Wednesday, March 9, 2016

International critical response to AWF

Andrew Goddard (England) has written a thoughtful, zingy, "what implications for CofE/Communion" response to ACANZP's A Way Forward report. It is published in the independent Episcopal magazine The Living Church.

Here are two paragraphs for a taste:

"First, the group’s members were given a precise task, and they labored to square the circle and find a way to allow space for both viewpoints to be expressed within ACANZP. As we will see, it is less clear they have upheld the Christian doctrine of marriage.
Second, it is also clear that to do this requires the province to develop its doctrine and sexual ethic, formally recognizing as godly and “rightly ordered” a sexual relationship other than marriage between a man and a woman. If the report is accepted, ACANZP will explicitly embrace a new moral theology of lifelong (covenanted) relationships that includes same-sex couples. Those who do not share that theology will continue to have a protected place in the church, but they will now be those dissenting from the church’s teaching. That teaching will be that such sexual relationships are indeed consonant with Scripture, doctrine, and “the Sacraments of Christ.” What other provinces — not least the Church of England — need to recognize is that unless a particular church accepts the incoherence of authorizing liturgies and ordination policies that contradict its own teaching (as in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland) this change must follow from any decision to move to official recognition of “two integrities,” such as that which set the ACANZP working group’s terms of reference."

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter

I think Fr Ron's criticism is really ad hominem. On the most cursory check of the author's academic qualifications, former academic posts and published work, he is more than qualified to give the views that he does in your link. It's refreshing to hear conservative views; otherwise liberal views suffer from not having their assumptions exposed. Liberals benefit from that, it's not offensive. SSM is ipso facto revisionist. The sky is blue.

Nick

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

Thanks for drawing attention to this article. I found it helpful in untangling the tensions in the Way Forward report between the traditional doctrine of marriage and the new category of recognising civil marriage.

I wonder whether a Diocese/Hui Aorangi would also be free to ignore the new requirement to bless (rightly order) a civilly contracted (heterosexual) marriage before proceeding to ordination. If they are, then we will have created a situation where a married priest will be recognised in one part of the church as living a life of chastity, but in another part to being in a defacto relationship. If Bishops are not so free, then we would have changed our doctrine of marriage as a matter of "first order". Either way, I agree with the article that the level of confusion and incoherence in the report is very high.

Malcolm

Anonymous said...

Question

"I wonder whether a Diocese/Hui Aorangi would also be free to ignore the new requirement to bless (rightly order) a civilly contracted (heterosexual) marriage before proceeding to ordination." -- Malcolm

Report

"...those who are in an existing civil marriage that has not been blessed through an authorised service will not be considered to be in a rightly ordered relationship for the purposes of Title D Canon I.

"...all dioceses/amorangi will need to adopt an authorised service of blessing for heterosexual couples in order to ensure that ministers in existing civil marriages will be able to have their marriages blessed, and thereby to be considered as in a rightly ordered relationship." -- Changes to Title D Canon I

http://www.anglicantaonga.org.nz/Features/Extra/Changes

Answer

No. The requirement that the relationships of ordinands be rightly ordered appears to apply whether a diocese has authorised a service of blessing or not.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Bowman, for clarifying for us New Zealanders who may be uncertain of the actual requirement as stated in the requirements for the Title D Canon. It appears that some of us are more aware of what is actually required than others. For them, it appears the very thought of being required to do something extra as a direct result of the new proposals might be a pro9blem. It would mean that the proposed legislation affected everyone who wishes to be ordained, or to continue in Holy Orders if they have not secured a Church Blessing of their Marriage - whether gay or straight.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Nick, from the following extract of his provenance on 'Google', you will notice Andrew Goddard's conservative Anglican background:

"He is a fellow of the Anglican Communion Institute and a founder member of Fulcrum, a group seeking to renew the evangelical centre within the Church of England for which he regularly writes online articles. From 2003 to 2011 he was editor of Anvil, the evangelical Anglican journal for theology and mission of which is now a Trustee, and he serves on the Evangelical Alliance’s Theology and Public Policy Advisory Commission. He is on the committee of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics, on the Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and a member of The Living Church Foundation."

'The Living Church Foundation published Andrew's piece, with this headline:-

"This report marks a significant departure from traditional Anglican and broader Christian teaching that marriage is a gift of God in creation."

This does beg the question that the Blessing of a civil marriage might also be 'God's gift in creation'. This is what the proposed legislation is all about; recognising same-sex relationships that are actually 'part of Creation', which is God's gift.

Regarding the matter of 'ad hominem'; would you consider Press comments about the unwillingness of Cardinal Pell to explain the culture of abuse in the Australian R.C. Church as 'ad hominem' ?

Emkat said...

Thanks for your answer Bowman.

However, I am still uncertain. The Executive Summary (page 3 of my version) states that those married in a civil ceremony "may have their relationship blessed by the Church". It sounds optional, particularly with the report's insistence that no change to the traditional doctrine of marriage is intended.

But you may well be correct. The report claims to have found a "lacuna in the canons". Does this mean will we need to conduct urgent retrospective blessings for those currently holding a bishop's license (both lay and ordained) but now (with our "extended definition of chastity") found to be living in sin?

In my view this would be an obvious departure from an Anglican understanding of marriage. The preface to the marriage service states that Holy Matrimony was "instituted of God in the time of man's innocency" - that seems to contradict the statement in the executive summary that "a rightly ordered relationship is only one that has been committed to God and received the blessing of the Christian Church." If God instituted marriage before the fall, and the BCP is prepared to call such marriages Holy, how can the report claim that only Christian marriage is rightly ordered in God's sight.

Or am I missing something?

Malcolm

Malcolm Falloon said...

Thanks for your answer Bowman.

However, I am still uncertain. The Executive Summary (page 3 of my version) states that those married in a civil ceremony "may have their relationship blessed by the Church". It sounds optional, particularly with the report's insistence that no change to the traditional doctrine of marriage is intended.

But you may well be correct. The report claims to have found a "lacuna in the canons". Does this mean will we need to conduct urgent retrospective blessings for those currently holding a bishop's license (both lay and ordained) but now (with our "extended definition of chastity") found to be living in sin?

In my view this would be an obvious departure from an Anglican understanding of marriage. The preface to the marriage service states that Holy Matrimony was "instituted of God in the time of man's innocency" - that seems to contradict the statement in the executive summary that "a rightly ordered relationship is only one that has been committed to God and received the blessing of the Christian Church." If God instituted marriage before the fall, and the BCP is prepared to call such marriages Holy, how can the report claim that only Christian marriage is rightly ordered in God's sight.

Or am I missing something?

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
My observations:
1. There definitely is a question to ask about the "retrospective" implications of the move the report makes towards blessing of civil marriages. However,
2. There is a logic to the proposal, because if one acknowledges a novelty in civil marriage law then the church might make a novel response to that change.
3. As for change from the BCP, I think the report does set out clearly that our understanding of marriage has changed from (e.g.) BCP to NZPB, yet we have retained both prayer books, so the question is not whether the change proposed differs from the BCP but whether it is a difference which might be accommodated in a similar way to other differences already accommodated?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron/Nick
Nick is right and your initial comment above is ad hominem (and thus I have taken it down and edited it so it is fit for publishing here).

The moderated/edited comment is thus:

"Peter, I think you should realise that this not, as you claim here, an 'international Response' to ACANZP's 'Way Forward' proposition. [PRC: It is a response from outside our church and thus I have named it an international response].

Rather, it is merely from a distinctly [OMITTED] conservative Evangelical Sola-Scriptura Englishman, who is well-known in the U.K. for his [OMITTED] [OMITTED]. [PRC: Andrew Goddard is a well know exponent of conservative evangelical arguments for retaining the Church of England's current teaching on sexual relationships, officially upheld by all its bishops. Your words do not do justice to his writings.]

His article, on the U.S. Conservative web-site 'The Living Church' ([OMITTED - no need for pejoratives]), is offered to conservative North Americans as [OMITTED AS NOT ACCURATE] [a] view of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia's 'mis-step' away from doctrinal certitude, on a subject [OMITTED, you have not produced evidence of the claim you make] and wants to persuade his U.S. friends [OMITTED, speculative gossip about who his friends in the States are is not worthy of you] of our naughtiness. This little pericope on his view of AWF say it all:

"This is presumably why its bibliography in relation to sexuality contains almost wholly “revisionist” writers such as James Brownson, Margaret Farley, Charles Hefling, Mark Jordan, Eugene Rogers, and Rowan Williams, and the bibliography includes — like the report itself — nothing that would enable readers to understand the views of those who believe such blessings are contrary to Scripture and doctrine."

Has it occurred to you that there may be very little in the way of reasonably argued material - even from the conservative GAFCON Provinces - extant, that supports Mr Goddard's own view on human sexuality? [1. Yes, "revisionist" is a worthy term of writers who revise the church's understanding, whether or not any such writer attains high office in the church. 2. There is a large amount of reasonably argued material from many quarters of the global church which supports Andrew Goddard's view, including the official teaching of the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Australia, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox churches, none of whom are members of GAFCON.]

I'm not sure that former Archbishop Rowan Williams, either, for instance, fulfils Andrew Goddard's understanding of an 'almost wholly revisionist writer' on human sexuality. However, Dr. Rowan Williams has written scholarly material that tries to understand the subject.

Even Mr Goddard's own Church of England has a better and more informed understanding of what 'The Subject' [PRC: WHERE HAS IT PUBLISHED THAT GIVEN THAT IT HAS NOT CHANGED ITS TEACHING ON MARRIAGE?] is all about, and is currently offering 'Conversations' on how best to accommodate the call for Same-Sex Blessings. He is obviously out of kilter there. [PRC: QUITE HOW A CRITIQUE OF A POORLY ARGUED REPORT FROM OUR CHURCH LEADS TO THE OPPROBRIUM POURED ON THE HEAD OF ANDREW GODDARD IS BEYOND ME]"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
The observation that both Goddards have been willing to dialogue together suggests that Andrew Goddard is a reasonable conservative evangelical.
A bit like me really!

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

There might well be a novel response to a novel situation. But what is confusing for me is that the report insists that there has been no change to the traditional doctrine of marriage. Are they proposing a change or not?

Your third comment opens up an even deeper area of confusion. The report defines the "Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ" with reference to Part B of the Church's constitution (which includes the NZPB), but the Church of England Empowering Act (1928) defines it in terms of Part A of the constitution (called the Fundamental Provisions). What exactly are we to make of the relationship between Part A and Part B of the constitution?

Since the report declares it a "crucial matter for debate" for General Synod, it is deeply concerning to me that the report makes no reference to Part A clause one of the fundamental provisions where a definition of the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ is given. Instead, three rather speculative observations are made on page 21 that to my mind brings no clarity at all.

I find it quite bewildering that the working group would produce a report that proposes such major changes (on which they were not even unanimous!) and yet at the same time admit that they are not sure about what our church holds as its doctrinal standard.

If, as the report claims, this is the crucial issue of debate and "on precisely this question that divergent views are certain to be focussed" would it not be better, as a first step, to have a tribunal determine the question of the Doctrine and Sacraments of Christ. At least then we can all agree as to the ground rules for the debate before GS rushes ahead with decisions that will cause such distress throughout our church.

Malcolm

Michael Primrose said...

"(The Report) thus effectively says that a Christian doctrine of marriage requires marriage to be solemnized by the Church in order to be marriage. It classifies all civil marriages and marriages in other faith communities as non-marriages and therefore judges them as not rightly ordered within traditional Christian teaching." Goddard

A naive question.

Will the ACANZP be charging a fee for Blessing, and right ordering, all these progressive, chaotic, different sex civil marriages in New Zealand?

Given the number, of confused churchless marriages of persons of contrasting gender, that have occurred over the decades, the Church, to put it colloquially, could be onto a nice little earner.

Not that it would be about the money, of course! It's about the scruples!

However, I would assume that most couples, in these disorganised. differently sexed civilian marriages, would not notice much pf a change in the quality of their relationship after the Blessing, and obligatory ordering, save that their pockets would be somewhat lighter and the ACANZP would be happier, in spiritual and monetary terms, with their now right ordered state, whether it be chaste or not.

One is reminded of that peppery protestant response to the question as to what use were Papal Indulgences.

But, then again, Indulgences weren't about the money either.

I am rather confused, I must admit, as to how many couples in these unsorted, bi-gendered, state authorised marriages, having made the deliberate choice not to get married in a Church in the first place, will now hand over their hard-earned money to the ACANZP, just to assuage the new-found misgiving of suddenly scrupulous clerics.

One can only hope that all this effort and angst on the part of the Church will be worth it financially.

Perhaps it would be simply easier, for the Primates to just issue a blanket Indulgence stating that all couples in heterosexually configured, other sort of marriages were now considered, by the ACANZP to be in right ordered and chaste marriages.

The surge in apathy would probably only be matched by the waves of hilarity in the populace.

However, for all my possibly, misguided cynicism, I can take great comfort in the statement that:

"....the tradition has held that a genuine marriage does not require the presence of the Church to be rightly ordered and chaste because marriage can be and very often is both recognized and entered into outside the Church." Goddard

Why then, one might ask, in all sincerity, does one need to seek a Blessing, at all, for one's relationship, from the ACANZP Church, even if they were being given away for free?

Regards

Michael Primrose

Anonymous said...

Malcolm, to get my own mind around this matter, I have had to distinguish carefully between the report's rhetoric (absurd) and plan (fuzzy), on one hand, and its substantive rationale (embryonic) and proposal (worth careful consideration), on the other. Put another way, I can imagine a rather conservative report that, rightly or wrongly, defended a similar proposal.

My worry for Anglicans in New Zealand and elsewhere is that they may dwell on the report's many failings rather than engage what is innovative in its bold proposal, and perhaps make something useful of it. Naturally, I am glad to see that you are leading the way here by grasping the nettle.

I promise a substantive answer to your question, but to do that a digression to clear some ground is necessary. My next comment will take that up, and then after that your good question will be easier to consider well.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Here, Malcolm, beginneth the digression. I will try to keep it short.

To be clear from the start, the task force has not asserted that God is irrationally unstable, nor that there is a different god for every place. I certainly do not mean to ridicule them for such beliefs here. But they do insist emphatically on "the dynamic nature of doctrine," and to follow their reasoning we need some clear account of that. As we do, we find some odd implications.

In their practise, they explicitly infer changes in the truth from changes in the products of local synods meeting from time to time. If God does not lie, doctrine is from God, and synods are speaking for God, then God is changing his mind from time to time. But if the thing itself has not changed, then this change is a change of will, not a revised perception. The task force has not said that God is irrationally unstable, but it follows from their method that he is.

And because these synods are local, not ecumenical, so too do their products vary from place to place. Clearly synods in Christchurch hear God say things never heard in Sydney, and vice versa. Although, to be clear, the task force itself does not do this, the inference that they do make about time necessarily follows in space. If God does not lie, doctrine is from God, and synods are speaking for God, then God is changing his mind from place to place. But if the thing itself is the same everywhere, as marriage is, then this change is hard to explain. It cannot be self-contradiction in one god, for that would be God lying. A polytheism of local gods seems to be the only solution.

Now before pondering that, let's first be sure that it matters. Take, for instance, the task force's central finding that God has changed his mind about procreation (cf Genesis 1:28, Malachi 2:15). How do they know? The Lord did not tell them this. Rather, they note that Cranmer listed procreation first among the purposes of marriage, but a later ACANZP document listed it last. So the shifting order in which human beings have mentioned procreation on lists is proof that God's own attitude to procreation has changed. (That makes most sense if we assume that God dictated both lists to reliable scribes, and prioritised them in order of decreasing importance.) And what does this change of sequence prove about procreation itself? That God wants it off the list altogether; he does not consider it to be part of marriage at all. That may seem to be a leap, but the task force is so confident in making it that they omit procreation entirely from their rite for blessing unions of men and women, define the goods of marriage in entirely new and androgynous terms, and of course model male-female blessing (MFB) on same sex blessing (SSB).

Clearly there is a lot at stake in that last conclusion, so let us now test the relevance of our earlier discussion. Is God's veracity important? Yes, since his steadfast truthfulness enables us to worship him in spirit and in truth. Must doctrine about procreation be from God? Yes, for whatever churchgoers think, sexual differentiation and procreation is an even mightier driver of human behaviour than survival, and a religioh that says nothing about either has a vast hole that nobody familiar with Darwinian and Mendelian sciences can ignore. Are synods alleged to be speaking for God? Yes, by one theory or another, synods in New Zealand are behind the two lists, and are the only authorities that are alleged to be behind them. Is there inconsistency in time? Yes, earlier Anglicans in New Zealand believed that God himself centered marriage in procreation, as many still do today, but now the task force says that procreation is void of meaning to God, and marriage is defined in new ways. Is there inconsistency in space? Yes, Anglicans elsewhere in the world still believe that procreation is at least among the defining goods of marriage, and many would see it as central. Just as clearly, then, our earlier discussion does have relevance to the matter at hand.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

Now Malcolm, I will not tax your patience further with arguments either for God's stable and rational nature or against polytheism. What I will do is suggest that we take up your question from a more perennially Anglican (indeed Christian) starting point than that of the report itself. Let us suppose something more like this--

(1) God does not lie. He has spoken the gospel. The Gospel is that those whom the Holy Spirit transforms in Christ participate in the kingdom of his Father, both now and in the age to come, and that kingdom is God's loving restoration of his creation.

(2) God who saves souls gives doctrine to guide them. Right reason is a reflection of the Logos himself. God does not speak inconsistently.

(3) Modern synods are administrative bodies. In following what God has revealed, a Christian conscience ordering life can rely on the probable wisdom of a synod of trustworthy divines, as Richard Hooker advises. Nevertheless, faith is not credulity or superstition. "Forasmuch as [synods] be assemblies of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God" (Article XXI). Whatever signs and wonders are given to synods, they do not reflect changes in God's being or his will.

(4) Scripture illumined by tradition anchors the mind of the pilgrim Church in the Incarnation. The undivided Church of the fathers and councils is more authoritative than any divided church, and innovations since that age should be tested against the primary witness to Christ, the scriptures. As the horizon of lived faith changes, creative retrieval of earlier teaching and practise is often helpful in the present. God does not change; doctrine does not progress; heroic sanctity is the mark of a credible theologian.

(5) No church is an island, although some islands are churches. As Christ and the Father have one will, so the Church has but one will acting in ways subtly adapted to each of the places of the world. Just as the full reality of the Church is present in every local church, so no local Church lives apart from the discernment of other local churches, and when convenient, the discernment of the whole. The spirit of independence is the spirit of schism.

Doubtless any of this might be better said. I certainly invite better formulations. But should an answer to your question based on these suppositions uncover merit in the task force's proposal, nobody can fairly say that it was because the deck was stacked in its favour. In that way, the answer would be more credible than the report itself.

Here endeth the digression.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

"I find it quite bewildering that the working group would produce a report that proposes such major changes (on which they were not even unanimous!) and yet at the same time admit that they are not sure about what our church holds as its doctrinal standard." - Malcolm Falloon -

Well Malcolm, you're not the only one puzzled by the situation. However, I think most of us get the gist of what really is intended by the proposed legislation involved in Motion 30.

It surely is to open up ACANZP to the possibility that God might be pleased with the fact that homosexual persons, created in the divine image and likeness, are encouraged to believe that their monogamous, faithful and loving, same-sex relationships are as precious to God as any other (heterosexual?) marriage relationships that are blessed - with no prospect of producing progeny. The Church does not prevent such relationship of heterosexual people being contracted in Church.

Also, something to ponder on, with regard to religious doctrines: Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man, not the other wasy around. Doctrine, surely, is a human contruction of what is considered to be God's mind on a particular subject pertaining to human thriving. Doctrines pertaining to human behaviour have been known to change - even in the Anglican community Churches - Look at Marriage and Divorce. If we can live with that, surely the ordering of a right relationship for a gay couple of faith who seek God's Blessing in the Church is not beyond the bounds of Christian charity?

The biggest problem. morally, in the human sexuality stakes, is not marriage and fidelity. Rather, it is indiscriminate multiple sexual liasons outside of the married state. Motion 30 will help to avoid that for homosexual couples. Of course, it won't do much for heterosexuals - except perhaps to encourage them to try faithfulness for themselves.

Anonymous said...

Rev'd and dear fathers:

Personally, I follow the scriptures in the view that discussion of persons that is marked by enmity is an objective sin in itself, and that it reveals that a soul is not as yet among those being prepared for the End by the Holy Spirit. Years of preaching on the NT will call its wise counsels to your godly minds, but if there is doubt about that, we can certainly open our Bibles and consult the text, either in English or in Greek.

The scriptures also seem to condemn those who offer occasions of sin. For example, giving a loaded pistol to a man in despair, a bottle of rubbing alcohol to an alcoholic, etc are grave sins. We are responsible for persons with impaired self-control. One has to assume impaired self-control when a problem recurs again and again.

It might be best, reverend and dear Moderator, if you did not approve at all in any form, edited or unedited, submitted or resubmitted, any comments that add nothing to discussion but a negative characterisation of a person or group. After all--

(1) They are sins.
(2) Approving them occasions more sins in those who read them.
(3) It is the ideas that matter here, not personalities.
(4) What we do online models discussion for real life, and at the moment the Church does not need exemplars of opprobrium. It needs to see charitable discussion that thinks with the whole Church without malice.
(5) Your time is too valuable to spend in editing.
(6) You can name a ban on personal attacks for Donald J Trump.

For that is really the point. For all that this is available to a billion screens around the world, this is space is nothing like a secular political game played with a blood sport lawlessness. God will judge us by a very different standard.

All of us here either are or should be in communion. Our behaviour online with respect to each other and linked authors should either reflect the reality in the heart of God, or else we should stop calling ourselves Christians.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
In hindsight, in communication off blog, and noting Bowman's timely words immediately above, I have now removed your 9.52 pm comment because, again, it heads in part into ad hominem territory (because you ascribe motivation/attitude to someone when you either cannot know that to be the case, or, if it is the case according to some published statement, you have not evidenced the published statement.)
I am prepared to publish this part of the comment:

FROM FR RON
"Peter, my critique of Andrew Goddard is not solely from the point of view of the article has has written for American consultation in 'Living Church'. I actually sat in a meeting with him and Canon Giles Goddard, who happens to be a board member of 'Inclusive Church' and 'Operation Noah'. He is currently Vicar of St. John's, Waterloo and also a member of the Church of England General Synod.

[inaccurate information omitted] In October 2007, Giles was made an honorary Canon of Southwark Cathedral, along with four other clergy members from the Diocese of Southwark. His first book, Space for Grace - creating inclusive churches, was published by Canterbury Press in Nov 2008.

[Omitted para]"

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter: Your blog - your moderation. But not, I hope, at the behest of others - especially those outside of our immediate Church community.

Agape, Ron

Peter Carrell said...

It is an international blog, Ron, with international perspectives welcome.
In my experience, however, the international perspectives tend to unite with Kiwi perspectives on what is and is not fair comment.

Michael Primrose said...

"All of us here either are or should be in communion. Our behaviour online with respect to each other and linked authors should either reflect the reality in the heart of God, or else we should stop calling ourselves Christians." Bowman Walton

Hi Peter,

I'm sure that your myriad of readers all look forward to the new, improved polite and sinless version of the "Anglican Down Under" Blog, where ne'er a harsh word is spoken and all opinions are treated with Christian Charity, forbearance and restraint.

It will be the Internet version of the archetypical Vicarage tea-party of sanctified myth, but without the cucumber sandwiches. Terribly worthy, perhaps, but, if truth be told, just a trifle boring. One attends through a sense of duty, but one goes elsewhere for one's intellectual stimulation and enjoyment.

Of course, this nice Anglican Down Under V2.0 will put a slightly different interpretation on your Blog Credo:

"Sometimes I pursue such a fine centrist line that I annoy people on either side of the line. If you do not like being annoyed then you know what to do."

We must now either stay silent when we disagree with the ideas of the "Vicar" or make sure that the door of the Vicarage doesn't catch our coat tails on the way out. There is always the time honoured option, I suppose, of biting one's tongue and asking

"Will you have another crumpet, Vicar?"

Even the cloisters of Barchester were more robust in their debates, than what is being proposed here. Surely! Surely, "Vicar", even Mrs Olivia Proudie would have reacted with cascading scorn to such ideas of clerical restraint.

The Internet is full of worthy, charitable, polite unread Blogs. I do hope that this is not about to become one of them

Regards

Michael Primrose

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
There is plenty of room for robust comment on this blog which does not slip over to "ad hominem": the issues are what I want to see debated here rather than the people making them.

Sometimes those ad hominems are towards an individual, sometimes towards a group, and sometimes I fail to pick them up.

Ad hominems are sinful, I suggest when: they involve inaccurate description, they jump to unwarranted judgments about the persons being commented on (our Lord did speak about that!), they make the innocent guilty by association.

My personal problem, over the years of blogging, has been that some ad hominems "let through the slips" by me have resulted in a trail of (fair) complaints etc which have taken an inordinate amount of time for me to respond to ... so, whether sinful or not, some ad hominems have been time-sapping!

Anonymous said...

So Malcolm, finally to your questions.

Does the report propose a change to the doctrine of marriage?

Yes. Its blessing for the marriages of women and men does not mention women, men, and procreation and is as androgynous as its blessing for the marriages of homosexuals. My uninformed guess is that waffling on this point reflects different appraisals of the import of the Anglican position that contraception is permitted to married couples.

Some have read that position through a rather Roman Catholic lens and see that position as both an affirmation of intimate pleasure and a denial that every single sexual act must primarily intend to impregnate the woman. That, to them, officially eliminated procreation as an end of marriage several decades ago. (In online discussions in the US, UK, and NZ, I have often seen that those who believe this are honestly astonished that anyone disagrees with this.) Believing that to be the case, they do not believe that omitting reference to procreation is a departure from the current position, and removing references to men and women is just the next step.

Others, often with a more evangelical lens, happily agree in both the affirmation and the denial, but do not care what Roman Catholic couples do in bed, do not believe that a resolution on contraception is about marriage, and still do believe that the *marriage* should be, at least presumptively, open to procreation in the providence of God (cf Genesis 1:28 and 2:18; Malachi 2:15). After all, traditional canons recognised a refusal to have children as a defect in the intention to marry that protects those who do want children from those who do not. Moreover, contemporary emphasis on canonical narrative seems to give the man-woman dyad a prominent place in an inaugurated eschatology of new creation. Those for whom the scriptures are normative for Christians believe that to omit references to men, women, and procreation in a rite for marriage is to miss its significance for Christians.

Personally, Malcolm, I take the latter view. But I believe that the disagreement on this matter is in good faith on both sides. There is a season of life in which we discover who we are and make up our minds about the important things. Those who built their lives on the zeitgeist of half a century ago with a clear conscience are understandably disconcerted to hear views that gleefully deconstruct it. Nevertheless scholarship has clarified biblical references to sex that were less clear a generation ago. *Situation ethics* and other sorts of consequentialism have given way to a lively rivalry between *virtue ethics* and *divine command theory*. No less importantly, we distinguish between the ethos of the Church and the ethos of society much more sharply than was thinkable in the 1960s and 1970s. The assumption that liberal societies like ours are models for the whole global village now seems rather quaint. In short, what once seemed to be (cue: trumpet fanfare) irreversible !Progress! was simply a swing of the pendulum that now pauses at the end of its arc. "Remember O man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return..."

N.B. The 1958 Lambeth Conference passed several resolutions on modern marriage--

http://tinyurl.com/zoxnaq8

And this, from the same year, is the most important article on ethics of the past three centuries--

http://tinyurl.com/gmhbzxp

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"If God instituted marriage before the fall, and the BCP is prepared to call such marriages Holy, how can the report claim that only Christian marriage is rightly ordered in God's sight.

"Or am I missing something?"

Malcolm, I do not recall a direct answer to your question in the report. I have had to interpret this key term from its usage in context. The Copernican revolution here is that the centre of blessing is not the change of legal status central to weddings, but the intent to live that state of life as a Christian. Thus understood, blessing is a pastoral rite similar in some ways to confirmation.

In the sight of God and the law, Hindu temple rites also induct a bride and groom into the primordial state of life we call marriage. Indeed, they are much less squeamish about the mysterious ways of women and men and the making of life than our own lawyerly services. Nevertheless, a Hindu ceremony is not entered as a state of life ordered to bring women and men to sanctification in Christ.

This would explain why either a church wedding or a church blessing is required for those licensed by a bishop. It makes no sense to have a person in a pastoral role whose intimate life is outside of the conscious cultivation of holiness.

Finally, it explains what a blessing for a same sex couple might actually accomplish beyond the social symbolism of checking another box for equality. Although their experience of the legal status of marriage will be different, the thought is that it too should be entered and lived as a path to sanctification in Christ.

Bowman Walton

Malcolm Falloon said...

Dear Bowman, I must confess that I can't really follow your reasoning as to why a Church blessing is now so important. I presume you are simply trying to make sense of the conclusions reached in the report.

Unlike the report that thinks we have put too much weight on Genesis 2, the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 points us in precisely that direction. To regard the Genesis texts as being "always fraught" smacks of an unhealthy marcionism in my view.

The old language of "leaving" and "cleaving" makes prefect sense to me and neither does it need the presence of either state or church for there to be a valid marriage. They marry each other and it is God who joins them together. The role of state and church, however important in regularising the union, can only be secondary.

Consequently, I see no need to link marriage and "sanctification in Christ". It just confuses both concepts, and, besides, our church has already given up on the requirement for both parties to be baptised.

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
Can you give chapter and verse on giving up on requirements for both parties to be baptised?
My recall is that require at least on to be baptised and the other, if not baptised, to be, so to speak, on the way to being baptised, and thus some semblance of marriage in our church being Christian marriage, that is marriage between two people on the journey of holiness.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Malcolm, I am unpersuaded by the report's own rationale, but exploring its conclusions.

"The old language of "leaving" and "cleaving" makes prefect sense to me and neither does it need the presence of either state or church for there to be a valid marriage. They marry each other and it is God who joins them together. The role of state and church, however important in regularising the union, can only be secondary."

Entirely correct and very important. For readers unaware of the background for your comment, a bit of history follows.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

In the north of the West of Europe, the laws of the barbarian tribes governed the transactions of daily life including marriage. Fathers there gave their daughters to husbands for a thousand years without any intervention from the Church. For a sense of how different that was, consider that among the Franks, a husband could likewise give his wife to a new husband so that she passed from husband to husband without ever being divorced. A royal marriage on this model was approved by all but two of the bishops in France. Since the woman was never the divorced, they famously opined, the law of Christ had been obeyed.

Soon thereafter, the clergy began to witness the transaction of marriages on the church steps. By so doing, they ensured the bride's free consent, the groom's identity, the freedom to marry of both parties, public knowledge of the marriage, etc to check such social pathologies as bigamy, bastardy, secret marriages, adultery, etc. The clergy were indispensible to this social reform for mainly practical reasons. They were in every village and hamlet, able to maintain parish registers, organised so that the banns might be published, and respected by all parties in disputes. This initiative was arguably the most important social reform in the history of the West.

The papal model in this reform was not the older barbarian law, but the Roman law reconstructed from Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis, somewhat christianised to eliminate most pagan and barbarian survivals. The two bishops who objected to that French royal wedding based their objections on this new old law. Meanwhile, centuries before in the East, the Church's similar social capital had already led the emperors in Constantinople to dump the administration of their laws-- serial divorce and all-- on the bishops, beginning an entirely different tradition in which the priest ritually marries the couple *in persona Christi* and the rites of divorcees are actually penitential.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

"They marry each other and it is God who joins them together."

In the West, theological speculation about the sacramentality of this curious procedure began only after the Church had taken control of it. The schoolmen were never able to agree on the form of the sacrament for the reason that you give. Everyone knew that the actual *wedding* is the couple's consummation, but scarcely anyone was willing to regard a private act of sexual intercourse as a sacrament. Yet the lawyerly business of verifying identities, establishing free consent, and witnessing promises has no reference to Christ. Where then is the sacrament?

"The role of state and church, however important in regularising the union, can only be secondary."

At the Reformation, the new gospel theory of the sacraments made the matter moot for the Reformers, who conceded that the married state of life was properly regulated by the emerging state. To it, they sometimes even proposed civil reforms, such as legislation for divorce to replace ecclesiastical decrees of separation (eg Martin Bucer to Edward VI). Nevertheless clergy continued to supervise the transaction to encourage widespread compliance with a social institution that, however regulated, was and is voluntary.

Meanwhile, the Papalists, to a greater degree than most Protestants, maintained not only parish registers but ecclesiastical courts to adjudicate disputes, and finally settled on the priest's blessing as the form of the sacrament. In modern France, Catholic yet laicised, that leads to the practise nearest to the ACANZP task force proposal: a mayor now supervises the transaction in the town hall as the priest once did, and the priest blesses the couple in church after a nuptial mass.

"Consequently, I see no need to link marriage and 'sanctification in Christ'. It just confuses both concepts."

Or it finally completes the trajectory of the Reformation. The state receives uncontested responsibility for the social recognition of marriage (cf Romans 13). As you say, the Church is not at all necessary to the reality of the marriage as created, but it does bear witness to the scriptural insights that the state of life can be a means of sanctification, that procreation is a good work that God intends for it (Malachi 2:15, 1 Timothy 2:15), and that it is a sign of God's reconciliation of all to all in himself.

Irenically and ironically, it may be the case that churches have nothing further to give their same sex couples that the state has not already given them, but that the disordered sexuality of straight couples requires a rite that does less of the work of the state and more of the work of the Church. What the task force has proposed may be a placebo for same sex couples but medicine for straight ones. We cannot really know until our thinking engages the proposal itself, and catches up to your comment, for which I thank you, Malcolm.

Bowman Walton

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

In reply to your request for chapter and verse:

The minister shall ascertain that at least one of the parties to the marriage has been baptised or is intending to be baptised provided that the minister may waive this requirement in unusual pastoral circumstances in consultation with the appropriate episcopal authority. Title G, Canon III, Section 1.6

Interestingly, the first Christian marriage contracted between two Maori connected with the mission was in 1828, but neither party were baptised until 1830. This marriage would have been perfectly consistent with our modern canon. The missionaries recognised the full validity of Maori customary marriage apart from the requirement for monogamy. In this early period, however, it was not always the case that Maori recognised the validity of missionary marriages!

Malcolm

Malcolm Falloon said...

Peter,

What concerns me with the proposals in the Way Forward report is the effective ghettoisation of Christian marriage by defining it in terms of priestly blessing. I think it would result in a further retreat from the public square by our church.

Malcolm

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
1. I stand corrected!
2. Perhaps re ghettoisation, but I think that can be discussed. It would be a bit strange to talk about "Christian marriage" and not have an association with the blessing of the church upon the marriage (whether by priest or, in other churches, minister).

Further, concern for "ghettoisation" works in another direction: if our church and other churches will have nothing to do with (same sex) civil marriages, are we in danger of placing ourselves in a ghetto with respect to wider society and its interests and concerns?

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

Yes, we all feel the danger of being marginalised by the wider society. But at least its not a ghetto of our own making.

Malcolm

Anonymous said...

From afar, Malcolm, the inquiry you have opened about the social appearance and effects of the proposal seems refreshing and important. To require the public fact of a prior civil ceremony as regulated by your Parliament for a posterior pastoral rite for the edification of those who receive it is indeed a notable change, at least in appearances. Andrew, at the OP's link refers to this as "outsourcing" marriage to the state; I envisage something something like the French custom. From whom in New Zealand society might that public + private arrangement cause ACANZP to be marginalised?

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Love the idea, Bowman, of your 'posterior pastoral rite'.

I think the real point at issue here - as far as New Zealand is concerned - is; does the Anglican Church think that Marriages conducted by the state are not real Marriages, OR, perhaps even more threatening for those involved, not Christian Marriages? This is asked in view of the fact that Marriage, as an institution, existed before the Church took over its provenance. Were such marriages - of Christian people - not 'Christian Marriages'?

Perhaps an even more pertinent question; are registry office weddings of poor people who cannot afford the costs of a Church Wedding, of necessity, not Christian Marriages - when the couple are Christians?

Anonymous said...

"The old language of "leaving" and "cleaving" makes prefect sense to me and neither does it need the presence of either state or church for there to be a valid marriage. They marry each other and it is God who joins them together. The role of state and church, however important in regularising the union, can only be secondary." -- Malcolm

"... does the Anglican Church think that Marriages conducted by the state are not real Marriages, OR, perhaps even more threatening for those involved, not Christian Marriages? This is asked in view of the fact that Marriage, as an institution, existed before the Church took over its provenance. Were such marriages - of Christian people - not 'Christian Marriages'?" -- Father Ron

Both of these positions express the traditional Western view. They would have made as much sense in the C1, C2, or C12 as they do in the C21. Even before the birth of Christ, a jurist in Rome (esp, the *praetor peregrinus*) would have recognised that, although the laws and customs of marriage varied from city to city throughout the Mediterranean world, the family resemblances among these laws showed that they were all about a single human reality which transcended them all.

Despite recognising that reality, it would never have occurred to the Romans to register all couples in it as our ancestors began to do a thousand years later. They probably could have. At the time of the Incarnation, the Romans did have rolls of its male citizens, and Caesar Augustus probably did decree that all the world should enroll to be taxed. But marriage was a matter of family custom and local law, so that a Roman judging a dispute between a man from Corinth and a woman from Alexandria had to fashion a remedy that took both their traditions into account. Even the empire's cities had no rolls of marriages and so no legal procedures for listing couples on them.

In the capital itself, there were a few recognised sorts of marriage with different rites leading to different rights. Thus the matrons who first heard St Paul's epistle to the Romans had wed according to their family's custom and circumstances. Following a somewhat feminist innovation of the late Republic, those with means had probably wed by negotiating a fictitious sale of themselves to their husbands. Others had celebrated a festive move from their father's house to their husband's that was legally binding unless they spent three nights away from him in the course of a year (cf English *common law marriage*). However they wed, all these women were in marriages as Christian as they were.

So although the authors of the NT taught a high theology of married life in Christ to both Jews and Gentiles, it could never have occurred to them to stipulate a uniform ceremony for enrolling every couple in every place. For as explained above, the solemnisation of matrimony as we know it arose, not from an inner need of the Body of Christ after Pentecost, but from a social reform that was unimaginable to the apostles and mandated ten centuries after them.

Bowman Walton