Sunday, 9 August 2009

weddings, baptisms, blessings

The Church of England announced that it welcomed couples who already had children to get married. Last week, the Bishop of Wakefield explained this in an article in the Church Times Why the Church needs to welcome new weddings.

Now the Church is turning its attention to extending an extra welcome to couples with children, following Archbishops’ Council’s Weddings Project research in Bradford and Buckinghamshire, which found that one in five couples who come to church for a wedding already have children, together or from a previous relationship.

Nick Nawrockyi had a letter to the editor in the same issue, questioning the logic.

The House of Bishops stated in 2005: “Sexual intercourse, as an expression of faithful intimacy, properly belongs within marriage exclusively.” What the Church is now saying is that we can offer you liturgical provision celebrating the fact that you’ve had children before marriage, but only because you’re heterosexual…

Meanwhile, Colin Coward wrote Civil Partnerships and gay marriage in England – the church’s nemesis. He concludes:

I think the conservative groups holding the church to ransom on gay blessings and the ordination of women bishops are doing untold harm to mission and evangelism in this country. The arguments for a change in teaching are as strong as those in favour of the abolition of slavery, the ordination of women, the acceptance of divorce and contraception. Change in teaching and practice is driven by Gospel imperatives of love and justice.

The general population and the majority of CofE members have got there more quickly than the senior bishops. The bishops are being held to ransom by the demands of other Provinces in the Anglican Communion and conservative pressure groups in the UK and North America.

The recent interventions by the Archbishop of Canterbury and even more so by the Bishop of Durham have been disastrous for the Church of England, alienating it even more from the people inside and outside our churches. People yearn for spiritual resources, creative worship, integrity in leadership and truthfulness in preaching and teaching. They perceive the church to be prejudiced and dishonest.

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Comments

"Questioning the logic" indeed.

There isn't one.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 9:06am BST

Thank you, Colin. 'A voice crying in the wilderness', maybe but a very welcome one. I am appalled by the thought of a two track Anglican Communion on theological grounds. We are not saved by our 'works', our lifestyles, but by faith which is a gift from God. Women used to call out: 'ordain us or stop baptising us': The was good theology. The idea that you and I cannot 'represent' the Church denies God's loving gift of 'new life in Christ'. What have we come to? Love and support from Una.

Posted by: Una Kroll on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 11:03am BST

My partner and I, both evangelicals, registered our Civil Partnership last week. Of our 28 guests, 5-6 do not attend church, three were LGBT Christian activists, the rest `ordinary' faithful worshipppers, including six 70-80 year old `traditionalists' from the `8 o'clock' BCP community at the local conservative evangelical mega church, plus our Rector. Hardly rabble rousers.

We will have our blessing and big celebration next spring, when health permits. Our guests could not comprehend the fact that this will be not be permitted in our parish church, and that the clergy may not bless us `in case people get confused and think we got married'.

The non Church goers roll their eyes - you must be joking?

Another active member of the parish, with a partnered lesbian daughter, asked whether we had held the CP in the church - she had no idea it was not permitted. What chance of encouraging her daughter and partner to hear the Gospel?

Bishops' pronouncements are of little interest to ordinary faithful Anglicans, their mind is made up.

Mission is indeed severely hampered when the Church, in the guise of senior clerics, makes itself a laughing stock.

Posted by: brenda harrison on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 11:27am BST

"Sir, — This is a fuss about nothing. What the parents have been up to is of no significance in baptising a child. If they want to marry, and they want their child baptised, we should welcome them with open arms, as the law requires us to. Some of us have been doing it for years.
If you close the door on people, you can’t be surprised when your church is empty."
- RICHARD HAGGIS. Letters to The Church Times -

This is about the spirit of inclusiveness that should be a hallmark in the Churches today. In this simple statement, Richard Haggis is making the legitimate point that the Church exists for the sake of the World - not the other way round.
We have the example of Jesus' treatment of the Pharisaical attitudes of his day to inform us on the sort of leadership he might be expecting from his disciples in the world of today.

The 'ritual cleansing' that seems to preoccupy the conservatives in the Church was seen by Jesus to be so much window-dressing - when underneath, the institutional hypocrisy of its advocates cries to heaven for exposure and judgement. When the Church can be honest about it's double-standards, with one sort of treatment for one class of sinner and another for the reast of us, then the world might be more interested in hearing what we have to say about justice and equity; peace, love and forgiveness.

"Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners". (words from the Liturgy, BCP)
And that's every one of us! When are we going to open the door to the sinners whom God has redeemed?


Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 12:39pm BST

So - let me get this - uh - straight. It's OK for the church to marry straights who have been intimate enough to produce a child or children,, and to at the same service baptize the kid[s]. In fact it's the church recognizing changing social practice and mores, according to this bishop.

But when gays want marriage, that's a no no, the ABC says, because the only proper place for sexual expression is within marriage between a man and a woman, according to the ABC.

Right hand and left hand should be introduced to each other.

Where is the outrage from Africa over the first proclamation?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 1:08pm BST

Until cohabitation was outlawed in Sweden in 1918 by the so called (very much “so called”) “Children’s Laws”, it was the Custom of the Land from Times immemorial and perfectly legal.

The Church of England only introduced the "virginity" of the Bride as a “requirement” in the 1750ies...

"Sexual Morality" is largely a late pre Modern to Modern phenomenon!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 3:45pm BST

I decided this morning that, no matter what I do as a free-floater locally, I don't want to be associated with the Anglican name.

Posted by: Pluralist on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 5:12pm BST

Congratulations to Brenda and partner !

And what a very encouraging tale of 'everyday folk' at an Evangelical parish church. How I wish I had been present to enjoy such an uplifting experience.

Health and happiness

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 5:59pm BST

"Where is the outrage from Africa over the first proclamation?" - Cynthia
The proclamation made no mention of homosexuality, therefore the Africans don't feel the need to respond. After all, straights can be saved, GLBT people cannot. Therefore if you bring straights into the church, you have a chance of saving them by turning them into proper stiff-necked, blindered, narrow-minded stalwarts of moral virtue. GLBT people can't be saved, so why bother?
... Or something like that. I lost my little red book of ++Chairman Akinola's sayings.

Posted by: peterpi on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 10:58pm BST

Last year, well before present media hoo-ha, a couple wanting to be married in our Parish Church said that had a son they wanted to christen. As they were non churchgoers, I asked if they wanted the christening and wedding in one celebration. Definitely not, they both responded. No, we want him to have his big day, and the wedding to be ours - meaning they were prepared to come to church twice in the same year, and for decent reasons which they'd thought about, not least two parties, presents etc.
So, is my experience unrepresentative, or is there really a target market for two-for-the-price-of-one sacramental celebrations?
I've heard of it being done in geographically remote areas of rural dioceses overseas occasioned by rare visits of a mission priest.
Is any part of UK that distant? Or is this a matter of the CofE becoming ever remoter from those it's meant to serve?

Posted by: Keith Kimber on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 11:14pm BST

What bemuses me - though it doesn't amuse me - is the way the hierarchs try to play catch-up on the marriage of those who already have children, in order to look tolerant. It's nothing new to join two liturgies together, though I did perform the marriage blessing before I baptised the child. In the same breath there are moves to legitimise a prohibition on the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, with or without partners or civil partners, which has also been going on for years; and to pretend this is an innovation which will cause havoc in the Church. We'll soon be asking the lovely 'lady curate' what criteria she applied in the choice of her husband; or asking a few bishops how well they got on 30 years ago with their girlfriends.

Requiring declarations of celibacy prior to episcopal consent being given for a civil partnership is about as bonkers as the RCs requiring married men crossing the Tiber to live henceforth as brother and sister with their wives; when everyone knows that many RC priests have either a housekeeper or a gardener... They, of course, are less likely to be confused with paedophiles who are equated with gay aspirants to the RC priesthood, and capable of psychological elimination. And nooky apart, whatever happened to the concept of a holy friendship about which people can be rightly honest without doubts that methinks the lady doth protest too much?

We can either re-invent the Spanish Inquisition, or we can let ordinary, normal people get on with their muddled and imperfect lives, while we also get on with the mission and ministry of the Church, with folk who live in the real world, and are less likely to receive the Good News of God's love for them if it is conveyed by those who clearly live on Mars (or maybe happily on Venus) and are governed and manipulated by others with pointed hats who live part of their lives in a totally different universe.

I have long fought against the perception that Christians are hypocrites; but many of these mealy-mouthed middle-managers are exactly that. The problem is that the game is now up; and many people and clergy are going to opt for the honesty model rather than the Pharisee model.

The Nu-Anglican two-tier model will be an artificial mirror-image of this dual existence. I'd rather stay with both feet in the real world: I hope and pray that it will include the Church of England.

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Sunday, 9 August 2009 at 11:48pm BST

"The marriage vows are some of the most beautiful and telling phrases in modern liturgy: “All that I have I give to you, and all that I am I share with you.” Marriage places the relationship between a couple into the context of a covenant. The sacramental act is not performed by the priest, but by the couple themselves. In that sense, it is a natural sacrament."
- Bp. of Wakefield, (article in Church Times) -

So what's different about the integrity of a same-sex Marriage/Blessing based on these parameters?
And why cannot the Church get it's corporate head around the fact that same-sex partners are committing themselves to just such a relationship (with or without the blessing of the Church) at this very moment in enlightened society. There is nothing more natural or godly than that. Committed, faithful Partnership is so much more than merely sex - if only the sex-obsessed no-sayers to the reality of gay relationships could open their eyes and see the evidence all around them - in the Church and in the world.

"They'll know you're my disciples by your LOVE" - not by your sexuality or gender!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 1:19am BST

"So, is my experience unrepresentative, or is there really a target market for two-for-the-price-of-one sacramental celebrations?"

A member in my own family had planned to get married and then later found herself pregnant. The couple later had a wonderful wedding cum baptism. It was a completely unremarkable event. The baby is now 18 years old.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 8:11am BST

At the marriage last year of my nephew and his partner (female) who had been living together for some time, the parish priest commended them and welcomed the fact that they had decided to get married because they now knew each other well enough to know that the union would be permanent. Again, a very pragmatic accommodation of what is actually happening. It won't necessarily make church goers out of the married couple but it certainly made sure that everyone there knew that the church (or at least that church)is generous and hospitable in its welcome.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 11:06am BST

Amnesty International have taken up gay marriage as a human rights cause in Ireland, but the paucity of reasoning behind their stance has rather alienated the public, who think that AI has been hijacked by flaky liberals. I think the glbt cause would benefit from much more careful reasoning and less subscription to puritanical American slogans such as "marriage equality". Anyone who sees a difference between a male-female couple and a same-sex couple is dismissed by these propagandists, and their strategy is backfiring.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 1:37pm BST

Spirit
The church marries intfertile couples and post menopausal couples. By its own definition, therefore, procreation is not an absolutely integral part of marriage and marriage has important goods beside procreation, such important goods, in fact, that they alone are sufficient to constitute a marriage.

That given, why should anyone see a difference between a male-female couple and a same-sex couple?

This has nothing to do with flaky liberals, whatever they might be.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 3:09pm BST

Why on earth is there all this fuss about marriages of couples with children (and sometimes including the baptism of their children at the same service)? This was Standard Operating Procedure in the middle ages.

Posted by: Bill Moorhead on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 3:36pm BST

Erika, marriage as an end in itself is what the Church is blessing. A childless marriage is no less a marriage as long as the couple engage in procreative and unitive sexual acts. By engaging in a procreative and unitive act(whether or not that act results in a child)the couple is fulfilling the two-in-one flesh commandment of God. Two-in-one flesh union is marriage. Which is why same-sex persons cannot marry one another.

Posted by: Phil Swain on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 6:29pm BST

"Amnesty International have taken up gay marriage as a human rights cause in Ireland, but the paucity of reasoning behind their stance has rather alienated the public, ... their strategy is backfiring."

OK, SpVatII, I'll bite: Citations? Statistics?

[And how the call for marriage equality is "puritanical" is beyond me: explain please?]

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 7:56pm BST

Phil
Sex is (potentially) procreative when it includes the possibility of procreation.
Post menopausal couples can, by definition, not have children. Nor can knowingly infertile couples.
And yet, the church has no problem marrying either.
It really isn't about babies, and using that as an argument against same sex marriages is never anything other than a smokescreen.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 8:36pm BST

Phil Swain wrote: "Which is why same-sex persons cannot marry one another."

You mean they don't engage in two-in-one flesh union? Then, what's all the fuss???

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 10 August 2009 at 8:41pm BST

This is very silly. Who on earth expects an Anglican couple (ANY Anglican couple) to be continent? Barking up the wrong tree. This is what makes it so bizarre to see "Principled" Anglican clergy, even bishops, solemnly and "courageously" declaring that they will not celebrate any marriage whatever until same sex couples are allowed to marry. As though marriage was actually being *withheld* from some straight couple as a result! What difference would it make; fewer shacked up Anglicans?? Fat chance. Anyone who cared at all about marriage would surely care enough to seek it where it actually has a meaning. Like the court house.

Posted by: bob on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 5:27am BST

"Two-in-one flesh union is marriage. Which is why same-sex persons cannot marry one another."
- Phil Swain -

What a silly argument we have here. So you would say that people who are unable or unwilling to engage in sexual activity, but want to commit their lives to one another cannot be married?

This sounds a little naive - or at the very least, patronising. I suppose the very thought of the 'Marriage Feast of the Lamb' is just biblical waffle, then.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 7:41am BST

"By engaging in a procreative and unitive act(whether or not that act results in a child)..."

a. If it doesn't result in a child, it's not a procreative act.
b. Excluding homosexual acts from the category "unitive" seems like special pleading to me.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 11:01am BST

Hi Erika-

All kinds of relationships have the same goods you speak of. Polyamorists would say that their relationships do. Friendships - for sure. Where does it end?

So why do people put marriage in a different category? First, because it is so much more popular than any of the above xpt friendship; second because it is also. generally speaking, a closer relationship than friendship. But mainly because mother nature herself puts it in a different category. The male-female bond is the one-flesh bond. Babies - who are quite literally a fusion of the two parents' contributions from their own bodies - are the scientific/empirical confirmation that male-female sex is the one and only one-flesh act. Anyone who participates in it is therefore participating in the one-flesh act. The only one-flesh act that nature has given us. And the root of each of our existence. What could be more important and more fundamental than that? There are no rivals; it's all and nothing.

The biggest disagreement of all in these discussions - and I would value discussion on this - is between trad Christians who have the highest possible view of sex and revisionists who tend either to say 'oh, it's nothing but sex', 'oh it's nothing but what goes on in the bedroom', 'oh it's only what people do with their genitals, nothing more'. There is a massive disagreement here. One lot treats as trivial something that is ultimately precious to the other lot. Of course, I believe this trivialisation is the result of the cheapening effect brought about by the so-called sexual revolution: presents unwrapped too soon are not special or magic any more, and the joy of full union is pretty mathematically impossible when one's body is shared between several partners serially. But the general point that marriage/relationship is about so much more than sex Christians agree with utterly. This is quite a separate point. Supposing that what we happen to be talking about is the intrinsic value of marital sex (while accepting that it's buy no means the only thing), then Christians have an extremely high view of it in and of itself *even in isolation* (tho' of course even higher in context), whereas revisionists can often trivialise sex in isolation. A root and fundamental disagreement which we'd do well to discuss.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 12:43pm BST

"A childless marriage is no less a marriage as long as the couple engage in procreative and unitive sexual acts."

Phil Swain may not be aware that there were two forms of marriage since the earliest days of the Christian Church - marriage per verba de praesenti and marriage per verba de futuro. The latter did not become absolute until consummated. Marriage by verba de praesenti became absolute immediately - no sexual union was required and it always took precedence over marriage 'de futuro'. The British Civil Partnership is marriage per verba de praesenti.

Posted by: Terence Dear on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 2:20pm BST

"The only one-flesh act that nature has given us. And the root of each of our existence. What could be more important and more fundamental than that?"

I dunno - God? Salvation? Our common humanity?

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 5:43pm BST

"The male-female bond is the one-flesh bond. Babies - who are quite literally a fusion of the two parents' contributions from their own bodies - are the scientific/empirical confirmation that male-female sex is the one and only one-flesh act. Anyone who participates in it is therefore participating in the one-flesh act. The only one-flesh act that nature has given us."

This would seem to put an act of rape resulting in a child on the same level as a marriage. Sorry, Christopher, but the whole "one flesh" thing has got to mean something other than fertilization.

Posted by: BillyD on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 5:44pm BST

Christopher
you have made a good case for infertile and post menopausal not to be allowed to marry.

Now if you would like church to continue to support heterosexual marriages that can, by definition, not result in children, then you have to define on what grounds.
And once you have done that, you have to define why those grounds can only apply to heterosexual couples.

But we're straying from the thread of this topic, which is about having weddings and baptisms in the same ceremony.
Shall we go back to that?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 6:59pm BST

Christopher: "The biggest disagreement of all in these discussions - and I would value discussion on this - is between trad Christians who have the highest possible view of sex and revisionists who tend either to say 'oh, it's nothing but sex'..."

Careful, here, Christopher: how well do you know the history of Christian Europe? I don't think many pre-Victorian European Christians had the view you ascribe to them at all.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 7:56pm BST

First point: Christopher Shell seems to talk about the difference between trad Christians and revisionists. I hope he doesn't include all gay Christians in the "revisionist" category, because he'll find that a great many of them are in stable, monogamous and yes, sexually active relationships. Being gay doesn't automatically make you promiscuous - which some people in the Anglican Communion would do well to remember!

Second point: I wish the church would get away from this notion of having a monopoly on marriage. The Bible simply gives us the image of marriage from a very limited cultural perspective. There is no such thing as "traditional marriage" (Christian or otherwise) and the sooner the Church stops excluding faithful and loving same-sex relationships, the closer it will be to the Kingdom.

Posted by: Nick Lincoln on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 8:41pm BST

The church should get out of the wedding business. Rather then officiate at the exchange of vows, clergy and the church should only be in the business of blessing existing unions where the witnessing of vows have taken place in a secular setting.

Posted by: pete on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 9:24pm BST

Wouldn't oral sex fit the one flesh bill in somewhat fundamentalist fashion ? Of course, if we go beyond the concrete to imagination and spirit then human sexuality and imaginings are of infinite plasticity and joys ...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 11 August 2009 at 9:45pm BST

"Babies - who are quite literally a fusion of the two parents' contributions from their own bodies - are the scientific/empirical confirmation that male-female sex is the one and only one-flesh act."

Babies = One-flesh,

One-flesh = Babies.

Tautology, Christopher S: try again.

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 2:22am BST

Pete is spot on. We should go back to the pre-modern situation when marriage was a civil matter and the church blessing an add-on. That is still the situation in France. You have your civil marriage and then go off to a faith-based organisation to have the marriage blessed.

Posted by: Terence Dear on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 8:34am BST

Terence
That is also the case in Germany.

But we need to look carefully at all the components of this.
In England, the civil aspect of the marriage happens in the secular part of signing the register, which takes place inside the church and for which the State has empowered the priest to act as registrar.

The church still says it marries the couple, and that it merely blesses a divorced couple who remarries.
The key is in the different liturgy used for what the church believes to be a valid marriage and a mere blessing of a second one.

In German churches, the civil act of signing the register happens outside the church in a register office, and only once it has been accomplished is the church allowed to conduct its own service.
But the liturgy used makes it very clear that the church considers this to be a marriage service, not a service of blessing.

And so the same debate about SSBs rages there as it does here.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 9:22am BST

Terence: the churches in the Nordic countries, as far as I am aware, tend to have the same system as England, where the priest fills in the register for the state. They are still able to incorporate dealing with same-sex couples rather better than has happened so far in England. The material I've posted up here http://viaintegra.wordpress.com/
gives quite a bit of detail on this already, and I will add more.

Posted by: Fr Mark on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 3:47pm BST

At this moment in the U.S., there is a big silly bro-hah about "rumors" of the President Obama not being "native-born" by the usual whack-job right-wingnuts. The wonderful tag to these types has become "The Birthers". Now if we could just get beyond making babies a reason to couple and love one another.

But that would make sense.

Again it comes down to denial of the condition that humanity is in (too many of us on this earth to begin with), against an outdated conception (sorry about the pun) that we've got to keep breeding to bring the Second Coming back to life, hence the importance in (misguided) theology over the centuries that equates baby-making with coupling.

If nothing else, it's outdated and farcically ridiculous.

The "Birthers", what an apt tag.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 3:49pm BST

Choirboyfromhell

"The wonderful tag to these types has become "The Birthers"

What does it mean?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 4:46pm BST

"The church still says it marries the couple..."

Surely not. The couple are the ministers of the sacrament, and the priest merely there as the Church's representative and to bless the union, but the Church doesn't marry them - they marry each other. I have never heard any Western priest argue otherwise (it's different in Eastern Orthodoxy).

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 5:09pm BST

"trad Christians who have the highest possible view of sex and revisionists who tend either to say 'oh, it's nothing but sex', 'oh it's nothing but what goes on in the bedroom', 'oh it's only what people do with their genitals, nothing more'. There is a massive disagreement here. One lot treats as trivial something that is ultimately precious to the other lot."

Christopher, you have been posting here for at least three years. In that time you have read post after post by gay person after gay person telling of their high regard for marriage, that marriage is about far more than sex alone, that their relationships are marriages in the same sense as yours, with the exception that the Church won't bless them. For them, marriage is anything BUT trivial. What kind of Bizarro World do you live in if after all that you can still make this patently untrue claim? There is truly none so blind as one who will not see.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:32pm BST

BillyD
OK, the church accepts that the couple are married and affirms that in what is traditionally called a marriage service. At the same time, the state has given it the power to conclude the civilly binding contract that constitutes marriage.

The point I was making is that in some cases the church uses liturgy that comes under the heading of marriage, and at others it uses liturgy that comes under the heading of blessing.

Whichever way you want to call it, there are two distinctly different services.
And people who point to Europe to say that the state should get out of the marriage business and merely bless a civil marriage after it has been concluded need to know that the churchs in Europe do not see it like that, but that they still have services of "marriage" and of "blessing".

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:47pm BST

"The wonderful tag to these types has become "The Birthers"

"What does it mean?"

It is not a name they use for themselves, as far as I know, but a shorthand label applied by people who don't believe this junk. The birthers contend that the birth certificate in Honolulu is a fake [also, I suppose, the two contemoporary birth notices in the local papers]. They say that's why you can't take the original of it out of the archives...it would be revealed to be phoney. This is of course nonsense. The 'birthers' claim he was born in Kenya and raised as a Muslim and the good Lord only knows what else. I read this gibberish and worse in my local paper's letters to the editor section.

I think the undreground source for this and the current irrational and very angry response to health care in congress persons' town hall meetings is in part because you can't use the 'n' word in print or in public. There is a lot of racist anger and jealousy [why does a 'n' get all that and I'm only a salesman/garage mechanic, etc.].

The level of irrational hatred scares me, given how many of these people are armed.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 7:53pm BST

Erika:

As I stated in the earlier missive, the term "Birthers" was sarcastically applied to a grassroots political action group that was trying to spread miss-information about the birthplace of President Barack Obama.

The President of the U.S., by our constitution, has to be born in the U.S., and cannot be a "naturalized" (born elsewhere, but legally immigrated). The governors of California and Michigan are unable to become president because of this requirement. There is a silly claque of people trying to spread a rumor that Obama was not born in the U.S., and this action earned them the nickname "Birthers". I sought to extend that description to those in Christianity that are trying to discredit the LGBT community because of our inability to reproduce (at least between the two parties) in our relationship. There are laughingly people still out there that believe the only reason for having sex is to reproduce. I think the term "Birthers" would be an apt description for their deliberate ignorance.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 8:08pm BST

"two-in-one flesh commandment of God."

Commandment? How did Jesus's observation of "the two becoming one flesh" turn into a commandment? And how does this relate to Paul's obvious and clearly stated attitude that marriage is a part of the Divine ecomonia whereby those heterosexuals who cannot control their physical desires may satisfy those desires with some kind of dignity and decency? Or with Jesus's clear statement that "in the Kingdom, they neither marry nor are given in marriage"? This isn't an argument for or against gay marriage, nor am I trying to degrade marriage here, just suggesting that you are elevating it too high. I mean, "commandment" is a rather overblown attitude to have for some thing that Jesus Himself says isn't part of the Kingdom, and Paul considers a sop to uncontrollable heterosexual lust.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 9:17pm BST

The Anglican communion accepted non procreative sex at the Lambeth Conference of 1930.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 12 August 2009 at 10:18pm BST

"The Anglican communion accepted non procreative sex at the Lambeth Conference of 1930." - R.I.W.

Oh, really? And can you tell us Robert. Has the Roman Catholic Church ever offically affirmed the process of 'non procreative sex' ?

What I do know, from press reports on the matter, is that a few months ago, a priest in Southern Italy refused to marry a couple who were disabled and unable to produce children. This did cause a bit of a stir among some Roman Catholics at the time, but we never heard whether the priest was disciplined by the Vatican for this misconception.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:09am BST

"The governors of California and Michigan are unable to become president because of this requirement."

The UberGov for sure - current gov of MI?

The irony of course is that a few years ago, before California tanked, many conservatives, and I expect a lot of the current birthers, were all for a constitutional amendment letting naturalized citizens be eligible to be president.

That's faded, and I suspect they realized it could include - GASP! - naturalized Hispanics!!!!

Oh the HORROR!

Almost as bad as a wise Latina on the Supreme Court!

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:55am BST

Billy C critiqued Erika's statement "The church still says it marries the couple..."

This is the Law in Sweden and from 1915 the only legal Marriage is Adminstrative Law, not church: the Performer as an Agent of the State (which is sole acting Principle under Platonism/Byzantine State Ideology) marries the couple (and yes, there is a Byzantine pre history to Absolutism).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 5:42am BST

Ever since the Formula Tridentina "Ego coniugo vos" was introduced in Prussian Law in 1794, there has been an (increasing) confusion in Germany as to the meaning of the church Ceremony.

For the first 3/4 of the 20th century, even, there was a doubling of it; the one ceremony was understood to be State, the second pretended to be "religious"...

;=)

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 5:47am BST

It is just so annoying that the Church keeps up the propaganda that there has always been a consistent and universal view of marriage when that simply isn't the case. The Church didn't even get involved in marriage until the 12th c. when some naughty priests in France and England started writing unauthorised blessings. Talk about history repeating itself!

Posted by: Terence Dear on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 9:11am BST

"- current gov of MI?"

Jennifer Granholm-Canadian born.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 9:55am BST

"- current gov of MI?"

Jennifer Granholm-Canadian born.

Thanks - I didn't know that. When george Romney ran, 'way back, there was some chitchat about his having been born n Mexico to his American Mormon missionary parents. No problem.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:06am BST

Wee clarification: the US constitution does not require that candidates for the office of Federal President be 'born in the US', but that they be born (i.e. not naturalised) citizens. To avoid unseemly politicking, Senators Clinton and Obama supported the [US] Senate Resolution which asserted that McCain's place of birth (a US military base in the Panama Canal Zone) had no bearing nor created any defect on his status as a 'born US citizen' and therefore eligible to stand for election as President of the US.

Rather far from the topic I know, but on "Thinking Anglicans" accuracy is a virtue surely? If more is made of the comment, I'll wade in later on the relationship between the 'basileus kai autokrator' and the bishop of Constantinople-which-is-New Rome. =:-)

Posted by: Dion on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:14am BST

Hi BillyD-
Exactly. It does make a rape a kind of marriage, which is one very good reason why rape is so horrific. Paul agrees with this in 1 Cor. 6 - the unthinkableness of prostitution because it means becoming one flesh with a prostitute.
A couple can become 'one' tout court: that is something bigger than being 'one flesh'. The moment they become one 'flesh' can only be when their 'flesh' (as opposed to spirit, etc.) becomes one. What other moment fits the bill nearly so well?

Hi Erika-
I already dealt with the infertile and post-menopausal question: what they are doing is still, anatomically, the one-flesh act. This never can, even once, be the case with homosexuals. It is dishonest to pretend there is not a vital difference here.

Hi Ford-
When did I say homosexuals considered *marriage* to be trivial? I said that 'revisionists' of all stripes (a group not by any means coterminous with the group 'homosexuals') sometimes spoke of *sex* as though it was trivial rather than being spiritual and ultimate. Which may be true in their case; *if* it is, they are missing out. As for the remarks on my being blind...dust off your specs and read what I actually wrote! ;o)

JCF: Whatever it is it's not a 'tautology', which is something quite different. It sounds a bit like an invalid syllogism - or it would be if I had written what you thought I wrote. What I actually wrote was that babies are mother nature's imprimatur for one-male-one-female-sex(not that it needs one, since it is each of our very origin) - and everyone who participates in the same thing, whether fertile or infertile, is anatomically indulging in the one and only one-flesh act that exists.
'Try again' is patronising talk. Truth seekers play the ball and not the human being.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 12:35pm BST

"what they are doing is still, anatomically, the one-flesh act."

So, the anatomical aspect of it is the "one flesh" bit, not whether or not it produces a baby?

"As for the remarks on my being blind...dust off your specs and read what I actually wrote! ;o)"

Fair enough. I misquoted. So, what we are talking about here is that sex, when properly licensed, is somehow holy if it is between members of the opposite sex, either because it can produce a child, or because it fruitlessly mimics an act that can produce a child? So, it is the act that can produce a child that is holy. So holy that it can lend holiness to an act that cannot produce a child as long as the act is carried out by people of opposite genders so as to look like "the real thing". That comes too close to fertility cult ideas for my thinking. A man and a woman taking part in an act that, while it is not directly intended to create a child, has the potential to do so, and thus is an sharing in the Divine creativity, bringing that cretivity into being on earth? Or am I mistaken as to how the properly licensed act is holy?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:11pm BST

Thank you for the clarification Dion.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 1:13pm BST

I'm still unconvinced by the mathematical solution Chris. S proposes for the 'one flesh' argument. Where does that leave someone who marries after being widowed? Second best, because they've shared a bed with someone else (now deceased)...?

Applying number theory to ethics is not immediately an appropriate exercise of reasoning, is it? Mathematical solutions to the Trinity tend to have stalled after all.....;-)

Posted by: mynsterpreost (=David Rowett) on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 2:30pm BST

"what they are doing is still, anatomically, the one-flesh act."

By that definition, my guinea pigs could marry.
Christopher, you truly are priceless.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 2:47pm BST

"It does make a rape a kind of marriage, which is one very good reason why rape is so horrific."

I must confess: of the several reasons that I consider rape to be horrific, the idea that it is a kind of marriage isn't one of them. It also seems that if St Paul agreed with you, he would have written about rape, rather than prostitution.

With all due respect, Christopher, it sometimes seems that you have made a fetish of coitus and childbirth. Some of the things you write seem to be more appropriate for a believer in a pagan fertility cult than a Christian.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:17pm BST

I am interested in Terence Dear's contributions--what can we read about the history of marriage pre reformation and the Church's involvement in it??

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 3:33pm BST

"By that definition, my guinea pigs could marry.
Christopher, you truly are priceless."

Well we do bless fox and hounds don't we?

It's just a "shell" game of disproportionate obsession coupled with grandiose-sounding intelligentsia wannabe obfuscation double-speak.

Sorry, hate it when it does that. My tourettes is acting up.

Oh and BillyD, have to side with Erika on this one, as much as I loath and despise child molesters, wife-beaters, murderers and other jolly beings, it is not up to us to bar them from God's Salvation.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 4:56pm BST

@Perry
There is an extensive bibliography on this. Remember that in the period of Late Antiquity to the Reformation (sort of) you have to distinguish between Western Christendom and Eastern Christendom (broadly 'Latin Catholic' vs 'Byzantine Orthodox' -- and yes I know there are others that I am leaving out here). Roman (ie pre-Christian) marriage was a civil compact between families. With the Triumph of Christianity, marriage slowly started to move under the influence of the Church -- slightly earlier in Byzantium (the tetragamy crisis for Leo VI as he sought to have his son by his mistress recognised as his legitimate heir at the turn from the ninth to the tenth century -- Constantine VII Porphyrogennitos was deemed to be legitimate (by the Holy Synod)but hence forth fourth marriages were a no-no. It is really not until the 12th Century that the slow wedding march happens in the West as the marriage ceremony moves from the porch to the altar. And in England the Court of Arches has great fun trying to work out whether what someone said in English but then is translated into Latin for the court record was verba de praesenti or de futuro or neither. This may provoke howls of outrage but Boswell's _Same-Sex unions: Marriage in Pre-Reformation Europe_ does have a reasonably clear section on the gradual assimilation of civil marriage into a Christian sacrament. I'll have a look at wikipedia tomorrow and see what it is like. And of course there is also the Jewish material from western Europe as it was the Great Herem of the mid-11th century CE that put paid to polygamous marriage within Judaism (at first within Christendom, then also for Jews living in the House of Islam).

Posted by: Dion on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 5:57pm BST

"It does make a rape a kind of marriage, which is one very good reason why rape is so horrific."

Continuing about Marriage in days gone by, in ancient Swedish law (Germanic Law?) up to 1918 rape (if the "parties" were of the same social standing) was considered as a kind of forced Marriage, one were the parties forced their families into accepting the deal. Thus children born of a rape were Legitimate; Heirs, until 1918.

Consequently, rape was not considered horrific at all (which lingered on even after the children had been made Bastards by the 1917 "Children's Laws"...).

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 7:50pm BST

"Oh and BillyD, have to side with Erika on this one, as much as I loath and despise child molesters, wife-beaters, murderers and other jolly beings, it is not up to us to bar them from God's Salvation."

Wrong thread, choirboy. But be that as it may, how does keeping an unrepentant, active pedophile from joining the church keep him from God's Salvation?

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 7:57pm BST

"Some of the things you write seem to be more appropriate for a believer in a pagan fertility cult than a Christian."

Seems that way to me too. It comes close to "sympathetic magic".

"much as I loath and despise child molesters, wife-beaters, murderers and other jolly beings, it is not up to us to bar them from God's Salvation."

We're not talking about barring people from God's salvation. We are talking about whether or not there are even minimum requirements for membership in the Kingdom of God. Metanoia is a lifelong process that most of us will never complete. I do not buy in to the childish concept of the dramatic conversion experience, powerful though it may be for some. As an Anglocatholic, I am genetically suspicious of what used to be called "enthusiasm". I am not suggesting people have to prove their sanctity before they get to the font, none of us would qualify. But are you actually saying that you see nothing wrong with a church community knowingly accepting among their number an unrepentant pedophile or murderer? If not how would you deal with that situation? If you are, how do you deal with having such a person among your congregation? It seems to me to abdicate responsibility for that person, actually. Such people are made, not born, and the scars that made them so are deep and severe. If we simply allow such people to go on as they are, hoping for God's miraculous transformation of them one day, we aren't ministering to their brokenness at all. If we do not require some evidence of their desire to live the new life, have we even taught them the Gospel they accept at baptism? Is there not even a need for remorse from such people? Compassion for them involves accepting that their sins are a result of their Fallen nature, just like yours and mine. It does not consist in an "I'm ok, you're ok" approach that does nothing to address their scars and allows them to keep scarring others. In that sense it is not only an abdicating of our responsibility to minister to them, but of our basic human responsibility to our fellow human beings. If people do not show some desire to "live the new life", to be a new creation, whether they state it themselves or in the case of children their sponsors state it, then can their baptisms even be said to be valid?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 7:59pm BST

Don't fall for Ss trope, Male-female=one flesh.

It's a spin doctor conservative intellectual game, all played out ahead of time: A pat trap, laid in waiting for unwary believers.

Clues? Don't we need to take account of the second Genesis creation story?

More: Shouldn't we be careful not to elevate male-female to high, quasi-heavenly realms? Ethics and theology better ought to admit of a large intellectual range between very high valorizations; and low or non-existent attributions of value; all in regard to believers discerning sex, gender, embodiment?

Our NT Jesus instructs his audience that marriage is an earthly matter, not a heavenly one. Replying to questioners, our NT Jesus came down even harder. He overturned a key traditional OT moral rule that told Jews to make babies.

Isn't it being ethical that raises your marriage to being a sign of good, of God? Not the other way round? Quite a stretch then, to go back to equating godliness with making babies, period.

Pauline letters capture a seminal insight that in Christ we have no slave or free, no male or female, no Greek or Jew. This consideration will get us, right into complex distinctions about the New Adam that baptised believers are and become, in the body of Christ. Anglicans are tilted a bit, towards the adoption view – also called new birth. We are not just restored to Adam status, we are raised higher than the first Adam, as we become members of the Last Adam, the body of Christ.

Sacramentally, surely baptism trumps heterosexual reproduction as a marker of belonging to God? Yet when it comes to condemning queer folks who dare to be ethical and pairbonded, S would have us put his heterosexuals only marriage cart before the body of Christ baptism horse.

More: Illogically, S wants us to conclude that valuing babies, parenting, and family life is innately connected to condemning ... what? Or better, Who? OT law kept damaged people out of the temple, away from the altar. Similarly, S preaches that married straight couples making babies are simply God's best, so? - others may occupy the outer courts of Anglican church life, if allowed at all.

If Jesus proclaiming God's kingdom - starting here, starting now – changed all that? Why must we rigidly go back to all that, so that we can condemn people for not making babies, yet again?

Thanks but no thanks.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 8:34pm BST

"Wrong thread, choirboy. But be that as it may, how does keeping an unrepentant, active pedophile from joining the church keep him from God's Salvation?"

It might not, then again, our actions just might, and I err on the side of compassion, as terrible as the sinner might be. (I'd keep him away from the kids at church however)

Of course there are unwritten rules for conduct in worship and the laws of the state apply within the confines of the sanctuary, but it is not up to us to deny a person entrance, just how they conduct themselves once they get there. To me it's the same argument as being born gay vs. with what one does with it.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:38pm BST

"Of course there are unwritten rules for conduct in worship and the laws of the state apply within the confines of the sanctuary, but it is not up to us to deny a person entrance, just how they conduct themselves once they get there."

Maybe it's just me, but this seems to pigeonhole Christianity as something you do in a particular building at a special time once a week. We're not talking about whether or not someone who beats his wife ought to be allowed to attend Mass, after all.

Posted by: BillyD on Thursday, 13 August 2009 at 11:59pm BST

Regarding the clean and unclean arguments:

I still remember ministering in a prsion situation where one of the prisoners said: "Padre, if you're bringing Communion, I can't come". When asked why, the prisoner said "I'm not clean". I then assured him that
none of us is, and that receiving the Eucharist was a pretty good way of fixing that. He wept when I offered him the Host. To my mind, this is allowing the horse to go before the cart - offering what only God can give to put things right. We are only God's instruments - to be used either for good or ill. We need to choose.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 1:03am BST

"We're not talking about whether or not someone who beats his wife ought to be allowed to attend Mass, after all."

But we are, despite being the ones to not ultimately judge. I know in reality that this is almost never the case, there are entire denominations that openly "shun" others and brag about it. And I think that this is the slippery slope that the evangelicals got us into to begin with.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 1:26am BST

"'Try again' is patronising talk. Truth seekers play the ball and not the human being."

But, apparently, they do evade, avoid and obfuscate.

Tom Wright . . . is that you?!

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 6:25am BST

History of Marriage sub-thread
I've looked at Wikipedia on the history of marriage and it is not as helpful as some of the articles are sometimes, so that's not advised. It is very old now but a gentle beginning might be Eileen Powers _Medieval Women_ (sometimes a gentle beginning is good before dealing with canon law prescriptions on how to test for male impotence!).

Posted by: Dion on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 8:42am BST

"But we are... "

No, choirboy, we are talking about whether unrepentant sinners ought to be members of the Church, not whether or not they should be allowed to attend services.

"Regarding the clean and unclean arguments:"

Father Ron, you seem to have mistaken the subject of conversation. It's not a purity issue.

Your prison communicant's response seems (to me) the response of a repentant sinner. What if you were ministering in a prison, though, and someone convicted of murder said something along the lines of, "Yeah, I killed him, and he got what he deserved." Would you still offer him Communion?

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:54pm BST

Hi Erika-
I don't get your point. I have in each comment equated sex (i.e., one flesh) with marriage. If your guinea pigs are anything like ours - and we used to keep 100, among whom was the famous Olga da Polga III - then they regularly marry each other.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 12:55pm BST

"No, choirboy, we are talking about whether unrepentant sinners ought to be members of the Church, not whether or not they should be allowed to attend services."

Repentant to whom?

You should try to get involved prison ministry. It might be an eye opener for you. I'm sure there is a chaplaincy program through the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. And you might be surprised to find out who is a fellow churchmember, whether you ever see them in your own parish or not.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 1:37pm BST

It occurs to me that this idea that it is somehow wrong to require a minimum of belief from someone who becomes a Christian negates the importance of baptismal vows. These vows ask if a person has a basic level of belief in Christ, and a desire to follow Him. Would you consider him to be validly baptised if he answered "No" to any of them? I really don't get how it is that expecting someone to actually commit to the faith they are publically claiming to commit to, which is to say, expecting them to tell the truth to God, is somehow judgemental and a putting a stumbling block in their way. And I think it says something pretty dark that certain people seem to read it that way. It's a broad leap from expecting someone to assent to the basics of a faith that, I assume, we believe to be Gods' revelation of His True Light (as the Orthodox say) and the idea that we require everyone to have attained sanctity before we accept them. And, for some who have been particularly damaged by life, that might be as simple as saying you can in fact come to communion, because we're all sinners, we're all invited to the banquet anyway, even you, 'cuz God don't make no junk. Sometimes, they don't even know that much of the Gospel. How, in the name of God, does anything I've said contradict doing something as basic as extending God's invitation to the banquet to all? Seems a trifle extreme, and as I said, dark, to equate the two.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 2:12pm BST

"Repentant to whom?"

I don't understand your point. Have you read the other posts? The question is whether someone - let's say, for convenience's sake, a Klansman - seeks Baptism in your parish. He makes it quite clear that his racist views are none of your business, and he's going to continue his membership in the Klan, but still wants to be Baptized. What's your response?

"And you might be surprised to find out who is a fellow churchmember, whether you ever see them in your own parish or not."

No, I bet I wouldn't.

Look, like Erika was at one point, you seem to be under the impression that I'm talking about what someone has done in the past. The question is not whether sinners ought to be welcome in the Church (we're all sinners, after all), but whether or not there are minimum expectations for Baptism or active Church membership. It doesn't bother me that murderers have been baptized; indeed, I believe there's an Episcopal priest somewhere who went to prison for murder. But I would oppose the Baptism of murderer who doesn't see anything wrong with his crime, or a that of a wife-beater who hasn't stopped abusing his wife.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 2:30pm BST

Ford and Billy
"It occurs to me that this idea that it is somehow wrong to require a minimum of belief from someone who becomes a Christian negates the importance of baptismal vows."

Only if you reject infant baptism.

And the question really is how you define an unrepentant sinner. At what level will you say you're no longer part of us?

I agree with Billy that a Klansman wanting to be baptised is a tricky issue. But is a Klansman wanting to persecut black people morally much different from many Christians, even priests and archbishops we know, who would want to continue to persecute lgbt people?

And is an unrepented sin the same as being a sinner who is aware that he is doing wrong but insists on continuing? I dare say the latter is quite rare.
People are complicated beasts, and they are incredibly good at rationalising what they're doing and not seeing it as wrong at all. True repentance can start when you see your sin and can genuinely turn away from it. But that's a lifelong process, and I dread to think what sins I will yet discover in myself that seem to me like just being normal and just being me at the moment.

The sin I'm turning away from at Baptism is to believe that I can do it all on my own. I turn to Christ, I repent of having turned away from God, I am taking the first steps on a journey with God and into God.
Moral awareness is a byproduct of that, not its precondition.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 4:30pm BST

"And is an unrepented sin the same as being a sinner who is aware that he is doing wrong but insists on continuing?"

It can be, I think.

"I dare say the latter is quite rare."

It's probably not as rare as you think. It's called, I think, "presuming on God's forgiveness," and some manuals for the examination of conscience before Confession list it. It happens when you commit a sin with the intention that you would go confess it later and be forgiven.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:13pm BST

"Only if you reject infant baptism."

No, that's the whole point of Godparents.

"At what level will you say you're no longer part of us?"

At the point at which you no longer accept the basic things that we all accept. There are myriad interpretations of Christianity. If one doesn't suit you, there's plenty more.

"that's a lifelong process"

As I have said. But do you think it's fair to people to expect them to make vows to God that they turn to, accept, and follow something when you are unwilling to tell them what that something actually is for fear of being judgemental? It's not about whether or not someone is holy, but about whether or not they accept the tenets of the religion they are professing, however narrow or broad those tenets are expressed. If a person can't do that, can you really expect that it is reasonable for them to vow to God that they do?

"I turn to Christ, I repent of having turned away from God, I am taking the first steps on a journey with God and into God."

I agree with and have espoused your analogy for a long time. But your attitude would have the effect of expecting people to start out on that road without even telling them where the road is, let alone which direction they have to walk. How can someone repent of the worldly mind and turn to God if we don't tell them what it is they repent of and what it is they are turning to? How would they even know where to turn? What's wrong with saying "This is what the Anglican understanding of Christianity is. If you do not accept that, no problem, perhaps you would find it more spiritually beneficial to be a Methodist, or Presbyterian, or Pentecostal. We do have such expressions wiithin our little group, but if you need something more exclusive, that's fine too, there are places where you can find that." I don't see what's wrong with telling people what the Gospel is before they vow to follow it.


Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:17pm BST

BillyD, you want to avoid answering my question of to whom we repent to by "not understanding it", but I won't buy that, because ultimately, who is in control here? Is it the church assembled deciding who gets the sacraments or is it left it up to God, which by the way, my take on the NT is tantamount- that repentance (as opposed to 'forgiveness', something slightly different, that we Christians are indeed exhorted to practice) comes from God and God alone.

Good grief, I put up with homophobes in both parishes that I sing, but do you think for a minute I'd even think that repentance came from whatever mood I in?

Erika-Most of us older cradle Episcopalians were baptized as infants, but in the 1979 BCP over here it does make mention of parents and godparents to "help this child grow in the full stature of Christ", note the active verb "help". It is implied that an adult would be responsible for a child's actions until maturity

Now Confirmation on the other hand, something that isn't made a big deal about anymore, I could buy into your ideas about, BillyD.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 5:27pm BST

"Is it the church assembled deciding who gets the sacraments or is it left it up to God"

Well, unless you are claiming that God speaks to you directly, you would need someone to explain to you what the faith actually is and what is expected of people who practice that faith. Who can do that other than the people who already practice that faith? As to the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, there's two different aspects to that. First, there is the idea that all are called to the banquet, and, in the words of an old Malankara priest in India "It isn't right to turn anyone away from Holy Communion." Indeed, as you illustrated earlier, there are many who need assurance that they actually are invited to the banquet sins and all, and that in itself is an act of Evangelism. But there is also the idea that to receive the Eucharist is to express acceptance of the Gospel, and I ask again, how can we expect people to express acceptance of something when we won't tell them, however vaguely, what it is they are accepting? Your attitude, and correct me if I'm wrong, seems to be that Evangelism is about telling people to figure it out for themselves. Not exactly a hopeful message. The question is not "To whom do we repent?" That's easy: God. The question is, how can we expect people to repent and turn to God if we don't explain what it is they are expected to repent of, what repentance even means, and what it is they are turning towards? Surely it isn't exclusive to explain the religion your are trying to preach. How could you preach it otherwise? It's not the Evangelical "confom or roast" attitude, but there's a vast difference between demanding conformity as a prerequisite for acceptance and teaching what it is we believe and what someone would be professing should they come to baptism. They should at least have the opportunity of rejecting the faith before they promise God that they turn to and will follow........something that will perhaps become clear some time in the future if they grope around long enough.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 6:51pm BST

"BillyD, you want to avoid answering my question of to whom we repent to by "not understanding it", but I won't buy that, because ultimately, who is in control here?"

Please do me the courtesy of taking me at my word. What I meant when I said that I didn't understand your point was - that I didn't understand your point. I can't think of what you mean by "repent to." Is it a question about how one shows repentance, or a question of who decides if we're demonstrating repentance, or what?

"Is it the church assembled deciding who gets the sacraments or is it left it up to God, which by the way, my take on the NT is tantamount- that repentance (as opposed to 'forgiveness', something slightly different, that we Christians are indeed exhorted to practice) comes from God and God alone."

Who decided who gets the Sacraments? The Church. Specifically, the priest in charge, if we're talking about the Eucharist; check out the Disciplinary Rubrics on page 409 of the American BCP.

There isn't such a thing as "Sacraments on demand" in Christianity. They're not something you order off a menu, and the waiter provides with no conditions. Walk up to the Communion rail wearing a racist tee shirt, and you might well walk away uncommunicated. Tell a priest in Confession that you don't intend to return the money you stole, and you'll probably walk away unabsolved. You may wish that this were not the case, but please don't think I'm making this stuff up.

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 6:57pm BST

I lost track of this thread, then re-discovered it. The level of discussion is quite refreshing compared to the reader’s comments section I've seen on the local paper's website which all too often devolves into "You're a jerk!"
The whole "two shall become one flesh" talk makes me creepy. It sounds like bad sci-fi movies. We don't subsume each other in marriage, regardless of same sex or opposite sex. Yes, a marriage is a union of two people, but ideally, they each retain their own identity while contributing to and supporting each other. The phrase made more sense when women were totally subsumed into the men’s identity, but I’d like to think we’re getting away from that. But, then again, considering the opposition to women priests, maybe we haven’t.
That argument and the "male-female complementarity" argument leave me cold. We aren't electrical components or plumbing joints. Second, there are six billion of us on the planet. Two billion are Christian. We are very fruitful indeed and over-multiplied. Our sheer numbers are overwhelming our planet’s ecosystems. We aren't in danger of natural extinction.
So, marriage shouldn't be about popping babies. It should be about mutual respect, love, and support. And gay/lesbian couples are just as capable of meeting that test as straight couples are. I’m sorry that the physical intimacy between same-sex couples freaks some people out (especially the intimacy between two men), but that hardly is an effective argument (I hope!) between allowing them to marry. If the church is really concerned about alleged gay/lesbian promiscuity, it should be encouraging gay and lesbian couples to marry, not barring the door.
Years ago, I heard a state legislator say “Marriage strengthens the relationship between two people, reduces infidelity, assures mutual support, and places sex in a better context. … Therefore homosexuals should not be allowed to marry!” Sadly, that logic still is being used.

Posted by: peterpi on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 9:29pm BST

"Tell a priest in Confession that you don't intend to return the money you stole, and you'll probably walk away unabsolved. You may wish that this were not the case, but please don't think I'm making this stuff up."

Really? I thought confession was corporate in the Episcopal Church.

I wish you would take me seriously and answer the question of whom do we repent to..and repentance is not the same as the sacraments. Absolution might come from a priest, forgiveness from a fellow parishioner, but we are justified by our faith alone. Erika, are you still awake at this hour?????

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Friday, 14 August 2009 at 11:57pm BST

Billy D wrote: "There isn't such a thing as "Sacraments on demand" in Christianity. They're not something you order off a menu, and the waiter provides with no conditions. Walk up to the Communion rail wearing a racist tee shirt, and you might well walk away uncommunicated. Tell a priest in Confession that you don't intend to return the money you stole, and you'll probably walk away unabsolved. You may wish that this were not the case, but please don't think I'm making this stuff up."

But teh Gay is not about whearing a "rasist" t-shirt to Mass, not is it about theft... Please!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 4:18am BST

Ford

I’m getting terribly confused now.
This conversation started because Billy believes that there has to be a minimum moral standard of behaviour and awareness before someone can become a Christian, and that the church has to enforce this to be point of not admitting someone who does not adhere to this, or by removing an existing member from amongst its midst when they clearly show that they are deliberately ignoring this minimum moral standard. (although he has still to explain what he means by “the church). I disagree, but I understand what he’s saying, and I think that conversation has now run its course.

But you appear to be saying something completely different. You seem to be talking that members have to subscribe to a minimum of spiritual beliefs.
Well, yes, of course.
All I said is that we have to be careful how to phrase this, because babies and children, as well as mentally handicapped Christians do not have the knowledge of the theology they’re supposed to subscribe to. But that a normal adult Christian should be able to find his place somewhere within the Christian spectrum goes without saying.

But again, the debate started because Billy believes that it is right and proper for the church to remove people who do not fit the mould. And it is really this that I quibble with.
So are you saying that “the church” (and again, please define what you mean by this) refuses membership (what is that: no Eucharist? No entry to Services?) to people who have lost their faith but still come to church?

This is the only thing I have been arguing for the last few days. That no-one has the right to remove anyone from amongst our midst. Indeed, that they haven’t actually got the power to do so. Accepting an individual or not is something that at the deepest level only God can do.
So have we been talking cross purposes?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 7:15am BST

Billy
"Walk up to the Communion rail wearing a racist tee shirt, and you might well walk away uncommunicated. Tell a priest in Confession that you don't intend to return the money you stole, and you'll probably walk away unabsolved."

But in some parts of the Anglican Communion you could be communicated by a priest who is wearing an invisible anti-gay tee-shirt on his heart.

And the absolution the priest pronounces is pronounced on God's behalf. If you don't confess that you don't intend to return the money, the priest may "absolve" you after your confession of other sins, but that isn't quite the same as having genuinely repented and knowing that God has forgiven you.

And when you confess to being a partnered gay person in some parts of the church, there are priests who will refuse to absolve you. Doesn't mean that God believes you're a sinner.

At the heart, it's always between the individual and God.
Priests want to be very careful not to believe they have the genuine power to determine who's in and who's out.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:47am BST

'marriage shouldn't be about popping babies. It should be about mutual respect, love, and support.'

One of the least logical either/ors that I have ever seen.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 12:34pm BST

"Really? I thought confession was corporate in the Episcopal Church."

Are you an American Episcopalian, choirboy? Take a look at pp 446 - 452 of the BCP.

"I wish you would take me seriously and answer the question of whom do we repent to..."

Since I've told you that I don't understand your question, it might be helpful if you restate the question. That would be taking me seriously.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:39pm BST

"But teh Gay is not about whearing a "rasist" t-shirt to Mass, not is it about theft... Please!"

Goran, we're not talking about teh gay at this point.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:41pm BST

"But again, the debate started because Billy believes that it is right and proper for the church to remove people who do not fit the mould. And it is really this that I quibble with."

Um, yes - if by "people who do not fit the mould" you mean someone who abuses their spouse or engages in pedophilia, and either tries to excuse their behavior or refuses to stop it, then yes, they should temporarily be removed from active Church membership. You make it sound as if I'm trying to purge the Church of the colorblind or something.

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:45pm BST

"This is the only thing I have been arguing for the last few days. That no-one has the right to remove anyone from amongst our midst. Indeed, that they haven’t actually got the power to do so. Accepting an individual or not is something that at the deepest level only God can do."

Erika, what do you think Jesus meant when he told the apostles, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:22-23) or "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:19)?

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 8:55pm BST

"If you don't confess that you don't intend to return the money, the priest may "absolve" you after your confession of other sins, but that isn't quite the same as having genuinely repented and knowing that God has forgiven you."

Technically, hiding something like that (or lying about it) in Confession just adds another sin, so no, it isn't quite the same at all...

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 15 August 2009 at 9:21pm BST

Christopher Shell, you seem awfully fond of your "logic"... A pity no one else does.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 6:01am BST

"'marriage shouldn't be about popping babies. It should be about mutual respect, love, and support.'

One of the least logical either/ors that I have ever seen."

Unfortunately life isn't a Suduko game Mr. Spock.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 11:00am BST

"One of the least logical either/ors that I have ever seen."

Not really, in the context of the conversation. You've argued over and over that marriage essentially nothing more than the act of heterosexual coitus - ideally, heterosexual coitus leading to pregnacy - so much so that you've characterized both rape and the act of rodents mating as forms of marriage. Peterpi's comment seems to refute that, and says that marriage is essentially a spiritual/emotional relationship. You may disagree with him (and of course you do) but his comment makes perfect sense.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 1:39pm BST

Billy
That's the tricky bit about throwing bible quotes at each other.
I seriously struggle with some contradictions in the New Testament and I have to find my own way through them.
The verses you quote are as valid as the demands that we must not judge which I quoted.
And so I confess that I make nothing of the verses you quote because I do not understand them.

And the reason I do not understand them, deep down, at gut level, is that I know that no human being can see into another human being's heart, and that we are all liable to judge by our own moral standards and the hot button issues of our culture of the day. And while you wheel out the active paedophile again, who would be in jail if anyone knew about him, not sitting next to you on a Sunday, you do not comment on the actively homophobic priest who would have you and me thrown out of the church, and whose verdict you would have to accept as just by your own standards and as truly representing God’s will.

In effect, the church doesn't actually judge a great deal. As you said yourself, there are many who go to church for various reasons other than a personal faith and no-one tells them they must pass a moral audit first.

But deep deep down what remains is the fact that you can remove people from your weekly gathering, you can remove then from your denomination, and maybe there is some über-pope who thinks he can remove them from all of Christendom.
Yet – as long as God knows their heart and recognises them as one of his own, everything we do is play power games.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 2:50pm BST

Christopher isn't saying marriage should be about babies, he's actually saying it's about sex.
Oh well, let that impoverished view be his.

For me, marriage will always be that which makes us different from animals, even animals who pair for life. It will always be about loving, honouring, cherishing with God's help until death. About sharing all our worldly goods. You know, about the things we actually promise in church, the things that are really hard to fulfil for the rest of one's life.

I quote the Roman Catholic theologian James Alison again:
“Now the beauty of Church teaching concerning marriage is that it does firmly offer a sense of a very particular and narrowly defined form of sexual love over time that is open to procreation as being non-idolatrous, and as being capable of bearing some sign not only of the "just is" but also of the "what for". Though it must be said that the principal stress of the teaching has been on the giving of each one to the other in love unto death rather than the capacity for procreation. It is the Baptismal living out of love unto death that makes a marriage sacramental. Jesus himself suggests the idolatry of being too concerned with procreation when God is infinitely able to create (Mt 22, 23-33).”
From: http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng58.html

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 2:57pm BST

"you do not comment on the actively homophobic priest who would have you and me thrown out of the church, "

I think that you and I would probably disagree on what it means to be "actively homophobic." I recognize that believing homosexual acts to be sinful is a legitimate position within Christianity, and not necessarily the result of hatred or fear of gay people. I

"and whose verdict you would have to accept as just by your own standards and as truly representing God’s will."

If you think for a minute that I believe everything that issues from the mouth of a cleric represents the will of God, you are sorely mistaken.

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 11:06pm BST

"For me, marriage will always be that which makes us different from animals, even animals who pair for life. It will always be about loving, honouring, cherishing with God's help until death. About sharing all our worldly goods. You know, about the things we actually promise in church, the things that are really hard to fulfil for the rest of one's life."

At last! A comment by Erika I can wholeheartedly subscribe to! :-)

Posted by: BillyD on Sunday, 16 August 2009 at 11:08pm BST

"What if you were ministering in a prison, though, and someone convicted of murder said something along the lines of, "Yeah, I killed him, and he got what he deserved." Would you still offer him Communion?" - BillyD -

Sorry, BillyD, have been so busy contemplating the relative sinlessness of Our Lady during the celebration of her Assumption, that I failed to catch your response to my prison ministry blog until just now.

The answer to your question here is: No!

However, I would want to talk with him about the possibility of seeing what he had done as an offence against God and the person involved. At the same time, I would seek to find out why he had felt it necessary or expedient to do what he did at the time.

You're right when you say that in the example I gave, the prisoner was, de facto, repentant. Also bear in mind that he had first admitted that he was 'not clean' - a pretty good indication of his sorrow and repentance, and the ground from which I was able to offer him the Communion he was encouraged by me to receive.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 5:37am BST

Billy D doesn't think this tread is about "teh Gay". 100 comments!

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 6:51am BST

"Billy D doesn't think this tread is about "teh Gay""

I'm sorry I've confused you, Goran. What I wrote (at least, what I meant to write) was that Erika and choirboy and I were not talking about being gay, but about the wider subject of whether the Church has any authority to administer discipline to anyone for any reason.

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 11:49am BST

Hi Erika-
I'm not saying marriage is about sex but that sex is (biblically and biologically) what makes people married/one-flesh/unified/fully-sharing. There are many things one can share with friends - but not sex, which is an ultimate: the expression of unity. For my money, your idea fails on the grounds of the meaning of the word 'flesh'. This would force you to define 'one flesh' in ways that have nothing to do with actual flesh. Also your treating sex as something comparatively trifling is, as mentioned, something that Christians have strongly disagreed with, and I certainly do.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 1:27pm BST

"I'm not saying marriage is about sex but that sex is (biblically and biologically) what makes people married/one-flesh/unified/fully-sharing. "

Setting aside the idea that there's a biological definition of marriage, this is not at all what you have written, Christopher. You have written repeatedly that it is heterosexual coitus that does this, not simply "sex."

Of course, you are probably one of those tiresome people who only recognize heterosexual coitus as being "really sex." Poor me - first my parents aren't really my parents, now I'm probably going to be told that my sex isn't "really sex." I wonder if the dinner I eat tonight will be "really food." ;-)

By the way, I asked you a question on another thread but I haven't seen an answer. Maybe you could answer it here. You wrote, concerning sexual orientation, "(1) For heterosexuals it is a pre-programmed genetic matter."

I asked which gene has been shown to regulate heterosexuality. So far, no answer...

Posted by: BillyD on Monday, 17 August 2009 at 10:07pm BST

"I'm not saying marriage is about sex but that sex is (biblically and biologically) what makes people married/one-flesh/unified/fully-sharing. There are many things one can share with friends -but not sex, which is an ultimate: the expression of unity. For my money, your idea fails on the grounds of the meaning of the word 'flesh'. This would force you to define 'one flesh' in ways that have nothing to do with actual flesh."
- Christopher Shell -

Oh dear, Christopher, in this posting alone you are showing an ambivalence about the 'one-flesh' argument that has you veering from R.C.-ism;

quote: "I'm not saying marriage is about sex but that sex is (biblically and biologically) what makes people married/one-flesh/unified/fully-sharing." (For Roman Catholics, if a marriage is not *consummated* it may be annulled)

to the other (non-Catholic) extreme;

quote: *This would force you to define 'one flesh' in ways that have nothing to do with actual flesh*.

To try to answer both of your contentions: Anglicans, generally, (1) would not seek a divorce on the grounds of non-consummation (although they may). Whereas, (2) most Anglicans would agree that the One Flesh of the Body of Christ in the Eucharist is not a carnal but a spiritual reality.

You, Christopher, who protest so loudly about the need for exactitude in language and the need for 'Truth', seem to not always practice what you so fervently preach. God Bless you!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 5:13am BST

Christopher
I do not treat sex as trifling. I agree that it ought to happen in lifelong, faithful, loving relationships.
You can disagree with me, but please don't misrepresent me.


Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 10:42am BST

Billy D wrote: "... the wider subject of whether the Church has any authority to administer discipline to anyone for any reason."

It has since time immemorial. And to various ends. Is there really a "need" to discuss this?

One might agree, or disagree... But.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Tuesday, 18 August 2009 at 5:32pm BST

"This would force you to define 'one flesh' in ways that have nothing to do with actual flesh."

Ain't metaphors a bitch?

Posted by: BillyD on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 1:01am BST

Hi Erika and Ron
I think the fact that sarx (flesh) cannot fail to mean something physical - as opposed to soma=body which has wider metaphorical use - is the nettle that needs to be grasped.

Ron, I think that it is always opposed to the cause of truth to *begin* from a presupposition (i.e. RCism, anglicanism) rather than beginning presuppositionless and allowing RCism and anglicanism and all the others to be (if indeed they figure at all) conclusions not presuppositions. Reliance on presuppositions is the direct cause of fundamentalism since it falsely treats presuppositions as unarguable whereas all other points (illogically) are arguable.
When one arrives at the truth (or rather insofar as one does) one might logically expect it not to bear 100% resemblance to any particular denomination or ideology. All of them must be regarded critically.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Wednesday, 19 August 2009 at 12:47pm BST

"When one arrives at the truth (or rather insofar as one does) one might logically expect it not to bear 100% resemblance to any particular denomination or ideology. All of them must be regarded critically." - Christopher Shell -

Eureka! Christopher! So you really have the TRUTH? (insofar as anyone does). Why even Pontius Pilate grasped the fact that truth is very hard to clutch hold of - as you seem to be claiming to be able to do, here. Perhaps a little less circumlocution and and a loty less hubris might enable you to gain the ear of some of us - instead have us all having to rebut your rather specious arguments on the LGBT front every time.

As you, yourself, have already explained, you are a N.T. Historian - not necessarily a theolog. As, also you have agreed, it is very difficult to make theological statements that correspond as precisely with the historical N.T. as you might want to be the case. One thing with which I think you (as a N.T. scholar) might agree, is that the cultural 'history' of the Bible - especially the N.T. - can be very subjective. Also, one must allow for the fact that the Holy Spirit did not stop teaching and informing the Church once the King James Bible was published. The real problem with some 'historians' is that they can never get over their obsession with the past, blind to the promise of the future.

Anyway, Christopher, you still haven't answered me on the provenance of my quotation from Matthew 19:12. What about it?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 12:20pm BST

I should add that Paul in 1 Cor 12 is explicitly using the body as a metaphor; that what he says late in 1 Cor 11 about the body of Christ could well be connected to this, and that this metaphor was an existing topos, e.g. Menenius Agrippa. I can never remember which Shakespeare play this was reproduced in but it may be Coriolanus.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 1:16pm BST

Hi Fr Ron-
Mate, you can do better! ;o) First, I say 'one' not 'I': that means I am speaking about people in general (or else I am royal, which I'm not). Second, I use the word 'insofar', which shows the necessary humility about whether any of us can 'arrive at the truth'. Even despite these two concessions, you somehow arrive at the conclusion that I think I 'have the truth'. These are the sort of things that one can emnumerate to tell how unbiased an interlocutor is. How many more concessive clauses do you want? :o(

I will be away from the internet for a month pending arrival of new sprog, will take up thread soon.

(I spoke about Mt 19.12 on the other (later) thread.)

Posted by: Chirstopher Shell on Thursday, 20 August 2009 at 6:19pm BST

"I will be away from the internet for a month pending arrival of new sprog..."

Congratulations!

Posted by: BillyD on Friday, 21 August 2009 at 11:48am BST

Thanks Billy.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Saturday, 22 August 2009 at 12:36pm BST
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