Gay-marriage stand costs pastor his pulpit - Word&Way

Gay-marriage stand costs pastor his pulpit

LILYDALE, Australia (ABP) – An Australian Baptist pastor and his congregation have parted company over the issue of gay marriage.

Matt Glover, pastor of Lilydale Baptist Church, said recently on a marriage-equality website that allowing same-sex marriages would benefit marriage as an institution:

“When a couple want to be part of the institution of marriage, when they fully accept the same rights and responsibilities of marriage and treat marriage with the respect it deserves, why should they NOT get married?” he asked. “As a Christian minister, I believe that marriage is under threat from many angles, but also believe that recognizing same-sex unions will help return marriage to its rightful place in society.”

That prompted two months of congregational turmoil that ended with a closed-door meeting that the pastor was not invited to attend, the Victoria Age reported Dec. 6. Church leaders told the newspaper that Glover is no longer senior pastor but the congregation was instructed not to comment.

Glover, who had been senior pastor for two years, said earlier that he didn’t know if his ministry there would survive the controversy. “I have a young family,” he said in a Nov. 27 article about an earlier meeting to decide his future that was cancelled. “I’ve wondered whether I can survive this because of the wounds and the mistrust it creates.”

Glover has worked with gays and lesbians for about 15 years. He said church members knew that when they hired him, but some congregants felt he crossed a line by responding to public statements by conservative religious leaders that legalizing gay marriage would open the door to pedophilia.

“I couldn't sit back and let Christian leaders say things like that, that are untrue,” Glover said. “I gave a statement to Australian Marriage Equality, and that was the last straw.''

In a 2008 interview on the Baptist Union of Victoria website, Glover said keeping up with rapid changes in culture was a key issue facing the church.

“We don’t have to embrace everything that comes our way, but we do need to recognize that our people live, work and play in this culture and our efforts at discipleship must meet them there,” he said. “Issues like sexuality, mental health and relationships in all their forms can’t be ignored, but they can’t be simplified either. They are complex and we need to think them through carefully, acknowledging our history and tradition, but also with the courage to step outside of our comfort zones when we need to.”

In October 2010 Glover penned a 39-page Pastoral Response to the Homosexuality in the Church saying that arguments about homosexuality on biblical, theological and moral grounds were leaving real people behind. 

“It is my hope that as the Church, we can put aside our prejudice and fear and approach the debate pastorally, working through the issues gathered around the table and remembering that we are all sinners, we’re all being changed, and that we are called to walk the path of life in unity,” the paper concluded.

The debate over gay marriage stems from a proposal to change the current legal definition of marriage in Australia to include same-sex couples. Australian Baptist Ministries released a statement citing “deeply held theological convictions about the nature and purpose of marriage which preclude widening the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.”

In July, Australian Baptist leaders distanced themselves from a local church pastor in Melbourne who said on national television that he supported gay marriage and would perform same-sex weddings if they were allowed. A statement said views expressed by Pastor Nathan Nettleton “do not represent the views of Australian Baptist Ministries or an overwhelming majority of Baptists in Australia and around the world.”

The Baptist Union of Victoria accepted a recommendation in 1997 that stated, “Applications for ordination from persons involved in homosexual practice will be declined.”


Bob Allen is managing editor of Associated Baptist Press.

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