(1) "“Oh, you might say, but we need to press for the 'truth' to win. I agree but I find there are two different versions of what is 'true' about same sex marriage and they are pushing together like two scrums with no signs of one buckling and the referee is getting impatient for the ball to come out. And the different scrums are composed of friends of mine. I would like to not ditch one set of friends for another.”
Hmm, two different truths .. 2+2 makes 4, AND 2+2 makes 5 .. both true? Both acceptable? Requiring those in the math class to learn a new set of ‘truths?’ Peter, if you have friends in both scrums, as indeed I hope we all do, then what sort of friends are they that they don’t deserve to hear your particular version of the two truths? I suppose I must ask again, where exactly is the line you draw .. or is there not one at all?"
Part of the difficulty of getting our heads around the nature of the differences among Christians over same sex partnerships is that some see the differences as clearly as "Hmm, two different truths .. 2+2 makes 4, AND 2+2 makes 5 .. both true? Both acceptable? Requiring those in the math class to learn a new set of ‘truths?’" while others see the differences less clearly.
For instance, what if the analogy was between wave and particle theories of light rather than between 2+2=4 or 2+2=5? These theories can be opposed to each other with much argument on either side. They are also able to be accommodated - at least they were when I studied physics decades ago - so that both theories are simultaneously true!
Are we a church which can acknowledge that we cannot even agree on the nature of the differences between us on these matters?
Then the question of 'the line you draw ... or is there not one at all?'
First, a general comment about 'lines': I am sure we all have them.
There are lines which mean Anglicans do not want to be (say) Presbyterians and vice versa, as well as potential lines which mean Anglicans might contemplate leaving the Anglican church or at least staging some kind of ecclesiastical protest.
For instance, I imagine all Anglicans here would have trouble if General Synod agreed to ditch the Nicene Creed from our liturgies. That line is very clear.
But what if General Synod agreed to drop the filioque clause from the Nicene Creed? Would that be a 'line' that led to protest or departure, or a change which one could (reluctantly, grumblingly) live with?
Speaking personally, I have a line around the definition of marriage in our canon on marriage and marriage liturgies, the definition which makes a man and a woman essential to the Christian understanding of marriage. If this definition changed, I would be sorely tried.
Do I have a line on the matter of blessing of same sex partnerships? I have a theological line in this sense: I do not see where the authorisation of such blessings comes from (save that we assert that authority on the basis of (e.g.) the authority we have taken to bless (e.g.) battleships).
But I live in an Anglican church, in a global Christianity where fellow believers are taking different views on these matters (as expressed here in some confident, robust, well argued comments that all is in order in respect of same sex marriage and the ones out of order are those such as myself who beg to demur). Can I draw a political line around my church, let alone around global Christianity which constrains any accommodation of difference of viewpoint, which rules out all views opposing my own views? At this point I cannot draw that line and for these reasons.
First, for reason of acknowledging the role dissent may play in church life. If the majority boot turns out to be on the foot of those with a progressive approach, I would hope that space would be permitted for conservatives who dissent from a changed view re blessings of same sex partnerships. Should I not, quid pro quo, as a matter of recognition of the politics of the church, allow that if the conservative view prevails on marriage (as I intuit it may do in ACANZP) then a dissenting view might be permitted on the blessing of same sex partnerships?
Secondly, for reason of respect for fellow Christians and the views they hold as we all grapple with changing times in the Western world. The referendum vote of the Irish people these past few days to legalise same sex marriage is a sign of a tsunami of change over an issue that is turning out to be a challenge for all Western Christians in all churches. The challenge is now not just for Anglicans!
In such a world it is understandable that many Christians (perhaps even in the Roman Catholic church itself) are asking whether this particular Zeitgeist might be accommodated through a loving response from the church. What they are asking fellow Christians to consider is whether this Zeitgeist is towards good or towards evil?
We all get it that the Zeitgeist in the 1930s in Germany was towards evil (and recognise that many German Christians failed to discern that). But this Zeitgeist is away from promiscuity, away from casual sex, away from a society in which young gay people feel helpless dissonance and sometimes commit suicide. Is it towards evil? That question puts the church, all Western churches in a dilemma. Dare we answer 'Yes' and doom ourselves to further loss of membership as people, especially young people turn their backs on us. Dare we answer 'No'? Dare we answer 'Yes' and 'No'?
How is the church in the West to respond to the amazing shift in understanding of marriage going on around us (including among our closest friends and family members)?
Obviously some commenters here represent the view that the churches should simply go with the Zeitgeist, no further questions please. The answer to the above question is a resounding 'No.'
Some commenters here represent the view that the church should resist the Zeitgeist. Also, no further questions please. The answer to the above question is a resounding 'Yes.'
I am suggesting that out of respect for differing responses to the Zeitgeist we in ACANZP might be a church which says 'Yes' and 'No'. We man up and acknowledge that we are a church with differences, that we are a church where arguments can be mounted and firmly held both for maintaining a traditional Christian understanding of marriage and for offering a prayerful response to those taking up the state's provision of marriage between partners of the same sex.
If we do this, might we keep open lines of communication between 'church' and 'society' in the 21st century which are in grave danger of being shut down.
That is another insight about 'lines' in this situation! We needs lines of communication as well as lines in the sand :)
What do you think? Am I barking mad or barking up the wrong tree?