Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.


Marriage Act change

BRUCE C WEARNE reflects on the new ‘monitum’ introduced following last year’s changes to Australia’s Marriage Act…

It has now been eight weeks since the Australian Federal Government’s Religious Freedom Review panel submitted its report to the Prime Minister. The lapse in time must cause us to wonder whether the report and the publication thereof, will have significant, even explosive, political consequences.

The usual pattern for parliamentary legislation with constitutional implications has been for the proposed bill to be subject to such examination before it is put for final vote to then become law. But in this exceptional instance, “both sides” were so very determined to have the contentious leglslation “off” the parliamentary agenda by Christmas.

Marriage Act change

A fact sheet issued by the Attorney-General’s Department in December last year concerning the ‘monitum’.


“The weight has shifted and rather than it being a message conveying government’s reassurance and sense of privilege to be henceforth publicly connected with a lawfully contracted husband-and-wife marriage, [the new monitum] induces a false reductionistic view, namely that this is only ever to be a union of ‘two persons’.”

Yet, the bill was only passed after a Prime Ministerial assurance that it, presumably with other legislation, would be subjected to the deliberation of a committee of jurists, headed by a former attorney-general. That committee submitted its report on May 18th and we wait…we wait for the PM to release the committee’s report, but then we also wait for any amending legislative initiatives that may have to arise. But is the issue now “off” the political agenda? Not at all.

Of course there is the question: Why such a delay? Could the committee’s report and recommendations be unpalatable to the reigning political elite that straddles “both sides”. This delay is in sharp contrast to the great haste with which Parliament proceeded with legislation legalising same-sex marriage late last year. But then that haste seemed all the more necessary for a government falling apart in its own ongoing disunity, the Liberal Party’s failure over decades to present a coherent policy agenda to voter’s about marriage and family issues.

That legislation’s flaw is its presumptive dismissal of the need, in the wedding ceremony, for an explicit public statement of Government’s expression of respect for husband-and-wife marriage.

The newly worded monitum (a statement all authorised celebrants, other than ministers of religion belonging to a recognised denomination, are required to make explaining the nature of the marriage relationship in all civil marriage ceremonies they perform), presumably to be incorporated into all lawful wedding ceremonies, completes a process by which the government’s declaration at a marriage becomes a weighty legalistic imposition upon the wedding ceremony itself. The weight has shifted and rather than it being a message conveying government’s reassurance and sense of privilege to be henceforth publicly connected with a lawfully contracted husband-and-wife marriage, it induces a false reductionistic view, namely that this is only ever to be a union of “two persons”.

There’s the political time-lag but my even greater worry is the silence from Christian churches, schools, associations and public intellectuals about this perilous situation. We now, as a polity, have to consider the consequences of such a legalistic imposition that, by government decree, induces this false view of marriage, via the monitum, into the marriage ceremony.

This is no small quibble about words. It is a reductionistic view of marriage (“two persons”) and of the view of human sexuality it presupposes (see the definition of “spouse” corresponding to the monitum). It is not only an inducement upon those seeking marriage as husband and wife, but upon all previous marriages and by implication the children that may come from such a union as well. Are boys and girls now, by law, simply to be viewed as “persons”?

In these circumstances, and until reforming legislation overcomes the current injustice implicit in the prescribed monitum, inducing this “politically correcting” false view of marriage upon Christian weddings, I am compelled to make the following liturgical recommendation to Christian churches. Let me say it explicitly: a monitum can not be a religiously neutral part of any wedding ceremony, whether civil or ecclesiastical.

The legislation’s monitum is not the Word of God and when it is delivered in a Christian context, even a service convened to solemnise a wedding, its error should be contradicted, and we need to find a way of doing so that calls government back to the path of righteousness and justice. Just because the “two person” monitum doesn’t have to be spoken in a “church” or “religious” wedding, does not mean that it is not “present”. That definition is “present” because of the Marriage Act’s mistaken definition of marriage.

Hence I am making this appeal to Christian churches.

To the Christian churches of Australia:

Greetings. I am assuming you will be maintaining your lawful ministry in Word and Sacrament and that this also includes the valid public solemnisation of wedding vows of the male and female members of your congregations who seek marriage. Let me present you with this serious suggestion for adoption as part of your Christian wedding liturgies. May the Lord bless our efforts to commend the Gospel of His Son to all.

These questions and answers should be placed immediately after the public rendition of the monitum (“Hear now the statement that the Marriage Act requires be said publicly in any lawful marriage ceremony in this polity…”) and so that all present can hear and can be in no doubt of the Government’s view.

This then would also prepare the congregation to be in no doubt about what follows. This is no revolution. This is all about the reformation of the Christian way of life in this polity. This is a conscious attempt to publicly respect the fact that our civil government does indeed exist coram Deo, and when it makes mistakes, as it most certainly has done in this instance, Christians need to be encouraged to fully maintain their commitment to Christ in their public responsibilities and that includes the public side of their marriages.

Minister: “Do you N and N, having made your solemn vows as husband and wife to follow Christ Jesus in your marriage, accept the public and legal responsibilities that now come upon you as a married couple?”

N and N (together): “We do, God being our helper.”

Minister: “Why so?”

N and N (together): “The Bible teaches us that we image-bearers of the Lord God, male and female, are the servants of God and owe our Creator and Redeemer our complete and undivided loyalty.”

Minister: “And what do you say of your other duties as a married couple?”

N and N (together): “We are to love all our neighbours in doing all we can for their welfare and we will thank God that we have an opportunity in our married life together to reflect the love of Jesus Christ for his Bride, the church.”

MINISTER: “And what do you affirm about the forming of your household and the raising of any children that the Lord may give you?”

N and N (together): “We will be hospitable and raise any children granted to us according to the teaching of Jesus we have here confessed”.

MINISTER: “What say you then of the monitum that has just been read out and which seems to require of you a view of yourselves as merely ‘two persons’?”

N and N (together): “We as husband and wife solemnly declare, out of due respect to civil Government, our lawful dissent from this legislative mistake, and join all those who lawfully seek the reform of the law, and to resist all such an inducement to accept such false views upon us and our children. Jesus tells us that if we love Him we will keep His commandments.”

MINISTER: “And what say you of the children that God may give into your hands in this union?”

N and N (together): “We will faithfully teach our children, and those committed to our care, this same teaching of Christ Jesus about marriage, since He also calls us to let the children come to Him for they remind us of who we are, members of His Kingdom, the household of faith, redeemed image-bearers, male and female.”

These very important matters and require us as members of the Body of Christ to give these matters our urgent attention. 

Respectfully submitted and with sincere Christian greetings.

Bruce C Wearne (BA, MSocSci, PhD)
Point Lonsdale



sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.