Hillsong Church Senior Pastor Brian Houston has urged Christians to participate in Australia's upcoming same-sex marriage vote and issued a reminder that "God's word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman."
In a press release, Houston reminded Australians that in less than a month, citizens will receive the ballot papers "which gives us all the ability to cast a vote on the issue of same sex marriage."
"Whatever your view on this issue, it is undeniably one that is important to the fabric of our social structure. Changing the definition of marriage has wide-reaching ramifications and should not be taken lightly by any society," the pastor wrote.
"All Australians should be a part of this process, not just a select few," he added. "I believe God's word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman. The writings of the apostle Paul in Scripture on the subject of homosexuality are also clear, as I have mentioned in previous public statements."
Brian and Bobbie Houston founded Hillsong Church in 1983. Since then, church has developed an ever-expanding footprint that circle the globe, with three U.S. sites - in and around New York City, Los Angeles and most recently in Phoenix, Arizona. Hillsong's reach extends across 14 countries and five continents, and it boasts an average weekly attendance worldwide near 100,000, according to its website.
Houston pointed out that Hillsong Church "already functions well and without impediment in other parts of the world where same sex marriage is legal." Thus, "as long as we are not forced through legislation to compromise our biblical convictions, we can quite comfortably continue to function whatever the outcome of this plebiscite."
"However it must be emphasized that for Christians to obtain an outcome consistent with their beliefs, they must vote," he concluded. "I believe that many Australians who are often referred to as the 'silent majority' feel strongly on this subject but allow louder and often more aggressive voices to control the public dialogue. This plebiscite provides us all with an equal voice and we should not waste this opportunity."
The voluntary postal vote, approved this month after the Senate rejected opening the polls for a mandatory, in-person vote, will take place between between September 23 and October 27. The results are due to be announced on November 15.
The postal survey - a $122 million endeavor - will only ask a single question - "Do you support a change in the law to allow same-sex couples to marry?" - and that question can only be answered with a "Yes" or a "No".
A number of recent polls, including one this month, have indicated a majority of Australians support changing the law.
However, some, like former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, has urged citizens to vote "No" to protect free speech, religious freedom and "stop political correctness in its tracks".
He wrote: "For me, voting no will not be a criticism of gay friends and family members; it won't be an assertion that there's only one right way to live your life or to express your love. Rather, it will be an affirmation that the things that matter should not lightly be changed and that marriage is different from other relationships."
Abbott added, "Ask yourself what is the most decent and respectful thing to do: is it to endorse this change that the gay lobby is stridently insisting on or is it to question whether a few years' agitation should unmake a concept of marriage that has stood for many centuries and has always been regarded as the rock on which society is built?"
Similarly, Dr. Pansy Lai, leader of the Australian Chinese for Families Association, which opposes same-sex marriage, said that many Chinese were worried about the outcome of the vote.
"Many in the Australian Chinese community are extremely concerned about the potential impact same-sex marriage will have on parents' rights and freedom of speech," Ms. Lai said, according to the New York Times.
"It is a shame that everyday moms and dads are being called bigots and haters simply for their genuine belief that marriage is between a man and a woman," she said.