I am posting quite a bit on one issue these days. One reason is that I am preparing for a series of workshops in our Diocese on Motion 30. Another reason is that a landmark TEC GC is coming rapidly into view, and there is a lot of posting on that to keep in touch with.
Since first posting quite a lot of material has popped up on the internet ... including:
Responses to Tony Campolo coming out as an evangelical supporting same sex marriage: here and here. Added: I do not hold in any way shape or form with Stand Firm/Matt Kennedy's pronouncement from some assumed position on high that Tony is an anti-Christ. Are we going to call anti-Christs those who deviate from the teaching of Jesus to support the remarriage of divorcees? Are we going to call anti-Christs those who deviate from us Anglicans on creedal matters (such as the Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox)? Are we going to call anti-Christs those who break fellowship with us Anglicans because we have ordained women?
From across the Ditch, Bishop Ian Palmer of Bathurst speaks out against 'equal marriage.'
My initial paragraphs below about TEC crossing a rubicon should now be updated to note a decisive move towards that same rubicon by the Scottish Episcopal Church. Read all the links on Thinking Anglicans. I must say they have a novel way forward which had not appeared on my radar: changing their marriage canon by removing words rather than adding words. Does that make a difference to (e.g.) my way of thinking? Yours? (Response now from Scottish Evangelicals, here)
Mark Harris at Preludium has a robust post, well worth reading IMHO, on the many weaknesses of many attempts to theologise about marriage. His robust reflections include reflections on for/against material linked to below concerning the run up to TEC's GC in July. But he also recognises that he goes a little too far in the dismissive direction and in a subsequent post backtracks slightly re Craig Uffman's and others' recent contributions.
An important point is made here by David Roach.
One of the least controversial observations Anglicans can make as we contemplate Anglicanland shifts and turns on marriage is that a rubicon is coming.
That rubicon is whether an Anglican church via canon and liturgy understands marriage to be between a man and a woman or between any two persons.
Proposals going to this July's TEC General Convention, if passed, would take TEC across that line to marriage being between any two persons. I am not aware of any other Anglican church which is already across that line or any other Anglican church which has such a proposal before it.
If TEC crosses this rubicon, will the Communion be irrevocably split? (Yeah, yeah, I know many readers here already think this has happened!!)
Consider this: when Gene Robinson was consecrated bishop it was able to be argued that he was only the first openly gay bishop, that there had been many before him in other Anglican churches.
But if TEC agrees to the Taskforce's proposals then it will definitively be the first and only Anglican church to differentiate its canon on marriage from all other Anglican churches. It would have no claim to say it was merely being honest about what other churches have fudged. It would have no claim to being co-holders of a common doctrine on marriage with other member churches of the Communion.
It is interesting (and time consuming) reading the back and forths of arguments for and against change (see links below with reference to TEC's current situation).
I want to suggest a missing element to the argumentation.
First, let me characterise the back-and-forth of the arguments:
forth: Marriage is this and it is that and same sex marriage doesn't match those requirements.
back: Yes it does because (e.g.) procreative potential is not a requirement since it is not met in the case of an older couple and (e.g.) difference between partners is met because, well, every partner to a marriage is unique and thus different to the other partner.
forth: well, you can't change the doctrine of marriage
back: but you have done because (e.g.) you have allowed contraception to deny the procreative potential of potentially procreative couples and you have permitted the remarriage of divorcees, so you should allow one more change to remove the requirement that a marriage involves a man and a woman.
The missing element, I suggest, is that it is very difficult to discern in Scripture three things pertaining to arguments that the church may vary its teaching on marriage.
(A) That the authority of the church to vary anything in marriage extends beyond pastoral consideration of the grounds for divorce and subsequent remarriage.
(B) That the difference between men and women in respect of marriage is incidental because the important differentiation in marriage is between two (intrinsically unique) people. (See the end of Craig Uffman's article below where Tobias Haller is cited on differentiation).
(C) That Scripture has to yield an answer if we keep pressing it to give a reason why it is the biological difference between men and women which is decisive for marriage being restricted to heterosexual couples.
Let me expand briefly on A, B and C.
(A) There is not much authority here at all for the church to exercise, but there is a sliver as we see some variation between the way Matthew, Mark and Luke express the words of Jesus on remarriage after divorce, and what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7. Absolutely we can argue that some churches (Protestant, Eastern Orthodox) have exercised authority beyond their brief; and we can argue whether the Roman Catholic approach to annulment is something envisaged by Jesus or not.
(B) As a priest of the church of God, I look for an assurance from Scripture and the church's teaching through the ages, that God does bless same sex partnerships. I do not find that assurance via what is a special pleading, that biological difference is incidental to God's blessing of marriage.
(C) As rational creatures we seem to be drawn to argue about the purpose of marriage, the reason for the core features of marriage to be what they are. Thus we explain why marriage is between a man and a woman in terms of their procreative potential. Or we offer analogy between two-into-one-flesh and the Trinity or, following Ephesians 5:22-33, between a man and a woman and Christ and the church. But does Scripture say these arguments are intended to be watertight and if they are not, then we are free to vary our understanding of marriage? No. Scripture connects these insights to marriage but does not actually explain the commitment to heterosexual marriage in terms of them. In the end, I suggest, marriage in the Bible between a man and a woman just 'is'. The coming together of a man and a woman in a one flesh relationship is in itself a matter which pleases God. There is no indication in the Bible that God is pleased when two men or two women come together because they represent some deeper principle of diversity-in-unity being manifested.
In other words, I am wondering in the links below whether some argumentative wood is being missed for the trees.
Nevertheless, this is not the last word. I suggest that the church needs to keep thinking about what mercy and grace means in this brave new world of ours. We may not have the authority to vary the doctrine of marriage, but we do have a mandate to act mercifully. What does that mean in this world of ours in which couples of any gender mix may marry according to the law of the land? What does showing mercy mean as a church when we can understand that two people of the same sex covenanting between themselves to be faithful to each other is better than a casual sex or promiscuous lifestyle? In a number of articles below, which argue that the church cannot endorse same sex marriage, nevertheless I see signs of great willingness to engage with important questions concerning how we then shall live as a church.
For background to my observations above, see the following links:
With particular reference to the forthcoming TEC General Convention:
Tobias Haller here (see below re ATR). Also note this.
(And now, this reply by Jordan Hylden to Haller.)
ATR here re TEC Task Force. Check out Hill on Scripture and the Task Force's approach to it then Anderson extending Hill here).
Also, First Things responding to the TEC Task Force here in a concise version of the longer original ATR essay at link above. (Discussion in the comments is interesting, some arguing that Anglican arguments against the TEC Task Force's proposals are doomed to failure because a Lambeth Conference once upon a time agreed that use of contraception was okay).
Anglican Curmudgeon has a sequence of posts detailing where TEC is heading re proposed changes going to TEC's forthcoming General Convention: one, two and three.
Craig Uffman contributes an essay here which is imaginative, and worth at least reading the last part re a correspondence with Tobias Haller re difference in marriage. (If that link does not work, go to this link and then try to look up the article from that page).
Scripture and Sexuality essays here.
Other references worth a look:
Jason Goroncy here (re Australian contexts).
A gracious review by Tim Keller (New York) of two recent books by Vines and Wilson making waves around the evangelical world is here.
Ian Paul reflects on Keller's post along with Vines and Wilson's responses to Keller (the links to their responses are in the Ian Paul post.
A number of the links above are included in this Thinking Anglicans post.
Then, re the state of the play among North American evangelicals, note these two stories, here and there.