Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On marriage and separation

Following up on recent postings, in the wash up of the TEC Executive Council meeting, an intriguing element of 'separation' between the HOB and the HOD is in the air as we read Bonnie Anderson's HOD closing presidential remarks. Presumably no actual separation can occur between the bishops and the deputies so the July GC will be an exercise in reconciliation of sorts. Other posts worth a look are here, here and here, the first offering a very sober assessment of the future life of TEC (albeit with figures that likely are more or less replicable for other Western Anglican churches). 2012 is going to be fascinating: commenters on the blogosphere are already observing that Bonnie Anderson' radical questioning of the proposed budget lines up intriguingly with other questions within TEC about what are and are not constitutional requirements on dioceses (there is no constitutional requirement to support the budget). To say nothing of raising a major question as to whether or not TEC is a 'hierarchical' church. If it is not (e.g. the PB of the HOB cannot ride roughshod over the President of the HOD) then it rather undermines a major line of attack within the courts re properties.

[UPDATE: Previously I promised that Mark Harris would write about the draft TECian budget. He has kept my promise and written something which, with a tweak here and there, would apply just about anywhere in the world of ecclesial finances!]

Meanwhile Titus One Nine also draws our attention to a sharply critical Andrew Brown taking on the ABY and his recently published remarks about 'gay marriage.' Comment 2 is worth reflecting on. Despite what some commenters here may be presuming about my own mind on these matters, the fact is, we are a Communion working out our Christian life in a period of change within a diverse world, and within the Communion individual member churches are feeling their way forward on questions raised up within societies which were not dreamed of by our forbears. I am not in the least bit apologetic for raising here questions of how we would know when we have the right answer to the questions posed by society. I hope I am not in the least bit closed to the probing thoughts of an Andrew Brown or commenter 2 at Titus One Nine.

For what it is worth, I am stuck on the unchangeability of the core of marriage as the intricate dance through life of the opposing genders, male and female, being brought together into a unity of mind, body and purpose under God. Whatever else is going on in any other virtuous relationship, it cannot replicate the particularity of the mystery of blending of maleness and femaleness into 'one flesh.'

That we are a church and a society grappling with changeability in marriage, most obviously around response to broken marriages, means we face, and must face, responding to changes in socially and legally accepted relationships which were not in view when the Scriptures were being written.

Precisely because such matters both challenge us about our relevance to society and frighten us about losing our distinctiveness as God's new society within human society, we have the dilemmas we have. Whether discussed on blogs, debated in councils and synods, or played out in media interviews and responses, and whether explicit in what we say or implicit in discussions over (say) budgets, these dilemmas need always to be brought to the heart of our gospel mission: what brings life to the world rather than death?


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter - a good post here. Regarding the bit about the apparent split between the HoB and the HoD in TEC; it would seem that, like the Christchurch City Council, there can be occasions of a lack of communication. This is not a uniquely 'Church' problem.

On the subject of your *dance through life of the opposing genders*, unfortunately for your pardigm, this particular dance seems all to often to be a mere *quickstep* - reflecting an unfortunate take on the binding nature of human relationship. The effect upon the children of such a 'marriage' is incalculable.

On the other hand, relationships between same-sex couples - when they are founded on fidelity and mutual nurture - cannot but be beneficial, both for the couple, their families, and society. They must help to set an example of the desire for stability and devotion. I, personally, am aware of such relationships, and am glad of them.

hogster said...

Re: "For what it is worth, I am stuck on the unchangeability of the core of marriage as the intricate dance through life of the opposing genders, male and female, being brought together into a unity of mind, body and purpose under God. Whatever else is going on in any other virtuous relationship, it cannot replicate the particularity of the mystery of blending of maleness and femaleness into 'one flesh.'

And I an stuck on the logic of the above view and the mystery and wisdom of God in arranging things thus. There is of course a great pastoral and learning opportunity in the fact that different interpretations can be held and must be fleshed out in an ongoing relationship.

Blessings on all.

hogster said...

Looking at the graphs, as in the first link, it's a probable and somewhat ironic fact that some will call for more of the same in regards revisionist theology as the solution to the decline.

carl jacobs said...

The conflict between KJS and Bonnie Anderson is about money. Specifically, it's about who controls it, and who get's thrown under the bus now that it's running out. Here's the ... ahem ... money quote from Bonnie Anderson:

If we keep relying on this old, bureaucratic model to run our church, we’re also continuing our reliance on the building at 815 Second Avenue that will cost us now up from $7.7 million dollars when I gave my opening remarks on Friday to $8.7 because of increased interest rates in facilities cost and debt repayment during the next triennium. If we continue to spend this kind of money on a building to house an executive structure, the only place we’ll be able to look for savings will be in areas that compromise the voices and leadership of clergy and laypeople in the church. That’s not faithful to our tradition as Episcopalians or to who I believe God is calling us to be.

That's what you call a shot right across the bow of the National Church organization. It certainly is going to attract the attention of KJS and the staff that constitutes her base of power. The dioceses can save money by shorting the national church. It's easy and painless - except for the national church. But TEC has a Primate now, and she isn't much interested in seeing her power reduced. I suspect she is much more interested in consolidating dioceses into "horizontal relationships." Less diocesan bureaucracy means more money for the national organization.

The conservative rebellion has been crushed. The pitiful remnants of conservatism yet in TEC hardly need mopping up. Some would like to withdraw the "emergency powers" granted to KJS to sweep aside the rebellion. But power once obtained is not laid aside. Does Bonnie Anderson have sufficient a power base to oppose KJS, restore the old status quo, and 'de-Primate' the new Primate? I doubt it. She and her colleagues have made their bed. Now they must lie in it.

815 is the face of the national church. Shrinking the church in flyover country won't be noticed, but TEC leaving NYC would be. A greatly reduced national presence as well. It would make TEC a collection of dioceses with no national voice - a tragedy for a church that envisions its role to be the moral conscience of the post-modern world. KJS isn't going to stand for that sort of vision. She isn't going to sacrifice a national presence for the sake of Eau Claire Wisconsin.

I wouldn't bet against KJS in this fight. She has power now. She has shown she isn't afraid to use it.


Andrew Reid said...

Is TEC at the point where their legal action and support of "continuing dioceses" in Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, etc will have to be curtailed? Or are they drawing these funds from elsewhere? I would have thought they would cut those expenses before some of the more radical approaches they are considering. Why not take this as an opportunity to call a truce with departing dioceses and save on the obscene amounts of legal fees?

I really appreciated Mark Harris's post about the theology of budgeting, especially how we feel things are "alive" or "dead" based on whether they exist as a line item in the budget.