Thursday, February 8, 2018

Double Standards?

Chris Spark, a colleague here in the Diocese of Christchurch, has written a paper which the Latimer Fellowship has published, with the following title:


The title tells the story of what the paper seeks to do and offers the context into which the theological work Chris does is directed. In short, the paper addresses a significant question in our current debates, one much mentioned here on this site. The paper is here.

I am prepared to take comments on the paper here, but somewhat selectively, that is, I will judge whether I think your comment is helpful to the Fellowship as publisher of the paper, helpful to current debate, and generally constructive in respect of the questions Chris addresses. There are other posts here where other points can be made.


Andrei said...

Bringing divorce into this discussion is entirely misleading and a red herring

As we can see from the Bible itself and as referenced in the linked paper the issue of divorce and remarriage after divorce was an issue Palestine in the 1st century.

On the other hand the other matter which is causing so much angst was not on the radar of 1st century Palestinians, nor the contemporary Romans or anybody else living at that time or any at time during the next 1999 years

It is in fact an example of 21st century post modernism and even today considered a logical absurdity by the majority of the world's population and the majority of the world's Christians for that matter.

The "debate" over it makes as much sense as debating how many Angels can dance on a pinhead - it is a way of filling in time while ignoring the real issues facing 21st Century Christianity in the over privileged Western World - The Christians of Eritrea, for example, have more pressing issues to concern themselves over

Anonymous said...

With divorce and remarriage, the right re-reading of Scripture is not to have us become endorsers of no-fault divorce, but rather to recognize the possibility of remarriage in a few situations. In a parallel way, with SSM the right move is not to throw out male-female union as the place for sex, but to revisit the place of singleness and our prejudices about a minority sin-struggle, recognising that it is part of the same problem as the sin-struggles that the majority have. p.13

The key question for the legal side of ACANZP – namely whether, by blessing remarriages, we already bless sexual immorality in the form of adultery, and therefore should stop making a big deal about SSM – is a fair one. The answer appears to be that on the ground many of us may do this, but we shouldn’t be doing it. At this point, our canon laws are not the basic problem... Still, the real problem is that we are often lax and not serious enough in our application of the pastoral freedoms and responsibilities we have been entrusted with in this area. p.13

The unfortunate truth, though, is that our laxity and lack of seriousness is not just in the area of divorce and remarriage, but regarding sexual morality in general. Our canons and formularies still reflect the scriptural expectation and God-given good of sex within marriage. But we often fail to live up to this expectation and to sufficiently encourage this good. The great problem, then, regarding some of the suggestions that have been put forward in A Way Forward and subsequent reports is that they seek to change the canons and practices of our church in such a way as they would no longer exclusively reflect that expectation and good. p.13

Our problem, in large part, which has allowed this to be an issue where we evangelicals feel the pinch of the accusation of hypocrisy, is how lax and worldly we have become about divorce and remarriage, often in order to avoid the cultural awkwardness, pastoral pain, or careful, prayerful thought required to maintain a scriptural line on it. John Stott’s pastoral suggestion of a strong commitment to speaking of marriage and reconciliation before any discussion of divorce is countenanced presents a much better way forward. p.14

Some claim that we have double standards because we live happily with different sexual integrities around divorce. At this stage it would seem that we can repudiate this claim. This repudiation is possible because we can only be happy with an integrity that is consistent with the scriptural picture which allows for remarriage in a few circumstances, and with canons and formularies that leave us some pastoral room to work out the details. But we must also heed the rebuke that is here for us from Scripture, repent of our laxity in this area, give thanks for Jesus’ wonderful forgiveness for us and all who turn to him in repentance, and move our practice closer to the Scriptural expectation in the area of divorce and remarriage. p. 14

Father Ron Smith said...

"the other matter which is causing so much angst was not on the radar of 1st century Palestinians, nor the contemporary Romans or anybody else living at that time or any at time during the next 1999 years....It is in fact an example of 21st century post modernism and even today considered a logical absurdity by the majority of the world's population and the majority of the world's Christians for that matter." - Andrei -

Andrei, there are other matters which might be called 'post-modernist' - lie electric power, social media, heart-transplants, surrogate parenting. modern medicine, etc. But, are they all bad - because of their innovation? Let's get real about the modern understanding of the need for faithful and loving relationships on the part of gay people. There have always been gay people, but society's lack of understanding of their situation has prevented them from undertaking faithful coupled relationships (However, they may still have existed - though not recognised in public).

Sex is here to stay - primarily as the means of growing people, but also - even biblically in The Song of Songs - as a means of growing intimate and loving relationships; that ought, if possible, be kept to monogamy. Marriage os the most perfect way of ensuring this. The real sin is promiscuity!

Father Ron Smith said...

". But we must also heed the rebuke that is here for us from Scripture, repent of our laxity in this area, give thanks for Jesus’ wonderful forgiveness for us and all who turn to him in repentance, and move our practice closer to the Scriptural expectation in the area of divorce and remarriage."

- Chris Spark -

The biblical understanding of sexual sin is surely based on the understanding of infidelity and promiscuity - rather than the practice of sexual activity.

Those who are unable to procreate because of their innate sexual difference from the binary norm (what Jesus may have described as 'eunuchs from their mother's womb' in Matthew, chapter 19) must be allowed to enter into a same-sex relationship of equal companionship value as anyone else.

However, the attitude of the Church and society in previous eras has not permitted bonded same-sex permanent relationships - a possibility now made legal by state regulation, thus allowing same-sex marriage to become a bulwark against infidelity and promiscuity - the sexual sin of the Bible.

If sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sinful - and we are ALL sinners (though not necessarily in a sexual context) - then one might ask; what is it about sexual sin that is more grievous than other sins - of which we are all guilty in one way or another?

It was notable in the ministry of Jesus, that he seemed to deal with sexual sins in a much more lenient way than with the sins of hypocrisy that He saw as problematic with the Keepers of The Law - the Scribes and Pharisees. What is it about sexuality - a gift of God in a pair-bonding relationship - that gets people like Chris Spark so exercised in condemnation towards a class of sinners that wants to contain their sexual activity within the comparative 'safety' of a bonded-pair relationship akin to marriage?

Jesus said nothing about homosexual pair-bonding (which was not a social concept at the time) - but said a lot about the problems of infidelity of participants in a heterosexual marriage.

It has been said that The Church is not a mausoleum for Saints, but a Hospital for Sinners - that's all of us. We have no licence to proclaim the sinfulness of others while being blind to our own sins - "Log and Speck"

"O God, for as much as without you, we are not able to please you; mercifully grant...." This is the basis of Pope Francis' wonderful ministry. He should be the next Archbishop of Canterbury!

"If we say we have no sin, thr Truth is not in us!"

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Peter, for your hospitality on this thread. I think it is so important for someone (like myself) to speak up for the positive aspects of Motion 29 that affect the lives of a significant minority in our Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand. I may not feel able to stand up at Synod to defend the cause of LGBT people in the Church, but I want to Chris Spark -and others who are so set against Gay people being able to be recognised as faithful Christians like themselves - Sinners and yet Redeemed by Christ.

Here is a reminder of the fact that the Church of England has been known to minister pastorally to prostitutes and other sinners in the not-too-distant past. The ministry of 'Father Joe' in London's East End was a great means of drawing people into the understanding of God's love for them:

"FATHER JOE: The Autobiography of Joseph Williamson by Joseph ... "

One of the best known, most colourful missioners of the Church of England to the slums of East London and the Stepney area tells the story of his long life. More than sixty years were given to rescue labours in the squalor and vice of the slums, old age finding ""Father Joe"" at the climax of his vigorous and heroic career as he ministered to the prostitutes of the East End of London

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter and Chris,

".....the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And said unto him,Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk,then that which is worse;but thou hast kept the good wine till now." thanks Chris for such an objective and rational paper.

Andrei said...

"Andrei, there are other matters which might be called 'post-modernist' - lie electric power, social media, heart-transplants, surrogate parenting. modern medicine, etc."

Fr Ron these things are not "Post modernist" they are technologies based upon applied science. And while science is not truth with a capital "T", technologies either work or they don't and the underlying science which underpins them, while subject to revision, has thus far proved useful enough picture of the underlying truth to produce things that work - for good or ill

Postmodernism posits that there is no object truth (c.f. John 14:6) but truth and reason are contextually and culturally constructed

Thus we see headlines such as this: Man gives birth to healthy baby four years after transitioning

Science tells us that this "man" who gave birth has two X chromosomes, a womb and functional ovaries, the scientific definition of a woman and not that of a man who has an XY genotype, no womb and testes rather than ovaries.

We are actually lying when we call this woman a man because reality says otherwise

This is not about the sinfulness or otherwise of same sex relationships, sexual or chaste either

It is about the objective reality that every child ever born had exactly one father, male and one mother, female and that matrimony is about binding these two individuals together for the well being of their future offspring.

We know Fr Ron that marital separation is harmful to the children of that union and usually harmful to one or both of the parents and that divorce has nothing to recommend it - that is why the Church actively discourages it and why Jesus, who as we have previously agreed heads the Church, condemns it in the quoted verses.

In a broken world with broken people there will be broken marriages, changing what marriage is wont fix this, in fact it will just make matters worse.

And pretending a male/male or female/female pair is in anyway equivalent to a fecund male/female pairing is dangerous foolishness.

Why the Good Lord created us male and female is a mystery to me but we were created that way and you can count on it that the Good Lord had his reasons for so doing

Father Ron Smith said...

ear Andrei - like most heterosexuals, I guess your lack of experience of same-sex attraction bars you from even trying to understand what iit is that makes some people attracted solely tyo their own gender. Nevertheless, that there are such people in this world - even Baptized CVhristians like myself - who are innately so created. 88 years of living as a human male-gendered person, I can tell you - before God - that all my instincts are those of an innately homosexual person, even though I am married to the most wonderful woman with 2 children who love me (despite their knowledge of my chaste relationship to their mother) and accept the situation as being 'normal'.

For a long time I resisted the idea that I could not have a sexual relationship with a female, but honesty demanded that I admit this to myself - and to whomever was near and dear to me in my life. My Bishop knew before I was ordained, and my wife knew before we agreed to marry. I cherish my relationship with my wife and her children. However, at the same time, I am aware that there are LGBT people in the world, some of whom are among our dearest friends; for whom a heterosexual bonding - with its implication for sexual activity - is impossible. It is for them that our hearts are open to their need for a monogamous, faithful relationship (akin to marriage) that can be cherished and recognised by fellow Christians in the Church.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

At the end of your post, your lay down the ground rules for blogging on this thread; and yet you allow it to turn into yet another same old same old; with Ron attacking Chris [Feb 8 @ 12.11 PM].

At the end of the day,Ron could consider the differences between iniquities and transgressions. Many sexual sins are iniquities because they do not come up to God's Will. Homosexual acts are transgressions, because they take a God ordained act outside of the parameters of God's "created norms'.It does not matter whether it occurs in a one night stand or a loving,committed relationship; that act of "sexual bonding" has occurred outside of God's given parameters.Romans 1;26 @ 27.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen and Ron

Glen: I have a tricky task - how to include voices which reflect self-identifying gay or lesbian persons [there is only one such regular commenter here] while wanting to keep debate constructive etc. I did look carefully at one specific criticism Ron brings to bear on Chris' paper, "but I want to Chris Spark -and others who are so set against Gay people being able to be recognised as faithful Christians like themselves", and have deemed that fair comment because a specific debate in our church at this time is whether or not gay persons (in a relationship) are recognised or not as faithful Christians.

Ron: I think we could ask you to specifically engage with the arguments in Chris' paper as you have made some more general points about homosexuality here. Further such points could be made on a previous post or two of mine.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
Sorry but your questions are too directly personal for me to publish that comment. (To be clear: nothing offensive per se, but I do not see that it is helpful for the comments to the blog to take on such a personal dimension.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Chris, for your careful and honest reflection, and Peter, for posting Chris's link and your own OP.

What I take away from the above is curiosity about (a) what exactly Chris's hermeneutic (hereafter Ha) resists in eg Father Ron's comments, (b) why it does so resist them, and (c) why this clash polarises readers who follow the same Lord. In this comment, I can only consider (a).

I am not proving but probing. Although I have explained my interpretations of these texts here before, I am not arguing here that they are exclusive and invincible. Rather I am working backwards from the clash before us to the kinds of reading that are causing it, and the reasons that some have for the ways they read.

Please note that Chris himself may see more than his hermeneutic can recognise. My query here is not at all personal.

More broadly, any method for reading scripture will sometimes lead to results that disturb those who find them. The whole point of using a method is to set the Word free of our prejudices, whether good or bad. Thus we cannot assume that persons are blind to realities that their hermeneutics do not countenance. I know persons who would strongly agree with Chris's exegesis but are personally horrified by its implications. They are not homophobes; they are Christians living with a troubling cognitive dissonance. Abraham did not want to sacrifice Isaac; he just wanted to be faithful.

Now if I understand Father Ron's comments aright, he believes that Ha is--

(1) not recognising the existence of a kind of person who demonstrably does inhabit the world: an otherwise normal person morally certain that his appetitive will involuntarily prefers the wrong sex*.

Some others might also or instead believe that Ha is--

(2) not scandalised by the suffering of a person with a normal appetite for sex but no godly use for it and no meaning for that frustration.

A few others likely believe that Ha sees--

(3) no importance to God in the quality of the intention of a sexual act.

And still others believe that Ha can only be used by a mind that--

(4) discounts knowledge of sexuality derived from observation of nature and human beings.

Either (1), (2), (3), or (4) seem able to explain three things about Ha on the Six Texts that have perplexed some on both of the usual sides of the debate on SSM, namely that it requires or enables confidence that, in the canon as a whole--

(5) the Six Texts are surely not referring directly to bisexuals who intentionally cultivated an unnatural attraction to the same sex;

(6) the Six Texts surely do demonstrate that God opposes homosexual acts for what they are in themselves, and not simply for their failure to be complete acts of heteronormal relation and procreation;

(7) the Six Texts constrain readers more to a deontological morality of acts than to an ethic of the virtues and vices.

Possibly, Father Ron would agree that his own hermeneutic is far closer to Chris's than to many others, but that he believes the contrary to (1)-(7). Put another way, Chris could logically come to Father Ron's basic stance if, but perhaps only if, he could read the scriptures faithfully without believing (1)-(7). Or, a confident proponent of SSB would be proportionally less certain about that view as he began to believe (1)-(7).

Having considered (a) here, I will discuss (b) in another comment.


Anonymous said...

Postscript-- With due respect for all, I will only engage comments here that have at least 100 words of direct and substantive engagement with the reasoning, not just the conclusion, in Chris's paper.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
The substantive questions here do not turn on the specifics of any individual's lifestyle who comments here.
I think Ron's acceptance of the validity in God's eyes of same sex marriage and your non-acceptance of the same is a well advanced, counterpoint here!
The former is advanced on the basis, ultimately, that God is pleased to bless love between human beings; the latter is advance on the basis, ultimately, that not all human actions are equally signs of the love that God is pleased to bless.
The arguments along those lines advanced here are not, as far as I can tell, dependent on what your or my or another's actual state of marital bliss amounts to!

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

But my marital state is consistent with the views I express.

Peter Carrell said...

As far as I can tell, Glen, that is true for every commenter here!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Glen
This is a public blog concerned with people's views, not with people's lives (save insofar as anyone chooses to share their life).
It is impolite and impolitic for you to ask me about the details of another person's life.
If you cannot accept my general comment, based on my personal on and off blog knowledge of commenters here, then I cannot do more for you.
The simple point I am trying to make is that everyone here commenting is in favour of faithfulness in marriage or marriage-like relationships (even if everyone is not in favour of the same kinds of marriage or marriage-like relationships as others); and I have every reason to believe that every commenter here lives faithful to their life partner or, if single, lives a celibate life faithfully.
Put more bluntly: I know of no hypocrites commenting here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; other than the numerical error in bold in the top left hand box on page 2 (Matthew 5:31 not 21), it’s a good read. I was confused by the 21 when I checked the text in my bible. I have of course brought up the inconsistency of treatment argument myself, but it seems that, subject to a possible future revision, your Canons do not create an inconsistency with Matthew’s exception; albeit there might have been some inconsistent application in individual cases. Of course Rome has its own issues defining quite what the exception means, so I have no stones to throw. One thought I did have on the paper was that someone might deliberately be able to bring a marriage to an end through sexual immorality only to repent and remarry. Obviously God cannot be tricked, but it seems possible.


Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

I was neither being impolite or impolitic, nor was I asking you to say anything about any commentors private life. And yes your site is public.

When a person prefixes their name with a Church title and is a known Priest in a ACANZP one would expect them to abide by the Canons of that Church;Title "D" Canon 1 -11.6. "Teach only doctrine and interpretation of the Faith that are in conformity with the formularies of this Church,and not teach private or esoteric doctrine or interpretation, in contradiction of those formularies."

So when a Priest of the ACANZP uses a word in a manner that is not in conformity with those formularies,then I feel that I am entitled to seek clarification.

Put more bluntly: It is not possible to have meaningful when words are not used in their accepted manner.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
It is possible to ask a priest who comments here what his or her views are and and what his or her words mean; and that priest may or may not choose to respond. I am comfortable with that.

I am not so comfortable, as must be plain in this thread, with questions that pursue aspects of a commenter's personal life testimony (whether they are a priest or not, whether their testimony does or does not say something about commitment to doctrine as per holding a licence of this church). That testimony may or may not be linked in your or my mind to their views, but my preference here is that (e.g.) a question asked is "What do you mean by the word "marriage"?" rather than "What is your marriage all about?"

Father Ron Smith said...

"So when a Priest of the ACANZP uses a word in a manner that is not in conformity with those formularies,then I feel that I am entitled to seek clarification.' - Glen -

With all due respect to you as a person, Glen; I do wonder why you are so insistent on the application of your 'entitlement', when you have already declared your separation from the Church whose 'formularies' you seek to uphold. It may no longer be 'your business'.


Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron and Glen
I do not want to preside over a ping-pong match of comments ...

Ron: no one has to be a member of a church to ask whether a leader of that church is correctly teaching that church's doctrine. Question of "entitlement" is really neither here nor there.

Glen: whether or not you are entitled to ask such a question, Ron is entitled to refrain from answering!

Anonymous said...

"...someone might deliberately be able to bring a marriage to an end through sexual immorality only to repent and remarry. Obviously God cannot be tricked, but it seems possible."

Thank you, Nick, for 140 words on the reasoning in Chris's paper.

What we think of your scenario depends on whether we think of *marriage* as a legal status, a state of life, or an aspect of the soul. A particular, actual *marriage* may be all of these things at once, of course, but in discussion the word is often narrowed to just one of these. In polemical discussion, happy warriors usually act as though their favourite definition were the obvious and only one.

For example, a king of France wanted to marry the wife of one of his nobles. For his part, the noble was willing to present his wife to her new husband in church, just as the father of the bride usually did (and still does now in the rite we know best). The nation's bishops were consulted on the proposed royal nuptials and all but two of them agreed that this procedure was permissible by the law of Christ. What Jesus had forbidden, they reasoned, was divorce. But as the wife would pass directly from husband to husband without ever being unmarried, she would never be divorced and the Lord's commandment never broken. That is, nearly all of the French bishops understood marriage in scripture to be a state of life (as the CoE 39A also do) and so did not worry, as the two dissenting bishops-- and Pope Innocent III-- did, that her continuity in that state masked a more important difference in her legal status or spiritual connection.

Obviously our civilisation was shaped by the greatest lawyer-pope of the Middle Ages, one leading the revival of Roman civil law in the West. But to try to prove the French bishops wrong with scripture alone is more interesting than one might expect.


Peter Carrell said...

Reminds me, Bowman, mutatis mutandis, of a lesson I learned re being a naive preacher. I once preached a sermon in which I said something along the lines that sex was only right in God's eyes between married people. Only to be informed afterwards by two of the congregation that since they were married but not yet divorced (to different people), their sexual relationship was fine because they were both still married. They were smiling, so I knew that they knew what I meant to say!

Glen Young said...

Or we could be like king David and send the husband off to the "front line".

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Peter, for providing the link to the Double-Standards paper, and a place where we can reflect on it. I have to acknowledge my busyness – so I may have missed the significance of some of the paper and its footnotes.

From my reading of Chris’s paper, it appears that he does not mention the strongest arguments against divorce: that Matthew wasn’t providing exceptions to valid marriage at all, but, in using πορνεία (porneia) , he was speaking of a relationship which couldn’t be a marriage in the first place [this is its use in 1 Cor 5:1].

As has been recently quoted on this site, the CofE Winchester Report has that the “‘indissolubilist’ view [that every Christian marriage persists in being until the death of one partner, irrespective of separation or divorce], … can claim with some justice to represent the traditional view of the Church of England."

The formularies of our own Church also are clear that marriage is “for life”.

Canons of our Church are MUCH easier to change than formularies [a canon can be changed at one sitting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui with a simple majority]. And so, with the variety of interpretations in mind, our Canon of Marriage limits the effect of our formularies. Our Church has decided that it will not exercise discipline against differing positions and practices on divorce and remarriage.

Chris may have followed one exegesis pathway to conclude that divorce and remarriage is allowable, and not considered other ways of looking at the same texts. He feels, in conscience, that such remarriage is within the loving compassion of God’s will for our current context. Chris’s approach does not lead him to offer blessing to Committed Same-Sex Couples.

Others, however, have come to different conclusions to Chris on both those points. What is being sought is an abandonment of “double standards” (his term) so the acceptance of different positions about committed relationships in relation to its permanence AND in relation to same/opposite sex are treated with the loving compassion of God in our current context.

No matter how many learned studies and treatises people energetically continue to produce, agreement in these things from the Bible alone is beyond us.



Father Ron Smith said...

Well put, Bosco!

The fact remains that the word 'prejudice' seems to apply more easily in the case of S/S relationships than Binary ones. Just another gender-based prejudice that does little for equal justice in the Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron (and other commenters tempted to reply to his comment above)
I am publishing your 4.07 pm comment because it is good to be reminded of the feeling that many have that certain views are prejudicial etc.
However I remind you that no particular good is served in debate in the church by making such comment, no matter how heartfelt it is. There is no progress in debate where assertion of "prejudice" is made by one side of the debate against the other.
Intrinsically Scripture is prejudicial in favour of gender distinction in marriage; and at no point is there any text of Scripture which discusses justice in terms of equality between forms of marriage. One cannot even say that remarriage after divorce is accorded "equal" status with marriage between two non-divorced persons.

Anonymous said...

Bowman, my mediaeval knowledge is a bit like the curate’s egg, so I wasn’t aware of this irritation to one of the greatest Popes of all time (as the youf say). I suppose the bishops might have been legalistic themselves, though I cannot confidently ascertain the facts from a few internet searches. Perhaps the matter that I was trying to avoid has now been raised by Rev Bosco Peters viz.

“From my reading of Chris’s paper, it appears that he does not mention the strongest arguments against divorce: that Matthew wasn’t providing exceptions to valid marriage at all, but, in using πορνεία (porneia) , he was speaking of a relationship which couldn’t be a marriage in the first place [this is its use in 1 Cor 5:1]”.

Obviously I cannot speak for Roman marriage tribunals but this is (in my lay understanding ) precisely how we interpret the passage. We then set ourselves the unenviable task of working out how many marriages never happened. I am not surprised that the paper we are discussing avoided the area. As you will know, the West has more non-marriages (despite the mass, the priest and the couple) than anywhere else. That is highly surprising. Now Rev Bosco Peters was clearly raising the matter to support a different point, but who can blame the writer of the paper for avoiding this.


Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

Chris makes a very cogent case for revisiting the attitude towards remarriage of divorced people. That there was a truth, which was always there,but remained latent; and then was brought to surface; is the proper development of Doctrine.No new truth is added. That this new insight into the matter has not been handled well, does not nullify the truth. So let's apply the exception as it is stated in Matthew.The marriage party committing adultery has no claim to remarriage.

But that is not the case with SSB; no new insight has been brought to light showing, showing that the homosexual act can be considered to fall within "God's created norms". Not disciplining Bishops or Priests does not reorder them either.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Glen
It is good to get back to the article!
Chris does make a cogent case for revisiting how we apply Scripture on divorce to life in the church today.
Incidentally, as I also read (e.g.) Bosco and Nick here, I am less and less comfortable with our Kiwi Anglican "discipline" on remarriage.
BUT I also recognise, through personal pastoral encounter, through general reckoning with the lives of friends and family, that divorce and remarriage is not a simple matter, a "one rule for all", because circumstances vary, there needs to be a case-by-case approach and a journeying with people, if we are to be as faithful to the compassion of Christ as to the command of Christ.
The new insight with SSB, Glen, remains the possibility that homosexuality is determined for a person rather than by a person, and that may legitimately be raised as a reason to revisit approaches to faithful relationships. I read Chris' paper as being alert to the need for great care and thinking about our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Bosco, for 328 well-chosen words directly on the reasoning, and not just the conclusion, of Chris's paper.

The crudest reading of Chris's paper (perhaps not his reading but one invited by its language here and there) is that it proposes an ego defense for evangelicals being called hypocrites by proponents of SSB like Father Ron (cf his 4:07). The paper seems (the words are not this concrete) to suggest that Bible-following clergy recover from such verbal aggression by resolving to deny applications for remarriage at least as often as one denies applications for SSB. Doing so would--

(a) remove the inconsistency causing the cognitive dissonance,
(b) establish a seemly equality among sinners which enables an easy verbal defense against further talk about marriage equality,
(c) reverse the changes of recent decades which enables an easy verbal defense against further appeal to progress as a norm (eg AWF report), and
(d) get opponents out of the *depressive position* by going on the offensive, punishing calls for revolution with counter-revolution.
(e) constrain others in the church to either make sense of their affiliation without appeal to a belief that it is progressive, or else just leave for a church that actually does treat Progress as a norm.

Simply as a psychological defense, this should be very effective. Whatever its ultimate validity, the exegetical path taken is the path of those who want the defense. The cost to a minister like Sam-- doing fewer weddings for the divorced-- is lower than the alternative of selling liberalism to conservative parishioners like Brendan. It appears to require no legislation to succeed, which does not mean that a restoration of canons might not at some stage be sought. And if others in the church resile from all this and threaten to leave, then those tired of defending themselves from them will be relieved, not concerned. Sam has already indicated the popularity of much of this program here, and as you point out, many expect liberals, and hence proponents, to vanish in the coming years anyway. Whatever the realism of all of this, and whatever Chris actually meant to say, his paper shows that check can move swiftly to checkmate.

As any MBAs lurking here will know, power in a negotiation flows to those with the best alternative to negotiated agreement (BATNA). In a situation where opponents of SSB have a much stronger BATNA than proponents, the prudent strategy for the latter was to run from that power differential, and to frame That Topic, not as a negotiation of any kind, but as a problem to be solved by all. After all, in life there is nothing unusual or wrong about having to work for a while to get others to see why a problem is a problem. Nor is it at all common for any deep problem to be defined in a way that is tidy from any single perspective. An open, problem-solving discussion that starts with problem recognition, values all participants, learns from experimentation, avoids polarisation, and moves collectively with unity is inherently evolutionary and adaptive. Civil SSM was a perfect opportunity to begin such a messy, meandering, but ultimately productive discussion that could have benefited several constituencies, not just one.

But instead proponents unwisely slapped a king they could not kill. And even in likely defeat, some still flail away at him. The psychology of that compulsion is important to Peter's other thread on the role of primates, but for now I will let it go.


Anonymous said...

FYI, Nick, in some places Anglicans (or states that have based their civil laws on the CoE canons) also have provision for annulments with enumerated causes for granting them. Without having taken a survey on the matter, my impression is that both civil judges and Anglican clergy would rather treat dissolutions as divorces than as annulments, even where both options exist. I can only speculate about the actual causes or their felt reasons.

And here, Catholic annulments are very often granted on the defect of intention: in marrying, the man and the woman did not both intend to form what the Catholic church understands to be a marriage. For example, if a man intends children as the Catholic church expects, but she wants to think about it and then decides against it, their bond can be annulled. One assumption of any system of annulments is that no union has a sacramental status without a proper intention before it begins. But even in societies with notions of marriage at variance with defined Catholic teaching, or where couples are likely to have very unequal adherence to it, the RC clergy still urge people to marry, making some annulments inevitable. What else are they to do?

Kindly note that, although belief in the indissolubility of marriage historically did promote a system of annulments in the West, the belief that most required it was, not that one, but the expectation of a definite intentionality. For example, Anglican feminists tend not to believe in indissolubility, but could well believe that both the man and the woman must intend a certain gender equity in their marriage for it to be in Christ.

Conversely, Orthodox canonists suppose, not just the indissolubility, but even the eternity of a first marriage, and yet make scarcely any provision for annulments. Every remarried Orthodox man has at least two wives, even if one of them is dead. And the most common reason for seeking church permission for a separation is so that one or both of the couple may enter monastic life, where even a professed monastic remains married. In the Byzantine Empire where Roman civil law never ceased to evolve, it retained such pagan elements as divorce but expanded to accommodate aspects of life in Christ that no old *praetor urbanus* could have imagined.

Father Ron and Bosco are almost as zealous about the indeterminacy of scripture on marriage as Chris et al are zealous the other way. What I think they all prove is that unless Justinian had a stronger influence on Jesus and St Paul than most of us think possible, their words were not meant to gloss the Corpus Juris Civilis that has framed Western thinking on marriage for the past several centuries. If we understand Jesus and St Paul as situated C1 figures, we know that their words are not about a church ceremony of any kind, and that their underlying concerns are more likely to be for the renewal of the heart, the reconciliation of the estranged sexes, and the flourishing of the whole family of Abraham.


Anonymous said...

A quick note on my 8/4:45.

I take it for granted that Chris and his Latimer friends are trying to find and do the right and godly thing. Full stop. My personal experience of religious opponents of SSM is not at all that they disdain gay folk, but rather that they understand their allegiance to Christ to include some commitments of the mind, and that they are wary of pressure groups that do not honour their allegiance. Indeed, my experience of Anglican conservatives is that some of them are themselves gay men with the most acute head/heart tension that I have seen.

So I understand the manning of the battlements in a paper like Chris's. But I also see that any matter as deep as That Topic also raises questions about the foundations, gates, and wells. The bad polarisation of debate has made those inspections hard for those who most need to be sure of their safety.

Many flail away seeking changes of mind without first envisioning what an actually changing mind might look like. It may be a fool's errand, but I wonder what changes of mind would bring someone who agrees with Chris nearer to agreement with Bosco, and vice versa.

And just because cognitive polarisation has so plainly blocked the best insights of each side from the other, we have every reason to think that an understanding that can engage them all would be better. Whether ACANZP or any other church is ready for a better understanding is not my concern here, although I understand that this is the concern of others who seek actionable insight.


Peter Carrell said...

Here - noting the implication of BW's comments above, IMHO, that we make what Jesus and Paul said about divorce do too much work relative to the actuality of life as we encounter it - is a test case for how we think we should apply the New Testament to real life. The test case, in my experience as a pastor, is sadly all too frequent, and I would be very surprised if any reader here who is licensed to conduct weddings has not encountered this situation.

Amy and Bert are young, say early twenties, Christian, in love and committed to chastity. Marriage is both the obvious and the approved option for the future of their relationship. They marry. But within a couple of years there are all sorts of difficulties, with some sense of regret, even guilt the elders of the church realise with perfect hindsight that they were
"too young to marry". Despite the best efforts of everyone connected to the situation, the marriage falls apart, the difficulties insurmountable (again, everyone agrees that is so). (For clarity: no sexual unfaithfulness occurs). Each moves on with their lives. There is a formal divorce. Each hopes they can marry later, better prepared and more able to engage with the depth of commitment marriage requires. In particular, Amy is desperately keen to be a mother.

In my understanding (and please correct me if you think I am wrong):
for the RCC, there might be a case for annulment;
for the Orthodox, there could be a "second marriage" ceremony when there is a new wedding;
for some understandings of Jesus' teaching, there could be no church wedding for a new marriage, and if there is a new marriage, say, Amy weds Colin, a ideal husband for her and father for their children, they are adulterers for the rest of their lives;
on Chris's paper's approach, a pastor has freedom to use to discretion to marry Amy and Colin, but (as Bowman highlights) that pastor might turn down the opportunity lest weight is given to arguments for SSB.
To be clear about my own position: I would take Amy and Colin's wedding, and I do not think Jesus actually thinks they would then be permanent adulterers.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (at 9.12; seen after my comment immediately above)
My (related) question is whether the gap between Chris and Bosco's positions is large enough to justify (within the specific context of ACANZP) proponents of SSB and opponents of SSB separating?

Anonymous said...

Deep questions, Peter!

"Is the gap between Chris's and Bosco's positions large enough to justify (within the specific context of ACANZP) proponents of SSB and opponents of SSB separating?"

Probably not. Anglican ecclesiology can countenance internal *communities of practise* precisely to deny authority to parachurch pressure groups that institutionalise conflict over generations, but it can go no further toward EPD. The Primates have rejected church SSM and anything that undercuts the working theology of MWM. So if only no meant no, ACANZP could consider this debate closed, and those unhappy with the result could move on. In time, That Topic could be reopened under wiser leadership.

There is a strain of Reformed theology that was decisively rejected in Matthew Parker's day, and another Hookerian strain that is almost the language of the Anglican heart. They are not being distinguished today.

A higher churchmanship is perennially renewed from many sources, but Anglicans are not Vatican III Catholics. Again, reports like AWF show that some cannot tell the difference.

As I have noted on and off for a while, the Anglican centre has room for both of the tendencies upstream of Chris and Bosco, but concrete positions that depend on premises already rejected in historic Anglicanism or by the wider Communion today belong elsewhere. For until no means no at the margins, ACANZP will struggle to spark a reconciling dialogue at the centre that will allow either tribe to stay there with any integrity.

Happily, the theological resources at the centre are more abundant than ever. The polarisation often seems to be the overhang of institutions and cohorts too old to know them.


Presumptively, a C1 Jesus would not make any accommodation for the mores of our society at all. Your readers can push back against that presumption if they wish-- I hope they do-- but absent a lot of accommodation, Jesus would--

(a) Warmly bless the early desire for chastity of Amy and Bert, but note that the objective of chastity is not only self-control but also a fruitful marriage, and that this is the normal and godly criterion for a mate.

(b) Explain to the couple (and to Colin) that their marriage is their second highest allegiance on earth after himself. He will add that their problems were actually the means he gave them for perfecting their marriage. To each, he would further explain that their personal learning to come to terms with the alterity of the other sex was a means of bringing their own hearts to joy, and a way of participating in his cosmic work of reconciling the sexes everywhere.

(c) Whip the local elders out of their church for not living a transformational gospel, teaching a shallow marital ethic, letting the young marry unprepared and largely unaccompanied, and above all for for counseling despair in the face of difficulty.

(d) View all of them as adulterers, but also as deceived by cruel social mores that, to an extreme degree, pit individuality against both one's sex and one's extended familia. He would sup with them, but as a *converting ordinance* (Acts, St Paul, John Wesley).

(e) Urge Amy to ask Bert to father her children.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Thanks for your response.
It metaphorically assumes the horses are all milling around the stable, waiting for Jesus' guidance. I am talking about the horse having bolted - there will be no resumption of Amy and Bert's marriage under any circumstances (perhaps Bert himself has remarried; perhaps Bert has proved himself untrustworthy; perhaps Bert has been abusive; perhaps Bert has moved to another country and deliberately made contact impossible ... scenarios which, more or less, reflect actual life situations).
I think the Jesus who presides over the 21st century church showed enough in the 1st century of a compassionate response to people's situations that he would not follow your (e).
(To be quite clear, I also think Jesus presiding over the 21st century is both angry and sorrowful over the mess we have collectively made over marriage; and heartbroken over the pain spouses have caused each other within individual marriages; and I think he would be deeply troubled by the likes of Barnaby Joyce making the preciousness of MWM a reason for voting against SSM in Australia ... Jesus had quite a downer on those who do not walk their talk.)

Anonymous said...

Peter, if either Amy or Bert happened to be a Catholic and married another Christian without episcopal permission, there is (as I understand the RCC) no marriage. Assuming these facts do not apply, I’d be interested to know why you would be happy to marry Amy and Colin. As a related issue, I wonder about all the suffering Anglicans who were denied this accommodation throughout Anglican history, because second marriages are relatively new for you. Did they toil unnecessarily? Who was wrong? Although I accept (to return to the paper) that there is no double standard per se, I’m beginning to find Rev Bosco Peter’s position intellectually attractive. Perhaps as you suggest, the gap is not wide. Would that help me cope with Chapter 8 of AL? Not sure yet.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I would conduct the wedding of Amy and Colin because God intends marriage for procreation and the establishment of a family, and Amy wants a second chance at that and Colin wants his first chance and they are willing to make the necessary commitment and I think that on behalf of the God of second chances I could preside over their wedding.

What about the past? I am no social historian but:
1. previously people were more forced by social norms and expectations to actually stay together under the one roof thus fostering the possibility that, in the end, renewal in the marriage could take place;
2. clearly some (many?) married couples stuck it out very unhappily because divorce was scandal and a new marriage unimaginable;
3. actually some did manage to get out and did start a new relationship but couldn't marry (because no divorce), though they might have pretended to be married (e.g. having migrated to a new location).
Even within family histories, let alone within social histories, there are some pretty amazing stories of "what actually went on" in families. That many first marriages ended up being only marriages was often, it appears, more to do with social expectations than earnest living out of the ideals of marriage!

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

On your thread "The importance and significance Of the G.S. vote in May", I posted a blog [Feb 7th @ 1.37 PM. stating that my objection to both the Ma Whea Commission and the Working Party was that the task given to them, to solve, fell outside the Constitution 1857. The way the issue was /is handled, has sadly led to the no win situation which has developed.

The word porneia has a wider meaning than just incest 1 Cor. 5/1; being used literally to include adultery and metaphorically as in Ezk 23/37 & Jer 3/6-9 with the result:"And I saw,when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce" V.8.
Here, I am only desiring to see the context in which the word is used or spoken. So I agree with Chris' statement.

In Matt 5, Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the Kingdom of God. He explains that in this world,refraining from committing murder or adultery satisfies the law;but in God's Kingdom, He desires a change of our spiritual desires.Get rid of the hate and envy which leads to murder;get rid or the lusts that lead to adultery;out of your spirits, Matt 15/17-20. & Gen 4/6-7.

In Matt 19,the Jewish leaders were attempting to lure Christ into a trap.He responded by laying out God's true plan for man. When ever divorce enter our lives, it's a demonstration of our disunity with God and his desires for us.But there is a way out of these terrible messes we get ourselves into; It's called:confession,repentance and forgiveness.Did Jesus say to the woman taken in adultery:"you will be an adulteress for the rest of your life". No He said:"Neither do I condemn thee,go and sin no more".John 8/11.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your response Peter. Ultimately pastors have to assess and deal with issues that laity do not. It may be that pastoral discernment in individual cases is no different from annulment. There are no doubt some annulments that would surprise me and there are no doubt some second marriages that you would not entertain. It’s this type that are concerning, but I suspect we all agree on that.


Andrei said...

"clearly some (many?) married couples stuck it out very unhappily because divorce was scandal and a new marriage unimaginable;"

Clearly we all can probably find anecdotes to support that assertion'

But if there is no way out then both parties will have the incentive to work together to make things at least tolerable if not pleasant for each other

And clearly we can all find anecdotes to support that assertion as well, perhaps using our own situations

Because you do not live with someone for twenty, thirty, forty years without some dysfunctions arising and then you either work them through together or "toss your toys" and walk away

Anonymous said...

Poor Bert! In just a few hours so much has happened to our chaste young Christian man, eager to marry early but a bit immature, that suddenly he has degenerated into a dastardly malefactor who is untrustworthy, evasive, abusive, etc! Clearly the failure of his marriage has opened a deep wound. But unlike cruel Hollywood (never mind Miramax...), compassionate Jesus would not treat him as a villain for Amy to discard on her way to ecstatic bliss with her co-star. Rather, the God of second chances might well suggest that she, at the very least, try to tie together loose ends with him. After all, the two "became one flesh," and Amy still prays "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." Maybe she wants to be a disciple and not just a church member? For anyway, the God who made human nature knows that whether she marries Colin or not, she will always have the occasional fantasy about Bert, and wonder... As will he.

Peter, your practise of solemnisation makes perfect sense, if solemnisation is to be practised at all. But for more than a thousand years Christians married without it. What was the Church doing then? There are places today where solemnisation is actually all that church does for couples. That cannot be going well.

If you and I in fact disagree, it is probably still over the way we read Jesus's treatment of law in eg St Mark 7. What he treats as a wise mirror of the heart that changes his disciples as they struggle with the Father's will, modernising exegetes have treated as an mere constraint on an unchanged will that reflects an ideal social order. Reading his words on marriage in that positivistic way sets a low expectation for spirituality in marriage. That brought low marriage and the social history against which women now rebel. That does not seem very compassionate. A second chance at it does not seem very smart.

What would be more compassionate? A practise of love that makes the hard developmental work of marriage both less obscure and more rewarding. The spiritual disciplines to which the scriptures point, but for which few churches offer companionship and mentoring, answer St Matthew 19:10-11 with Romans 12:2, understood in light of Romans 5, Romans 8:1-11, Colossians 3:1-14, 2 Peter 1:4-10, and of course 1 Corinthians 13.

But this is impractical!, the positivists protest, how could we get the whole nation to do all this?

We are not moderns anymore, the disciples reply, and so if making the masses do things ever was our purpose, it no longer is.


Andrei said...

"But this is impractical!, the positivists protest, how could we get the whole nation to do all this?

We are not moderns anymore, the disciples reply, and so if making the masses do things ever was our purpose, it no longer is. "

In the 21st century it is highly unlikely the hypothetical Bert and Amy have "solemized" their union in any case!

Indeed we have a very new Prime Minister who also happens to be "expecting" and is not "civil unionized" with the father of her child let alone united with him in the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

And this raises not an eyebrow - it is the way of things in these enlightened times. Something the Bolsheviks aspired to acheve in the 1920s and failed to has been accomplished in the 21st Century Western world...

The irony...

But I digress, if you look into the Byzantine marriage rite one of the elements is the prayers for the united couple to work together in their joint quest for salvation and support one another in this endevour.

And in answer to your question Bowman the way we get "the masses" to do things our way is to be exemplars of the Faith and set good examples, firslty and formostly to our own children and to the wider world.

And yes Bowman our goal should be to being "the masses" to the Christian Faith

All easier said than done of course

Anonymous said...

Aarrrggghh! The NOUN is spelled 'PRACTICE' in British English; the VERB is spelled 'PRACTISE'.

I would love to regularise British and American spellings, but some people are inveterate rebels.

Glen Young said...

".... is prayers for the united couple to work together in their joint quest for salvation and support one another in this endevour." Andrei.

Marriage exists at three levels:[a] Spiritual,their spirits are bonded together and the two become one;[b] Soul, they share one destiny and hope in Christ; body,one flesh, through their children their DNA combines and his/story and her/story become one story. Paul speaks of this spiritual affect in 1 Cor.7/10-16.

Jesus' words: "What therefore God hath joined together,let not man put asunder."; is to me, saying that man can not undo or put asunder the spiritual union of the couple. Hence though they write a bill of divorce,this does not free the couple of their spiritual union. So if either party marries again,they are committing adultery because they still spiritually bonded, [by this time it is probably bondaging],with their original partner.Can this spiritual bonding/bondaging ever be put asunder? Certainly, by God and God alone though the process of genuine confession and repentance. He is a merciful God and I believe that in his love and grace, He would say to the confessing and repenting party:He is your spirit back,unencumbered;neither do I condemn you,go and sin no more." John 8/11.

St Paul:"But if the unbelieving depart,let him depart.A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:but God hath called us to peace."1 Cor.7/15.

Anonymous said...

"Bosco {is] almost as zealous about the indeterminacy of scripture on marriage as Chris et al are zealous the other way." BW

I have tried to make this point more gently previously - please, Bowman (and others), from now on, stop reinterpreting what I write. Respond to what I write by all means. Ask questions for clarifications if you struggle with what I write which is usually done in the midst of a very busy life and ministry (such a question I might spot, might have time to respond to, or might not bother to) by all means. But stop reinterpreting what I say to make your own point. [Nick did this previously also - turning my exegesis of Jesus' words into a justification for the RC position and alluding to a phrase from Pope Francis that most contemporary marriages are invalid - I do not think any such thing and I have no thought that Jesus had this in mind!].

Just because I differ from Chris and have a more rigorous Jesus when it comes to marriage than Chris does not mean, suddenly, that I am indeterminate on the scriptures on marriage!

The scriptures are similarly NOT indeterminate, Bowman, on giving and receiving interest on a loan. But I am perfectly happy to not follow those teachings - I actually do have a bank account - because I don't have a copy-and-paste attitude to my relationship with the Bible's context into the new context I live in. If you have that approach, I respect you. But don't apply your approach to mine.

Just read what I say and respond to that - not some straw man with the same name.



Anonymous said...

Language Notes

Bosco, no offense was intended. It does rather sound as though the Bible does not determine your position. In all seriousness, what word for your practice would you prefer that we use?

Anonymous, thank you for calling me an inveterate rebel; I shall try hard to live up to that. Meanwhile, thank you again for the kindness of the distinction in usage of *practise*. I try not to burden readers down under with American orthography.

Andrei, I look forward to the conversion of all the blessed isles to the Way. But in the meantime, I think that Andrei had it right last fall when he said that the Church's wider influence depended first on the way it practises its practice.


Anonymous said...

Nick did this previously also - turning my exegesis of Jesus' words into a justification for the RC position and alluding to a phrase from Pope Francis that most contemporary marriages are invalid - I do not think any such thing and I have no thought that Jesus had this in mind!].
Rev Bosco Peters

Peter; this is transparently incorrect. I made it abundantly clear to Bowman that RBP was making a different point when I used what RBP said for my own comment/ends. Nor did I allude to Francis’s reported comments about the supposed invalidity of most marriages. I find Francis’s comments (if he made them) highly odd.


David Wilson said...

This post has produced a lot of comments! Please forgive me if I repeat what someone else has said. Thank you, Chris, for the paper.

One detail I found interesting was note 7 on page 3, in that in the 1st century context the death penalty for adultery was dropping away. That is, if one's spouse committed adultery, they would have been executed, and the offended spouse would then have been free to marry. Thus the Matthean Exception enables remarriage of the offended party in the case where mercy has enabled the offender to live. In effect, the offence is the 'death' of the relationship. It is often held that the context is discussion of divorce on grounds significantly less serious than sexual immorality.

It needs to be pointed out that Jesus' teaching on divorce is regarded by his disciples as hard to accept, "if this is the situation between husband and wife, it is better not to marry" (Matt. 19.10). Indeed, Jesus said that the reason Moses permitted it was for our 'hardness of heart'. Christian sexual ethics do not go with the flow of the surrounding society. Rather, they stand against and above it.

However, justice is also tempered with mercy. Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery, "then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin." Marriage between a man and woman is "an honourable estate, instituted in the time of man's innocency." It is a Good of itself, and therefore can be a means of grace and redemption.

Here in England, incumbents (not parishes) have the right to choose to marry or refrain from marrying divorcees. My parish refrains, but gladly offers what is commonly called a 'Wedding Blessing' but is more properly a 'Service of Prayer and Dedication following Civil Marriage'. A small but important part of this service is the acknowledgement of past failure and the seeking of forgiveness. It seems to me that the issue with remarriage comes when there is no acknowledgement of seriousness of divorce.

This matter is very relevant to me, as two and a half years ago, I married for the first time, aged 61, a divorcee. I believe that in her case the Matthean exception clearly applies. Nonetheless, I think it was appropriate to follow our parish's practice and have the service of prayer and dedication.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you for recent comments ... let's take care ...

Bosco: for what it is worth, I read Nick as saying you had persuaded him towards your understanding [I assumed, on the particular matter of porneia] rather than that he was persuaded your view neatly fitted an RCC view ...

Anonymous said...

Apologies to Nick – I went back and read his comment and agree I read into his comment, on “the West has more non-marriages (despite the mass, the priest and the couple) than anywhere else” following his quoting of me, as a restating of Pope Francis’ “the great majority of our sacramental marriages are null” – which is an expansion of my understanding of πορνεία (porneia), which Nick just quoted, well beyond what I think Jesus was referring to.

Bowman – seriously?! I am not interested in playing word games and attempting to reduce my position and practice to a single word in the manner that your response challenges me. “Indeterminacy”, by any dictionary on my shelves, refers to uncertainty, not definite, etc… I have been quite the opposite of your claim that I am zealous about the indeterminacy of scripture on marriage. Yes – I have studied post-graduate Philosophy of Mathematics also – but I doubt that many other readers here use “indeterminacy” in that manner. Nothing about being offended – I simply don’t want my name associated with something I do not hold.

And yes, after honest grappling with the scriptures – across the WHOLE range of possible interpretations – I do have another step: is the honest assessment of the Bible’s understanding and position for its time still applicable in our current context? Or does the Bible, its trajectory, its bigger picture, and so forth, lead me to apply it differently to how one might thousands of years ago? I respect others who do not take this final step. Muslims and banking is an example that springs immediately to mind. The historicity of Adam and Eve is another.



Father Ron Smith said...

"This matter is very relevant to me, as two and a half years ago, I married for the first time, aged 61, a divorcee. I believe that in her case the Matthean exception clearly applies. Nonetheless, I think it was appropriate to follow our parish's practice and have the service of prayer and dedication."

- David Wilson -

Thank you, David, for the honest admission of your departure from the 'high moral ground' of some of our fellow commenters on this issue of marriage and divorce - for that is what it appears (to me) to be.

This, to me at least, is evidence of the FACT that circumstances can change our own dearly-held inhibitions against something we might otherwise consider to be a rebellion against Christ's teaching on marriage. Thank you.

I trust that the love you have found with your partner more than makes up for any perceived lack of 'measuring up' to the rigours of The Law - as others might perceive is required.

I'm reminded of the old adage that 'every act of loving holds something of God'. Also; that 'love covers a multitude of sins.' Maybe these are not truly Scriptural, but they do contain a lot of common sense - a gift from God in the common life of us sinners.

Whenever I have been the celebrant at a marriage of divorced persons, I have always insisted on an act of repentance for their role in the failure of first marriage(s). I DO believe that God is the God of unlimited forgiveness - not just second chances. Otherwise, many of us would be lost!

Glen Young said...

As interesting and informative as many of the blogs on this thread have been;
Andrei was quite right on the very first blog:"Bringing divorce into this discussion is entirely misleading and a red herring." Feb. 8th @9.02 AM.

However, there is one and only one correlation between the remarriage of divorced people and SSM/SSB. That is,very quickly the same lax attitude which is taken to the former will be taken to the latter. The second law of thermodynamics, [in layman's terms] states that without more energy being put into a system,that system is on a downhill slide.The ACANZP choose not to do an in-depth exploration of the Doctrine and Theology behind this issue and in doing so will just make it's muddled Theology even more muddled.Put more succinctly,the Theology of the ACANZP is on a down hill slide.

Anonymous said...

Bosco, my concern in this thread is with Chris's views and criticisms of them that are clear enough to be understood and examined.

Your speculation on my hermeneutic at 9:42 has no ground in words of mine here, but that is off-topic. I detect no malice, and take no offense.

Many of Peter's readers, I suspect, view the scriptures as authoritative in its province, or in other words, that it is not only a documentation of God's ways with man but also an instrument of his holy Will until the end of time. Some also understand-- as Judaic, patristic and medieval readers also did-- that reading is a creative act in which a range of hypothetical meanings are opened in a dialogue with God. In that act, awareness of the reader's own circumstances and those of the authors and interpreters in the canon is duly engaged. Those trained in exegesis apply modern (always philological and historical, sometimes now also narrative and canonical) criteria to determine which alternates are most robust. They regard the alternates that are most robust as authoritative for themselves, for the Church, and indeed for all who desire to do the will of the eternal Father.

Such readers are likely not sure what you could accomplish with an extra step in which you decide whether or not to apply today the most robust understanding of the eternal Word. They are aware that the Word did not become flesh in the C21, and also that none of us live in C1 Roman Palestine. But some awareness of times and places is already present in good reading, and a distinction between what is temporary and what is eternal is already given in faith in Jesus Christ. And as the Bible itself warns against instability of belief and practice, whilst reading per se is an inescapably creative act, Peter surely has some readers who would see temptation rather than certainty in the step that you describe. Perhaps that is the evangelical-presentist impasse in a nutshell.

Anonymous said...


In mentioning usury, you allude to an alternate method. The modern ethic of usury is attributed to the revolutionary exegesis of John Calvin, who went to the Geneva marketplace to see how the practice of lending actually works on the ground, then synthesised a new meaning for the relevant OT texts congruent with what he saw, and then subjected it to the usual tests for robustness. It is worth noting that Calvin's forays into the market were not particularly presentist-- he assumed that a loan is a loan is loan-- but actually expanded the reach of the Word by sweeping away reliance on scholastic philosophy.

Few exegeses have changed the world more than that one did, and yet it was swiftly accepted throughout Protestant Europe, and steadily influenced Roman interpretation thereafter. Why so little opposition? Because Calvin did not take a finished medieval or humanist exegesis and subject it to a further ad hoc judgement about whether to obey it, he did not pose to himself or to others the temptation just mentioned. Rather he offered a robust new interpretation with intrinsic authority. Indeed, one can invoke it not only to defend moderate use of credit but also to criticise several evils of the modern world from the Word-- payday lenders with exorbitant rates, high levels of student loan debt, much of finance circa 2008, the sovereign debt of poor countries, etc.

In a fascinating paper, Andrew Goddard has discussed Calvin's investigation of usury, and in it many footnotes draw direct connections to That Topic.

Andrew's notes are all the more interesting when we consider that the late medieval critique of homosexual acts was actually adapted from the prior critique of usury. If the model proved faulty, then might not the copy prove faulty as well? So a question that Andrew Goddard, and still more Oliver O'Donovan, have long put to those on both sides of debate on That Topic is: why do we not explore it in a biblical inquiry, as Calvin explored usury, and then live with the results? If any reader is aware of a cogent answer to that question, please post a link to it here.


Jean said...

I think the linking of SSB or SSM, re-marriage/divorce and women’s ordination is a complicating and rather unhelpful sidetrack. However, I can understand the motivation behind Chris’s paper as re-marriage after divorce and women being ordained are constantly being referenced in many discussions as examples of where ‘practice’ is considered by some to depart from scripture, and so hence sometimes one feels a need to clarify these issues as a form of response.

My view on divorce:

Synopsis: Jesus was responding to the ‘teacher’s of the law’ in many of the scriptures involved, as they often tested him against the teaching of Moses, so they may have a chance to accuse him. So should a man be permitted to give a certificate of divorce, Moses allowed it? Equivalent, should a man be able to send his wife away when he has found someone more to his liking, this has been okay and what the plural we have been able to do for like forever... Jesus responds this is not like it was in the beginning (e.g. no this is not what was the original intent for marriage) even though Moses allowed it was because of man’s weakness not because it was a ‘right’. Yes, the disciples may have found it hard, help living with the same woman for how many years and not having an opt out clause, who could accept that teaching and go on to get married that’s a bit tough...up until now the option of parting ways at a whim made marriage a more attractive option.

Interpretation: Divorce damages relationships because marriage binds people together in that you hurt the other you invariably hurt yourself. So it should not as in Jesus day and now our day be seen as an ‘easy out’ but rather as Moses intended it to be a permission granted on occasion as an exception to the rule due to our human hardness of heart (whether by the man or woman). Why because if a man divorces his wife for any reason he forces her to be an adulteress (because women relied on male provision so re-marriage was the most practical option) and any man who marries her to be an adulterer because she is previously bound to another man (so this cheaply issued certificate of divorce causes considerable sin). So I have two exceptions of allowable divorce in my mind, sexual unfaithfulness but also the cases where divorce is not easily decided upon but has come about because the relationship is becoming so internally destructive due to the hardness of one or both hearts involved. Jesus ‘intesified’ many laws e.g. you commit adultery when you look lustfully at someone not your wife; not to set us all up to fail but to give us the measure of His standard and by doing so pointing out perhaps that we will at some stage all fail to meet the mark which of course is why he came. Those re-marrying aren’t the only ones living in adultery I would imagine if one takes seriously this last verse!

I think the idea of more instruction around healthy relationships and marriages would be a positive thing, a way to strengthen couples resilience especially now when many people come from broken homes.

As for its relationship to SSB/SSM it misses me completely. There is no scriptural reference linking marriage with relationships of the same gender or sex. The debates around divorce and the theological inferences relate to the separation of a relationship bond ordained by God and whether that is kosher; the debates around SSB/SSM relate to whether the spiritual joining of of two people in a relationship scriptually hinted at as sin in scripture is kosher. Is it sinful to divorce and re-marry? Or Can we allow what has been considered sinful to now be no longer so? Are quite different questions. And the resolution or approach to one will not match the other.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Jean
I am happy to make a link between SSB/SSM and remarriage after divorce because both matters concern how we as a church might (or might not) support two people who declare an intention to live together in a committed relationship, the status of that relationship, on both cases, raising a moral question with respect to what is said in Scripture.

Glen Young said...

Hi Peter,

Let's get to the nitty gritty and pose the question of whether all forms of sexual expression are permissible to both heterosexual and homosexual couples?

Peter Carrell said...

No, Glen.
Start your own blog for that discussion.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; I accept Bosco’s apology. Glen does have a point, but I suspect that it is my Church that will cause all the future problems. Let’s pray earnestly that Francis takes his well-deserved rest really soon. He’s over 80 after all and Catholic Bishops hand in their resignation at 75.


Jean said...

Hi Peter

Yes there is the similarity of both concerns/issues being about relationships and there being a moral question arising in respect to scripture in both circumstances; it just still seems to be like comparing oranges and apples to me, perhaps because same sex relationships like the relationship between a father with a son, or the close friendship between two people, all contain different dimensions from each other whether or not one is looking at the scripturally supported healthy examples of these relationships or the morally or scripturally questionable aspects of them.

Nick, I am curious but isn’t in Catholic tradition the Pope meant to be like the God-appointed spokesperson for his Church? Just curious as this is my understanding gleaned from comments arising from the outside looking in position. : )

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jean
It is a "both/and" situation.
The apples and apples comparison is that we are talking about the scriptural ethics of sexual relationships; and we are also considering how humans find "companionship" (something highlighted in Genesis 2).

The apples and oranges lack of comparison is that ethical discussion about marriage in Scripture (whether we talk about marriage, divorce, remarriage, polygamy, incest, etc) is discussion about men and women in relationships within the context of a larger society (in which, for example, polygamy may make sense because that (patriarchal) society offers only marriage as a way of both protecting and providing for a woman), with particular reference to the capacity of a married couple to produce children and thus create family (which, in turn, connects marriage to property and material provision for needs for shelter, food, protection).

Glen Young said...

Chris is quite right in the points he makes in 2/page 12. The parallel between remarriage and SSM/SSB is that both arise out of the brokeness of man. The proponents of SSM/SSB do not wish to frame their argument in that manner.

However,the disparity between the two arises out of remarriage being permitted in certain circumstances Matt 129/9 while there is no Biblical backing for SSM/SSB what so ever.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I am curious but isn’t in Catholic tradition the Pope meant to be like the God-appointed spokesperson for his Church?

Hi Jean; Catholics believe that the pope is the supreme pontiff of the universal Church. He is not however greater than his master or the Church itself. Nor does papal infallibility stretch to contradicting earlier infallible teaching eg the Apostles’ Creed. My personal view (and many Catholics would disagree with me) is that this papacy has failed to deal with the sexual abuse scandal (the one thing that we should have sorted out by now) and focused on other lesser issues. Catholics must not wish the pope harm, but they are entirely at liberty to pray for his prosperity and retirement. After all, he is 81 and as Archbishop of Buenos Aires would be long retired.


Glen Young said...


Thanks for your honest appraisal of the Roman leadership.From an outside but, I hope an objective stance,I truely believe that he has rushed in where angels fear to tread; on issues such as the Muslim invasion of Europe. I pray for your continuance in a Faith built on Christ.

Anonymous said...

"I think the idea of more instruction around healthy relationships and marriages would be a positive thing, a way to strengthen couples resilience especially now when many people come from broken homes."

As usual, Jean hits the target. If churches cannot do this, then why should they bless any *relationships* at all?

Personally, I do not think that they can, and so I do not think that they should. For what expertise in relationships do churches dependably and authoritatively have? On the ground up here, all that I see are clergy of local congregations aligned with social strata who reliably teach the expectations of their place and class, sometimes with a half-hearted effort to link that to some scraps of scripture. All reading Peter's blog for more than a few months know well that even these expectations are not uncontested. And even if there were some comprehensive practice of relationship tending, it would not follow that all were practising it. Yet absent some divine knowledge about relationships per se, offering to certify them is no more faithful than stubbornly insisting that only the Church can properly manage the water supply.

It is true that the canon gives us a richly Judaic understanding of marriage. procreation, and family. But this is precisely the understanding that relationshipy redefinitions are trying to escape. And the ideas about relationships toward which they tend are usually those of psychotherapy with no particular allegiance to Jesus Christ. These ideas are sometimes sound and sometimes faddish, sometimes helpful and sometimes destructive; either way, they are not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Please note: merely private opinions of what churches should know or could know do not prove that they in fact do know anything whatever. We all have ideas. I myself have read nearly every book on Christian psychology of the past 20 years, and do not deny that there are some promising ideas about relationships out there. There is also some quite good secular research that could inform some discerning practice. But no church anywhere accepts as divinely revealed a body of thought about relationships apart from the old Judaic ideal, not even TEC whose TFSM report comes closest to glimpsing what a relationshipy notion of marriage requires. What churches do not believe to be from God they should not prescribe for souls.

It sometimes happens that arguments for a thesis would, if actually true, prove another one that is unintended and indeed unwanted. And so it is with arguments that marriage has evolved past the state of life defined by the possibility of procreation to an especially exalted relationshipiness finally achieved in our own exquisitely empathic day. I think not. But if this were true, it would prove, not that churches need to update their practice, but rather that they no longer need to practise anything because solemnisation (fl. C13-C20) no longer has a market. It is sad to close a grand old business that has satisfied customers for centuries, but is resistance to doing this motivated by any consideration from Jesus Christ? Or is it merely a fading social expectation?


Father Ron Smith said...

B.W.; do try googling The Saint Michael's Report from the Anglican Church of Canada. This might open your eyes to another North American Anglican Church that wishes to affirm the benefits of faithful, monagamous S/S/ relationships. Not only TEC is affirmative of such> The Gospel of God's Love for ALL people will out - despite the fear of some people in the Church.

Jesus knew the consequences of helping known sinners to live in the Light of God's Love - against the bigotry of the Scribes and Pharisees. He got killed for it.

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- A subtler difficulty and opportunity bear brief mention: a church cannot speak with the old authority about anything as varied as relationships, but that variety is in itself an opening to the more adaptive practice of spiritual direction. The upshot is that a true shift of pastoral focus from couples' state of life to their myriad relationships cannot be achieved by simple *brand extension* of the old wedding rite; a new practice, if not a new profession, is required.

The historic Church was able to speak authoritatively about marriage as a state of life because the canon gives it a uniform shape. It will never speak with the same authority about relationships because there cannot be a similarly uniform model for all of them. Relationships that are intimate necessarily reflect the myriad permutations of the sexes, temperaments, developments, experiences, and classes of two people. For that reason, good research also disconfirms nearly every model of the One Best Relationship that has been proposed. You can honestly tell a couple that fidelity enables a home that is good for children as the canon understands that; you can't honestly tell a couple that communicating in a certain way will enable their marriage to last because several different styles work about as well, and some couples stay together with scant communication of any kind. These variations defeat the positive authority of past practice.

However, in another setting a similar variability enables a different sort of authority: spiritual guides, from hermits in caves to Jesuit spiritual directors to lay soul-friends, serve as discerning witnesses to the transforming work of Christ in each soul, as it is and where it is. Here, the *varieties of religious experience* beget a need for discernment and that need authorises a ministry. An analogous practice of discernment in relationships considered as spiritual unions is at least imaginable. Thinking of couples in SSM that I have known, the sheer novelty of what they are doing multiplies all the usual challenges, and so this is what I wish the Church had given them. Ecclesiologically, I tend to think that this ministry should be seen as diaconal, but that is another topic for another day.


Father Ron Smith said...

" It is worth noting that Calvin's forays into the market were not particularly presentist-- he assumed that a loan is a loan is loan-- but actually expanded the reach of the Word by sweeping away reliance on scholastic philosophy.
" - B.W. -

But surely, B.W., those with the lengthiest posts on ADU are totally reliant on their very own 'scholastic philosophy? Can you not agree?

Anonymous said...

Hi Glen; there is a lot about Francis that is a breath of fresh air. When I attended a weekly Wednesday audience in Rome and saw him at close quarters (within a metre) while he talked to my neighbours at some length, I gained the impression that he is a real Christian with a genuine anointing. My personal view is that he is not, however, cut out for the job of Pope. Despite his absolute power, the Pope can not behave like the Roman centurion. Just because a Jesuit says come and go, does not mean he commands respect. No doubt this approach worked in the Jesuits, but a Pope needs more. I sincerely pray that he will retire soon. He is a good man highly unsuited IMO (and the opinion of many) to his current role.


Jean said...

Hi Peter and Bowman, thanks for your earlier posts replying and responding to what I last wrote. Bowman have you read the books by William Backus, Telling Each Other the Truth and Telling Yourself the Truth? They contain very sound scriptural and relational pointers/teaching/guidance. You highlight another one of many dilemma’s, ‘relationship re-definitions’ themselves do not fit (wrong word? Are outside of?) what teaching there is on healthy committed monogamous sexual relationships in scripture.

Nick thank you for explaining the position of Pope. It is like he operates as authority or spokesperson for the Church albeit within the constraints of his actions in regards to doctrine and as successor of the Apostle Peter being in-line with prior church tradition and scripture. In regards to your last comment though, would not his process of becoming Pope and assuming the apostolic lineage coming from the Apostle Peter require at least the consideration that each Pope’s appointment was ordained by God?

Cheers all

Anonymous said...

No, Father Ron, if we had anything so concise as a scholastic philosophy guiding our thoughts, all our comments would be shorter.


Anonymous said...

In regards to your last comment though, would not his process of becoming Pope and assuming the apostolic lineage coming from the Apostle Peter require at least the consideration that each Pope’s appointment was ordained by God?

Yes Jean. I should make it clear that I consider Francis as a full and valid Pope. Just as St Peter was not perfect, his successors aren’t either. In your diocese (and I don’t know which one that is ) there will be faithful Anglicans who have different views on the incumbent bishop. As long as the faithful do not sin, I take the view that frank opinion is fine. To get back to the topic, I said that the RCC could end up causing all the future problems simply because we are big and even those who do not believe in papal supremacy or the Marian dogmas still take notice of our doctrine. Some Catholic moral theologians take the view that there can be no double standard and that the arguments used by Francis to justify communion for the twice married can be used to justify SSB. That’s further than this thread has gone, but it is the thinking behind my comments about future problems above.


Jean said...

Thanks Nick for your viewpoint. Yes indeed even Peter had his moments : ) .... (that is Apostle Peter). The Catholic Church does have a lot of adherents and as you point out it is easy to see any doctrines it holds to will have a wide influence. The double standard argument is often employed whether one can safeguard against its use in discussing ethical issues is hard to know, we seem to be born with the inherent tendency to be able to apply in all contexts, “But why do I have to got to bed at 6 when she goes to be at 8?” : ) ....