Anabaptist Ethics and Same-Sex Marriage

The resurrectionOn the Road, the journal of the Anabaptist Association of Australia & New Zealand, have just republished a conference paper written by my dear friend Bruce Hamill. The paper, which was written in an effort to bring some constructive theology to bear upon a vexed set of questions, is titled ‘Anabaptist Ethics and Same-Sex Marriage’. Here’s how it concludes:

Marriage — that ancient institution serving the nurture of companionship and human flourishing in love — has for most of Christian history been assumed to be defined by the biological complementarity of ‘male and female’, although not necessarily by procreation. In Jesus and the apocalyptic Christian writers not only does the coming kingdom relativise the institution of marriage to this ‘time between the times’, it sets it, and all the other institutions within which we live, under the authority and judgement of Christ. In doing this it re-establishes marriage in terms of a new purpose for disciples of Christ — indeed a two-fold purpose — to bear witness to the new creation seen in the love of Christ for the church and to practise the life of that new creation in intimate acts of mutual and bodily self-donation. This ethical revolution reaches its clearest expression when Paul concludes that even creational structures like ‘male and female’ do not define life in Christ. It is thus a small step with the benefit of biological and psychological science to conclude that other creational structures such as samesex orientation might, for some, provide a more appropriate vehicle for the discipline of marriage.

You can read the entire piece online here and here, or as a single pdf here.


  1. Are we allowed to voice dissent in a gentle manner? :-) I found the blurb interesting, thanks for sharing it. I followed most of what he said, nodding my head, right up until his ‘ethical revolution’ language. His fulfillment language conclusions are delightful. But I find it difficult to see his revolution conclusions as a small step (that makes it revolutionary I suppose :-)) or even in line with that fulfillment found in Christ. I find it hard to imagine how the God who created the creational structures of men and women, and instituted ‘that ancient institution’ of marriage, would somehow change his good order being redeemed in Christ, AND not tell us about it from his Word. And yes, I will go get the full pdf now and try track through his backing for that conclusion :-) Thanks for sharing the link too!


  2. Interesting article and certainly the best that I have read from a Christian perspective that doesn’t try to undermine Scripture. However, I still have three criticisms about the article- the most important being the third (these don’t mean I think the article is necessarily wrong!)
    1) The argument that Paul knows nothing of loving, committed same-sex relationships (esp. between Christians) is debatable – though the author is right in that it would have been inconceivable amongst Christians. So – Paul who in Galatians passage threw a hand grenade into first century social arrangements (we forget how explosive the claim no Jew/Greek, Slave/Free, Male and Female was) was bound by culture??
    2) Claiming the fruits of modern science and psychology as the foundation of an argument is problematic in the least in this area given how sexuality/identity are formed and the role of culture/genes is little understood
    3) The whole argument does not start with the question – ‘is there a place for committed same-sex relationships in the Christian tradition – and if so what form should it take?’ – but as an argument for same sex marriage. This exposes the same flaw as the other two points – it assumes that same sex marriage is correct and then argues for it – why? because of the lobby/political movement that has built up around it that makes the possibility of saying ‘no’ inconceivable (you must be a bigot if you do).

    Having said that, the article still does make an important point around the ‘new creation’ element which I will think about more.


  3. I am reminded of the issue that we ran into long ago when talking about the need for equality between women and men. Equal does not mean same. This has direct application to reading Paul on the identity of Jew/Greek, man/woman, slave/free in Christ. Do we read that the identity is the same? Or do we read that the identity is equal in Christ? Depending on which way we read this there are great differences implied for how we may understand the existential changes that take place in the family nature of Adam in Christ.

    The ironies of trying to say that women are the same as men rather than that they are equal to men do not have to be enumerated. We are now in a very precariously imbalanced condition in our contemporary society where we are trying very hard to respect and appreciate differences between people at the same time as we are trying not to discriminate against people who choose to find intimacy on the basis of sameness rather then through attaining harmony through difference. May G-d save us all!


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