Church leaders in New Zealand have stepped up their campaign against plans to legalise gay marriage and will use Sunday sermons this month to encourage congregations to speak out against the move.

After the 80-40 vote in favour of Labour MP Louisa Wall’s New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill in its first reading, the majority of New Zealand religious groups vowed not to officiate same-sex marriages, including Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims and some other smaller denominations.

The New Zealand Christian Network has also asked members to write to the government in opposition of the law change, the New Zealand Herald reports.

National director of the network, Glyn Carpenter, said it was “highly probable that this bill will not be good for New Zealand”.

“Marriage is already facing a number of challenges, and anyone with an ounce of common sense can see that families and society are weaker and poorer as a result,” Carpenter said.

“What politicians should be doing is looking at what needs to be done to strengthen marriage, not spending time debating bills whose main outcome would be to further undermine it.”

However, one church in Wellington has vowed to go against its own governing body if marriage equality is implemented and perform same-sex weddings.

The St Andrews on the Terrace Presbyterian Church (pictured), released a statement this week saying it supported equal marriage despite the Presbyterian General Assembly’s recent announcement that it would not officiate same-sex wedding ceremonies.

“We are looking forward to the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill which will mean that we can offer to perform and bless civil marriages for same-sex couples,” Reverend Dr Margaret Mayman said on behalf of the church.

“And we are relieved that the assembly left ministers with the freedom to make decisions about whom they will marry.

“In response to the Presbyterian General Assembly’s decision to oppose the Marriage Amendment Bill currently before parliament, the minister and community at St Andrew’s on The Terrace Presbyterian Church today restated their commitment to be an inclusive church, welcoming and including people of any sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The deadline for public submissions on the marriage bill is October 26.

Australians are able to provide public submissions.

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