Friday, February 10, 2017

Good news and good news

ACANZP is (of course) a weird and wonderful church. The weirdness mostly refers to people like me obsessively blogging, Tweeting, etc :)

The wonderfulness pertains to all sorts of people, projects and stories.

Here, for instance, is a lovely good news story of a young man coming to Christ at a recent New Wine conference.

Then there is good news of our church making progress on its Way Forward (here, here and here).


Bryden Black said...

One wonders whether there might be in the future of our church - and/or this blog - the sorts of news that we have from say:

For here is another form of Good News, as a House of Bishops wrestles with their calling amidst a cacophony of voices. And given the reactions of some of those more forceful voices, perhaps they're doing well! All power to them and prayers too! May our own bishops take a leaf out of their Book. And the SWG also factor in our own authentic episcopal nature - dreaming?!

Father Ron said...

The sort of News generated by FULCRUM - commended here by Bryden - is not considered 'Good News' by those whose lives have been talked about by the committee of C.of E. Bishops in their Report of the 'Conversation on Human Sexuality', while yet being summarily dismissed by the FULCRUM.

On the other hand, the thought that our own ACANZP is prepared to actually "Move Forward" on the issue of Inclusivism of LGBTI persons within the Body of Christ seems to me a true Gospel initiative. I pray that our own Bishops have will have been more prepared to listen and to learn from those whose experience of discrimination by the Church has led us to this point in the history of our beloved Anglican Communion.

This Province of the communion has led before on matters of social concern - like the recognition of women as equal bearers of the Image and Likeness of God; wherein their ministry as priests and bishops was deemed acceptable and recognized alongside that of men in our Church - long before the Church of England. Maybe our ACANZP leadership, at GS2018 will help the Mother Church to move foward on this important matter of common human justice.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron and Bryden
I imagine none of us wish to propagate an unjust church.

Nor, I imagine, do the goodly bishops of the CofE or our own working group. Yet a just church must do justice to all the saints, past, present and future, as well as to the teaching which both founds the church and edifies it. How we are "just" in every sense is our challenge.

I realise that to a certain degree it could be easily met by extending our understanding of marriage from man/woman to any two people (your proposal Ron, cf. vigorous voices critiquing the CofE bishops' report).

Yet we are far from unified as Anglican provinces (of a Western disposition) to say nothing of the whole Communion on such change. Would we create a different kind of injustice if we do not do justice to the teaching we have inherited? (And, by not doing that teaching justice, unjustly exclude those who hold to it?) Can we have "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian persons without changing our teaching on marriage? Do we, in fact, need two quite different forms of "Anglican" churches to offer the degree of justice which divided groupings seek?

On the whole I see the CofE bishops' report as more alert to these challenges and thus to the many aspects of being a (wholly) just church than other proposals on the table.

Father Ron said...

Speaking of a 'Way forward'; even The guardian reports the phenomenon of 14 Retired Bishops protesting at the English H.o.B.'s Report as being static and unworthy of the original purpose of the recent 'Conversation in the C. of E.

These are bishops who have borne the heat and burden of the day on the issue, no doubt hoping that, by now, in the wake of legally-sanctioned 'Equal Marriage' in Britain and Wales, the Church might have wakened up to a new reality, meeting it with charity and pastoral openness; to a situation that celebrates fidelity and monogamy in sexual relationships - instead of the more abusive culture of promiscuity for both straights and gays that is not conducive to the common good, either in civil or religious society.

Father Ron said...

" Can we have "full inclusion" of gay and lesbian persons without changing our teaching on marriage?"

Peter, I don't think even the most committed Gay Couples would want a change to the doctrine of Heterosexual Marriage. What might better suit the reality of today's situation would be a Form of Church Blessing (or Marriage) that would recognise the human good inherent in a faithful, monogamous, commitment of two persons to remain together for the rest of their lives - in accordance with the law of the land. Is that too much to ask?

I suspect, though, that the people who threaten to split from the Church should such relationships become acceptable to the Church; would not be open to such an arrangement that would ensure ACANZP's future cohesion. I feel the ball is in their court, with regard to the possibility of schism.

Bryden Black said...

Once more we’ve a fascinating revelation of what is truly at play here in these discussions/debates, when we pause a while over both Ron’s and Peter’s comments. And I mean notably when we pause to parse carefully the characteristic phrases and expressions of both sets of comments and the assumptions which are characteristically veiled when they are mostly used. For ease of reference of the sorts of things I mean and wish to have highlighted, finally see my earlier comments on an earlier thread:

Monday, January 30, 2017. The Doctrine of Marriage 2017: the C of E bishops have spoken! [Updated] February 1, 2017 at 5:39 PM

At risk of revealing my own bottom-line set of assumptions, gleaned over 30+ years, I’d venture this thought experiment, along the lines of CS Lewis’s Screwtape:

“Congratulations Wormwood! You and your associates have done a most commendable job these past few years in applying the most basic tool of Our Father Below. Your constant promotion of words and phrases taken from the language of the Enemy and yet spiced with just the right amount of our own Father’s key ‘language’ has ensured a most marvelous confusion. The battle of hearts and minds is almost won, in both society and even that most reprehensible body the Church. And if it were not for those pesky, primitive types who simply are unable to know better, we’d have won this particular battle for sure—having completely and utterly routed our Enemy’s most precious and idiosyncratic icon of His Image.

So; dear Wormwood. Thank you, but do not rest on your laurels. There are more seeds of confusion still to be sown. And above all else, avoid at all cost the Enemy’s friends being able to think and argue more clearly and reasonably about the very form of words they employ. That way lies defeat. It undoes quite quickly Our Father Below’s best of intentions to veil His version of Truth. More ‘lemon juice’, dear nephew, in their very thought processes, to curdle their vocabulary. I remain your affectionate uncle.”

BrianR said...

It is a very curious letter - rambling in the lazy style of the old-fashioned English university common room and rather mannered - evidently written by one (Selby, I suspect) but signed by fourteen retired liberal bishops who are already on record as wanting to introduce the novelty of same-sex marriage into the Christian Church. That they do not say so openly in this letter may simply be a tactical matter. But look at this passage:
“Our experience would lead us to doubt whether there was an expectation around that canons and doctrinal statements would be changed within any reasonable timescale, and that focus seems to have taken far more time than it would have done if the authentic voices of lesbian and gay people had been allowed to express the major focus of their hopes.”
Sir Humphrey couldn’t have said it better. In other words, they thought the ‘Shared Conversations’ – foisted on deaneries and whose participants were overwhelmingly in favour of change (as a participant in these on the ‘Cranmer’ blogsite notes) – was just a means to securing same-sex marriage in a long war of attrition – and they are dismayed it didn’t quite work out as hoped – or at least not now. (Who, after all, initiated these ‘shared conversations’ and why?) So how do they respond? They fault the failure of the HOB to 'reflect the tone of the discussions’ or to hear ‘the authentic voice’ of those who want to change Church Law on marriage. But that entirely misses the point. If they want a transcript of these ‘shared conversations’ (a curious term – a conversation by definition is ‘shared’) they should look elsewhere. This letter is just a rambling distraction that doesn’t have the courage to say what it really wants.

Father Ron said...

In the meantime: Not such Good News from the Church of England:

Father Ron said...

Bryden. What exactly, are you trying to say here? So many words for so little sense!

Anonymous said...

"...this important matter of common human justice."

Father Ron, I would be much obliged to you for an explanation of something in your position that has never made clear sense to me: how is it *not just* that Christians do not celebrate something that they do not have any religious beliefs about? Or conversely, how is SSB so bound up with the salvation of the world in Jesus Christ that all Christians so necessarily have a belief about it that they are unjustly refusing to celebrate? I beg your forgiveness for the length of my explanation of this question. I fear that you may not otherwise understand my perplexity.

At a certain point, religion stops. The Church has uses for some bread and wine (but not all), invites some wholesome self-disciplines (but not others), and prays in certain well-chosen words (but not all of them). Only in a few conditions illumined by scripture, or at least tradition, do good things have some religious meaning that invites a religious observance. Athletic prowess, good cooking, well-written verse, etc are all wonderful things, but scarcely anyone has seriously urged that exemplary athletes, chefs, or poets should be canonised by the Church.

But you know-- everyone knows-- how the people of Cockaigne love their croquet tournaments. They are so notoriously the obsession of the land, especially in the north, that nobody was surprised when a certain eccentric bishop began canonising the croquet champions of his diocese. But the practise came under closer scrutiny when croquet fans bitterly complained that players of other dioceses who were no less great had not been given the same pious honours by the Church. A movement of the outraged began to campaign for the General Synod to require that all great croquet players of Cockaigne be canonised as saints.

The matter is still debated, but the sticking point is that nobody can say just what it means for the Church to do that. Proponents of canonisation for croquet champions do not believe in heaven or saints, and see canonisation as simple homage, the Church's way of saying that someone is a celebrity. Ask why croquet is actually all that important in salvation-history, or whether it makes any sense to canonise a living person, and fans of the sport can become quite cool. For them, canonisation is as secularised as the tobacco that our Indians here once reserved for a sacred rite. Why should some have cigarettes and others not, just because they do not feel especially peaceful?

Meanwhile, some opponents of canonisation plainly do detest cricket, but that is a secondary issue. More importantly, all the opponents actually do believe in both heaven and saints, and so they are sincerely puzzled that anyone wants to celebrate the post-mortal residence with Christ of a living man who is still playing croquet exceptionally well as the admiring crowd around him excitedly eats cucumber sandwiches. And they are annoyed that proponents accuse them of unjustly refusing to do something that they cannot form a clear intention of doing.

Anonymous said...


Returning now to marriage, the difference between the two sexes runs through much of the creation, not least the human part of it, and the reconciliation of men and women in Christ has been taught in much of the Church since at least late antiquity. For example, St Maximus famously describes every life in Christ as one which in which He reconciles God and creation, things invisible and things visible, heaven and earth, paradise and world, man and woman. Those who have a salvation-historical belief like that can readily see why a church might see a more than private significance in the wedding of a man and a woman and celebrate that significance in a more than private way (eg in the East, a priest *in persona Christi* crowns the couple with crowns and leads them in a circle three times under the face of Christ in the dome above them.).

But proponents of SSB in churches like ours do not believe anything of the kind. Rather they resemble those cricket fans in Cockaigne in so passionately believing in a ceremony uprooted from its earlier meaning. Because they no longer believe what the rite of marriage used to mean in the West, they see no reason for the old beliefs to place any limitation on how they celebrate it now. To their ears, saying that some can have celebrations and others not sounds like unjust discrimination. For some reason, it is easier for them to imagine that others harbour deep hatreds than ancient convictions.

Yet some in our churches retain the old beliefs, and these sound like the pious opponents of canonisation in Cockaigne. Or like the Indians for whom tobacco is still a sacred herb that was profaned by its commercialisation. Some of them may detest homosexuality, but their greater objection is simply that, as Christians, they only celebrate **in church** what has some place in salvation-history and SSB has no such meaning for them to celebrate. To avoid the charge of being unjust, they would seem to have to find a new belief about salvation-history in which SSB had a prominent place. But then they would not be Christians. Is it just to insist that they change?

Bowman Walton

Father Ron said...

Bowman, you ask why should conservatives in the Church continue with an openness to Gays when they don't have 'a belief' about such a thing. The point is, that Shawn, Bryden and others on this site actually (from evidence here) DO have a belief about same sex relationshops: that they should not be encouraged. A negative belief is still 'a belief'. My own belief is based on the divine provenance and God's merciful love of all humanity - regardless of their innate sexual orientation and wants all to flourish.

Bryden Black said...

Well Ron; either one gets it or one doesn't. Explain it, and like explaining a joke, the joke is ruined.... And ruination is Screwtape's raison d'etre.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Father Ron, I am only just now seeing your brief, but thoughtful and clear reply to my comment just above. I hope that more attentive readers have given it due attention. Alas, I cannot reply as elegantly as you have done. There is some backstory to be told first.

To be clear, my own centrist position is, roughly, that states and churches are different kinds of creatures according to the Word of God, and that each extreme in this debate has erred in collapsing one kind into the other in a way contrary to what has been revealed. Some readers find worlds in Romans 1, and others seem to prefer Romans 13, but both chapters are moments in the same inspired argument. We cannot deny St Paul's sobering view of society without direct knowledge of God, but neither can we use this to undercut what he says a dozen chapters later about the proper role of the state in this time between the times. As Anglicans might especially have reason to remember, both state and church have their proper authorities under Jesus Christ, but these authorities should not be confused or confounded. And that tradition may be correct which sees in their proper relation what the fathers at Chalcedon also saw in the Person of the God-Man.*

States are not churches. They resemble churches in being bodies of humanity, and they act properly in reducing stigma and social marginalisation among their citizens. Indeed, a state becomes a shadow of itself if it acts to divide the body politic against itself. Churches and believers should generally support the state in that work of being the best body that it can conceive, despite the many weaknesses of institutions supported only by common grace. For if the gospel is at least partly that the risen Christ is holding all created things together by his grace, what is the gospel interest in severing off a part of the body politic?

And churches are not states. In the New Adam, these priestly peoples represent the whole body of humanity, and indeed the whole creation, before God as Adam was meant to do. They refer the praises of creatures to the Creator, and bring mercies from Him to those creatures that anticipate a renewed creation beyond this one. A church becomes a shadow of itself if it retreats from enacting this cosmic history of salvation and thanksgiving. Indeed, as you know better than most, it is to prevent anything like such apostasy from happening that the Church meets to retell and enact that story in the eucharist until the end of time. Her pastoral care is simply the variety of ways in which she brings all sorts and conditions of persons into this history, body and soul. Obviously, states, being blind to all this, cannot ordinarily support any of it directly. But in their natural pursuit of power, and hence order, they usually do respect manifestations of the new creation on the ground. Whether the mayors of Christchurch, New York and London believe the gospel or not, their cities are ungovernable without churches that do. Someday, this will be true in Beijing and Riyadh as well.

Anonymous said...


What makes That Topic so difficult at the moment is that the two main extremes are both in error about this state-church relationship. One wishes that states were the embodiment of the new creation, and their laws indistinguishable from the discipline of churches for the regenerate. Those at this extreme cannot bring themselves to accept that the social marginalisation of sexual minorities was never right, even if what they do is wrong, and that state measures to end this deserve from churches the general support we give to any other measure that better integrates the body politic (eg rehabilitation of ex-felons). Put another way, my friends on the right extrapolate from the blind state's natural tendency to punish disorder, which is often evil to regenerate eyes, a further duty of the state to enforce the Church's discipline for the regenerate, which is intrinsically impossible. States are not churches.

The other extreme struggles to see any difference between the Body of Christ and a good body politic. It wishes that churches were unified by political acts like those of states, sees synods as analogous to parliaments, and imagines that virtuous churchmanship is simply the tolerant pragmatism of statesmen. Often this wish is defended with a vision for churches in which they are just instruments by which the state achieves the compliance of society. Application: the states having included sexual minorities, it is now the duty of churches to rally societies to comply by making themselves exemplars of an inclusive body politic. Maybe. But tinkering with the theology and celebration of marriage as TEC did is just the sort of backing away from the history of salvation that reduces churches to shadows of themselves. The Church's inner pastoral concern for each differentiated sex and for the two reciprocally related arises from the history of salvation itself from Genesis 1-3 to Revelations 20-21. Nor is this a matter mainly of the way one reads the Six Texts. If one believes in the first article of the creeds, then one praises and thanks the Father for a created order in which life as we know it is rather deeply sexed. How is a rejection of that order not a rejection of the Creator? States and statists understand none of this, of course. But again, churches are not states.

In the Church, those to my right are tacitly though unintentionally supporting stigma and marginalisation that are undeniably destructive in human lives. From them we could hear more about active means of showing God's love to sexual minorities who suffer, as we all do, effects of the Fall and the angst of waiting in this time between the times. Those to my left are collapsing the inner order of the Church into the civil norms of the state as though the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement in the US were the true cosmic *heilsgeschichte*. From them we could hear more about where the Church discovers, independently of politics, the vision of redeemed humanity that informs her evangelism, missions, and cure of souls. The churchly right is effectively cruel; the churchly left is effectively totalitarian.

Anonymous said...


Fear of the Lord and repentance of sin would be wise for us all. Nothing in my personal experience of conservative Anglicans suggests that they have some implacable personal hatred of homosexuals, whether single or in couples. And indeed most of the conservatives here have at some point or the other expressed due compassion for persons attracted to the same sex. Still, on the web at large, it has been sadly common to read comments that stumble over Galatians 22-23 in expounding Galatians 19-21 as wrathfully as the unregenerate might do.

* Anglicans will recognise the reference to Richard Hooker. The best contemporary exploration of the church and state in relation to Chalcedon is probably Kimlyn J. Bender's book Karl Barth's Christological Ecclesiology.

** In fairness, such cooperation with the state is not entirely without precedent! Certainly, the early modern Church of England did its utmost to achieve the compliance of English society with an order of things that was also enforced by the state. But apart from the fact that the order then enforced appeared to be more congruent with scripture then the medieval one, this cooperation did not-- at least not to Anglican eyes-- collapse the church as wholly into the society fashioned by the state as those ironically called liberals wish today. In later centuries, a whole spectrum of parties from Quakers to Roman Catholics have urged Anglicans to maintain a clearer distinction. Ironically, the revival of national synods in their contemporary form was at first seen as a step in that direction. Today, they are perhaps as stifling a force for social conformity as any faithless prime minister of the long eighteenth century.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

So finally, Father Ron, the more direct reply that I promised.

"Bowman, you ask why should conservatives in the Church continue with an openness to Gays when they don't have 'a belief' about such a thing."

Well, no, I explain that the history of salvation does not supply materials for constructing a significance for SSB that is analogous to the Judaic and Christian significance of weddings of men and women. Like Bryden, I see the sexes in this history mainly in such non-legal texts as Genesis 1-2, the Song of Songs, Ephesians 5, Revelations 20-21, and myriad others that fill out the picture. The ultimate problem for traditionalists is that even if the Six Texts and all legalistic arguments based on them were somehow to vanish, salvation history itself would still not give the Church a warrant to solemnise same sex unions analogous to the one that informs weddings for women and men. In fact, the ultimate problem for revisionists is precisely the same: their fervent belief in Relationships per se is applicable to states nurturing societies, but cannot supplant what Christians in churches believe about the reconciliation of man and woman in Christ.

"My own belief is based on the divine provenance and God's merciful love of all humanity - regardless of their innate sexual orientation and wants all to flourish."

Yes, the rain does fall on the just and the unjust. As a straightforward argument from common grace, your belief relates quite properly to the state. It is the sort of argument that a believer might reasonably offer his member of parliament. It also explains why civil partnerships and SSM deserve the respect of churches insofar as they support the state's work of opening social participation to all. You may even find some conservatives who will agree with your argument when it is framed that way. But in an Anglican context, we are talking about churches, and churches have their life in the history of salvation, not in the common grace given to all.

"The point is, that Shawn, Bryden and others on this site actually (from evidence here) DO have a belief about same sex relationships: that they should not be encouraged. A negative belief is still 'a belief'. "

I suspect that we will hear from one or another of them presently. When we do, we will probably not read that any of them has found a cosmic significance for same sex relationships in heilsgeschichte. Absent such a significance, they apply the Six Texts as law, and believing in the *third use of the law*, they have no choice but to advise Christians performing acts forbidden by that law to stop. These convictions do not evidence any animosity toward persons attracted to the same sex.

In a few parts of Cockaigne, bishops have disallowed solemnisation or anything like it for those with civil SSM, but they have instead encouraged something very like a Quaker wedding. Have you attended anything like that? The guests sit in a circle under the sky; they take turns offering words of reflection, encouragement, warning, and hope; the couple exchange declarations and promises; a reception follows. (Your Anglo-Catholic brethren dress it up-- apparently against episcopal instructions-- by blessing, not the couple, but their house, room by room.) At least in the minds of those bishops, solemnisation celebrates the "great mystery" being instantiated, whilst the circle attends to the spiritual needs of the couple at an important time. Of course bishops elsewhere in Cockaigne grumble that their brothers have it precisely backwards-- that it is SSM that requires a lawyerly interrogation whilst the "great mystery" requires just such a circle of believers. But that is a discussion for another day.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman,. my only defence against your lengthy argumentation here, which postulates against same-sex relationships is that; in every act of loving there is something of God. Thus living our the ancient Holy Thursday antiphon: "Where charity and love are; there is God". We're not talking here about gratuitous sexual acts with no personal commitment, but about love and commitment - where monogamous relationship (rather than promiscuity) seeks the support and Blessing of God and The Church. This is as true for homosexuals as for heterosexuals, whether argued philosophically or theologically.

BrianR said...

Once again, Ron you demonstrate the fallacy of "reasoning" without the Word of God which is the Word of Christ. You fail to reckon entirely with the mystery of maleness and femaleness in facing each other (a mystery distorted and parodied in homosexual relations and acts). You try to extract a few subjective principles without reference to the totality of Scripture and the meaning of salvation history. You dismiss biblical and theological scholarship instead of trying to understand it and acquire it in the hard and patient way, the only way in which it can be got. 'Ubi caritas Deus' is a slogan, not a doctrine. Ironically, that is why your arguments will always be modernist liberal protestant and never Catholic, which means listening to ( Heb. shma' = 'believing and obeying') Scripture and striving to understand Scripture using reason and the voice of godly tradition. Catholicism is not a matter of haberdashery or ritual but the wholeness (kath' olon) of biblical truth. Thus the Nicene party were Catholic, the Arians were not. This is exactly why in my thinking I strive to be a Catholic and not a sentimentalist. My understanding is imperfect but is always open to correction by the totality of Scripture - Scripture interpreted by Christ and His Apostles. Catholics do not cherry-pick Scripture or reduce it to 'principles' or slogans. They listen to Jesus Christ and His Apostles - they do not presume to 'correct' them. That is precisely the failing of liberal Protestantism (however it is gussied up).

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, the length of my comment above may indeed have tested the patience of some readers, and I thank you for your own. That length was necessary to bring a neglected perspective fully into a conversation where two other views have been expounded in hundreds of threads by now. Considered that way, we may think that it was very concise. Anyway, thank you for the elegance of your own cool, brief, yet substantive reply to it.

No, my comment has not "postulated against same-sex relationships." It has relegated crude all-or-nothing responses to same sex attraction to the public realm where they belong. The Church guides souls making their call and election sure on a far more personal basis. In the public realm, one can properly debate whether the value to common society of limiting state recognition to heterosexual marriage is worth the cost of marginalising sexual minorities. No matter what we think about homosexual acts as such, an affirmative answer to that question seems to be hard to defend. Since churches do not need for states to divide societies so that they can preach the gospel and cure souls, I would prefer that churches have the independence to give a clearly negative answer. But of course in our countries this debate is over for now, whatever the churches think about it.

So you need no defence against my "lengthy argumentation" above. But returning to the Anglican discussion, it would be helpful to know whether, and if so how, you distinguish the love that the church marks liturgically from the ordinary love that falls like the rain on all, just and unjust, and occasions no ritual.

Anonymous said...


To be clear, Father Ron, your argument for SSB usually seems to be this syllogism--

Major Premise: The Church should bless all good things.
Minor Premise: SSM is a good thing.
Conclusion: Therefore, the Church should bless it.

Most voices here have fixated on the Minor Premise, but my comment here is about the Major Premise and the Conclusion. Readers will not understand it if they do not keep this in mind.

About the Major Premise--

(1a) The Church does not in fact bless all good things; she blesses God for bringing them into being, sustaining them in being, and exhibiting his own excellence in them. I am very glad that there is a vine outside my window-- a vine considered metaphysically is a very spiritual sign-- but I feel certain that this one has not been blessed by anything but rain and sun. Since the Church does not ritually bless every good thing, the mere goodness of SSM, even if we posit that, does not make it clear why she should bless it.

(1b) And of course the Church sometimes blesses God for things that are indubitably bad. The psalms show us that true faith blesses the Lord for every eventuality in his providence, however terrible. You may be aware that the Byzantine patriarchs of Constantinople led processions from Haghia Sophia to pray in places in the capital where fires had burned children, earthquakes had buried families in rubble, persons had died from horrific diseases, etc.* The rite was similar to a matins (orthros) with grief and gratitude as its major themes-- psalms, scripture, explication, prayers. Readers will recognise from this that blessing is not simply a way of endorsing something as intrinsically good, yet proposals for SSB are often defended as precisely that. If there is no further argument for SSB beyond the syllogism above, then there is not yet a prima facie case for it.

About the Conclusion--

(2a) Given that our response in Christ to the goods of the world is gratitude, the eucharist would seem to be the unsurpassed ritual act with which we celebrate it. (My patristic view of the silly argument about the number of the sacraments is that, in Christ, baptism and eucharist are the two roots of an indefinite number of dependent rites.) For even goods of great worth, all that we normally do to commemorate them is to recall them to the Father in the prayers of the people. What does another ceremony add to this? How is it in Christ?

(2b) This is the difference between priestcraft and witchcraft-- ritual in Christ enacts the revealed history of salvation, knowledge of which is our religion; the ritual of the witches enacts merely personal desire without reference to either providence or salvation-history. There is a tradition that every good thing that one desires should be marked by an intentional ritual practise, but that is the *ceremonial magick* of Aleister Crowley's Order of the Golden Dawn, not the ordo of any province of the Church. Because SSB really does appear to be the enactment of merely personal desire without reference to providence or salvation-history, it is not unreasonable to ask whether what is proposed is actually *ceremonial magick* rather than a sacrament in Christ.

Anonymous said...


Now, Father Ron, I will not try to put words in your mouth as the unregenerate do; rather, I ask you yourself what you think about all of this. I am seeking the truth of a complex matter, not some win in a petty conflict of wills.

It appears to me that your strongest basic reply to all of this has been that when a love is deep, exclusive, and lifelong, then it is analogous to Christ's sacrificial love for the world, so that those qualities are the ones that distinguish a sacred love a church might celebrate from the common love that is like the rain. So, while SSM does not instantiate the reconciliation of the sexes in salvation history as MWM does (cf Ephesians 5, Revelations 20-21, etc), SSB still makes sense as a pastoral rite for those trying to live according to the way of the Christ known from scripture. Have I understood you, or do you think something else?

In my own sacramentology, I would hear such a view as a claim that SSB is similar, not to civil SSM or any MWM, but to the several churchly rites which exfoliate from baptism-- confirmation, ordination, tonsure, megaloschema, etc, and of course penance. These rites dependent on baptism have several qualities that are missing from any sort of marriage-on-demand. Among these are a recognised discipline in Christ, the mutual discernment in Christ of a soul and a pastor, and nonconformity to the world. None of the proposals for SSB that I have seen has any of these qualities, which is why I cannot support them. But that is not to deny that some new proposal for SSB that does have them could be advanced for further scrutiny.

* Some of the worst emergencies of those centuries-- mostly earthquakes-- are still commemorated in the Orthodox calendar. And who knows the future? Perhaps ACANZP too will someday process from the Cathedral of Perpetual Transition, with Bosco keeping the crucifer on course, you keeping the banners up straight in the wind, and Peter preaching a homily, all to canonise some catastrophic earthquake down under or some catastrophic election up here.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman; so many questions! And so few satisfying answers - all in the context of theology that is, at best on such questions, provisional.

When you speak of goods that exist - without the need of the blessings of the Church (whether God blesses them or not may be understood in the context of God having created them in situ); heterosexual marriage existed from the beginning of the human creation and the fact of its existence means that God has blest it. Subsequently, the bond of marriage was approved in society because of the goods it delivered - mainly children. Only when the Church decided to take marriage under its wing, providing a Liturgical setting of Church 'approval', was the institution of marriage considered by Christians to be 'Blessed' by the Church. Of course, any Christian knows that when the Church blesses anything it sets that good apart for the glory of God - although how the Church 'Blessing' of a battleship might redound to the glory of God one might wonder.

Different parts of the Church might consider a civil marriage that is not celebrated within the liturgical setting of their Church to be (for them) a 'second-class' marriage. However, society (and even the Anglican Church) will recognise such marriage as validly contracted. My daughter and her partner - blessed with a child, my grand-daughter - has not received the benefit of either a Civil Ceremony or a Church Blessing. My wife and I, however, believe it to be blessed by God - simply because of its fruitfulness in relationship. What the Church does, is witness to a state that is contracted by the two people concerned - even the R. C. Church admits to this reality.

By the same token, I believe that a loving monogamous same-sex relationship, recognised by the law of the land, can be Blessed by God - even if not by the Church. What advocates like myself are hopeful of, is that our Church will come to recognise the 'Good' involved in such a relationship - offering the same liturgical welcome as for other faithful couples.

Glen Young said...

So is an adultarous relationship blessed by God if it is "fruitful"????

Andrei said...

"By the same token, I believe that a loving monogamous same-sex relationship, recognised by the law of the land, can be Blessed by God - even if not by the Church."

The idea of a "loving monogamous ... relationship" is Mills and Boon stuff Fr Ron

That is not real life in this fallen world - in terms of marriage it is what we strive for and many of us can approach asymptotically with a lot of hard work and rocky patches along the way in most cases

The reality of the 21st century West is that marriage is in crisis with at least a third of marriages ending in divorce and the majority of people not even bothering to marry anymore and those that do usually after many years of living together and often after having children together

Even our future sovereign and his consort cohabited before "tying the knot" a term that makes me shudder

The first same sex couple to marry in Massachusetts, the two women who were among those who took the matter to court and won the "right to "marry" in that State were divorced in less than two years

And I'm fairly sure that a similar thing happened here

Marriage as we received it from our forefathers is the bedrock of civilization because the foundation forming of well adjusted socialized people is to raise them in a stable family environment with their parents and siblings

Marriage is not all hearts and roses, Fr Ron, it is hard work, struggles and often disappointments - which is why in the Orthodox view it is seen as one way of working towards salvation

Drop the Mills and Boons narrative, it is a fantasy

Father Ron said...

Glen Young said...

"So is an adultarous (sic) relationship blessed by God if it is "fruitful"???"

I don't think God actually blesses adultery, Glen; but don't you think he may bless the child - simply because of its creation through no fault of its own?

If God does not bless the fruits of 'sin', then are we all accursed!

Father Ron said...

Glen Young said...

"So is an adultarous (sic) relationship blessed by God if it is "fruitful"???"

God does NOT bless adultery, Glen. However, may He not bless the child that is the natural product of that particular sin? If not, then are we all accursed!

Your comment has nothing to do with monogamous same-sex relationships.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
One response to the exchange above is to ask whether there is an objective difference between a man and a woman marrying (providing they are not within the degrees of consanguinity), a man having a long affair with a woman not his wife and producing children via that mistress, a brother and a sister marrying each other, and a man marrying a man?

Supplementary question: if it could be said that all four relationships are fruitful, what would the measure of fruitfulness be?

Your own determination that God does not bless adultery strikes me as a singularly objective criterion to apply in judgment to a relationship and thus I suggest we are agreed that such objective criterion enter discussion of blessed and non-blessed relationships. From whence does your criterion that adultery is not blessed derive?

Father Ron said...

Yes, Peter. Of course there are both objective and subjective differences:

1: Man and mistress relationship: Sinful

2: Brother and Sister: Both illegal and Sinful.

3. Same-Sex marriage: Legal and (I would say) provided Faithful, not Sinful.

n.b. All adulterous relationships may be accounted Sinful; whether hetero or homosexual. The sin is against the Marriage partner. Faithfulness in Marriage is high on my priorities as the ideal relationship of two people.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
(1) Agreed and the Bible agrees
(2) Agreed and the Bible agrees
(n.b.) Agreed: marriage supposes an agreement to be faithful to each other and adultery shatters that agreement.
(3) Legal (in some countries), agreed. "(I would say) provided Faithful, not Sinful": I notice that your "I" figures in your answer and no appeal to the Bible or Tradition!

Glen Young said...


My comment re "adultarous relationships was made to draw a parallel between them and same sex relationships, in that both of them fall outside of God's intended state of being for mankind.It is necessary in the first instance,to draw a distinction between any blessing which God may bestow on the relationship; with that, of any children of that relationship.(see 2 Sam. 12/14.)

However,this is simply a distraction away from the core issue of God's intended plan and purpose,for making "man" in His "image and likeness".This simple statement lifts "man" out of the rest of creation into a special order.What is true of the animal kingdom is not true for man.This is the basic distortion of Darwinism.Unlike human sexuality,animal reproduction is not a joining together by God.

God instigated an "ordained order" for the mankind :"What therefore God hath joint together,let no man put asunder".Matt 19/6. The joining together is at a SPIRITUAL level AND NOT A PHYSICAL LEVEL.Whether we wish to accept or not;
we are Spiritually joint to every partner we have had sex with.Christ took it even further,saying:"....That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery in his heart".Matt 5/28.

I do not see any provisions for same sex relationships in His creation plan.

Father Ron said...

".Unlike human sexuality,animal reproduction is not a joining together by God"
- Glen Young -

Then, by whom are the animal kingdom given their capacity for procreation? By the Devil, do you think?

I think you will find, Glen, by careful perusal of the Creation stories in Genesis that God created everything that exists. Perhaps you need to 'Go back to the Bible' on this issue and maybe some others in question. The innate sexuality of animals is akin to that of humans - as far as procreation is concnered. To think otherwise is to miss the point of God's gift: procreation.

Glen Maxwell Young said...

If you had considered my statements in the light in which they were intended,
you may have understood,that my central point is that "MAN IS NOT AN ANIMAL".
Anyone who does not comprehend that needs to reread the Scriptures.Of course,God is the origin,sustainance and conclusion of all things,both seen and unseen.

But,in this physical creation(?),man and man alone,stands in an order of their own.Their coming together,man and woman,is both a physical and a spiritual act ordained of God.In it,a spirit to spirit bond occurs, which God reinforces.Any human sex act outside of God's intended order,leads to
spirit to spirit bondageing. Hence the prohibition in Matt.19:"he whom God hath joint together,let no man put asunder".Man can not undo the spiritual union which occurs in sexual activity outside the ordained order of God.But Jesus can:John 8/1."Go ye and sin no more".

Quite simply,all same sex activity is outside God's created norms and forms spiritual bondageing.

Rosemary Behan said...

God made man in His image ..

"Quite simply,all same sex activity is outside God's created norms,"

Of course, otherwise we're saying that God is gay!!!!. or maybe AC/DC?

Father Ron said...

In response to Rosemary, we know from Scripture that God, in Christ, became 'fully human'. The question might be: "Does that mean that God is only male?"
Or is God; as is indicated by Mother Julian, capable of being rendered as "Father, Mother, God"? I'm afraid I'm more in favour of Mother Julian's appellation that that of the sexists; whether male or female. This leads to a much better understand of christ's redemption of the whole human race. His humanity can be represented by all gender types - all created in "the Image and Likeness of God".

Father Ron said...

For Glen and Rosemary; this link will just take one minute of your time:

This is by a Bishop of the Church of England, about to meet his Maker!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters
Let's go carefully, shall we, re humanity made in the image of God?
(1) I do not think animal or human procreation has much in common with how God creates life (not least, God is not a male god with a female goddess as counterpart, spawning the created world, as per various ancient stories).
(2) The image of God born in each of us is not about our biological make up (and gender consequent on that) but about our capacity for relationship, rationality and responsibility for decisions we make. In that sense we are like God and animals are not like God in that sense.
(3) Yet born in the image of God does not mean we are perfect/complete/the best God intends us to be. The journey from conception to life beyond the gate of glory is the journey of being perfected. Whether we emphasise redemption with Western Christianity or divinization with Eastern Christianity, we recognise that something is not right with ourselves: we need rescue from our fallenness, healing for our damaged souls and remedy for ills which beset us.
(4) As made in the image of God creatures, Scripture affirms that humanity is made "male and female." Whatever that means for maleness and femaleness within the Creator, the intention of God is that our humanity is binary, we are male or female. That gift of gender difference is precisely the gift which enables God's created humanity to continue to create humanity.
(5) A person who identifies as neither male nor female or as female longing to become male or vice versa (or ... or ...) or as a male desiring males or as a female desiring females is no less made in the image of God than any other person, see (2) above.
(6) Every person, according to Scripture, is invited by God to journey according to (3) above.
(7) Can any person say that God has made us just the way we are, without need of any improvement?
(8) Certainly not me!

Anonymous said...

Peter, a non-rhetorical, exegetical question about your comment.

Are we quite clear that that Genesis is not saying that it is humanity-- as distinct from particular persons-- that is the image of God in the temple built in Genesis 1?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"(1) Major Premise: The Church should bless all good things.
"(2) Minor Premise: SSM is a good thing.
"(3) Conclusion: Therefore, the Church should bless it. "

Father Ron, have I not predicted that the other commentators would go on and on about your Minor Premise?--

(2) SSM is a good thing.

Poor Peter's comment threads are columns of a newspaper where the reporters are always announcing to us all that they still believe-- and are eager to demonstrate yet again!-- that the sun still rises daily and gravity still pulls apples to the ground.

A better discussion-- less predictable, more profitable-- is about your Major Premise. You will be relieved to read that it probably sharpens to just one question.

"Of course, any Christian knows that when the Church blesses anything it sets that good apart for the glory of God..." That is your Major Premise--

(1) The Church should bless all good things.

--and I do not believe it. Rather, what any child of Abraham, Jewish or Christian, should know is--

(a) blessing the Creator for all things, whether apparently good or bad, in recognition of our dependence on his fatherly providence (creative, sustaining, and governing) which serves the End of all things.
(b) blessing God for his acts in the canonical salvation history.
(c) blessing things and individuals with respect to their place in that salvation history. [In fairness, your reference to "setting apart" for the "glory of God" could be construed in a sense equivalent to (c), if by "glory of God" you mean the manifestation of his nature in salvation history. But even so, the discussion still sharpens to the same question.]

In our daily prayers, a fascinating example of all three is the Magnificat.

So now, as in all lively newspapers, a puzzle.

Anonymous said...



Which classes of things on this list can properly be blessed by a church in the main tradition?

(i) all bread which is to be consecrated in eucharists.

(ii) all hounds which are to chase foxes.

(iii) all red meat to be consumed after an Easter Vigil.

(iv) all warships to be used to intimidate or destroy enemies.

(v) all rings celebrating the reconciliation of man and woman in the new creation.

(vi) all of my baker's glazed doughnuts stuffed with jalapeno cream cheese.

(vii) all water before baptism.

(viii) all weather, seasonable and otherwise.

(ix) all signs of the Resurrection.

(x) all same sex relationships.

(xi) all couples who intend to continue the cycle of life.


Yes, because of (a)-- (iii), (viii), (xi).

Yes, because of (b)-- (ix).

Yes, because of (c)-- (i), (v), (vii).

No, by default-- (ii), (iv), (vi), (x).

These answers lead to that single question about your Conclusion, which of course is--

(3) Therefore, the Church should bless it.


Father Ron, if the Answers above are wrong about class (x), then to which of God's recognised saving acts is it so related that it must be blessed by the Church? For even if every same sex marriage is as indubitably good as every single one of my baker's delightful stuffed doughnuts, they may still not be a class of thing that the Church has an occasion to bless.

Personally, I see in our time an inverse relation between illumined faith and perfervid moralistic campaigning. That is, the less minds contemplate the mysteries of our faith by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the more they live by such inferior passions of the flesh as their own moral earnestness and tribal feeling. Heroes in their own minds, they are lost in the labyrinth of this aeon, pouring their energy fruitlessly onto the ground. For as St James says (1:20) to those who can understand him, "the wrath of man cannot further the righteousness of God." And indeed, neither campaign has been recognised as that which has been believed always, everywhere, and by all. Synods drift; the Body has not changed.

A better way than this futile and histrionic pride of life is to ignore it, and immerse oneself in the creeds, the Lord's prayer, and the beatitudes.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (at 3.45 am)
I am not clear so wonder if it is both / and:
- humanity is made in the image of God (Adam = humankind)
- particular human beings are made in the image of God (Adam and Eve, first man and first woman.

Re temple imagery, is not the church (collectively) and the individual believer both 'temple of the Holy Spirit'?

Father Ron said...

Bowman, you will be glad to know that I shall content myself by answering your basic question as honestly as I can, but briefly:

a/ God will bless what pleases God, not necessarily what man expects God to Bless (e.g. I do not think that God would bless Arms or Battleships!)

b/ By the same token, I believe that God instinctually (being God) blesses all that he sees as 'Good' - including faithful human relationships that are not exploitative. ("Where charity and love are; there is God!")

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for juxtaposing "temple" to "image."

I am wondering whether the "image" is primarily corporate in Genesis and the "temple" solely cosmic in Genesis and primarily ecclesial in the NT. Of course, by a whole-part relation one can apply a corporate image to individuals. But offhand, I am not thinking of texts that clearly constrain us to read "image" and "temple" as references to independent individuals. Do any occur to you?

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Jesus is the icon of God!
This is not quite answering your question beyond that initial statement but one way of thinking of humanity/individual humans being made in the image of God and marred by the fall is that our restoration occurs through being "in Christ" that is, in the One who is perfectly the Image of God.

Glen Young said...

Jesus is not the icon of God, He is the Only Begotten Son of the Living God.Through His life, death and resurrection, humanity can once again gain their created status,which they gave away in the Garden of Eden. He became fully human,that is,He became subject to same desires to rebel against His Father's Will as we do. However,He put Satan behind Him and was obedient to
His Father's Will.

It is though Him alone, that man has status in the eyes of the Father.

In the beginning,His reunion of man and woman,was through their coming together in a spiritual reunion in His eyes.This can not include same sex relationships.

Father Ron said...

Finally on this thread from me: The following excerpt from the Sermon given by Pope Francis on his recent visit to the Anglican Church of All Saint, Rome:

"Trusting in this humble power, Paul serves the Gospel. Speaking of some of his adversaries in Corinth, he calls them “super apostles” (2 Cor 12:11), perhaps, and with a certain irony, because they had criticized him for his weaknesses even as they considered themselves observant, even perfect. Paul, on the other hand, teaches that only in realizing we are weak earthen vessels, sinners always in need of mercy, can the treasure of God be poured into us and through us upon others. Otherwise, we will merely be full of our treasures, which are corrupted and spoiled in seemingly beautiful vessels. If we recognize our weakness and ask for forgiveness, then the healing mercy of God will shine in us and will be visible to those outside; others will notice in some way, through us, the gentle beauty of Christ’s face."

I guess we all have to beware of the danger of thinking of ourselves as what Pope Francis calls "Super Apostles". Perfection is an impossible goal to try to live up to. Why do we have the need to denigrate others in the common quest to seek the mind of Christ for ourselves and others?

LENT is a good time for reflection on our common failings before God.

Anonymous said...

Glen, I think that Peter @ 12:50 is paraphrasing Colossians 1:15.

Yes, Peter, that very participative and incorporative way of describing salvation makes sense. However, I am looking for something-- anything!-- that constrains us to think of "image" and "temple" as particular and forensic in line with our received Protestant habits.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Glen: also think about Hebrews 1 and John 1

Bowman: perhaps habits should be broken where they are no longer life giving?

Anonymous said...

Peter, while the scriptures do not constrain readers to be strict particularists in the manner of old Princeton (cf B B Warfield), we should be unwilling to ignore any spiritual riches of a millennium and a half of Augustinianism that comport with some reasonable exegesis.

Bowman Walton