A reverend, a pastor and a priest: Meet the Christians voting ‘yes’ to marriage equality.

Video by Mamamia Women's Network.

“This is one of the issues that causes me some distress,” Reverend Doctor Peter Catt says with the sigh of a person who is clearly frustrated and weary.

“It seems to me that whenever the church falls into the trap of representing itself as the moral police for society, we sort of reduce the gospel to a whole bunch of rules and regulations, whereas I think the whole thing is about inclusion and love and justice and supporting people.”

With debate around the same-sex marriage postal vote now well and truly underway, it’s becoming harder and harder to drown out the often hateful, hurtful and unquestionably harmful words being spouted by hardline ‘No’ campaigners.

Homosexuality is a sin, they say. It’s about respecting the words of the Bible, they say. It’s about following the Christian word and God’s message, they say.

But for many Christians, Reverend Catt included, that rhetoric simply doesn’t ring true.

christians for same-sex marriage
Reverend Doctor Peter Catt. Source: Youtube.

Having been advocating for same-sex rights in Australia for almost 30 years, Catt says he believes that overwhelmingly, Christians do in fact support marriage equality, but that their voices are being drowned out by the hardline 'No campaigners who are not only skewing the facts to support their argument but also running the risk of doing more harm than good to the religion they claim to want to save so badly.

"Some of the tactics being used by the hardliners doing a real disservice to Christianity in the long run," Catt says.

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"No one clear image of what marriage looks like is presented in the Bible, there are many. And to look at the Bible as if it's some sort of simple rules for living is a) not to read it in its entirety, and b) to do the Bible a disservice.

"By all means, have a debate about marriage equality, but conflating the conversation is not playing the game fairly and all it does is confuse people. If your argument is strong enough then you should be able to use that," Catt says with an air of frustration, adding, "It's hard to find love in the world and if you find it, let's celebrate it."

christians for same-sex marriage
Some of the Melbourne Inclusive Church parish. Source: Facebook.

Melbourne pastor Becky Bauer agrees, saying that in her mind, "there shouldn't be any exclusivity within the church. They're [the 'No' campaigners] speaking words that were never spoken."

The 54-year-old, who is in a long-term same-sex relationship herself and runs the LGBTQI-friendly Melbourne Inclusive Church, also adds that despite public perception and what people like Lyle Shelton want us to believe, her views are not the exception to the Christian rule.

"I don't believe that my sexuality or my sexual orientation is a sin, and I believe the Bible has plenty of evidence to show me that."

"There are a lot of pastors out there who are supportive of marriage equality, but for a whole range of reasons are still in the closet with their views."

Growing up as a LGBTQI teen within a religious setting herself, Bauer says, "I used to hate myself. I was so confused. I used to sit in my bedroom and punch myself because I just didn't like myself.

"Now think about an adolescent who is in that space and in a church hearing that kind of hateful messaging; they are the things that are sending them over the edge."

Listen: A message for Malcolm Turnbull about the same-sex marriage plebiscite. Post continues...

Interestingly, Bauer also says that as the debate ramps up, she's begun seeing more and more heterosexual couples come to her parish in an attempt to find where they too belong. It's something Sydney couple Dave and Jade Lillo-Trynes can relate to all too well.

Despite having the law and their church on their side when it came to marrying in 2015, marriage equality is an issue that has weighed heavily on their minds for a long time, to the point where in 2016, it was one of a number of reasons that saw them leave the Australian Christian Church's parish they had been a part of for over five years.

"I can't support an organisation that doesn't support marriage equality," Dave says simply.

Having been raised in the church from a young age, Dave says, "My sister is LGBTQI, and her experience in the church was very negative. It's a real attitude of you don't even talk about it or acknowledge it at all and so a lot of people are left in limbo. Then, when it is raised, it's a conversation that alienates people and makes them feel unsafe."

christians for same-sex marriage
Jade and Dave Lillo-Trynes on their wedding day. Source: Facebook.

"There are a lot of people who are feeling isolated and like they can't be who they are, and that's not what Christianity is about for me. People like Tony Abbott and Cory Bernardi, they don't speak for me," he says, adding, "This whole layer of exclusivity, zero of that is in the Bible. Christianity is a huge tapestry of different views and opinions, and it's sad to think that people of influence would be so exclusive in their language and write people off the way that we're seeing."

Dave, who holds an Advanced Diploma in Ministry Studies and now runs and eco-wedding business with Jade continues, "We know that LGBTQI people are statistically at a higher risk of suffering from depression and suicide. Our communities are built around the concept of family and if there are some that are allowed to be 'legitimate families' legally and those who aren't, how do you think that makes people feel? It's sad that we're talking about a cross section of people who have endured so much and they're being hit again."

When asked if he is sad about having to leave a parish he and Jade put so much of themselves into, in part because of this issue, Dave responds, "There are other places for me to belong. Why should I be with a group of people who tell me that me, and my wife, and my sister that our beliefs don't belong?"

christians for same-sex marriage
Father Chris Bedding. Source: Facebook.

This limbo that many Christians are now facing as they try to decide where they stand is something Father Chris Bedding, an Anglican priest from Western Australia has personally experienced himself.

"I didn't really give much thought to marriage equality until it came into public discourse, but when it did I gave it a lot of thought and came to the realisation that, yes it is something I support," he told Mamamia earlier this week.

In coming to his decision, Bedding says he considered two things.

"The first was reading the scriptures. The handful of references that do refer to same-sex relationships within the Bible don't envisage the kind of loving relationship that we know today and don't realise that same sex attraction is not a decision for people. They were written in a time before science and psychology, and so those passages can't be applied to our current world without applying the insights of modern science and psychology to them," he says.

"Then, at an emotional level, seeing the holiness and commitment of same-sex couples within the church, and seeing people who despite mistreatment, harassment and discrimination, have stuck with have stuck with their partners and stuck with their faith, was something that confirmed my support."

christians for same-sex marriage
Becky Bauer. Source: Facebook.

Overwhelmingly, Bedding says that, like him, the parishioners of Darlington-Bellevue, the church he serves, support marriage equality, but adds there are also those within the parish who still don't support the move, which is also okay.

"I think it's fair to say I have some parishioners that don't support marriage equality, but there's still space for them in the church. I make it clear that they don't have to tow the line or follow my beliefs."

And while Bauer agrees with this sentiment, her feelings are clear.

"It's one thing to try to help but be wrong, it's another thing to sprout hate," she says.

"Kids are getting caught in the crossfire and that's not okay. Whatever what you believe, if kids are getting hurt in the process, it's not working. If you're trying to build a house and the boards aren't the right size you stop and you remeasure and re-cut, and if you're trying to save a community and people are killing themselves your strategy isn't working."

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