Monday, March 28, 2011

Part IV – Same-sex marriage and traditional marriage: Arguments for and against restriction and inclusion


Today we look at the arguments for preserving traditional marriage (one man, one woman) versus the inclusion of same-sex marriage. This is not going to be exhaustive of every argument, but we are going to hit the highlights and we are making every attempt to portray the arguments as fairly as we know how.

We will look at six categories of the debate within our tradition: (1) Genesis stories of creation, (2) Old Testament holiness laws,  (3) teachings of Jesus on marriage and divorce, (4) the teachings of St. Paul and his followers, (5) sacramental theology, (6) the Anglican Communion and its "bonds of affection."

Each of these categories could take hours to explain, so again, these are summaries of the debate.

We have also provided links to scriptural passages and other materials paralleling the handout we gave during these presentations on Sunday.

At the outset, let me remind readers that these are not papers, but notes from our presentations. The material presented here is summarized primarily from three sources: (1) The Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2011 issue, devoted entirely to this topic, (2) The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego Report of the Task Force on Holiness in Relationships and the Blessing of Same Sex Relationships, downloadable HERE, and (3) the Anglican Communion website, reachable HERE. We have also cited pertinent passages from Scripture and the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

We must begin with the recognition that any such discussion – or debate – in a Christian context must be founded on Scripture. Yet, as Anglicans, we disagree on what Scripture represents and how it is to be interpreted.

We read the Bible as authoritative, but we disagree on how it is authoritative. We look to the traditions and doctrines of the Church to assist us in our interpretation of the Bible, but unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we do not have a “magisterium” dictating precisely what those interpretations should be or even how to make them.

We recognize that interpretation changes through the nudgings of the Holy Spirit, through reason and experience, as it has, for example, about slavery. Yet we don’t view Scripture as changing with the whims and winds of our time.

The tension of those interpretations makes us Anglican.

As a Reformed tradition, Anglicanism has always viewed Scripture as the revealed inspired Word of God, but written by human hands in human languages, and all human language has limits. The Bible is foundational to our faith, it can be read legalistically or inspirationally, or a mix of both.

But we do not claim that the Bible is immaculately conceived or without factual contradictions – that claim would be idolatry; that would be to worship the Bible. But we also say that the Bible is more than merely one of many resources for spiritual living.

We have to say at the outset that both of those extremes of reading the Bible are outside of the official teaching of the Episcopal Church.

For example, when we say Jesus is the “lamb of God” no one suggests that he is a fluffy lamb. The Church considers this as sacred text, to be read and “inwardly digested.” But it is more than merely a history book. It takes interpretation – reason – to get the meaning of the laws, the prophets, the histories, the poems, the metaphors, the parables, and so much more - and to “inwardly digest” all of its sacred content.

And that brings us to the debate:

I. Adam and Eve, Adam and Steve, Edith and Eve

Traditional marriage only:

In the first creation story, Genesis 1:26-28, marriage is monogamous between a man and woman and is pronounced holy by God. Other forms of sexual behaviors, such as polygamy, adultery and homosexuality are unholy. This is the “natural order” as seen in the Garden of Eden. The Garden is a model of holiness, free from sin. God tells Adam and Eve to be “fruitful and multiply” and this is how humans do so. The most important function of marriage is procreation of children, and by definition, same-gender sexual relations cannot do so. Marriage represents a return to the holiness of the Garden.

In the second creation story, Genesis 2:4-25, note that in Genesis 2:18-25, ’adam (Hebrew for a human) is sexless. The proto-human is split into two differentiated beings, male and female. Marriage represents the reunion of two complimentary sexual others, a reconstruction of the sexual unity of ’adam. Male and female bodies are made for each other, and the two become “one flesh” in marriage. They compliment each other in body and are feminine and masculine in other ways, including emotional.

This argument for traditional marriage is called “complementarity.” In this view, two males or two females in sexual relationships would not restore the wholeness of God’s creation. Nor are they capable of producing children and that makes the marriage of two people of the same sex against the natural order of things, or “natural law.”

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

The Bible certainly considers opposite-sex marriage as holy, but it does not address loving, committed sexual relations between people of the same sex. The Bible is silent on this, as it is silent on many things. We should not assume that what is not mentioned is banned.

The command to “be fruitful and multiply” is a command to the human species, and not to individuals. The Bible certainly honors relationships as holy that are not man/woman marriages, including honoring single unmarried people, and the friendships of people like Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan.

Not everyone is commanded to be fruitful, as not every relationship is commanded to have children. And while the biology of procreation requires male/female sexual relations, the rearing of children does not; there are circumstances when the birth parents may need to give up their children to a new set of parents, and there is nothing in the Bible prohibiting those parents being of the same sex.

The argument for “complementarity” does not necessarily mean genital complementarity (there is no word in Hebrew for genitals). The emphasis on Adam and Eve being of the same flesh is to emphasize they are kin, and as kin they are reunited, as we hope all of the human race will be reunited as kin.

Complementarity between two people does not have to mean only (and crassly) genital complementarity, but emotional and physical complementarity in ways that two people who love each other can complement each other.

The second creation story in Genesis emphasizes companionship, not sex or procreation. To say that such companionship can only be achieved between two people of the opposite sex is simply not true. Convenanted relations between two people can exist between people of the same sex. To force people into opposite-sex marriage covenants when they are oriented differently is as profane as forcing heterosexuals into same-sex marriage covenants. God created both sexual orientations, and honors both as the created good.

II. The Old Testament Holiness Code

Traditional marriage only:

This segment in Leviticus 18:22-23, 30; 20:13 comes from what is known as the “Holiness Code,” chapters 17-26. The controlling idea for the entire section is articulated in 19:2: “’You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’” Israel was to be the holy people of God distinctly set apart from all other peoples.

Leviticus 18 includes a long list of prohibitions against sexual behavior outside of marriage—among them incest, bestiality, adultery, and men having sex with men—each of which makes a person unholy. Verse 23, prohibits women having sex with animals because such an act is “perversion,” “a violation of nature.” Verse 22, which prohibits a man lying with a man as a woman, indicates that homosexuality similarly is “abomination,” “a violation of nature.” Homosexuality violates the laws of nature and the moral law evident from reasoned study of the creation. Same-sex marriage, by this interpretation, would certainly be an "abomination."

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

This passage in Leviticus does not make a moral or ethical argument. Instead the laws are given to set Israel apart as God’s chosen people in distinction from the surrounding gentiles (non-Hebrews/non-Jews). In ancient Israel, homogenital acts identified a person with the gentiles who engaged in such acts. Therefore, homosexuality was considered a form of idolatry because it betrayed Jewish identity.

“Abomination” means “unclean,” not “intrinsically evil.” All violations of the holiness code are “abominations.” Included among the “abominations” in the other chapters of the holiness code are round haircuts, cattle inbreeding, wearing fabric blends, harvesting fruit trees before the fifth year, eating ostrich and tattoos.

These are “abominations” for which we do not condemn people today, their original purpose no longer being relevant. Finally, the Leviticus texts do not mention female-female relationships indicating that if Leviticus were declaring a blanket prohibition on homosexuality, it would not have mentioned only male-male relationships.

III. Jesus’s teachings on marriage and divorce

Traditional marriage only:

Jesus sets a high standard for fidelity and consistently condemns those who have sex outside of marriage and serial marriages. Not all are chosen for the higher calling of marriage. Some are called to be celibate. He also says he comes to "fulfill the law and the prophets," so he has not repealed the Leviticus holiness code.

In Mark 10: 2-12 and Matthew 19:3-12, Jesus is asked whether it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife. He replies by citing the Genesis Adam and Eve story (see above), affirming that the purpose of marriage is that man and woman are joined as “one flesh.” All divorce is sinful because it breaks a bond ordained by God. Not all are capable of marriage, and they should remain celibate, including homosexuals.

Some scholars say that Jesus is ruling out all forms of marriage that are not heterosexual and monogamous. He is ruling out polygamy, which is a form of marriage typical in the Old Testament (Jacob, Solomon and David for example had multiple wives).

Unchastity is the only ground for divorce. That further shows that Jesus condemns all sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage.

Because Jesus is the ultimate teacher of ethical standards for Christians, we must consider this an unchangeable standard of ethical behavior given by the Son of God himself. The Church has no authority or right to overturn this.

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

These teachings of Jesus are primarily about divorce. In ancient Jewish culture, women are treated as property with no right to divorce; this teaching by Jesus is really an admonition against men who dump their wives to marry another. He is taking a stand to protect women from being cast out by their husbands and condemned to destitution or worse. The concept of loving co-equal marriage partners does not exist in the time of Jesus or with the people who he is teaching. It is not yet part of the culture and is not yet in view. Nor would the possibility of same-sex marriage be in view. Both are completely outside the cultural norm in the time of Jesus.

Jesus does say that the higher purpose of marriage is complementarity – the joining of male and female to complement each other. But he says nothing about the procreation of children, leaving open the idea that the central purpose of marriage is for the mutual support of the couple. The idea that two people of the same sex could complement and support each other in this way had not yet come into view in the ancient world. There is nothing in the teaching of Jesus that would condemn this. Jesus is not talking about reproductive complementarity but a deeper spiritual complementarity of people who love each other. For Jesus, the highest ethical standard is self-sacrificing love, and that kind of love can be embodied in marriage.

Not everyone is called to marriage. But those who are called to marriage are held to a high standard of fidelity. Jesus does not mention “be fruitful and multiply,” so children are not the point of marriage; the fidelity of two people joined together is the point. Humans are therefore lifted above the “animal plane.” Marriage is more than just about sexual acts.

Jesus is saying that the only acceptable place for sexual relations is within marriage, yet he also acknowledges that not everyone is capable of celibacy. It is unreasonable to expect gay and lesbian people to remain celibate. That could suggest that homosexuals should be held to the same standard as heterosexuals by requiring them to be married to people of the same sex if they want to engage is sexual relations.

Other teachings of Jesus call us to honor and love each other. We dishonor the Grace of God by being in marriages that are not complementary. While male-female marriages are complementary for heterosexuals, same-sex marriages are complementary for homosexuals.

IV. Teaching of Saint Paul and his followers

In this section, we look at three key passages from Pauline letters; each passage here has interpretations in favor of traditional marriage only and the inclusion of same-sex marriage.

Traditional marriage only:

In Romans 1:18-21, 26-27a, 28-29, Paul is speaking about how God is known in creation: that nature itself reveals even to non-Christians and to gentiles something of who God is and what God’s intention for creation is, especially concerning morality (or "natural law," not to be confused with "laws of nature").

Man and woman are two of the things that God has made in creation, and God’s will is made known in the way that man and woman, male and female, complement each other. Paul is articulating the complementarity principle set forth in Genesis 2 (see earlier discussion above). What is natural and in accord with God’s intention for creation is sexual relations between a man and a woman; what is unnatural is homosexual relationships in the place of heterosexual relationships. The word “nature” used by Paul is phusis, by which he means “the natural order”; and when he says “unnatural” he uses the Greek words para phusiken, “against or contrary to” “the natural order.”

Paul is saying that homosexuality is contrary to the created and moral order established by God. Same-sex marriage, by definition, would be ethically prohibited.

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

In terms of the Mediterranean world of the early church, this passage from Romans neither strongly nor obviously condemns homosexuality. The words Paul uses that are translated as “degrading passions” and “shameless acts” connote social disapproval not ethical disapproval. Paul did not use language meaning “ethically wrong.” He uses words for “ungodliness” and “wickedness,” but there is no mention of sex acts, homo- or heterosexual, in direct relation to “ungodliness” and “wickedness.”

Moreover, Paul does not use the Greek word we translate as “nature” (phusis/phusiken) to mean “the natural order” or “the essence of something” (one of the possible meanings of phusis). Instead, he means something more specific along the line of being “characteristic to the situation” or “consistent with or characteristic of the kind of person someone is.” The Greek words para phusiken should not be translated as “unnatural” but as “paranormal” or “extraordinary.”

The Roman aristocracy in Paul’s time was notorious for its promiscuous bisexuality, and that forms the context of the condemnation he has in mind. He also has in mind the hedonistic sexual practices of pagan people (non-Christian and non-Jew) who do not acknowledge God. Finally, in Paul’s time when people spoke about “unnatural (sexual) intercourse” their meaning was not the same we assume today; rather they included reference to a variety of positions in heterosexual intercourse as well as sex between a woman and an uncircumcised man. Paul's teachings on this topic have no relation to committed loving relationships between two people of the same sex.

Traditional marriage only:

In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul lists the kinds of people who will not enter the kingdom of God: fornicators (pornoi) – people who have sex outside of marriage; adulterers – people who are married and have sex with someone other than their spouse or an unmarried person who has sex with a married person. There are two other kinds of sexually active people mentioned in this list along with thieves, drunks, and revilers. The first are the malakoi, which is Greek for men who play the sexual role of women, not “male prostitutes” as the RSV and other translations usually have it, or “prostitute boys” as it is also sometimes translated.

The second are the arsenokoitai, which is Greek for the penetrating males who are the counterparts to the men playing the sexual role of a woman (malakoi). Malakoi and aresenokoitai do not mean “male prostitutes” or “pederasts” as some have claimed. There are words in Greek that specifically mean prostitute and pederast, and should Paul have meant that, he could have chosen words to express that, but he did not. Consequently, Paul is speaking in a condemnatory way about homosexuality along with other sexual acts outside of man-woman marriage that are incompatible with God’s kingdom.

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

These verses from 1 Corinthians indeed refer to male prostitutes and their customers, the one who is the receiver (malakoi) and the one who is the penetrator (arsenokoitai). For Protestants, malakoi was translated as “masturbators” until the Reformation. For Catholics, malakoi was translated as “masturbators” until the 20th century. Clearly, there is long history of not knowing with certainty what this term meant in Paul’s time.

Malakoi can be translated as “soft men” which can also refer to wanton, lewd, unrestrained, promiscuous heterosexuals. Interestingly, malakoi cannot be applied to women; it is only a term that pertains to men.
When Paul writes, “this is what some of you used to be,” some interpreters think Paul refers to heterosexuals who engaged in homosexual acts. The term probably condemned pederasty, which was common in Paul’s Mediterranean world, and entailed exploitative, lustful, abusive male-on-male sex between a Roman social superior and an inferior in age and social rank (often a boy). No mutuality was implied or expected in the so-called “relationship.” This passage does not condemn faithful homosexual relationships.

Traditional marriage only:

Two sexually immoral types of people are identified in 1 Timothy 1:8-11 that lists those who behave in ways contrary to God’s moral law. The first are the fornicators (pornoi), and the second are the male penetrators in the male-male, homosexual configuration (arsenokoitai). Fornication and homosexual behavior are understood to be immoral because they are outside the natural, marital union that God established in creation.

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

Some scholars say that in interpreting this passage from 1 Timothy, the reader has to take into account the third word in the series with fornicators (pornoi ) and male penetrators (arsenokotai), namely the “slave traders” (andrapodistai). Taken together, they are understood to mean male prostitutes or sex slaves (pornoi) , men who buy such prostitute-slaves and use them in a sexually exploitative way (arsenokoitai), and slave traders who get the slaves in the first place (adroapodistai). This passage does not pertain to committed same-sex male relationships.

The three terms pornoi, arsenokoitai, and andrapodistai do not apply to women, and thus do not say anything about lesbianism or function as a blanket condemnation of homosexuality or same-gender marriage.

V. Sacramental theology


Warning: Sacramental theology is going to sound esoteric, but because sacrament is so central to our identity as Anglicans, it is a major reason that our Anglican Communion is having such difficulty as an institution in dealing with the issue of same-sex marriage. It might be that we could live with differing interpretations of Scripture were it not for this difference in sacramental theology. So we do well to get a handle on this.

We need to stop and explain what a sacrament is; a sacrament is the “outward and visible symbol” of an inward grace. In other words, we use physical symbols like water, wine and bread to represent the inward reality of the Holy Spirit working in people and in the world. We can’t directly touch the Holy Spirit, but we can sense its presence and feel it through our sacraments.

For example, we come to Communion each week for the bread and wine. It is still bread and wine, yet it is changed so that we might taste and touch the inward incarnation of Christ who is among us and within us. This mystical theology is experienced with our right brain (creative side) and we do our best to explain with our left brain (logical side).

Baptism and Eucharist are the principle sacraments that all Christians are called to receive. Marriage is one of the five optional sacraments because not everyone is called to receive this sacrament, just as not everyone is called to receive the sacrament of ordination into Holy Orders. The Church teaches that the five optional sacraments have evolved “with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Although there have been marriage ceremonies in the Church since its beginning, marriage was not thought of as a sacrament until about the 11th century, so marriage has certainly has evolved (see last week's presentation for more on this).

From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (pages 857, 860-861):

Q. What are the sacraments? 
A. The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.
. . .

Q. What other sacramental rites evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? 
A. Other sacramental rites which evolved in the Church include confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction. 
Q. How do they differ from the two sacraments of the Gospel? 
A. Although they are a means of grace, they are not necessary for all persons in the same way that Baptism and Eucharist are.
. . .

Q. What is Holy Matrimony? 
A. Holy Matrimony is Christian marriage, in which the woman and man enter into a life-long union, make their vows before God and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help them fulfill their vows.
Traditional marriage only:

Our sacraments are our deepest and oldest traditions, knitting us not just with each other here now, but with all of those who came before us and who will come after us. There is no sanction in our long sacramental tradition for understanding marriage as anything other than a male-female union. We do well to be careful when altering sacraments for it attacks the essence being “catholic” with other branches of the One Holy and Apostolic Church.

Marriage of two people is one of the ways Jesus Christ lives with us still. Marriage is therefore “incarnational” as a real presence of Christ in the world enfleshed in two people. The marriage of two people represents the outward symbol of the inward grace of Christ married to his church; Christ being the groom and the Church being the bride. Marriage is complementary not just sexually but mystically and incarnationally. Christ is the spouse of all believers. In marriage, two people become as one, as Christ married to the Church becomes as one. To sanction same-sex marriage is to undermine the sacramental meaning of marriage and Christ's marriage to the Church.

Our Book of Common Prayer, the primary guidepost for sacraments in our Anglican tradition, clearly states that marriage is between one man and one woman. We do not change our prayer book lightly or frequently.

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

Men do not represent Christ in their maleness only, nor do women represent Christ in their femaleness only. This union of Christ and the Church has nothing to do with human reproductive organs. It is a way of expressing how we are one with Christ and Christ is one with us through the Church, which is the gathering of all believers, male and female, gay and straight.

In the sacrament of marriage, we speak of how two people make their marriage together, how their marriage represents the outward joining together of the inward grace that is working in each of them and joining them “as one flesh.” That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Why would we think the Holy Spirit would be restricted to only couples of the opposite sex?

Those who wrote the Bible, and those who came later to shape our sacramental tradition, did not yet have in view that the Holy Spirit could work this grace with two people of the same sex. That they didn't see it does not mean that the Holy Spirit has not been doing this all along. The Church is just now seeing how the Holy Spirit is at work with couples of the same sex. The sacrament of marriage is indeed evolving “with the guidance of the Holy Spirit” in a way that we now see but that our ancestors did not see.

In the Gospel of John 16:12-13, Jesus says the Holy Spirit has more to teach us:
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
It may well be a sin that we’ve tried to stop this work of the Holy Spirit by preventing people of the same sex from answering the call to the sacrament of marriage to each other. And that brings us to the wider church and Communion to which we belong.

Lambeth Palace, painting 1685
VI. The Anglican Communion and the “bonds of affection”


When we speak of the “Anglican Communion,” we refer to the churches around the world that grew out of the Church of England in the 19th century and remain in some kind of fellowship with the Church of England as represented by the Archbishop of Canterbury. What that “fellowship” entails and what constitutes it has a history which, unsurprisingly, is characterized by periodic trouble.

At the current time, we speak of “bonds of affection” that hold the churches together and “instruments of communion,” a technical term that refers to certain organizations or organization-like bodies that aim to maintain and nurture the unity of the Communion.

There are four instruments of communion: The Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no pope or "magisterium" in Anglicanism.

1) The Lambeth Conference is a gathering of the Anglican bishops from around the world every ten years by invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, called the Lambeth Conference because Lambeth Palace is the Archbishop’s official residence; the conference is too large for the palace, so it is typically held at Canterbury Cathedral, with the bishops staying in dormitories at the nearby University of Kent.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, center
2) The Primates’ Meeting is the biennial gathering of the chief archbishops or bishops of a province in the Anglican Episcopal family of churches upon invitation by the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Note: a province is the Anglican Church in a given nation or cluster of nations, e.g. The Anglican Church of Canada, The Church of the Province of Central Africa—Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). We should note that some of the primates have stayed away from these meetings because they object to the ordination of women and do not recognize Katharine Jefferts Schori as the primate bishop of the Episcopal Church.

3) The Anglican Consultative Council is a representative advisory group made up of bishops, clergy, and laity selected by the member churches of the Anglican Communion. The council meets every two to three years to provide consultation and guidance for the whole communion, especially on matters regarding communications, missions, and interchurch relations. It arose largely from the new relations within the Communion as a result of decolonization in the 1960s. Proposed in 1963 and created in 1968, it first met in 1971. A Standing Committee that meets annually and has a staff overseeing council business in the interim periods.

Archbishop of Canterbury
Rowan Williams
4) The Archbishop of Canterbury is the primus inter pares, first among equals, of the other primates of the various provinces in world Anglicanism. He (so far they have all been men) is seen as the “eldest brother in a family” who is to nurture the churches but not rule them. He is the focus for three of the four instruments of communion by virtue of the fact that he calls the gathering of the Lambeth Conference (instrument #1), chairs the meeting of primates (instrument #2), and chairs the Anglican Consultative Council (instrument #3). Although he is appointed by the Queen of England (monarch) who is the head of the Church of England, he has no reserve powers over the other churches of the Communnion akin to the monarch’s reserve powers of the crown vis-à-vis some of the Commonwealth countries.

Lambeth, 1988: Archbishop Robert Runcie presided over the twelfth Lambeth Conference to which 518 bishops came. The conference addressed the question of the inter-relation of Anglican international bodies and the issues of marriage and family, human rights, poverty and debt, the environment, militarism, justice and peace. The hottest issue was the ordination of women as bishops. The conference issued a statement that declared that “each province respect the decision of other provinces in the ordination or consecration of women to the episcopate.” It should be noted that the Church of England recently agreed that women could be ordained bishop, though so far, none have.

Lambeth, 1998: Archbishop George Carey presided over the thirteenth Lambeth Conference, and 749 bishops attended, including for the first time women bishops of which there were 11 at the time. The hottest issue at the 1998 meeting was homosexuality in the Anglican Communion. After considerable debate, resolution I.10 was passed by a vote of 526-70 that called for “listening process” and, in a section passed by a much smaller majority on a separate vote, stated that “homosexual practice” is “incompatible with Scripture.” All of our contradictions and conflicts in the Anglican Communion are embodied in that one resolution, which you can read by clicking HERE.

Subsequently on August 8, 1998, 182 bishops worldwide, including the primates of Brazil, Canada, Central Africa, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa, and Wales, issued a Pastoral Statement in which they apologized for “any sense of rejection that has occurred” among gay and lesbian Anglicans because the “limitations of this [Lambeth] Conference” did not make it possible to “hear adequately” the voices of their gay and lesbian members.

“We pledge,” they wrote, “that we will continue to reflect, pray, and work for your full inclusion in the life of the Church.” This signatories to this Statement declared that they were not uniform in their understanding of homosexuality and its implications for the Communion. They admitted that “It is obvious that Communion-wide we are in great disagreement over what full inclusion would mean. We ourselves have varied views and admit…there is much we do not yet understand. But we believe it is an imperative of our faith that we seek such understanding….We must not stop where this Conference has left off.” Among those who signed were Peter Lee and David Jones, of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, and then-Bishop of Monmouth (Wales), Rowan Williams, now Archbishop of Canterbury.

Traditional marriage only

1. The opposition to same-gender marriage is in fact the dominant, majority position of worldwide Anglicanism.

2. Same-gender blessing is hurting the Anglican Communion’s ecumenical relationships. It is clear that church bodies with which we have nurtured special links because of a common understanding of theology, sacraments, and ordination, particularly the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, are distancing themselves from the Anglican Communion. A vast range of evangelical and Pentecostal churches do not endorse same-gender marriage, and the American (and Canadian) church’s movement burdens Anglican dialogue with these more theologically and socially conservative communions.

3. Same-gender blessing has fractured the unity of the Anglican Communion. African church leaders particularly see western approval of same-sex marriage as just one more example of western imperialism: the foisting of liberal western mores on the traditional values of their peoples.

4. A major problem for The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada is that they have long considered themselves sensitive and responsive to the issues of racism, injustice and poverty, taking pains over the years to operate non-paternalistically in mission with the churches of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In 1997, Anglicans of the global south met and among other things declared that adoption of liberal policies on blessing same-sex unions would be inconsistent with Scripture and would have damaging effects on relationships among the churches in the Anglican Communion. When in the wake of this statement, the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster (BC) announced it would go ahead with the blessing of same-sex unions, and the Diocese of New Hampshire chose Gene Robinson as their bishop, and his election was subsequently ratified, it was seen by the churches of the global South as insensitive and unfair treatment of them.

As a result, some non-North American churches have gone so far as to attempt to cut off all ties with The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Some have declared themselves “out of communion” or in “impaired relationship” with the North American Anglican provinces. Many Anglican Christians believe that to proceed as if nothing had happened would be dishonest, damaging to the Christian witness in their own countries and harmful to traditional Anglican witness in the West.

Related to this is that many in the global South see the story which governs the church in North America not as the biblical story but as the modernist story, defining for the global South what progress and well-being constitutes, just as the World Bank has defined what economic systems should look in developing countries.

5. Traditionalists do not believe that same-sex marriage fits into the narrative of successive liberation movements such as the emancipation of slaves, child laborers, and blacks.

6. Actions by those supporting same-gender blessing and the ordination or consecration of gay and lesbian bishops fly in the face of statements and resolutions issued at various times by the “instruments of communion.”

Inclusion of same-sex marriage:

1. Given its missionary nature, The Episcopal Church must proclaim the gospel to its immediate neighbors in its cultural context.

2. In North America, social and political changes have reshaped gender roles and identities, permitting, for example, more opportunities for work and leadership by women and racial minorities. In North America (and other western/westernized countries such as Great Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand), women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities have won greater freedom to participate in public, economic, and religious life. In some states and the District of Columbia, domestic partnerships and same-sex partnerships can be made legal through a governmentally registered union. This amounts to the removal of major obstacles in the way of such people hearing and accepting their vocational identity as married persons.

3. An innovative witness to marriage is part of The Episcopal Church’s mission to and within its culture, and this is consistent with the New Testament pattern of spreading the Gospel, church growth, discernment, and unity. Just as the Spirit led the way in welcoming gentiles into the universal mission of the church in the early church, the Spirit today is going out in front, leading the church in showing how to bear witness to Christ. The church hastens to follow the Son sent by the Father and then led through the sending of the Spirit. In this way the church participates in the mission of the triune God.

4. The argument for same-sex marriage is not offered lightly or in disregard of the Anglican Communion, but for the sake of the mission of our church within the Communion, as a way of giving testimony to the work of the Spirit among us. This position is pressed upon us by the witness of same-sex couples, the pastoral practice of the church, and marriage understood as a Christian discipline.

5. By having couples take vows of commitment and fidelity in same-sex relationships, The Episcopal Church testifies to the faithful giving of one person to another in a lifelong, monogamous commitment consistent with Christian doctrine. Those supporting same-gender marriage find their understanding consistent with the church’s liturgical tradition of marriage and practices of moral formation. Thus, same-sex marriage does not undermine marriage but upholds and strengthens it. These changes do not represent the progress of enlightenment over ignorance, Western values over non-Western values.

6. Just as westerners seek to be aware of and sensitive to the missiological challenges of Anglican churches in non-western countries, those advocating same-sex marriage are asking non-Western Anglicans to support the missiological efforts and challenges facing the North American and western churches. The purpose is not to defeat either a traditionalist or non-Western position, but to provide a teaching and practice of monogamous marriage for The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in Canada, and other such Anglican churches in similar contexts.

7. The polity of The Episcopal Church accords with this missionary nature of the church. It provides for a local option—in effect testifying to what has been true for the better part of two hundred years in the Anglican Communion that unity and uniformity are not the same thing, and that keeping this distinction clear fosters health in Anglican churches, enabling them to respond to their particular, respective missionary challenges. The resolution from Lambeth, 1988, regarding the ordination and consecration of female bishops, indicates that provinces have a type of local option. Thus, the General Convention of 2009 called for a “generous pastoral response” to be available in The Episcopal Church for the blessing of "same gender relationships." You can read the resolution from the 2009 General Convention by clicking HERE.

Moreover, the polity of The Episcopal Church is such that bishops have enormous independence and latitude over liturgical matters within their jurisdictions. Already a variety of supplemental liturgies are used throughout the Church with the respective bishop’s sanction, including public services of healing and the burial of a child. It is also common for priests to use worship material from other parts of the Anglican Communion (for example, The Book of Common Prayer from the Anglican Church of New Zealand) and other faith traditions (Taize and the Iona Community), again with episcopal sanction.

In those dioceses in The Episcopal Church where rites for same-gender blessing have been sanctioned, they have been done so after extensive study, prayer, reflection, discussion, listening, and communication with the understanding that further conversation and examination will ensue. It is quite clear that not all priests and parishioners will want to participate in such blessings, nor should they be compelled to participate.

7. Statements and resolutions issued from the instruments of communion are non-binding on member provinces of the Anglican Communion.

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