A Victorian Anglican Bishop has delivered a startling rebuke to those demanding he oppose marriage equality and assisted dying ,declaring that marriage can change and reminding hem that the Bible talks of a "time to die".
Bendigo Bishop Andrew Curnow said he received a "deluge" of emails from the no camp on both issues and described their correspondence as "dogmatic" and "vitriolic".
"I have found much of the material vitriolic, highly emotional and practically claiming Armageddon is on the horizon if the 'yes' vote wins," he wrote in the Bendigo diocese publication Spirit.
"I have also found much of the material claiming unequivocally what the Bible states on both issues both extremely dogmatic in tone and language."
Bishop Curnow, who is retiring in November, argued Australia was no longer a Christian nation and using Christianity as grounds to oppose new marriage and euthanasia laws made him "very uncomfortable".
"This does not mean that the church cannot contribute to the debate on public issues or that it cannot make a meaningful contribution to the life of the nation and state," Bishop Curnow said.
"But our contribution has to take account of the diversity of our society.
"We cannot adopt an imperialist attitude."
While marriage between a man and woman was the traditional belief, it was not beyond change, the bishop believed, using the church's shift away from slavery as an example of changing Christian mores.
But the bishop stopped short of asking others to vote in favour of marriage equality, asking readers to be guided by their conscience.
"Try not to be judgmental and bear in mind that our nation is one of the last nations on earth trying to embrace the value and standard of a harmonious, safe society."
He took the same approach to the Victorian government's proposed assisted dying laws, welcoming a conscience vote in the Victorian parliament as a responsible way to handle the sensitive subject.
"I have looked at the legislation and do not agree that it undervalues or reduces the sanctity of life," he said.
"Modern medicine has brought great benefits to many of us but as it says in the Book of Ecclesiastes, 'There is a time to be born, and a time to die'."
"Never underestimate the value of our liberty and the gift that we have in this country. In fact I believe that liberty is a God given gift to humanity.
"Treat it wisely and with respect"
The bishop's position is at odds with a resolution passed recently by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia.
The national body moved to recognise "that the doctrine of our church, in line with traditional Christian teaching, is that marriage is an exclusive and lifelong union of a man and a woman".