The Anglican Bishop of Barbados, Reverend Michael Maxwell, says their church – which is the largest religious group on the island – will not officiate same-sex civil marriages should the Caribbean nation’s government move to legalize it.
Conversations over its legalization on the island have been reignited following the government’s announcement of its intention to hold a public referendum to decide whether or not to go ahead with it. This was made known during the delivery of the island nation’s Opening of Parliament and the Throne Speech on September 15 where the government also historically announced its intention to remove Queen Elizabeth II as the country’s Head of State and replace her with a local.
Speaking to Barbados Today, however, Reverend Maxwell said though they understand the move is to help curb discrimination on the island, the church, as well as the others in the Province of the West Indies, will not oversee such unions, citing the 1998 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops in England where the organization ruled marriage is supposed to be a union between man and 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,” Reverend Maxwell said.
“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,” he added.
Reverend Maxwell, however, reiterated: “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.”
Questioned if his denomination will go ahead to officiate same-sex unions should it be legalized on the island, Bishop Maxwell told Barbados Today:
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
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.
Legalize or not? People power
During the September 15 address by country’s Governor-General, Sandra Mason, the government laid bare their intentions towards becoming a “progressive” nation, arguing that they no longer want to be identified as a country with a poor human rights record on “international lists.”
On this matter, the world has spoken. If we wish to be considered amongst the progressive nations of the world, Barbados cannot afford to lose its international leadership place and reputation. Nor can a society as tolerant as ours, allow itself to be “blacklisted” for human and civil rights abuses or discrimination on the matter of how we treat to human sexuality and relations. My government will do the right thing, understanding that this too will attract controversy. Equally, it is our hope that with the passage of time, the changes we now propose will be part of the fabric of our country’s record of law, human rights and social justice.
In that regard Mr. President, my Government is prepared to recognise a form of civil unions for couples of the same gender so as to ensure that no human being in Barbados will be discriminated against, in 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. I wish to emphasise that my Government is not allowing any form of same-sex marriage, and will put this matter to a public referendum. My Government will accept and be guided by the vote of the public as promised in the manifesto.