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27 February 2012

Seeking the peace and prosperity of our nation

Seeking the peace and prosperity of our nation

Two weeks remain until the deadline for submissions to the Scottish government's consultation on same-sex marriage and civil partnership. Christian organisations and churches continue to campaign hard - informing their members and supporters and encouraging them to respond to the consultation.

There is now no doubt that the evangelical community across Scotland is united in support for retaining the current legal definition of marriage. Recently, through the work of the Alliance and others, more than 70 leaders of Scotland's largest evangelical churches, representing a weekly attendance of more than 20,000, signed an open letter to First Minister Alex Salmond. The signatories included ministers and pastors from many denominations and church movements including the Church of Scotland, the Baptist Union, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Free Church of Scotland, Vineyard Churches, Assemblies of God, Elim Pentecostal, and Destiny Churches.

At its heart the letter expressed concern for the welfare of society if marriage is redefined. Jeremiah 29: 7 calls us to: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile." We must earnestly pray and speak out with grace and truth for the retention of traditional marriage because it is part of our calling to seek the peace and prosperity of our nation; knowing that redefining marriage will have a huge detrimental impact on our society.

As one of the signatories of the letter, Paul Rees, senior pastor at Charlotte Baptist Chapel, Edinburgh, said: "We as evangelical church leaders have come together to show our support for marriage and our steadfast opposition to redefining it in law."

Similarly, Revd David McCarthy, rector of St Silas Episcopal Church, Glasgow, said: "Changing the definition of marriage would have profound effects on our society, not least for Scotland's children. Traditional marriage gives kids the complementary parenting of a mother and father which same-sex marriage does not provide."

As an Alliance we have been playing a vital role in bringing together churches and organisations from across the evangelical spectrum to be a coherent voice. Working with the Scottish government we recently hosted Evangelical Leaders Consultation Meetings to provide an appropriate space for church leaders to communicate and dialogue effectively with government officials and also be equipped to mobilise their churches. At these meetings it became abundantly clear that the evangelical community was dismayed by the Scottish government's intention to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships.

Without a doubt evangelicals should be united on this issue. But there must be a note of caution. Many outside the evangelical community, both Christian and not, portray us as being chiefly concerned with issues over sexual immorality - the standard by which we come together and speak out with any coherence. But evangelicals throughout history have worked together to seek the peace and the prosperity of all areas of society - seeking the welfare of our neighbour, those on the margins, tackling the many injustices and inequalities within our communities. As an Alliance we unite the Church to bring God's Kingdom and His will here on earth. While defending marriage is undoubtedly a part of this, it must coincide with a Church that comes together to actively reach out to the least, the last and the lost.