After Australia voted to legalize same sex marriage, Hillsong Church founder Brian Houston said he will continue to hold to a Biblical definition of marriage and "point people to Jesus."
"I believe every person is created by God with a plan and purpose, and the focus of Hillsong Church has always been - and will always be - to point people to Jesus," Houston said in a statement.
"My personal belief in the Bible's teachings on marriage will not change, and the work of our church will continue as usual as it does in many parts of the world where same sex marriage is legal," he continued. "It is vital however, that legislation protects the rights of churches, pastors and others to hold contrary beliefs based on the traditional teachings of scripture. Freedom of religion is a fundamental part of a democratic society and must be upheld. Any attempt to force Christians to compromise their faith would be wrong."
Last week, Australians supported gay marriage in a non-binding postal survey, ensuring Parliament will consider legalizing same-sex weddings this year. The postal survey - a $122 million endeavor - asked 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".
The Australian Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday 62 per cent of registered voters who responded in the unprecedented mail survey favored legalizing gay marriage. In response, the The government promised to allow a bill creating marriage equality to be considered in Parliament in the final two-week session that is due to end on Dec. 7.
"The people of Australia have spoken, and I intend to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said. "This is an overwhelming call for marriage equality."
As Australia "moves forward as a nation" and put what has been a "divisive debate behind us," Houston said his prayer is that the country replaces "anger, criticism, hatred and intolerance with love, understanding, acceptance and kindness."
"Jesus taught us that holding firm to our convictions, and respecting and appreciating other people who hold different views, are not mutually exclusive," he said.
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.
When the same-sex marriage postal survey was first announced, Houston urged Christians to participate in the vote and issued a reminder that "God's word is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman."
"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 at the time.
"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."