Marriage is an exclusive covenant made between one man and one woman, before God. The marriage covenant includes promises made between the man and woman to remain steadfast in unconditional love and sexual purity until separated by death. The change to the Marriage Act, 1961, on 8th December, 2017 means there is now a distinct difference between the Commonwealth definition of marriage and the Biblical view of marriage. The Marriage Act, 1961 is now irreconcilably inconsistent with the mainstream Christian view of marriage.
- Prior to 27th May, 2004, there was no legal definition for marriage, instead marriage was defined by common law. The landmark English case of “Hyde v. Hyde” set a precedence for the definition of marriage. The case was heard on 20th March 1866 before Lord Penzance, and established the common law definition of marriage throughout the Commonwealth. Lord Penzance’s pronouncement, “I conceive that marriage, as understood in Christendom, may for this purpose be defined as the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others”, became the definition of marriage.
- On 27th May, 2004, section 5 of the Marriage Acts, 1961 was amended to include the definition of marriage as “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
- On 8th December, 2017, the Marriage Acts, 1961 was again amended to “Marriage, according to law in Australia, is the union of two peopleto the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”
The removal of gender from the definition of marriage on 8th December, 2017 is a major point of divergence between the legal definition of marriage and the Biblical view of marriage. (Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.)
Prior to births, deaths and marriages being administered centrally by Western Governments, “The Church” regulated many of the activities that we think of as governmental functions now, including marriage, education and health care. Marriages were approved and performed, by and large, only in a church. Divorces (in the rare cases they were allowed) were granted (or denied) by the church. Death and birth records were kept by the church.
OUR RESPONSE TO CHANGES IN THE MARRIAGE ACT, 1961
Prior to 8th December, 2017, Pastors of Southland Church, being Authorized Celebrants, solemnized marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act, 1961. In the wake of changes made to the Marriage Act, 1961 on 8th December, 2017, the pastors of Southland Church could not in good conscience continue solemnizing marriages in accordance with the Marriage Act, 1961 and therefore resigned their Commonwealth credentials as Authorized Celebrants.
As ministers of the Gospel we conduct marriages, according to the Rites of Southland Church, for couples who wish to marry before God in accordance with the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, marriage ceremonies conducted by the Pastors of Southland Church, after 8th December, 2017, will not comply with the Marriage Act, 1961, and as such are not legally recognised by the Commonwealth of Australia.
MARRIAGE AT SOUTHLAND CHURCH
Marriages conducted by Pastors of Southland Church include the following words at, or near, the beginning of the ceremony –
“This Marriage is not being solemnized according to the Laws of The State or Commonwealth; but reverently before God whose Law is above all authority in Heaven and on Earth. Marriage is a lifelong, binding covenant made voluntarily, between one man and one woman, before God”
Pastors of Southland Church Issue Certificates of Marriage which are distinctly different to the Commonwealth Certificate of Marriage.
Couples marrying according to the Rites of Southland Church are encouraged to register their relationship as a legal marriage, at the Registry Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages prior to marrying according to the rites of Southland Church.
Although there is no Biblical or moral requirement to register at the Registry Office of Births, Deaths and Marriages, there may be some practical benefits –
- Background checks have been completed – identity, age, prior marital status, etc.
- Certain legal rights may be available to the couple, i.e. evidence of name change, simplified Wills and Powers of Attorney, family names of future children, etc.
As Evangelicals, Scripture is our final authority in all matters of life and ministry. We are, therefore, committed to upholding the sanctity of marriage, according to the Holy Scriptures. Our constitution states, in article 3, r) –
“WE BELIEVE in The Institution of Marriage. Marriage is God-ordained to be an exclusive relationship, a lifelong faithful union between one man and one woman. This relationship between a husband and wife should parallel the relationship between Christ and the Church.”