POSTSCRIPT - on where the Roman church may or may not be heading re adapting to context, on the reasons why it likely finds itself unable to adapt, and on the coherency between its doctrine and its practice, untroubled by the times in which we live, read William Oddie.
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Christians have shown an ability to adapt our traditional general rule of sexuality (no sex outside of monogamous marriage) because context merits adaptation. Polygamous converts, for example, in some contexts at least, have not been asked to jettison wives 2, 3, 4 etc. Remarriage of divorcees (beyond the 'pastoral exceptions' of Jesus and Paul) is accepted in some churches (and, frankly, my observations of some annulments in the Roman Catholic church have looked like a subtle form of finding a way to remarry divorcees while trying to strictly adhere to Jesus' teaching).
We do not talk about it much hereabouts Down Under, but there would appear to be more youth leaders living with their boy/girl friends than there used to be 'in my day' (when I knew not one such domestic coupling among my peers as we worked with youth groups), with numerous church leaders either implicitly or even explicitly colluding in this state of affairs.
Yet from such observations it would be a bit too fast and loose to move to a 'context has changed so Christian morality must change' conclusion. I do not sense any appetite, even on the part of young people, for the church to come up with some kind of synodical approval of sex outside of marriage. In remarrying divorcees the church is acting as much in sorrow as in celebration. Marriage is meant to be for life. Christian ministers do not agree to marry couples who want to trial marriage or stipulate in a contract that it is for a fixed period of time. While we understand the logic of mercy which leads us to accept polygamous converts, it is difficult to imagine the church universal finding any context in which it felt justified in conducting weddings for wives 2, 3, 4, etc so that Mr Husband has more than one wife at a time.
Sexuality blesses us with children and curses us with all kinds of questions about approved relationships. In respect of the questions, the church generally has not lost (as far as I can tell) its commitment to the ideal of monogamous, permanent marriage for a man and a woman yet it has in various ways across its manifold forms (i.e. denominations) found ways to 'cope with reality.' That is, the church has been alive to context even as it has sought to be faithful to its text, to Scripture.
Sometimes the church has been barely alert to its context (see, for instance, as a misjudgment of a church, the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and its subsequent tremendous disregard re artificial contraception by a multitude of Roman Catholics) and other times it has seemed so alive to it that the church has blessed the lead taken by secular leaders (see, for instance, those churches supporting gay marriage as it is legalised across many countries in the 21st century). It would be a brave church leader or theologian who stood up in the assembly and said, "I perfectly understand today's context and so I offer my precisely measured recipe for appropriately adapting the teaching of the church to the reality of our day."
Yet confronted by context we must offer some kind of understanding, however imperfectly or too hastily formed and where adaptation is called for there is normally a pressing pastoral set of issues generating the call. A few years after the availability of reliable artificial contraception the Roman hierarchy may have misunderstood the impact this technological development would have, but it rightly proposed that in this age we needed more than ever to respect human life, especially the life of the unborn. Some churches may yet be judged by history to have married the spirit of the age in declaring support for gay marriage, but society is changing before our eyes and those churches are attempting some kind of Christian response to the change. Same sex couples are asking for the protection of their relationship which marriage law offers: is the church to declare itself to be utterly free of concern for the well being of relationships which assist the good order of society? Surely every church in the West, if offered the bare choice of blessing faithful stable same sex relationships or blessing promiscuity would opt for the former over the latter? Even if we are against gay marriage for sound theological reasons, can we say what we are for in respect of couples seeking to live a sober, faithful, committed life together?
Further, as the Church of England is now experiencing, our rapidly changing societies around marriage laws are catalysing challenges around employment/appointment of clergy (e.g. here).
Perhaps the answer is a vigorous purging of church members in non-approved relationships. Perhaps we need to be black and white rather than (to coin a phrase) fifty shades of gray. Perhaps the future growth and vigor of the church is precisely located in crystal clarity on homosexuality: chastity or nowt. Yet put like that, is there the slightest tremor of doubt that would cause the church to consider that some kind of adaptation to context in the 21st century is required, to this context in which we are finding ourselves living? Do Western churches wish to be like the Anglican Church in Uganda whose Archbishop has just announced that the draconian law punishing homosexuals should NOT have been overturned by its supreme court? Is this the way we wish to go?
Neither Jesus nor Paul knew of licensing bishops, the consequences for employment when a license is withdrawn, the possibility of the affected person litigating against the church, the wider ramifications of being church in a society which wonders what the fuss is all about when we look like we are against love and for law.
Yet, to repeat myself from above, we are the church and we have ideals. We are called to be salt and light. We are not without divine help as to how to be salt and light in this generation: Pope Francis offers some models for leading a church which changes its ideals not one whit but adjusts the tone with which it speaks.
Here Down Under, Anglicans are invited to consider and work with Motion 30. It is an amazing motion when we consider context: both the context of a divided church and the context of a changing society, for to both those contexts the Motion speaks, and for Anglicans engaging with both contexts the Motion offers a way forward for engaging with each other and with our societies in these islands. It is premature to leave now - for where does leaving take the leavers? To a 'purer' church, yes, but that church has still to work out its witness in the same social context as before.
Some of us have friends and family across the divide in our church, and embedded in the social context in relationships which do not fit the ideals of the church. The least duty we owe them is to work through the process ahead of us.