'The canonical amendment, in the drafting of which I participated, is, in my likely not sufficiently humble opinion, simultaneously orthodox and comprehensive. I challenge anyone opposed to it to point to any line in it that contradicts the teaching of the church. It is true that it omits reference to "man and woman" -- but omission does not constitute denial. Again, some may find this too subtle, but it is true.'
Here, it seems to me, Haller makes a claim that TEC has extended or developed its doctrine of marriage, but not created a new doctrine.
But some seem to view TEC's recent decision as a new revelation granted by the Holy Spirit. I make a comment at that post which ridicules the notion of a new revelation because it is ridiculous, except in one respect. I guess if you wish to assert a teaching which is out of step with nearly the whole of the rest of the universal church, both now and in the past, then logically you can only justify such an assertion by claiming it is valid as a new revelation. Otherwise, frankly, we are into heresy.
Heresy? Yes, because heresy is a distortion of existing doctrine which is not accepted as consistent with that doctrine by wider members of the church. (Or, heresy is acclaimed new doctrine which is not incorporated into the body of doctrine already accepted by the church).
What has TEC distorted in respect of marriage as understood by Anglicans around the world?
Let's go back to a citation in my post below:
'Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.' from p. 98 of this TEC material, cited by Anglican Curmudgeon.
TEC's new marriage doctrine involves distorting the plain meaning of the underlying Scripture when we speak of marriage and its mysteries in relation to the mystery of the union between Christ and the church. It is bold and frank in its attempt to extend the Scriptural understanding of marriage to incorporate marriage between any two persons but the price it pays is to distort Scripture.
There is more to consider about the heretical nature of the new doctrine.
(1) It can make no claim that it is reaching back into the beginnings of the church's teaching on marriage to rediscover something which was there but then got obscured. There is no route from the teaching in Scripture and in the tradition of the church to extend the meaning of marriage from a covenantal partnership between a man and a woman to a covenantal partnership between any two persons.
(2) It can make no claim to being an understanding which either everyone, everywhere has always believed, or even nearly everyone, everywhere has nearly always believed.
(3) In respect of Haller's claim re comprehensiveness (if it be a presumption by TEC as to what it has done), we are in novel Anglican territory. Let me explain.
Previously Anglican comprehensiveness has been about the capacity of Anglicanism to live with a variety of understandings about doctrinal matters under a shared umbrella of some common understanding. The classic doctrine is eucharistic understanding. The umbrella has been acceptance that Jesus said, "This [bread] is my body." The comprehensiveness has been the acceptance of a variety of understandings of what "is" means (representation through to transubstantiation, Zwingli to Aquinas). But now Haller makes a move which is akin to the umbrella itself being the subject of comprehension, a move akin to claiming that Jesus didn't really mean "This [bread] is my body" but "Any food (including bread) is my body."
On Haller's notion of comprehensiveness, TEC is claiming that it can remain part of the Anglican body of churches while shifting its understanding of marriage from 'a man and a woman' to 'any two people (including, a man and a woman). But Anglican comprehensiveness is not an infinitely pliable concept. Haller's conception seems to be.
On his logic above 'omission does not constitute denial', marriage could be determined to mean anything, providing it did not exclude the possibility that it includes marriage between a man and a woman. Marriage between any two sentient beings or marriage between any number of sentient beings greater than one would fit his 'omission does not constitute denial.' This is plasticity not comprehensiveness.
We should ask and keep on asking, where does the Scriptural and traditional doctrine of marriage as understood by Anglicans (itself an understanding shared by most Christians around the world through Christian history, points of difference notably focused on the endings of marriage (divorce/remarriage) and not on marriage itself) require an extension which changes its own core definition?
Now, just before someone labels me a homophobic bigot, let me point out two things.
First, that the HOB has spoken warmly about the Communion Partner bishops who have dissented from the recent decision on same gender marriage. We can read what the Communion Partner bishops have to say here.
Secondly, there is another way forward for Anglicans to move - a way which some Anglican churches are considering, including my own (as per Motion 30). That way is to consider the possibility that permission might be given for those who wish to bless partnerships between any two persons might do so.
An advantage of this way of proceeding is that it need not involve heresy because it need not change the doctrine of marriage. It is controversial, because not all Anglicans are willing to accept that such blessings are not prohibited by Scripture and tradition. It is a matter of continuing argument, because such a move rests on an arguable presumption that what is not addressed is not prohibited and is thereby permissible. (See comments to post below for arguments back and forth).
But it is something to consider on two grounds (at least): (1) some conscientious Anglicans (with a conscience in respect both of Scripture and tradition and in respect of gay couples in their congregations) wish to have this permission; (2) at least in countries such as Aotearoa New Zealand which legally permit gay marriage, it is appropriate that somewhere in the life of the church some manner of liturgical recognition be available for those who choose a pattern of partnership which is covenanted.
TEC, however, has gone beyond this step.
Many Anglicans around the world, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, have big questions about this step.
I am suggesting here that those questions include the very significant question of whether TEC has now committed itself to heretical doctrine of marriage.