by Emmanuel Joseph
If Barbados were to legalize same-sex marriages tomorrow, don’t expect any priest within the island’s largest religious organization to officiate over any such ceremony.
Anglican Bishop of Barbados Reverend Michael Maxwell is also adamant that while his denomination understands that the Government’s recent recognition of
same-sex civil unions may be a stance against discrimination, gay relationships still would not attract his church’s backing.
Bishop Maxwell told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that the Anglican Church in Barbados and the rest of the Province of the West Indies remained fortified in its position stemming from a decision of the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in England that marriage is a lifelong union of a man and a woman.
“The position really is that our church continues to stand against what it considers to be same-sex marriages.
“Civil union is of course, where the Government itself is putting in their own spin on the whole thing in terms of not being discriminatory in terms of persons’ rights of being able to have freedom of choice as what they see as their way of life,” the church
“But for the Anglican Church, we continue to follow what is the ruling of our Lambeth Conference which is a conference that is held by all of the bishops of the
world coming together.
“They would have made a statement abiding by the principles that we understand Scripture outlined to us of the fact that a marriage is really between a male and a female. It is the best arrangement towards family life,” Reverend Maxwell declared.
“We are not condoning the whole thing in relation to same-sex union, but the civil union, I interpret that as something that is not blessed by the church or condoned by the church. So that is really the prerogative of the Government,” he stated.
The Anglican Bishop was asked if his denomination would marry gay couples if same-sex marriages were to be legalised in Barbados.
“This is not something that the Province of the West Indies upholds at this stage for sure. I am not sure what the future will hold in terms of whether or not the church would change its position.
“But for right now, the church holds fast to what would have been issued at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 on human sexuality where it continues to emphasize that marriage is a lifelong union and covenant between a man and a woman,” he declared.
“So at this stage, if the Government had to go tomorrow or next year or so forth…well they say they are going to go in terms of a referendum . . . and if that is the case where they are implementing same-sex marriages, then at this stage the Anglican Church cannot support such a union,” Reverend Maxwell reiterated.
Last Tuesday when Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason delivered the Throne Speech at the reopening of Parliament, she announced that the Government was prepared to recognize a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender.
Dame Sandra explained that this was being done so as to ensure no human beings in Barbados would be discriminated against in the exercise of civil rights that ought to be theirs.
“The settlement of Barbados was birthed and fostered in discrimination, but the time has come for us to end discrimination in all forms,” the Head of State told the joint
Houses of Parliament.
Her Excellency also sought to assure the country that the Government was not allowing any form of same-sex marriage, but would put this matter to a public referendum and would accept and be guided by the will of the people.
The Anglican Church head said Government’s recognition of same-sex civil unions would have an impact on the thinking of persons going forward.
“Personally, I believe that persons need to be given the freedom of choice that God has given us all to decide the way of life that we want to live.
“However, we do know that according to our Scripture, according to the church’s teaching, there is still a right way and there is a wrong way to live our lives,” the Anglican Bishop asserted.
“So I believe we should not be forcing persons to accept what we believe as a church. We can advise, we can share, we can point out what we believe to be what is right and what is wrong based on Scripture, but yet, persons should have the freedom of choice to decide for themselves as to the way of life they want to live,” Maxwell added.
He also told Barbados TODAY he anticipates the church in Barbados will face a challenge if it sticks to its anti-gay position and should the Government adopt an opposing stance.
“Of course, if as a church we continue to stick with what we believe, it is going to be more of a challenge then for us to be able to affirm our belief when the Government itself may be seeking to do otherwise or allowing other patterns of behaviour that we may want to suggest is not according to God’s way of life,” he cautioned.
In supporting the importance of separation of state and church, the Anglican Bishop reasoned that it is crucial that the Government does not have to dictate what the church should say about certain issues and vice versa.
“Whatever the situation is, we still have to pray for our Government, pray for the decisions that they may make.
“Some may be God’s will and some may not be. But yet we are supposed to continue to pray for our Government, pray for our nation and allow God’s will to unfold with the understanding we are all given the freedom of choice,” Reverend Maxwell said.