Wednesday, July 1, 2015

TEC's radical experiment in marriage redefinition

'"All I did was get in the way of the Holy Spirit, and she’s a fierce tornado,Louie Crew 
'Rather than Scripture being unambiguous about homosexual practice, it is patently inconclusive about committed gay relationships. It would take a good deal of intellectual gymnastics to pretend otherwise.  
Best we can do: if you don't agree with a committed same-sex relationship, don't have one. Don't demand everyone bless it. Allow those who agree to bless it to do so.' Mike, commenting here at ADU
'Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.' from p. 98 of this TEC material, cited by Anglican Curmudgeon.

Over in Utah, TEC's General Convention (GC) is moving in a predictable direction re changing the doctrine of marriage as understood by that member church of the Anglican Communion.(All done and dusted, today, Thursday 2 July NZ time)

Long time prophetic spokesman and energetic activist for change, Louie Crew's comment is a reminder of the intense belief of many Episcopalians that where they are heading is led by none other than the Holy Spirit.

The words highlighted by Anglican Curmudgeon raise the question whether the Holy Spirit would be party to an invented theology of 'the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church' for nowhere in Scripture or tradition can we find any sign that 'the joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery etc.' That signification comes from the marriage of a man and a woman (Ephesians 5:22-33). I suggest that many other Anglican churches are going to baulk at TEC going that far in, frankly, distorting the text of Scripture.

The comment from Mike makes a very fair point about the ambiguity of Scripture over the possibility that same-sex relationships might be blessed (albeit the point is arguable), and offers an olive branch in respect of the possibility of being a church which permits those who agree that such relationships may be blessed to proceed to bless them while not being a church which demands that every minister must so bless. In many respects what Mike says is where my bet at the TAB would be placed for where ACANZP is going to go - albeit with recommendations yet to be published, General Synod and diocesan synods yet to deliberate, etc.

Quo vadis?

Well, rather than me wax further, I thoroughly recommend reading Jordan Hylken's report on the House of Bishop's decision, 'Marriage Redefined?'. It is both careful and considered. What do you think?

Epilogue: there will be many in the Communion who wish to say, "Enough is enough, TEC must now go." Perhaps. But could we be kind and say, 'TEC is charting new territory. Frankly it looks completely disagreeable and wrong-headed. But let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Let's think of them as undergoing a radical experiment in marriage redefinition. How about they report back to us in 2028 about how the experiment is going?'

Postscript (2 July 2015):

(1) For a different Down Under view to one I am giving here, try Margaret Mayman, Kiwi minister in Sydney, who writes in the Sydney Morning Herald.

(2) Back to Utah: The Living Church runs an interesting article about the differing treatment by the bishops of two matters related through tradition and sacrament. One one they hesitated to change and on the other they pushed, inconsistently, for change! AND, I now note that the bishops have rejected a request for a study of 'Open Communion.'

(3) For a clarion call back to our roots in the first century, go to The Gospel Side.

(4) Andrew Goddard at Psephizo poses some questions about sexual ethics in the light of same gender marriage. And the comments (especially if you recognise the names of some of the key 'players' in the UK scene) are fascinating ...

(5) Ben Irwin has four pieces of advice ...


MichaelA said...

"Epilogue: there will be many in the Communion who wish to say, "Enough is enough, TEC must now go"."

Perhaps, but consider:

Those in the communion who have given up on Canterbury as any sort of arbiter of the Communion will not say this, because for them TEC is already gone. They don't have communion with the leaders of TEC already, and the invitation for TEC to be restored to communion if it repents has always been open, and will remain so.

Those who do see Canterbury as a central point in the communion might say "TEC must now go" but they are wasting their breath. Canterbury works on money, and TEC contributes money to the Anglican Communion, therefore any calls for TEC to be removed or even disciplined will not be heeded. Of course, such calls will be listened to gravely and earnest assurances will be given, just nothing will actually happen.

"How about they report back to us in 2028 about how the experiment is going?"

What is the point of that? Those that agree with it will say it has been wonderful, and those who disagree will say it has been terrible - based on the same set of facts. Yes, TEC's decline will continue and it may even accelerate as happened at the time of VGR's consecration in 2003. But none of that will make any difference, just as it didn't then.

And what is the significance of 2028 anyway? Surely you don't mean the Lambeth Conference? That has been rendered meaningless along with the rest of the "instruments of Communion" because ABC won't hold it unless it does what Canterbury wants, and those days are gone. Thus everyone can see that nothing the conference discusses or decides means anything. Lambeth Conference is in the dust-bin of history.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael
2028 is the date when one previously would have expected a Lambeth Conference to happen.
I'll be nearly 70 then so if I leave it any longer I might have given up on blogging :)
But we could give them a little longer to grow or decline, so how about 2030?
It would also give more time for ACNA to grow!

Kurt said...

MichaelA is quite correct. The Archbishop of Canterbury will do nothing. The Church of England will do nothing. If anything, the ABC's recent statement on the issue was quite mild. And what of the statements of the primates of Nigeria and Uganda? Or the Archbishop of Sydney? Who cares? Certainly most Western Anglicans couldn't care less, and most progressive Western Christians couldn't care either.

On a more upbeat note, this month marks the 450th anniversary of the first readings of the Anglican Divine Service in what would became the USA. In late July of 1565 the English Commodore John Hawkins and the ships under his command, sailed to La Caroline, the French Florida colony composed of Huguenots (French Protestants), for rest and recreation from their plundering of the Spanish. It was likely aboard these ships anchored on the St. John’s River that the first Anglican religious services in what was to become the United States took place.

Hawkins was a devout churchman and he had issued standing orders that religious services be said twice daily aboard the ships of his squadron. The Anglicans spent three or four days anchored before the town where they traded with the Huguenots for cannon and gunpowder, exchanging much needed foodstuffs in return. Some of the Anglican services may have taken place in the Huguenot chapel ashore.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Both Curmudgeon and MichaelA! not too surprising your comments on this latest liberalisation tactic by TEC?

While trying to understand your negativity about this initiative, may I just point out that TEC is only being prophetic in the way that some of us would consider to be entirely necessary, in order that the Western Provinces of our beloved Anglican Communion might be considered to be capable of dealing with the newly discovered enlightenment on the understanding of human sexuality in our modern world.

Homosexuals, and homosexuality, are not going to disappear. The Church needs to come to terms with the realities -not from the fossilised views of human, God-given sexuality, but from the wisdom of modern science and hermeneutic.

While can try to understand the traditional, conservative, view, one can no longer close one's eyes to reality on the ground.

MarcA said...

As far as I can see the C of E has not broken communion with the Nordic Churches of the Poorvoo over the ss issue. How exactly would the C of E formally break communion with another Church I wonder? In Nigeria it seems to be simply the voice of the Primate with the rest of the bishops in tow. In the C of E it could hardly be by archiepiscopal fiat or a resolution of the House of Bishops.Synod? Then by simple majority or vote by houses....?? ...In New Zealand ?? Australia would be interesting because of Sydney.I imagine a TEC clergyman would find it difficult to get a job/licence or PTO there
Perry Butler...Canterbury.

Father Ron Smith said...

The reality is: Is marriage being hereby 'Re-Defined' or merely extended? Marriage is no longer confined to thr procreational capability of the partners. Loving monogamous faithfulness is a most important feature of the requisite condition for the partnership - as is the recipe for the Marriage Feast of the Lamb. (No sexual component required).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and any other Anglo-Catholics reading here!
I suggest (very strongly) that what TEC is doing, via the words from the trial rite cited above, goes well beyond 'extending' the definition of marriage.
The emboldened words offer a representational interpretation of husband and wife. They imply that Paul didn't mean literally husband and wife but intended those words to represent any two people making an agreement of mutual fidelity.
But what do Anglo-Catholics say about the phrase 'This is my body'? Anglo-Catholic teaching is that these words are representational. The bread IS the body of Christ, it does not represent it.
So, Anglo-Catholics must conclude that TEC is doing more than extending the definition of marriage, it is also redefining it, away from literal meaning as per Scripture, to be something else. And that should trouble Anglo-Catholics. But it may not trouble the Zwinglians among us!

Anonymous said...

'The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church'

Says who?

This, despite all my personal experience, is why I can't accept gay marriage. The Scriptures give us a rich theology of what heterosexual marriage is, including the words in Ephesians (misquoted above) which point to the union of husband and wife representing the union of Christ and his Church. But it's husband and wife. To just amend it to 'two people' is to twist the scriptures.

I'm sympathetic to the desire for blessings for same-sex unions because of what Ron says earlier on - we just know more nowadays about the phenomenon of homosexuality, and with new scientific knowledge comes new responsibilities for us Christians (we cannot read Genesis 1 and 2 nowadays as our reformation forebears did, for instance). But establishing gay marriage carries the danger that there will now be no distinct state of life described by the scriptures which the Church has traditionally used to describe lifelong heterosexual marriage - the 'two will become on flesh' texts in Genesis, the gospels and Ephesians, and Paul's analogy of Christ and his Church, referred to above. This is not just extension, Ron - this is redefinition.

Anonymous said...

Surely what we did yesterday was more than cross a line, it was a category shift. We moved from "generous pastoral response" (a move whose impulse I respect), to endorsing as doctrine and protecting as canon a new model for human relationships. Whether you identify as evangelical or anglo-catholic, this is an unprecedented move...not just for the Episcopal Church, but for the Body of Christ, any time, any where, ever.

The most troubling aspect is that it was fought as "a move of the Holy Spirit," to quote several bishops and deputies, and "a justice issue," to quote others. If this is a move of God and about justice, it means that, regardless of the current canonical assurances otherwise, a call to "burn the witch" and purge clergy who will not teach this new "witness of the Spirit" cannot be far off.

Make no mistake, this is a movement led by puritans who will not tolerate dissent for long. We have many diocese' where anything short of unambiguous endorsement of same-sex marriage prevents someone from being put forth for ordination. That will progressive fundamentalism will grow...even as our churches continue to shrink.

Father Ron Smith said...

And now - TEC gives evidence of her true nature as a prophetic voice in the Anglican Communion, with another first: the first Black Presiding Bishop. Despite the reactionary comments of the 20 dissenting bishops, TEC is moving forward in the battle against homophobia, mysogyny, sexism and racial prejudice. Thanks be to God for the majority vote in the General Convention!

Janice said...

Edmund Campion had some interesting things to say regarding claims that innovations were responses to the 'movement' or 'witness' of the Holy Spirit. His critique would be amusing if it weren't so depressing.

This is from the first of his "Ten Reasons".

I would ask them what right they have to rend and mutilate the body of the Bible. They would answer that they do not cut out true Scriptures, but prune away supposititious accretions. By authority of what judge? By the Holy Ghost. This is the answer prescribed by Calvin (Instit. lib. I, c. 7), for escaping this judgment of the Church whereby spirits of prophesy are examined. Why then do some of you tear out one piece of Scripture, and others another, whereas you all boast of being led by the same Spirit? The Spirit of the Calvinists receives six Epistles which do not please the Lutheran Spirit, both all the while in full confidence reposing on the Holy Ghost. The Anabaptists call the book of Job a fable, intermixed with tragedy and comedy. How do they know? The Spirit has taught them. Whereas the Song of Solomon is admired by Catholics as a paradise of the soul, a hidden manna, and rich delight in Christ, Castalio, a lewd rogue, has reckoned it nothing better than a love-song about a mistress, and an amorous conversation with Court flunkeys. Whence drew he that intimation? From the Spirit. In the Apocalypse of John, every jot and tittle of which Jerane declares to bear some lofty and magnificent meaning, Luther and Brent and Kemnitz, critics hard to please, find something wanting, and are inclined to throw over the whole book. Whom have they consulted? The Spirit. Luther with preposterous heat pits the Four Gospels one against another (Praef. in Nov. Test.), and far prefers Paul's Epistles to the first three, while he declares the Gospel of St. John above the rest to be beautiful, true, and worthy of mention in the first place,—thereby enrolling even the Apostles, so far as in him lay, as having a hand in his quarrels. Who taught him to do that? The Spirit. Nay this imp of a friar has not hesitated in petulant style to assail Luke's Gospel because therein good and virtuous works are frequently commended to us. Whom did he consult? The Spirit. Theodore Beza has dared to carp at, as a corruption and perversion of the original, that mystical word from the twenty-second chapter of Luke, this is the chalice, the new testament in my blood, which (chalice) shall be shed for you [Greek: potaerion ekchunomenon], because this language admits of no explanation other than that of the wine in the chalice being converted into the true blood of Christ. Who pointed that out? The Spirit. In short, in believing all things every man in the faith of his own spirit, they horribly belie and blaspheme the name of the Holy Ghost. So acting, do they not give themselves away? are they not easily refuted? In an assembly of learned men, such as yours, Gentlemen of the University, are they not caught and throttled without trouble? Should I be afraid on behalf of the Catholic faith to dispute with these men, who have handled with the utmost ill faith not human but heavenly utterances?

Bryden Black said...

Regarding the ‘hope’ of “comprehensiveness”, especially in light of the Covenant article by Jordan Hylden which is excellent, I have to ask this question, Peter: on what is it premised? For if there is already no hope for any secular CEO of an American corporation retaining their job should they object to “equality marriage”, then why should religious organizations in the US get any dispensation to the contrary? For (some of) the Supreme Court judges have already made it very clear “religious freedom” in this regard will sooner rather than later carry little weight. Long term then it is a vain hope, frankly. And if so in the US, on what grounds will it be any different here? For we have already seen “Civil Unions” become legally “marriages” ahead of USA.

Anonymous said...

Peter, the delusion of grandeur on the new TEC revelation aside, I wonder whether someone actually needs to use the "h" word, which I appreciate we would normally want to avoid. Do we not have a duty to correct those in egregious error, whether they accept it or not? Christians should not stand by and watch this aberration, it seems to me. Nobody believed the prophets, but it did not stop them speaking the truth. Indeed, Christ suffered the mockers and the hecklers as well. TEC, in my view, has made a laughing stock of the whole Christian faith. It is truly shameful.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Briefly: 'comprehensiveness': see a forthcoming post.
US then NZ? I keep saying,the USA is not NZ!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Surely you can see the irony of your words about the prophets: TEC might seem them as applying to their current message!!

Yes, I think the 'heresy' word could be part of discussion here, about the concept of 'new revelation'.

Note, generally, to commenters: it is not helpful to call people 'heretics' on this and other sites because it tends to skew discussion away from the issues at hand to ad hominem matters. So, if you wish to discuss how the new revelation is heresy, by all means do so. But do not start calling TEC members 'heretics' (or commenters here supporting TEC's new revelation) as that might lead to the DElETE button being pushed!

If you are going to describe the new revelation as heresy, please briefly explain why you think it is heresy and not heterodoxy or orthodoxy.

Anonymous said...

Peter, of course it can be argued both ways, but you are assuming that both sides have something valuable to say. To your credit, you do.


Bryden Black said...

Peter @ 3rd July, 4:13 PM
You may indeed be saying it Peter and desiring it to be so .... Yet such are the hurricane winds of the Zeitgeist that it will become inevitable, frankly ...[no ref to who I might support or not support in the rugby!] To think otherwise might just be a wee bit naive long-term.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
The Zeitgeist blowing through the States includes gusts which stem from the days of slavery.
We have different historic gusts blowing here and thus I feel emboldened to say that the USA Zeitgeist will not necessarily blow in precisely the same way Down Under.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Bryden; might I remind you of the Scriptural injunction: "Perfect love casts out fear!"

Even 'Zeitgeist' is the product of God's creation. As are all the forms of human love - including eros. ( Oh dear, whatever was God thinking about, when God created sexual yearnings, in the lives of many humans unable, or unwilling to procreate?)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
There are many sexual yearnings experienced by humanity.
It is fallacious ascribing them all to God's plan for creation.
Otherwise we would have to say that God is responsible for the sexual desire of adults for children.
I suggest what we are debating as a church is how we work out sexual ethics in the light of both creation and fall, not solely in the light of creation.

Bryden Black said...

To reinforce Peter's point Ron, and to
Paint it starkly. How do we discern the Zeitgeist of say Germany in the 1930s or The USSR in the 1930s, and that of the USA in 1960s with MLK's marches and his "dream"? For the whole point of the Christian theology of creation, as opposed to a strict Vedanta one, is NOT to confuse good and evil.
Love casts out fear ala 1 Jn 4 precisely because of love's unique victory in "the true Messiah", as opposed to false ones, over darkness and evil and falsehood. That's why we are encouraged to be unafraid (ala JP2); not because of some amorphous 'zeitgeist' of human imaginings....

Father Ron Smith said...

Perfect LOVE casts out Fear. Only God is capable of such love. Though Jesus did say that his disciples would be recognisable by the love that they are capable of - not by their fear of other people's way of loving, which may differ from their own instinctive understsnding. Jesus did overturn many a traditional shibboleth, and suffered for that!