponent of a plebiscite, Brennan believes it is the only way the issue of SSM can be dealt with during the life of this parliament.
Plebiscite raised at Freedom for Faith conference
He told the Freedom for Faith conference that when the ALP took away the conscience vote from its members on the issue (starting after the next election), it killed off the chances of a vote in parliament being able to settle the issue. Brennan described himself as a person who wants to deal with the issue as quickly as possible. He now supports a plebiscite as “the only viable political way forward.”
As a Catholic, he thinks traditional marriage will carry on regardless of what civil society does. “The Catholic view of marriage is already very different from the state definition. It is confusing that the same word, marriage, is used for sacramental marriage and civil marriage, which is open to people of many faiths and none.”
“Religious leaders, especially when in receipt of a lot of government money, now need to give a public account when seeking protections.” – Frank Brennan
If a plebiscite goes ahead, Brennan said, “I have no doubt the vote will be in favour. This will not only be tolerance of gay marriage but public endorsement. I believe that Catholic schools will have to graciously open their doors to gay teachers, treating them the same as others who are civilly married, in relationships regarded as irregular by the church.”
On the other hand, Brennan believes that Christian adoption agencies should be able to preference couples in a sacramental marriage, provided they are acting in the best interests of the child.
Brennan described a secret meeting that former NSW premier Bob Carr held with religious leaders, where he promised to look after their concerns about religious freedom. Brennan believes that sort of meeting can’t occur these days. “Religious leaders, especially when in receipt of a lot of government money, now need to give a public account when seeking protections.”
Brennan believes that Christians will move on from the same-sex marriage debate, with the church keeping to its traditional teaching.
He was recently in Spain, which has had several years of civil same-sex marriage laws. Catholics in Spain have come to regard it as a non issue, according to Brennan.
Most of the lawyers and Ministers attending the Freedom for Faith conference have a less sanguine view than Brennan’s.
Shadow Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who also addressed the meeting, challenged the many lawyers present to give examples of areas of Christian concern.
He promised a follow-up meeting, a move which was welcomed by many Christian lawyers.
Some prayer points to help
Pray for an open, honest and respectful national conversation around the future of marriage in Australia.