Saturday, 12 April 2014

Further discussion of the LBC radio phone-in controversy

Updated Sunday morning (scroll down for new item)

Kelvin Holdsworth Understanding the Justin Welby Radio Phone-In Controversy. One extract:

…It looks as though the Archbishop is trying to set up a “reconciliation process” when he has already decided that the best outcome would be for the church to adopt a policy of blessing gay couples in Civil Partnerships but not affirming anything to do with same-sex couples and marriage. The trouble with this is that it won’t do for those who have come to the view that gay people and straight people should be dealt with equally because they are fundamentally equal in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of God.

The suspicion is that the Archbishop of Canterbury and many others with him, is trying to address this question on the presumption that gay people are in some way disabled (or worse, dysfunctional) straight people. Does he believe that gay people just can’t help themselves and so something must be done for them? It may be to misjudge him terribly, but it feels very much like it.

The reality is that those who have campaigned long and hard for marriage to be opened up to same-sex couples have drunk deeply at the Civil Rights well of justice. They (we!) believe gay people and straight people should be treated equally because of a fundamental existential equality between gay people and straight people.

Any hope that the church could have satisfied people by blessing civil partnerships but refusing to affirm marriages contracted by gay and lesbian couples is 10 years out of date. Had the churches affirmed Civil Partnerships in the first place then they might be in a better place to affirm them now. The argument can be endlessly made that Civil Partnerships and Marriage confer the same rights. The trouble is, most people now accept that Rosa Parks was right. Even if the bus does get you to the same destination, travelling at the front of the bus and travelling at the back of the bus are not the same thing…

Jim Naughton reports on the North American trip: Welby’s assertion on massacre follows him “far, far away in America” and then offers this analysis:

…The grave in Bor [South Sudan] does not seem to be the mass grave that the archbishop was referring to in the radio broadcast in the United Kingdom last week when he initially stated that the victims had been murdered due to events “far, far away in America.” Indeed, the ENS story carries a “correction” that reads: “a correction was made to this article to remove reference to the location of the mass grave where Welby said he had been told Christians were murdered out fear that they might become homosexual because of Western influence.”

Welby had previously said that he would not reveal the site of the mass grave he spoke of on the radio to protect the community. His refusal to give further details on the massacre also means that his claims cannot be independently evaluated, and that his analysis of why the massacre in question occurred cannot be challenged.

Meanwhile, The Church Times has published a story in which it says that Sudanese bishops “confirmed … that Christians in their country face a violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage and blessings.”

However, one of the three Sudanese bishops interviewed disputes this assertion and the quotation used in the headline of the story is not spoken by any of the bishops whom the Church Times interviewed.

Additionally, one of the bishops is said to have “verified” Welby’s experience at a mass grave that Welby has not said was in Sudan, and which at least one British religion reporter has placed in Nigeria.

One can appreciate Welby’s concern for the safety of Christians in Africa, and some readers may even be persuaded that it is necessary to discriminate against LGBT people in the West to save lives in Africa, but Welby cannot be given a pass for introducing 12-15 year -old right wing talking point into the debate over LGBT equality as though it were a proven fact, and then refusing to provide the details that would allow for a critical examination of his claim. (Secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches.)

In his radio interview last week, the archbishop said: “It’s about the fact that I’ve stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of Christians who’d been attacked because of something that had happened far, far away in America.”

Nothing he has said since then indicates that he doesn’t believe this to be the case. But everything he has said indicates he is unwilling to actually defend this assertion. That’s dirty pool.

Mark Oakley wrote a letter to the editor of the Guardian How the Church of England can tackle anti-gay violence

Archbishop Welby is right to understand that what is said by the Church of England transmits messages (Welby links killings in Africa to gay marriage, 5 April). The prejudice that kills Christians thought to be gay-friendly is the same as that which kills LGBT people themselves in increasing global homophobic crimes from Russia to Nigeria. Whether failing to support gay marriage here because of the risk it places African Christians under is shrewd or simply handing power to the oppressor can be debated. I am convinced that if such support isn’t forthcoming, those who commit acts of anti-Christian violence are likely to find other reasons to do so. However, one urgent move is now essential – to speak out in support of decriminalising homosexuality across the Commonwealth and wider world. To do this in a joint statement with Pope Francis would be a powerful communication of the church’s non-negotiable belief in God-given human dignity and underline the clear distinction between morality and criminality – just as Archbishop Ramsey recognised when he supported decriminalisation in this country. It would also help reduce the abuse and murder of LGBT folk that criminalisation is perceived to legitimate. As Alice Walker wrote, “no person is your friend who demands your silence”.

Canon Mark Oakley
London

Update

Bishop Gene Robinson writes What the Archbishop of Canterbury Should Have Said About Gay Rights

…So how might the Archbishop have responded differently? Perhaps something like this: “Look, the church must consider many things in discerning whether a change is warranted in our consideration of blessing the marriages of same-sex couples: what scriptures says, how the church’s historical understanding has developed, and our own experience of gay couples’ relationships. We are in the midst of that discernment right now. In addition, we must always be aware that our decisions here in England are being watched by the world’s 80 million Anglicans and their enemies; sometimes being used as an irrational and unwarranted excuse by those enemies for violence against Christians. I have seen the graves of those who have suffered because of these unjust and irrational connections between LGBT people and murder, and it breaks my heart.

Even so, we cannot give in to the violent acts of bullies and must discern and then pursue God’s will for all of God’s children. Violence and murder of Christians is deplorable, but so is violence against and murder of LGBT people. And as the spiritual leader of the world’s Anglicans, permit me to point out, it is not helpful for some of our own Anglican archbishops, bishops and clergy to join in support of anti-gay legislation and rhetoric in their own countries, thereby fueling the hatred and violence against innocent LGBT people, who are being criminalized and murdered for who they are. These are complicated issues, and with God’s guidance, we will discern what is right to say and do.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 4:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

Deep gratitude to Jim Naughton for this: (Secular human rights groups have documented many massacres in Sudan and Nigeria, and attributed none to the actions of gay-friendly churches.)

Even if Welby's assertion was true, that wouldn't make it moral to withhold human rights, justice, and inclusion for LGBT people. Ultimately, it is vitally important to see the causes of the violence as honestly as possible, if there is to be a prayer of addressing the problems and bringing actual peace.

Most unfortunately, it looks increasingly as if the assertion is a classic piece of propaganda for anti-gay forces. It sadly played into Justin's own position. It certainly created a heap of hurt among LGBT Anglicans who are tuned in.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 7:16pm BST

Again, +Kelvin totally "gets it." Yes, many of us are steeped in the lessons of the Civil Rights era, lead by prophet and martyr, Martin Luther King. (It was amazing to me to see his statue on the West Facade of Westminster Abbey). Separate is essentially unequal. There is a great reason to use those lessons, it is the road to the Promised Land for ALL people. There may be other roads, but so far, no one else has revealed it to me, certainly not Justin.

The road to the Promised Land is paved with nonviolent resistance. Thus, there isn't a chance that appeasing violence, hate, and bigotry, will get people "there."

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 7:24pm BST

Social constructivists, feminists, and now recently even some prominent Gay historians have argued that the very notion of 'sexual identity' goes back only 100 years or so.

Given this, is the alternative view that 'sexual identity' (including what is now labeled GLBT identities) in fact always existed, but not in a social realm that allowed them to surface fully? (David was 'gay' and so was Jonathan, but we couldn't see that clearly).

Or is the modern GLBT genuinely without precedent, but also not socially constructed?

One can see fairly quickly that if the Bible is consigned to a realm of past opinion and time-conditioned religious ideas, it will require as well a view that we are encountering something that is totally new, or that was always there but was unable to arise into present form.

This is, I believe, why most conservatives/traditional Christians (and their secular counterparts) bristle at the idea of using a term like 'marriage equality'. If we have something genuinely new, it needs a genuinely new accompanying term.

I suppose the alternative would be to hand the word 'marriage' over to general consumption, and then to find a term that fits the specific conditions of 1) sexual difference and its potential for procreation as such, and 2) matching the language of scripture from Genesis to Revelation re: Christ, Bride, male female, one flesh, mystery, etc (take the soi disant 'clobber verses' out altogether if you wish).

I think if we want to honor the truly new sexual identity Westerners are being asked to acknowledge; or one that was insufficiently socially construct-able and was always there but hidden, we should find a good neologism (like 'Gay' is, e.g.) or let 'marriage' do duty for any species of coupling under X,Y conditions.

In a way, that is what the CofE is doing when it puts its civil/Erastian shirt on.

Then it seeks to denominate what is distinctive when that allowance has been made.

All have been asked to listen to the experience of LGBT people. This site is dominated by the LGBT position -- and quite properly so, one might conclude, given the electronic superhighway of opinion.

Many are listening and listening attentively, to what is arguably--or aggressively--a new phenomenon in time. Should this wash over what is genuinely different in male-female Christian 'one-flesh' commitment in Christ, with its parental duties and joys; and same-sex solemn coupling, even done in Christ's name?

What we are seeing is halting before this threshold on the part of the CoE. To label it 'Rosa Parks' is nice rhetoric. But is it actually tracking the issue at hand, historically, logically, and theologically, even as recent Gay historians and social constructivists have themselves held?

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 10:47pm BST

So far as we can tell, sexual orientation has always existed, but it was only recognized and categorized in Victorian times. All that's new is our understanding of a preexisting reality.

If the word marriage can adapt from a property transaction between families to a love match of equals, it can certainly adapt to be gender neutral. The abolition of coverture was much more radical than the wedding of gay couples.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 11:16pm BST

"This is, I believe, why most conservatives/traditional Christians (and their secular counterparts) bristle at the idea of using a term like 'marriage equality'. If we have something genuinely new, it needs a genuinely new accompanying term."

The time for that debate was before the legislation was passed, not afterwards. Marriage is marriage: the legislation is passed, and if conservatives want to put quotation marks around it in some cases, as Andrew "Mainstream" Symes appears to want to do, then that is their prerogative. But no-one else is listening any more.

The evangelical wing of the CofE stupidly (there is no better word) assumed that all the ABC had to do was stand up in parliament and say "down with this sort of thing" and there would be no chance of same-sex legislation being passed. So they had no plan for what would happen when it was passed, nor had it engaged in any meaningful sense with the debate prior its passage, because it did not think such a thing could happen.

It's said that when Nixon heard that the Supreme Court was unanimous in United States v. Nixon, which rejected his proposition of "Executive Privilege", he assumed that it was unanimous in his favour, and took some time to realise what had actually happened. That was what happened to the CofE over SSM: it genuinely thought that there was no realistic chance of a Tory lower house, or a rural/conservative upper chamber, passing it, so didn't bother to have a Plan B.

So today, people who are still in a tizzy about SSM can talk about whether it should be called marriage, or whether it really is marriage, or whether. But it's a dead issue: the legislation is passed, and whether your interpretation of the story of KIng Canute is a dim king who thought he could stop the tide or an astute king proving that he couldn't to his credulous nobles, further discussion on any assumption that "SSM marriage is marriage" is doomed to irrelevance.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 11:23pm BST

You know, cseitz, when I look at my partner and reflect on the gift from God that she is, I'm not exactly thinking about the historical perspective!

The major point for many of us is that the witness and experience of our lives is holy and and our love is blessed. When I see Jesus caring for the outcasts and breaking taboos to heal, teach, and care for people, I get the sense that Jesus weeps when anyone is treated inhumanely. Anyone, be it LGBT people, or the people of South Sudan at the mercy of armies and sectarian strife.

I work in the arts. There is no way that gayness is new. No way. What is new is the sense of humanity and justice and equality that came out of the 20th Century. Much of that has a theological basis. I see the conservatives as trying to put the justice genie back in the bottle. It isn't going to happen, but conservatives do have the power to hurt as they recede into history.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 12 April 2014 at 11:35pm BST

It seems to me that Christopher Seitz wrote... words, words, words in a "war" which he has conceded elsewhere has already been lost in the US.

Cynthia wrote about her actual life.

I echo the preciousness she finds in her beloved partner, and its reality, and legitimacy. Its right to be sanctified before the assembly of God's people.

And all the potentiality for children and family that lesbian marriage can and does involve ("parental duties and joys" attributed by Mr Seitz to heterosexual partners are also a lived reality of lesbian partners too).

People who love each other tenderly, and commit to each other, in sickness and health, and express their love intimately, and share their lives with the community around them... have just as much value, and marital status, as any other couple.

And people in growing numbers 'get' that, and here in England it is now the law. Call it simple decency and respect.

Now we can go on and on about theological arguments, and expend a thousand words, but the reality is that people's actual lives and experiences witness to this precious love and lived marital relationship.

Since the Church in England is divided down the middle about this, we should stop pretending there is only one position, and simply accept and accommodate the distinct views, while living together in love and fellowship, in the eternal unity we have in Jesus Christ.

To this extent I agree with Christopher http://www.anglicanink.com/article/seek-peace-honor-tec-wars
that conservative Anglicans should be given "the moral space and right to exist."

So should so-called liberal Anglicans here in England.

Bishops should let Anglican parishes have the "moral space" to determine their positions on this issue. Was this not the principle you previously urged across the Atlantic, Christopher?

The same principle should apply to priests and PCC's who wish to bless gay and lesbian marriages, or priest's gay marriages, and fully welcome and recognise the marriages in their communities, regardless of gender or orientation.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 2:23am BST

If "marriage" can contain polygamy, polyandry, child brides, arranged relationships, and the like, surely it can safely contain the wedding of two people of the same sex.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 2:34am BST

In 2008, California law provided equal rights for same-sex and opposite-sex couples but gave them different names, something that previously existed in England and which the CofE apparently wants to maintain.

The California Supreme Court found that "equal" rights but separate names for opposite sex couples ("marriages") and same-sex couples ("domestic partnership," "civil partnership," or "civil union") creates inherent inequality:

"[A]ffording same-sex couples access only to the separate institution of domestic partnership, and denying such couples access to the established institution of marriage, properly must be viewed as impinging upon the right of those couples to have their family relationship accorded respect and dignity equal to that accorded the family relationship of opposite-sex couples.

"First, because of the long and celebrated history of the term 'marriage' and the widespread understanding that this term describes a union unreservedly approved and favored by the community, there clearly is a considerable and undeniable symbolic importance to this designation. Thus, it is apparent that affording access to this designation exclusively to opposite-sex couples, while providing same-sex couples access to only a novel alternative designation, realistically must be viewed as constituting significantly unequal treatment to same-sex couples.... [E]ven when the state grants ostensibly equal benefits to a previously excluded class through the creation of a new institution, the intangible symbolic differences that remain often are constitutionally significant.

"Second, particularly in light of the historic disparagement of and discrimination against gay persons, there is a very significant risk that retaining a distinction in nomenclature with regard to this most fundamental of relationships whereby the term 'marriage' is denied only to same-sex couples inevitably will cause the new parallel institution that has been made available to those couples to be viewed as of a lesser stature than marriage and, in effect, as a mark of second-class citizenship….

"Third, it also is significant that although the meaning of the term 'marriage' is well understood by the public generally, the status of domestic partnership is not. While it is true that this circumstance may change over time, it is difficult to deny that the unfamiliarity of the term 'domestic partnership' is likely, for a considerable period of time, to pose significant difficulties and complications for same-sex couples, and perhaps most poignantly for their children, that would not be presented if, like opposite-sex couples, same-sex couples were permitted access to the established and well-understood family relationship of marriage."

I would hope the CofE would keep this in mind.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 3:06am BST

It's "social constructionists" (advocates of "social constructionism" as a sociological theory of knowledge) -- "social constructivism" (which has to do with the social contexts of individual cognition) is closely related to "social constructionism," but they're not the same thing.

In any event, as someone who is sympathetic to social constructionism, but not a "card carrying" social constructionist, I'm always amused when people who clearly reject social constructionism as an approach to reality try to invoke it to support their anti-LGBT positions -- because they never quite seem to "get" that social constructionism also identifies "heterosexuality" and heterosexual privilege as social constructs. Likewise, "marriage" is also a social construct; it has no inherent, essential meaning or content. So, it's simply absurd to invoke social constructionism in defense of the "privilege" of heterosexual marriage. If our society is constructing historically new patterns of sexual identity -- as it surely is -- then there's nothing at all problematic about marriage being reconstructed to conform to those patterns. Social constructionism doesn't "judge" or try to direct social change -- it interprets and explains it.

If conservative Christians who chant the mantra of "Genesis to Revelation" want to play word-games, so be it. It will be interesting to see what they come up with! They'll be just like the anti-OOW Christians who insist on referring to "priestesses" in order to express their conviction that "priest" is an essentially male identity. But inclusive Christians and the wider society have already made up our minds -- "marriage" is "marriage," regardless of the sexes of the two consenting adults.

And, yes, Cynthia, your partner is doubtless a "gift from God"!

Posted by: WilliamK on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 4:14am BST

The churches failed to provide any outlet for the human happiness of gays and lesbians for millennia -- leaving them in no position to lecture society on what outlets it should or should not provide.

And it is good that Archbishop Welby's oh-so-concerned comments about mass graves in Africa are being thoroughly exposed as the shoddy right-wing talking-points they are.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 5:14am BST

The only thing new is that more same-sex couples have come out of the closet. The Canadian Supreme Court in its ruling opening marriage to same-sex couples said the exclusion is sex discrimination. Outdated notions of gender and legal sex were being used to exclude same-sex couples from civil marriage, a public instituion. If the state offers benefits, it should offer the same benefits to all equally situated people.


Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 5:35am BST

"Social constructivists, feminists, and now recently even some prominent Gay historians have argued that the very notion of 'sexual identity' goes back only 100 years or so."

Suppose, arguendo, that this is true, every word. And suppose, further, that it means what you appear to think, that gays aren't "really" gay and have just been taken in by some new-fangled fad like hula hoops or clackers.

100 years ago takes us back to before the first world war. Other things that didn't exist 100 years ago: votes for women, civil rights for blacks, nuclear weapons, the Internet, any sort of public welfare beyond the workhouse, antibiotics, effective treatment for any sort of cancer or infection disease, safe anaesthesia, commercial air travel, private ownership of motorcars, socialism as anything other than a theoretical construct, women being able to access higher education, working class people being able to access higher education, compulsory education past the age of 12. The list is genuinely endless. Are you saying that the churches should attempt to pretend that these didn't happen either?

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 6:24am BST

There's much in the Bible about "marriage" (someone give me the Hebrew word, the Greek word) that no one SHOULD want to emulate [polygamy, handmaids, dowry, parental (mandatory) arrangement, compulsory wife obedience, etc!].

But I think it's safe to say that of the BEST aspects of Biblical "marriage" [two-become-one(in Christ), love one another, my beloved is mine and I am my beloved's---and the whole I Corinthians 13 love smorgasbord!], persons who loved another of the same-sex---even though they didn't have a word to describe themselves---always looked at "marriage" and said "We want THAT" (often including the nurturing of children part, too).

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 7:39am BST

Persons of same sex attraction never sought to be considered a distinct tribe, but were separated out by larger society in actions such as the Dutch anti-gay purge of 1730, or the creation of Paragraph 175 of the Imperial German criminal code in 1871. The word "homosexual" was unknown in the ancient world (as so many people have pointed out here over the years), but was coined by German psychologists in the 19th century to designate a new class of people singled out for their sexual orientation by society and by law.

As the historian John Boswell frequently pointed out, minorities are the creations of majorities, and never was that more true in our case.

We should remember that people didn't start marrying out of love in large numbers until the 19th century. Marriage through most of history was about legacy, inheritance, and property; and in the case of the poor, it was about labor and social security. Love had little to do with it. Love was for children, and not for spouses. It is no accident that almost all of the love affairs of early literature are adulterous (including Dante's unrequited longing for Beatrice Portinari).

And now marriage is regarded by all but the most unreconstructed as an equal partnership. The family is no longer a patriarchal community built around property and security (wives and children dependent on benevolent patriarchs who legally owned them), but a community formed around mutual affection in which everyone, spouses and children, plays a role and sometimes trade roles. In such marriages, gender hardly matters anymore.

It is also worth noting that as divorce laws changed in the USA to no-fault, rates of domestic violence dropped sharply.

I would say that all of us, gay and straight, are much better off these days.

I've quit caring what the hierarchy of the C of E or Rome, or what African clergy or Scott Lively or Christopher Seitz or anyone else think about me or my relationship with my partner of the last 11 years. They'll all just have to learn to live with it.

There's no going back. That closet door was kicked off its hinges decades ago.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 1:09pm BST

JCF wrote, "There's much in the Bible about "marriage" (someone give me the Hebrew word, the Greek word)...."

Actually, at least in biblical Hebrew, there isn't a single word that means "marriage." The normal idiom refers to a man "taking" (that is acquiring) a woman. The verb is never (as far as I've seen) used of the woman. In the Hebrew Bible women have almost no agency in marriage -- either to contract or to dissolve.

I wonder how much of this "biblical" model of marriage Dr. Seitz would like to advocate for our society.

Posted by: WilliamK on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 1:35pm BST

So is LGBT socially constructed and latterly so, or is it a genetic given?

This is an important question. If genetically given, it existed in all time and cultures.

If latterly the consequence of social construction, it would explain why non western cultures do not want it constructed.

If Thinking Anglicans cannot think this through, then there will continue to be impasse. Simply giving a fresh testimony to this or that relationship or yelling across the chasm won't advance thinking anglicanism.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 1:43pm BST

"So is LGBT socially constructed and latterly so, or is it a genetic given?"

This is a false "either-or" question. At different times in different places, homosexual persons have emerged or hidden, as the climate permitted. Moreover, we now know that sexuality may be both genetic and environmentally driven. It is a very complex question, and to reduce it to either-or obscures the subject. Is heterosexuality genetic? Why does it matter?

"This is an important question. If genetically given, it existed in all time and cultures."

Evidence is that it has. But why is this important?

"If latterly the consequence of social construction, it would explain why non western cultures do not want it constructed."

How does it explain this?

Homosexuality seems to have existed as long as human records can be searched. At some points, where life was marginal, it has been more discouraged than at other times, as the need for children and workers rose or declined. Modern LGBT community/society is a construct, in the sense that since the 18th century LGBT people have formed communities, and two World Wars and modern communication and literacy have helped this formation - but none of this makes homosexuality a construct.

It is hard to discern what point you are making.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 5:36pm BST

cseitz asked: "So is LGBT socially constructed and latterly so, or is it a genetic given?"

Dr. Seitz, if you're asking me, my answer is: I don't know. Nor, really, does anyone else. I'm sure you're well-aware that this is a hotly debated issue. Of course, most ordinary LGBT people see their sexual and/or gender identity as "given," as essential to their being. They experience it that way, just as I am sure you experience your sexual and gender identity as "given." Social constructionists point out that most people are utterly unaware that their experience of reality is socially constructed. It really can't work otherwise. If you haven't done so already, I suggest that you read one of the foundational works in social constructionist theory -- Peter Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. It was written way back in 1966.

I'll repeat, if "LGBT" is socially constructed, then so is "heterosexuality" and the system of privilege that goes with it. This isn't a pick-and-choose, where you can reify "heterosexuality" as "natural" and "given" while defining various LGBT identities as -- as someone else put it -- little more than "fads."

By the way ... as I've "slipped" into it myself, LGBT identities are not an "it," as if they were one thing, simple. That alphabet soup refers to a variety of different sexual and gender identities that have little in common save that they violate heteronormativity.

As for non-western cultures not wanting "it" constructed.... This kind of statement shows a real misunderstanding of both social constructionist theory and peoples' lived realities. People throughout non-western cultures have LGBT identities. In places like Uganda and Nigeria -- where your theological allies hold sway -- such people are routinely brutalized for their identities. You know, Bishop Senyonjo isn't ministering to phantasms! He serves real, flesh-and-blood LGBT Africans. And, in addition to those non-western societies in which people with LGBT identities are mistreated, there are (or have been) many non-western societies that "constructed" positively affirmed non-heterosexual identities. For example, LGBT Native Americans refer to themselves as "two spirit" people, because this is the term that was used to define non-heterosexuals in their cultures long before Europeans bloodied the shores of the Americas.

Word-count is up...!

Posted by: WilliamK on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 6:12pm BST

"Evidence is that it has."

And other evidence is that it hasn't. That is the argument of social construction.

"If "marriage" can contain polygamy, polyandry, child brides, arranged relationships, and the like, surely it can safely contain the wedding of two people of the same sex."

Leaving aside whether this is true, obviously words can refer to different things. My old Ugaritic teacher Marvin Pope used to quip that in Lane's Arabic dictionary every root meant itself, its opposite and something to do with a camel.

If the word 'marriage' is commandeered latterly to refer to same-sex arrangements, then, as we see in the CoE, a distinction will emerge between civil arrangements and Holy Matrimony according to the thick description of liturgical rites in Christian history.

That was my point. Dissimilation is a linguistic and also a philosophical fact.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 6:40pm BST

I think 'cseitz' is genuinely trying to engage here. I personally (and academically) think that LGBT identity has always existed and - here's the difference - has in Greece and Rome (which I know about) always been recognised to exist. That makes the question both easier - because we're dealing with a persistent cross-cultural phenomenon - and harder to deal with (because one can't just dismiss Paul as rejecting extreme homosexual behaviour independent of 'stable, loving relationships').

Posted by: John on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 7:54pm BST

"Marriage" is not being "commandeered" any more than ordination was "commandeered" when women were admitted to holy orders -- only a bit less "latterly" than the changes we're seeing with same-sex "arrangements" ... otherwise known as loving, committed pair-bonds ... otherwise known as marriages.

All of this talk about C of E linguistic dissimilation looks to me like desperately wishful thinking.

Posted by: WilliamK on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 7:55pm BST

"And other evidence is that it hasn't"

Please forgive my ignorance. Could you suggest where I may find the evidence that same-sex orientation had not existed 'in all time [sic] and cultures,?

Posted by: Fr Andrew on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 8:03pm BST

Very simple. Just google any site that explains what social construction means. Lesbians, e.g., have long held that they have no 'identity' as lesbian, but choose this as an act of social construction. And more radical 'queers' speak of marriage as something they reject as imitating a social construction they find abhorrent.

Thank you, John.

Many believe that sexual ‘identity’ was absent in the same sex eroticism of ancient Greece and Rome. The noun 'homosexual' is a 19th century term from the realm of jurisprudence. There is no noun form for 'gay' in ancient language.

But surely this is well known on Thinking Anglicans. I apologise if I am repeating what most already know.

I have been a participant at conferences on sexuality since the early nineties. I believe Bill Schoedel gives the fullest account of sexuality in ancient sources available, in the volume ed. By David Balch. Both and he Schoedel are what we now call progressives. It appeared, if memory serves, in 1993. My own essay is there as well.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 10:27pm BST

Allow me to flag for a moment that there is also a linguistic distinction between orientation, identity, and behavior. The first two have, to my mind, a degree of construction, which may or may not be reflected in the third. That is, there may be someone who thinks of herself as lesbian, but is celibate or married to a person of the different sex. Or, on the other hand, a man in prison may have sexual encounters with other men, but never think of himself as anything other than heterosexual in identity and orientation.

As someone said up above, this is very complicated. I do think it is helpful to recall that "marriage" can (and does) apply to couples of the same or mixed sex, or to pairs of socks or a merger of an antique hi- and low-boy from different makers. It has no necessary mixed-sex (or even human) meaning, and the dictionary says it can be used of any close union (and is indeed so used in a number of contexts.)

Moreover, the minimal biblical words used for marriage are also used for other relationships, or for marriages we would not tolerate as marriages today; and a number of marriages in Scripture stress not the procreativity of the couple (except on the miraculous intervention of God) but the loving relationships of the spouses. Even the second Genesis account stresses not difference nor procreativity, but likeness and companionship. (And Anglicans since 1549 have recognized in the liturgy that a woman past the years of childbearing may still marry!)

So, to get back to my first point, same-sex behavior, like mixed-sex behavior, is part of the natural world --- birds do it, bees do it, etc... -- and it is only humans, so far as we know, that trouble to think about their identity, orientation, or an estate called "marriage."

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 10:44pm BST

"Lesbians, e.g., have long held that they have no 'identity' as lesbian, but choose this as an act of social construction. "

Not any of the lesbians I know. Where does this stuff come from? God created me in his/her image to be who I am. And I am not a new development in human his/herstory!!!! This thread is just taking a bizarre turn.

Here's where we are with the ABC's gaff on the radio show: human rights organizations that study the massacres don't say that any of them happened on account of western gay friendly churches.

The ABC was played by people with an anti-gay agenda. The ABC seems to have his own anti-gay agenda. Using any murders to forward that agenda is reprehensible.

The ABC claims not to be doing that, but merely saying that our decisions have a broader impact. Fine, TEC choses to be a beacon for seeing ALL people as created in the image of God, including LGBT people. TEC choses the Radical Love of Christ and the Christ driven messages of our Civil Rights era to work to treat all people with justice and dignity. All people, from the victims of all kinds of violence in Africa, to our female church leaders, to our LGBT members. ALL. All people are our neighbours.

Posted by: Cynthia on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 11:29pm BST

So its that pesky being human part, confirming Adam's crie de coeur at finding no one fit for him, until an ishah stood over against him as ish?

Turns out Genesis is more profound than we thought, confirming the deference of Origen and all the ante Nicene fathers who discovered for the first time truth and Plato's Cave.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 11:42pm BST

To clarify:-

* sexual orientation is biological, and refers to sexual attraction
* identity refers to how we respond to that biology

An evangelical sexually attracted to members of their own gender can refer to themselves as "same-sex attracted" instead of "gay," but whatever language they use, they're homosexual.

I've noticed a slippery blurring of identity and orientation by some conservatives, in response to the failure of the "cure" movement. "I choose not to identify as a gay man," some say. Fine, call yourself "post-gay" if you like, but it doesn't change who you want to get it on with.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 12:44am BST

Social constructionism à la Michel Foucault would see marriage as an invention which can be reconfigured. Likewise, gender. Identity is not necessary for LGBT politics. It recalls Judith Butler, in her classic book Gender Trouble, who argues that woman as such is an enabling fiction for feminism. One need not believe in a stable identity in order to work for feminist causes.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 6:01am BST

"The ABC was played by people with an anti-gay agenda."

Possibly so, Cynthia, but it should be beside the point, as disputing the details implicitly accepts Welby's argument. It doesn't matter if he's right about the cause of the massacre: the crucial thing is that he's wrong about how we should respond to it.

Posted by: James Byron on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 7:17am BST

I'm with Interested Observer. This is all so irrelevant now.
As more and more people will discover in the coming months and years as they attend same sex weddings, they are no different from straight ones.

2 people choked with emotion and filled with love and hope promise each other in a shaky voice "all that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you".
There isn't a dry eye among their assembled friends and family.

Who cares what historical, biological and environmental development has brought those two to pledge their lives to each other?
Who cares what marriages have been about in the past and how they have changed?

This couple, here, now, is no different from the straight couple that had made the same promises in the same Register office an hour earlier, no different from the straight couple making their vows at exactly the same time in the church down the road.

Can we get real, please?
Marriage equality is here.
Couples in love marry.
The world goes on.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 10:52am BST

I agree with Interested Observer and Erika Baker.

The train left the station a long time ago. These are all arguments from 50 years ago that have largely been settled except for a shrinking handful of people.
There's no point in rehashing those arguments over and over to try to persuade people who've already made up their minds and will not be persuaded.

Dr. Seitz will just have to learn to live with gay marriages whether he approves of them or not, because they are here to stay.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 12:11pm BST

The basic point is that if 'marriage' now refers to a civil arrangement of various kinds; or a religious one undertaken in the 21st century, then what has occurred within the parameters of historical solemnization of holy matrimony will simply need a new name. In the zeal to overcome what is perceived as a loss, comes a loss of what is specific to that estate so vowed and solemnized. This is why a distinction will remain all the same, with some new linguistic arrangement to accommodate it. 'Genesis-Cana-Matthew 19-Ephesians 5 marriage' is what the rites have presupposed and blessed because so warranted by our Lord. To use the language of civil rights (equality) will not dislodge this rite and its specific purpose under God. It will persist all the same and find the linguistic label for making this clear. If the term 'marriage' is as variable as Haller implies then more precision is inevitable in the manifold ways language finds to do just that.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 12:55pm BST

"If the term 'marriage' is as variable as Haller implies then more precision is inevitable in the manifold ways language finds to do just that."

I believe that the precise opposite has happened.
Civil partnered people have long referred to their partnerships as marriages and to their partners as husband and wife.
As have our friends and family.
And adverts for "gay weddings" have been around ever since the beginning of CPs.

Language has recognised the truth of those relationships to the extent that when I recently told someone I would be converting my CP certificate to a marriage certificate as soon as I was allowed, the response was a completely nonplussed "but I thought you'd been married for years"

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 1:59pm BST

To respond briefly to Dr. Seitz, I think a look to the tradition provides just such a linguistic distinction. Up until rather recently in church history, Christian marriage was confined to Christians, and all other marriages (that is, between two non-Christians or between a mix) might be referred to as "natural marriages" but not marriage as understood by the church. This is precisely why Paul (1 Co 7:12-15) allows such marriages to terminate should a non-believing party wish to depart. (What Jesus would have said about this, we do not know, but given his grounding of the permanence of marriage in Eden, I suspect he would not have favored the "Pauline Privilege"; and Paul himself admits he does not have this instruction from the Lord).

However, in the course of time, beginning with papal dispensations and then moving into relative normativity, the distinction has for the most part lost its force.

The issue is whether in time to come the difference between mixed-sex and same-sex couples will requite a linguistic distinction. I imagine for a time we will see a flurry of scare-quotes and calls for alternative terminology. In fact I read the other day about someone wanting to revive "natural marriage" as a legal term -- of course with a meaning rather different to that in which it was used in the church in earlier theological reflection on the institution.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 2:44pm BST

THANKS to Gary Paul Gilbert for expressing in a few simple sentences what I was struggling to express in over-long paragraphs! Gary, I wish I had your gift for getting clearly to the point!

Posted by: WilliamK on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 5:26pm BST

"then what has occurred within the parameters of historical solemnization of holy matrimony will simply need a new name"

The tiny handful of people who care can name their definition of marriage whatever they want. The rest of us will continue to use the word "marriage" to cover all its forms.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 14 April 2014 at 10:24pm BST

Thanks. We tiny people called the majority of Christians worldwide appreciate your permission. Holy Week blessings, in Christ.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 at 1:40am BST

WilliamK, Thank you for the compliment! If I had read your excellent comments I might not have written mine, which I was afraid was too theoretical. I swim in deconstruction (even murkier than social construction--one of them is the impossiblity of X school, while the other is the invention of X) so I am never sure what will work for a broader audience. You zeroed in on the irony of people opposed to social constructionism citing social constructionists to argue against LGBT liberation.

I love these two sound bites in particlar:

I'm always amused when people who clearly reject social constructionism as an approach to reality try to invoke it to support their anti-LGBT positions -- because they never quite seem to "get" that social constructionism also identifies "heterosexuality" and heterosexual privilege as social constructs.

I'll repeat, if "LGBT" is socially constructed, then so is "heterosexuality" and the system of privilege that goes with it.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 at 6:07am BST

"I'll repeat, if "LGBT" is socially constructed, then so is "heterosexuality" and the system of privilege that goes with it."

Amen to that!

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 at 6:14pm BST

Cseitz in response to Interested Observer: "Thanks. We tiny people called the majority of Christians worldwide appreciate your permission."

I posted in a different thread that I reject the "numbers game" when "my side" plays it as much as when "traditionalists" play it. So, I'll say, I really wish Interested Observer hadn't made an argument that referred to a "tiny handful of people." A tiny handful of people who are right are right; and a vast majority who are wrong are wrong. Truth is not decided by votes.

Dr. Seitz, "the majority of Christians worldwide" are against women being ordained as clergy. Are you, therefore, against women being ordained as clergy? Furthermore, since "the majority of Christians worldwide" are (Roman) Catholics, are you considering offering your submission to the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome? ... Of course, the majority of people on this planet are non-Christians. So perhaps you're considering joining them?

Posted by: WilliamK on Tuesday, 15 April 2014 at 10:47pm BST

WilliamK, I agree that morality is not decided by a majority vote.

I think Interested Observer was responding to Dr. Seitz's suggestion that marriage, as he understands it, will need a new name.

Right and wrong are not subject to majority rule. Language, however, is. If many people find a word useful, it lives; if not, it dies.

Dr. Seitz may feel the need for a new word. But that new term won't make much of an impression, if no one else cares to use it.

Posted by: Jeremy on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 12:20am BST

William K:

Not to mention that, as far as I know, no one has actually polled all the world's Christians (or even done a statistically valid survey) to find out their positions on same-sex marriage (or anything else for that matter). All we really know is the official positions of the dominations to which they belong...which may not coincide with the actual beliefs of their members.

Take, for example, the official position of the American Catholic Church on contraception...it is opposed to its use, but surveys indicate that Catholic women are no less likely to use contraception than any other group.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 2:50am BST

It is really a huge revolution for gay men and women to find the sweet words "will you marry me?" being addressed to their ears, or forming themselves spontaneously on their lips. Something that was brutally ruled off the map of human discourse, by St Paul among others, has now come into our lives as a miracle. Churchmen sniff around it anxiously, but it seems destined to bloom and grow.

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 6:45am BST

Correction to my last post: Obviously I meant "denominations" not "dominations." My bad for not proofing before hitting "post".

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 11:07am BST

Jeremy: I acknowledge your point about language. But, language use is often bound up with morality. There was a time when "nigger" was an "acceptable" word for many White Americans -- but the fact that a majority used it didn't make it right or good. Likewise, even if a majority of Christians worldwide continue to regard "marriage" as a word that belongs only to heterosexuals ... or if a majority continue to see "priest" as a masculine label ... that won't make it right or good. So, I still believe it is best for us to avoid playing the "numbers game," even with regard to language.

Pat O'Neill: "Dominations" -- a truer "Freudian slip" has seldom been typed! ;-)

Posted by: WilliamK on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 12:11pm BST

"Dr. Seitz may feel the need for a new word." Jeremy

I wonder how Roman Catholics already describe, say, a 4th marriage of a heterosexual who has three former spouses still living?

Perhaps "a form of marriage which I do not recognise" would fit the bill for Dr. Seitz. It's clumsy, but accurate.

Posted by: Laurence Cunnington on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 at 11:36pm BST

I think we can safely leave the invention of a new word to those who believe that it is needed. It may even gain currency within their own circle, a bit like the current term "marriage" as opposed to marriage.

I would be very surprised if that word survived the next decade.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 17 April 2014 at 10:41am BST

Look, this isn't very complicated. Will the vast preponderance of Christians worldwide--the New Christendom--conflate 'same sex marriage' with traditional marriage, and the rites that warrant it? Of course not. The readings, vows, blessings that belong to that understanding will remain and resist attenuation. Will some in pockets of Christianity decide they want to call a new understanding 'marriage' or 'same-sex marriage'? Yes. But this will hardly dislodge the rites and understanding that most continue to presuppose when they speak of marriage or holy matrimony. That is simply a fact on the ground and in history. The CofE has simply acknowledged that a civil reality in England is a civil reality. But it is not altering its canon law or rites. In this, it imitates what the vast majority of Christians believe and maintain.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 17 April 2014 at 4:02pm BST

"Will the vast preponderance of Christians worldwide--the New Christendom--conflate 'same sex marriage' with traditional marriage, and the rites that warrant it? Of course not."

Apparently, you don't include liberal Protestants in your Christendom.

Regardless, there was a time when slavery, misogyny, and anti-semitism were broadly supported. That didn't make it right. Might does not make right in any "Christendom" that I've understood.

Posted by: Cynthia on Thursday, 17 April 2014 at 7:43pm BST

Dr. Seitz wrote: "Look, this isn't very complicated."

You did seem rather intent on making it "complicated" with your appeals to social constructionist theory and radical "queer" views of sexual identity -- as if you actually agreed with those theoretical stances. If, after all, you're simply playing the "numbers game," you might have saved us a lot of time and trouble and just started with that!

Of course, there are many versions of that game. For example, as I've already pointed out, one could easily refer to "a fact on the ground and in history" and to what "the vast majority of Christians believe and maintain" to oppose the ordination of women as clergy (as Fr. David frequently does here). I've noted you've avoided engaging with that point. So, I'll ask again: Are you opposed to the ordination of women? If not, how do you justify going against what "the vast majority of Christians believe and maintain"?

In any event, those of us in "pockets of Christianity" (such as the Episcopal Church) will get on with opening up the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples, and we'll call it MARRIAGE -- no modifiers or scare-quotes required. While the C of E presently appears unwilling to alter its canon law or rites, TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, as you well know, are in the process of doing just that!

Posted by: WilliamK on Thursday, 17 April 2014 at 8:48pm BST

The Church of England *will* alter its marriage rites (without altering marriage) because its members require it to.

It is only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, those who believe in gay and lesbian marriage should (in all kinds of ways) celebrate gay and lesbian marriage.

Really, who is going to stop them?

There is already more than half the church that repudiates the Church's supposed opposition to gay sex.

There is a growing number supporting gay and lesbian marriage. That number will grow and grow, in the pews and surrounding communities, as people simply become familiar with the normality of it all.

If priests and PCCs choose to recognise this reality and decency, then there are all kinds of ways they can ignore the episcopal 'imperium' and they should.

Gay and lesbian marriage is too precious and too lovely to be sacrificed on the altar of dogma and words and theory.

The actuality and lived lives and love of ordinary human beings has a reality and a life of its own.

The unreality is a church leadership that asserts an 'Alice in Wonderland' take on its churches and communities, claiming the Church is against gay and lesbian marriage when quite clearly there is no uniform view whatsoever.

Priests and local churches should exercise ministry in the context of the actual lived lives of their communities.

It is for this very reason, that Christopher's assertion that the 'world church' is against extending marriage to others is off target. The whole point is that here, in England today, the actual community welcomes gay and lesbian marriage, and seeks Christian ministry to welcome it as well.

Instead of a top-down authoritarianism, we should encourage a diversity of responses to a diversity of communities, and we should seek to facilitate priests and communities, recognising the Anglican church is diverse, instead of domineering one another.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 12:12am BST

Dr k.

Good for you.

The facts remain. Including 'identity' sexuality.

Good Friday blessings in Christ. Busy for several days.

The traditional rites and what they effect are going nowhere.

Te Deum.
ri

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 1:14am BST

Apparently, Dr. Seitz ignores the fact that, historically, the Spirit does its work by first speaking to small groups of people who then spread the message to the larger world.

I refer him to the events of the first Pentecost, when the Spirit descended on a mere dozen men.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 2:51am BST

Yes, some kind of rite for same sex marriage will emerge in places like TEC.

But I do not understand why it is so hard to get the basic point. Any rite like this will never dislodge the historical rites, with their explicit readings, vows, warrants, blessings. These and what they desire to bless will perdure. Because what they solemnize is specific to their inherent logic and intention.

Good Friday blessings to Thinking Anglicans. Off to work and praise.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 1:53pm BST

"Any rite like this will never dislodge the historical rites, with their explicit readings, vows, warrants, blessings."

Why would anyone fear that it would?

Posted by: Jeremy on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 6:15pm BST

"Any rite like this will never dislodge the historical rites, with their explicit readings, vows, warrants, blessings."

I think you hope they won't, CSeitz, but I don't think you will be proved right. It's only a matter of time until 2 people will get married in church with the same rights, readings, vows, warrants and blessings and no-one will even comprehend why that was once so controversial.

How many years it will take I don't know, the CoE doesn't move fast! But I would be willing to bet that it might still be within my lifetime.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 6:17pm BST

Jeremy, best ask Erika.

The TEC same sex rite must of course have different readings, warrants, vow and blessing. This isn't news.

Good Friday blessings.

Posted by: cseitz on Friday, 18 April 2014 at 9:31pm BST

I wish to all blessings from the Good Friday now passing ... and best wishes for our rapidly approaching celebration of the Resurrection.

Nothing more needs be written.

Posted by: WilliamK on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 2:56am BST

TEC has a task force working on marriage. It remains to be seen whether there will be differences, or not, in the marriage rite.

Posted by: Cynthia on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 4:11am BST

CSeitz
"The TEC same sex rite must of course have different readings, warrants, vow and blessing. This isn't new"

Why "of course"? Other than making it gender neutral, why should anything be changed?

And gender neutrality might strike us as a huge change now, but it isn't really any more significant than when we changed from using "mankind" to "humanity", "man" to "humans" etc. without changing the meaning of our texts one little bit.

As the substance of marriage doesn't change, a small adjustment to gender neutral words is not really a change at all.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 8:50am BST

This will take BCP revision in TEC. Two conventions.

If there is a new rite without the older warrants from Genesis, Cana, Ephesians, it won't mean the latter will disappear from use. It will simply presage a yet greater division than at present in the small denomination. That rite and its readings, vows, warrants and blessings will remain the standard rite for Christians just as it has always been. No new rite will change that.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 1:30pm BST

"The TEC same sex rite must of course have different readings, warrants, vow and blessing."

In 2009 General Convention authorized the preparation of rite of blessing for same-sex couples. The direction was the rite was not to be a marriage rite and was to be different from the marriage rite in the BCP. The rite was presented to the 2012 General Convention. The preparers of this rite did exactly what they were directed to do.

When the direction was given to prepare the rite, very few U.S. states had same-sex marriage. Since then, a large number of states have permitted it. The secular facts-on-the-ground have been moving much faster than the church. The blessing service, at least in those states that permit same-sex marriage, was already outdated by the time it was released.

I have little doubt that there will be uniform rites for both same-sex and opposite sex-couples in sometime in the future when the laborious process of changing church rites can be completed.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 3:46pm BST

Take a look at the opening address in the 79 BCP. Its language and logic are inextricably rooted in Genesis, Matthew 19, Cana, Ephesians and a long history in use in Catholic and Protestant Christianity.

The readings and vows and blessing warrant flows directly from this.

Not one of the first five sentences could remain in a ss service.

Will male-female Christian marriage and same-sex marriage have one uniform rite that alters this language for TEC? I seriously doubt that male-female Christian marriage will opt to eliminate, alter, or attenuate any of this. Why would it?

But even if such a rite were produced, it would never dislodge the historical one for the vast preponderance of Christianity, and that would include male-female Christian couples in TEC itself. If forced to accept one rite, it would just prompt a huge exodus.

The CofE and ACofC show no signs of this kind of levelling maneuver.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 19 April 2014 at 6:49pm BST

I don't see anything in that marriage service that cannot be retained apart from changing to gender neutral marriage.

Our whole contention is that none of the bible readings you quote contradict same sex marriage and that every word in them applies equally to same sex couples.
It's a widening of understanding, not a contradiction.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 12:47pm BST

"I don't see anything in that marriage service that cannot be retained apart from changing to gender neutral marriage."

Couples wanting to be married in the Church come not just because ‘they are in love’ but because they want to enter into a state of affairs circumscribed by and blessed within the following rite:

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony [male and female marriage].The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation [Genesis 1-3 and Matthew 19], and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee [John’s Gospel, echoes of Genesis close by]. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church [Ephesians; Hosea, Isaiah, others figurally], and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people [various NT texts].

Couples will continue to believe they are vowing to one another in the presence of the Triune God within this specific biblical framework. Solemn blessing is delivered by the Church because warranted by these texts and the Lord’s own adornment of the wedding at Cana.

Will people decide this framework is simply optional and can be replaced by gender-neutral rites that are equally functional? Maybe some will.

But that will not void the rite of its enduring purpose and desirability. Nor will it compel the vast majority of those wishing to be married in accordance with it to accept something else claimed to describe ‘marriage equality’ in weight and intention.

What is different will remain different because the rite of the 1979 BCP specifies a certain kind of marriage warranted in a very specific way. If a new rite is OK’d, that will not change this state of affairs or produce something called ‘marriage equality.’ At most it will signal the emergence of a distinctive understanding of ‘marriage’ argued to be capable of ranging alongside it. And many will reject that as well as the idea that the older service is capable of being gender-neutralized.

He is Risen Indeed!

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 1:20pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

Like Erika, I find nothing in the test you quoted that does not apply equally to male-female and same-sex marriages. That the first couple was male and female does not preclude that God did not intend marriage for same-sez couples; that the Cana wedding was of a mixed-gender couple does not mean Jesus would not have similarly blessed a same-sex couple; and, of course, there is absolutely nothing that says that the Church in the Christ/Church metaphor must be seen as feminine.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 1:41pm BST

The important thing about a marriage is the relationship of the participants, not the literary references in the rite.

Dr Seitz seems to found his faith on scripture -- as is -- as used in the community. But understanding of how the world actually works must affect reading of scripture, which may have been written under very different assumptions. The presence of functioning same-sex couples in society implies a sharp judgement of the supposedly universal and authoritative tradition, in which concept of sexual-orientation is simply absent.

Same-sex desire has been treated as individual aberration and dealt with in private. Same-sex relationships are now a fact of life that the church must recognize, along with the equality of women. (All kinds of gender issues present uncomfortable challenges to the tradition, which assumes a simple male-female dichotomy.)

Other people's marriages -- same or different gender -- need not affect Dr Seitz's marriage unless he chooses to be upset by other people's arrangements. If he refuses to recognize same-sex relationships as "marriage," he needn't -- the Roman church doesn't recognize marriages after divorce -- but eventually the tradition must yield to experience.

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 2:51pm BST

"The important thing about a marriage is the relationship of the participants, not the literary references in the rite."

The 'literary references in the rite' are the very things that tell us what marriage is and tell the couples what they are undertaking, solemnly.

To separate these from the relationship itself is bad theology, bad pastoral practice, and bad liturgical understanding.

It may also explain in deep ways why a new same-sex marriage is something else.

"...but eventually the tradition must yield to experience" -- or it won't.

And so what will be produced is presumably something called an 'experience' event.

The other will not go away. It connects the marriage to scripture, the life of the church in history, and to the Lord's own teaching and life.


Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 4:06pm BST

Mr. O'Neill,

Does that mean that you will be using this rite for your same-sex marriages?

The whole point of the ones being worked on--the undertaking qua undertaking--is that they don't want the logic of Genesis, Matthew 19, Ephesians 5 et al as central lenses on marriage; these texts are no longer up to the task of defining the new same sex marriage -- which manifestly is their purpose according to the 1979 BCP rite and its precursors.

But the rite of 1979 will not disappear and neither will the estate to which it calls those making vows.

Same sex marriage is nowhere envisaged in the 1979 rite and its readings, vows, addresses and blessing warrant. Why would one expect that it would?

If something is new and if the scriptures that supported the estate of marriage hitherto are regarded as past opinion, faulty guides, authoritarian, past religious assumptions that we no longer hold -- then that is what they are and new rites will be needed. And that is what is being produced by committees and task-forces.

But this rite will remain all the same. It will not disappear into some Hegelian rear-view mirror.

Posted by: cseitz on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 4:21pm BST

Christopher: "It may also explain in deep ways why a new same-sex marriage is something else."

It isn't.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 8:12pm BST

The rite doesn't define (or contain) the marriage. The marriage itself - the relationship, the love, the fidelity before God - defines the marriage.

The quality of the faithfulness in that relationship defines the marriage, for better or worse. The loyalty. The sacrifices. The forbearance of one another when there are hurts.

If or when I marry my girl, my marriage will be as much marriage as any heterosexual marriage. The love will be love, all the same. The care and fidelity will be care and fidelity, all the same. The happiness will be happiness, all the same. The much-loved children will be much-loved children all the same. The tender and intimate expressions of love, will be tender and intimate expressions of love, all the same.

The marriage will be marriage, all the same. All over the world, this grace and this felicity is happening. People are loving one another with tender care, commitment and intimate love.

When my girl asks me to marry her, I will not ask 'What rite will make our marriage real?' Because the look in her eyes, the stillness and trust between us, the smile and the laughter and the reality of its cost will make our marriage real.

And it is the same, whether one is heterosexual, or lesbian, or gay.

P.S. Treat yourself to some loveliness and joy, visit this website and see for yourself, the love, the happiness, the tenderness, of ordinary people who love each other. It is one of over 40 pages of photos of lesbian couples, many of them getting married. It is precious, it is the reality of people's lives, take a look:

http://www.onabicyclebuiltfortwo.com/page/48

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 8:32pm BST

Dr Seitz follows the teaching of Brevard Childs, whose way of interpreting the Bible focuses on the text of the biblical canon itself as a finished product. Childs believed his work to be a new departure, replacing the entire historical-critical method.[Wikipedia] Seitz holds to scripture-as-it-is-now as a given authority, regardless of its uncertain origins or transmission or varied content. If Genesis is legend, and the gospels are hearsay at best? No matter. An authority is wanted and scripture is it.

But words have no inherent meaning -- they mean what people use them to mean. (Lawyers try to pin down meanings in texts, demonstrating by the effort how slippery words are in their natural state.) Neither do rites have an inherent meaning -- they mean what participants take them to mean. Meaning is in use. The marriage rite has adapted to changed understanding before (nobody now promises to obey) -- it will probably change again. It serves mainly to give participants solemn things to say while plighting their troth. (The clerk of the court in Montreal read from the Quebec civil code when my husband and I married, and we're as married as anyone.)

Dr Seitz can continue to repeat his scriptural fundamentalism until Erika Baker gives up, but the place of church in society, and the roles of individuals in the social order, continue to evolve. The earth is not flat, and authorities that were wrong on gender and sexuality must rethink their teachings. The arm-chair reasoning of theology seems increasingly irrelevant.

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 20 April 2014 at 8:53pm BST

Happy Easter to all Thinking Anglicans. He is Risen!

Best wishes on bringing the various revisionists together.

1. One type loves Bart Ehrmann and his own kind of fundamentalism: away with an authoritarian document tout court. So James Byron.

2. One type believes all the biblical texts are dated documents and only indirectly relevant and by careful readjustment or selection.

3. One type likes historical liturgies and hates the idea that they cannot be retrofitted in some way, against their specific texts and intentions.

But yet the ss movement has already, rightly concluded that new rites are required. So they proceed apace.

Those of us who believe the historical rite is scriptural, rooted in the church's time and life, and connected to the Lord's own witness, only hold on to this and doubt it will disappear or be recalibrated, in ways the above do not intend or wish for.

So let those calling for change figure out what they agree upon and produce a coherent consensus against the inherited practice. In the meantime we will pray and carry on.

Easter blessings.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 12:25am BST

"But yet the ss movement has already, rightly concluded that new rites are required. So they proceed apace."

Like so many of his mindset, Dr. Seitz speaks of the "ss movement" as if those in favor of gay rights belonged to some official organization, with officers and a decision-making process...perhaps because, by thinking of it in those terms, he can dehumanize the people involved.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 11:16am BST

Do TAs agree with Mr Murdoch? 'This is my Body given for you' has' no inherent meaning'?

I guess that also, or minimally, applies to innanities like BS Childs is a 'fundamentalist' as well. It means what anyone wishes it to mean...

4. One type thinks liturgies mean what anyone wants them to mean. Words have no inherent meaning. Rites 'mean what participants take them to mean'.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 1:41pm BST

The marriage liturgy has gone through much change in both form and content. The 1785/9 version did away with practically all of the biblical justification in the prologue, in good Enlightenment fashion.

The issue here is insistence that the "Genesis-Cana-Matt 19-Ephesians" marriage must have a univocal "meaning" that can be expressed only by a mixed sex couple.

I do not share the extreme view that "words have no meaning" but do affirm that "words may convey a sometimes wide range of meanings." As noted elsewhere, "marriage" can apply to many different things -- consult any good dictionary. It is now used, both in common parlance and in law, to refer to marriages in which both members of the couple are of the same sex. Some will no doubt feel the need to come up with a term for mixed-sex marriage only. On this we agree.

But more importantly, what is true of single words is also true of longer passages and texts, and liturgical rites. Life in the church would be much simpler if every Christian in every place and time understood the same thing by "This is my Body" -- whatever its inherent meaning, it has evoked a wide range of understandings, some contradictory.

Some think that the male-female of biblical texts about marriage is essential to the "inherent meaning" of "marriage." One can make a case for that, but it is not compelling in our context, for a number of reasons. One can, for example, observe that this is descriptive of the times in which the texts are written rather than prescriptive for all times, or prescriptive in some things (monogamy and indissolubility, per Matt 19) but not in others (endogamy).

On the other hand, a "canonical" reading of all of the relevant texts can point to a deeper meaning to marriage than the sex of the couple, stressing the moral values of mutual love, stability, and so on. Those are the "meaningful" elements in marriage for moral theology.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 3:21pm BST

Mr O'Neill. You are now grasping at straws rather than Thinking.

I'd be inclined to say LGBT except in this case I was trying to be accurate.

Can you explain, e.g., what the 'B' portion of LGBT believes when it comes to marriage? Does a 'B' get married and to which gender and with what liturgical rite in the church? I have wondered if they felt left out in discussions about same-sex marriage.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 3:32pm BST

Fr. Haller--are you of the view that those who wish to retain the 1979 BCP liturgy as commending a state of affairs they are vowing under God to live within

1) in fact have a liturgy that will work in its 1979 present form for same-sex couples too? (so some above)

2) need a accommodate a new one alongside it if they wish to remain in TEC? That is, the 1979 rite will not in fact be able to work for any and all, but a fresh same-sex rite will need to be constructed as a trial rite en route to a new BCP?

3) need to relinquish it because one will be created that will be the standard rite for any wishing marriage, and will be so written according to the new understanding of marriage it explicates?

Obviously these three choices-and others--are going to have to be faced. They represent different views of the matter.

I find unpersuasive and a bit odd the idea that the 1979 rite can work as it is for same-sex marriage, with its present language and warrants. I find clearer the notion that it needs to be rejected and an alternative provided -- 2) and 3) above.

There will be a significant portion of TEC members who will not accept any change in what they believe the 1979 rite commends, precisely because its clarity, precision, and intention are what one understands marriage to be.

My consistent point has been that people need to take that on board. What 'marriage equality' cannot create is the rejection of the state of affairs liturgically set forth in the traditional rite. That is because there will always exist Christians who believe it comprehends what scripture, tradition, and the Lord's own words and actions commend.

I would be very curious to know what path you believe is being pursued by those wishing for change.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 4:15pm BST

(... continued from previous post)

Marriage to me, is sacramental and communal and deeply personal too.

And grows deeper and stronger because we welcome *all* people, of *all* genders and orientations, to embrace it, and offer their lives and relationships to God and their communities.

Why do we need to tell *anyone* what gender they may marry? Why can't we be accountable before God to our own relationships, and dedicate our marriages thus, and if you don't agree with marrying a man, then just don't?

Love is precious, tender and intimate. There is absolutely nothing wrong with intimate gay or lesbian love, and an amazing amount right. It is decent, ennobling and sanctifying.

We don't need to be afraid (or phobic) about love. Or about marriage between people who love each other.

I believe marriage is just marriage, in the eyes of God. I believe God smiles, delights and rejoices where two people love each other, care for each other, and want church and community to accept that love in marriage.

It doesn't change heterosexual marriage whatsoever. My (various parameters of relationships) do not in any way impede you from a good marriage with a woman. Your marriage would be what it is, because of what you put into it.

And our church communities can be blessed by each other's marriages, sacraments, givenness and care. It just takes a welcome and a generosity of love.

I have no idea what you think the Church’s “rules” should be for me. I don’t even know myself, because I don’t think in terms of “rules” for who should marry who. I think in terms of givenness, sacrifice, covenant and love.

May God bless you and be with you, in your fidelity and sincerity, and in the givenness and devotion of your life.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 4:34pm BST

PS -- I am not Deist living in the 18th century!

The distance from 1662 to 1928 to 1979 is minimal, especially when contrasted with new rites. The opening address has been retained in toto, with simply some minor adjustments. I think age of innocency captured the logic of Matthew 19 pretty well, but it remains in different wording all the same.

I am curious how you view TECs next paths in light of the options above. I believe they cover the waterfront.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 4:53pm BST

Tobias, the truism is that "words have no [inherent] meaning" -- meaning comes from usage, and doesn't reside in the arbitrary sound/graphic form. And yes, rites are designed to convey meaning by their makers, but participants take from them what they will. "This is my body" is an odd example to give as a meaningful phrase -- it has famously been understood in many ways, fought over bloodily from its beginning (in Paul -- none of our traditions trace directly to The Lord).

Calling Seitz and Childs "biblical fundamentalists" was meant as descriptive, not derogatory. Appeal to the scriptures and traditional rites as they are now used seems to me an appeal to certain supposedly unchangeable and unchallengeable fundamentals. In fact understanding and interpretations of tradition, written and otherwise, have varied greatly over the centuries. I don't think they are fixed now, especially as they are having to accommodate facts of life formerly not contemplated by the system.

In these 70+ comments, Dr Seitz has clung to his certainties and only repeated them, refusing the many offers of wider vision. May we just allow him to have a last word here, and the rest of us move on?

Posted by: Murdoch on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 7:32pm BST

With full marriage equality, a bisexual would, like anybody else, be allowed to marry the person he or she loves. It is unfair and logically inconsistent that a bisexual is currently allowed to marry a spouse of a different legal sex but not the same legal sex. The situation is similar to that of a transgender person, who, until the passage of marriage equality in England, was required to dissolve his/her marriages if he/she changed legal sex and enter a civil partnership with their spouse, now called a partner. What a crazy system of inequality!

It recalls a mother asking a state legislator years ago in New York why her straight son had more rights than her gay son.

With equality, the focus is on persons rather than categories.

Whether the C of E will be able to catch up to civil law is an open question. It may not matter if most people decide they no longer require its services, in which case it should be disestablished.

Opening a public accommodation to a despised minority does not require any changes to the institution. One of our friends who married her girlfriend years ago insisted on a Prayer Book service. Pronouns can easily be changed.

On the question of the meaning of words, linguists say that as long as enough people use a word to mean something, that is the definition of the word. Language evolves or it dies, just like religious institutions.

"This is my body" has taken on many meanings in different traditions within Christianity and, even in the Prayer Book, is placed next to language reflecting different theologies. Real presence is a notoriously ambiguous notion. "This my body" undermines any notion of transparency of language in religion. Quite the contrary!

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 8:55pm BST

Dr. Seitz:

You are the one who spoke of a "ss marriage movement"...I merely took you at your word as to what that means.

And your questions about the "B" in LGBT simply indicates your total lack of understanding of what being bisexual means.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 9:15pm BST

Fr. Haller:
I think talk about ‘univocality’ is irrelevant. We are not talking about words and their meanings in general culture, but about an act of the Church in the name of God Almighty. (Arabic had word for ‘manna’ but it did not have Israel’s specific historical/personal experience of it.)
Christian marriage is a liturgical rite. This involves pastoral care and guidance -- as the final sentence of the address makes clear. It involves vows – probably the least univocal speech-act one can imagine. It involves the expectation of the couple, families, and those in attendance. It witnesses expressly to the Church and to others who have married in accordance with it. A priest must bless what is going on in accordance with warrants it states clearly.
The question is simple.
1. Can same-sex couples be married with the following address, as written and as approved by General Convention for the 1979 BCP?
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 9:52pm BST

(cont)

2. Or would they wish this (‘same gender’) form, as some seem to be arguing?
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this man in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
The union of husband and husband in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
3. Or will a new form be needed (and if not, why all the money and time being spent to create one)?
To repeat. No ‘marriage equality’ effort will see to the elimination of the traditional rite and all it intends, as a public liturgical act. (Semantics and ‘univocality’ are not at issue; the word ‘marriage’ can migrate just like any other word in any language.) That is because Christian couples will continue to ask for it as declarative of what marriage is. Priests will offer guidance and the Church will give its assent in accordance with what it declares.
So how will this fact be accommodated in TEC and the CofE? That is my question.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 9:54pm BST

Mr. O'Neill, if you'd like to enlighten us on what a bisexual marriage rite will look like, please feel free to do so. I invite your instruction.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 10:02pm BST

Dr. Seitz, I note you omit the 1785/89 Prologue, which was the one I referred to: it omitted all of the "causes" of marriage, and all of the biblical references. With trivial alteration it could easily be used for a same-sex marriage.

The same is true of the 1979 rite, with the alteration of, IIRC, four words. (Though I do not think it would be altered as you suggested, and more likely to "joining together of these two persons" and "the union of spouses...") You may find that unpersuasive or odd, and others may share that view. However, you asked about possibilities, and it is certainly possible.

An additional possibility, which you do not mention, is the use of the Order for Marriage from the 1979 BCP.

Most importantly, the crucial language of the vows themselves would not have to be changed, as many same-sex couples are happy to refer to their spouses as "husband" or "wife." It is generally considered by liturgists that the vows form the primary verbal "act" of the marriage, which with the joining of hands and optional exchange of ring(s) effects the marriage.

Let me hasten to add that I am not arguing for either of these courses of action, but since you asked, I'm affirming the possibility.

I cannot speak for General Synod, but I would predict that General Convention, being an open assembly, will likely see variations on all of the possibilities you describe above: permission for minimal adaptation of the BCP (handled by putting a few words into italics), a new separate rite to supplement the BCP (as we have now), a pair of new rites, or a new unified rite suited to any couple.

I am not personally involved in this work, nor advocating any of the above. And the Task Force on which I work is not crafting a liturgy, as it is mandated with the study of marriage and the development of resources for such study -- which as I'm sure you know, is a very complex matter with many understandings throughout human and Christian history.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 21 April 2014 at 11:32pm BST

Let's avoid mention of specific genders entirely:

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of these two people in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
The union of two people in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

Or do you see a problem with this, Dr. Seitz?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 1:24am BST

"...refusing the many offers of wider vision."

I'll happily settle for a basic vision!

After multiple tries on the same question on my part, for some reason the answer remains elusive.

1) Will continuity the 1979 rite for Holy Matrimony--and its precursors--be maintained in our new season, with its assumed intention and warrants?

2) Will it remain and be joined by new rites for ss couples, approved by GC?

3) Will a new rite superimpose itself and render the letter and intent of the presently approved rite otiose?

I accept from what I have read thus far, that one answer may be, ‘we don’t know.’ Can Thinking Anglicans shed any further light than that?

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 1:24am BST

"Can you explain, e.g., what the 'B' portion of LGBT believes when it comes to marriage? Does a 'B' get married and to which gender and with what liturgical rite in the church? I have wondered if they felt left out in discussions about same-sex marriage."

"Mr. O'Neill, if you'd like to enlighten us on what a bisexual marriage rite will look like, please feel free to do so"

I sense a lack of understanding of what bisexuality means.
A bisexual person is someone who is physically and emotionally capable of loving people from either sex.
That person then falls in love either with a man or a woman and marries them.

If they marry a person of the opposite sex, they will use the conventional marriage rite.

If they marry a person of the same sex the will use the conventional marriage rite in a Registry Office. In Britain, at least, they will not be able to marry in church yet, so we don't know what rite they will eventually be allowed to use.

I hope exactly the same one, as a marriage is a marriage is marriage.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 9:24am BST

Erika: "A marriage is a marriage is a marriage."

That's it.

The rest is just verbiage.

The *quality* of the marriage is what matters.

And lesbian and gay couples are just as capable of precious, faithful marriages as heterosexual couples.

The fact that the 'wife' in a lesbian marriage may be the 'femme' partner, in no way damages or harms a heterosexual couple's own marriage.

Gay and lesbian marriage does not contradict the heterosexual marriage. It deepens and enriches the institution of marriage, by opening it to even more potentiality of love, and diversity of relationships.

Marriage, as you say Erika, is marriage.

And it's already arrived in its enriched and more inclusive form in the UK, and it's beautiful.

Who cares if one or two words are substituted in a lesbian wedding service, to recognise and acknowledge the shift in gender parameters that society has embraced and *welcomed*?

And why should that 'reduce' in any way the quality of a heterosexual marriage, which stands or falls by its own fidelity, its own love, its own sacrifice, its own tenderness?

So much of the opposition to this lovely opening up of marriage is over 'theory', words, arguments, but meanwhile decent people are trying to live actual and authentic lives.

Or is it deeper than arguments over words? Is there a visceral dislike of lesbian and gay sexuality? Is there an underlying impulse in the Church that says: we don't like this... we think it is wrong... we think it is morally mistaken... it's kind of... unattractive and disagreeable to us?

All that is needed is a relaxed generosity of spirit, and grace, to recognise that lesbian and gay marriage can enshrine all the fidelity and preciousness of heterosexual marriage... and to be happy for those couples... and to not worry if 'husband' and 'wife' becomes 'wife and wife'... as long as the partners live good and dedicated lives, and serve one another with devotion, care, and intimate expressions of givenness and love (aka hopefully fantastic sex).

And sex, after all, we are told, should take place within a Christian marriage.

Christopher, do you believe that sex is fine, for a Christian, outside of marriage?

If not, then where does that leave a lesbian or gay couple, except in unwanted celibacy?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 11:29am BST

Mr O'Neill, I take it this is option #2. Your proposal would be one for same sex couples. The present rite in its given form would remain alongside it.

I'd be curious if others pressing for change would find this acceptable? From what I read here the biblical references are dubious authorities for many.

Fr Haller, is option #2 acceptable for you as well, perhaps with your 18th century rite as the one for same-sex spouses?

Long time members of TEC need some sense of where TEC is headed. I suspect one segment of traditionalists would find retention of the present rite as minimally acceptable (option #2). Another would find any same-sex rite unacceptable if it purported to be a marriage rite (as with GC 2012).

My persistent inquiry has been about retention of the present rite in its express form. That will be a threshold for many people, and it is such now in the decisions of the CofE.

Marriage is more than a word if one is a Christian. It is a solemn undertaking in liturgical time enacting a state of affairs for the couple vowing and blessed.

The state of affairs may take two or more different forms, but these enact different things and mean different things.

Easter best wishes.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 12:52pm BST

Ms Clark, Christian marraige is an estate ordained of God and adorned by Christ. That estate is described in Genesis and referred to on those term by Christ.

The 1979 BCP seeks to track with this, and does so in the judgment of TEC General Convention.

Will new understandings arise and seek ritual blessing? Yes, that is happening. Do these dispute the traditional warrants and understanding of marriage? Yes.

Will the other understanding go away? No. It will continue to be the primary form for the vast preponderance of Christians worldwide.

Will the Church be able to accommodate 2 different understandings? Some will try. Some are holding back. Will this divide the Church? Yes, it is doing that.

Is that OK? Well, it is what God is allowing to happen in his time.

My own sense is that division might be a least bad option. At least it gives God the time he may wish to use to teach us what his will is.

Grace and peace.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 1:22pm BST

Dr. Seitz, I hope I've answered your question.

I can add that I doubt we will see any change to the 1979 BCP at the upcoming General Convention, though there may be proposals along that line.

I can also add that there is some pressure from heterosexual couples towards authorizing the "I Will Bless You" rite for use by mixed-sex couples.

We will all know more by this coming winter, as the actual reports and proposals will be tabled at that point. Of course, the canons allow the floodgate of proposals from individual bishops, dioceses, and deputies quickly to follow, and I am sure there is a wide range of feeling that will be expressed therein.

But yes, as to a final determination, "we don't know" is the best answer at this point.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 2:45pm BST

Dr. Seitz, again I hope my answer was clear, as is my lack of interest in pressing for change in the present liturgy. I cannot speak for others other than to report what they say.

However, with interest in the history of the rite, I want to flag that the 1979 form of the marriage rite is not a characteristic embodiment of the marriage rite as Episcopalians have known it, departing from its predecessors in many significant ways.

Prior to 1979, the Episcopal Church's marriage liturgy lacked any Scripture readings, and with either no, or few, biblical citations or allusions. It may well be that these were so ingrained in the institution they needed no reference. But since we are speaking of the actual words of the liturgy -- which is what constitutes the rite -- it is important to note the content and the changes it underwent.

The 1928 rite removed the only explicit reference to Genesis, which had been added in 1892. 1928 states that Holy Matrimony is "instituted of God" but without reference to "in creation" or "days of innocency." (1789 makes no comment concerning "institution.")

1892-1928 mention Cana and allude to Ephesians; but all rites prior to 1979 lack "causal" language, and have no reference to the ends or purposes of marriage, but with an optional prayer for "the gift and heritage of children."

The language of the vows, however, shows remarkable endurance; the one significant change the removal of the woman's vow to obey in 1928.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 6:45pm BST

"Mr O'Neill, I take it this is option #2. Your proposal would be one for same sex couples. The present rite in its given form would remain alongside it. "

Dr. Seitz: Not necessarily. Obviously, with all gender specific language removed, the service as I edited it could be used for any couple, of whatever mix of genders. Or, as in the baptism liturgy, where "he", "she", "they" etc. are interchangeable (based on the gender and number of the persons being baptized), the marriage liturgy could be similarly adapted, with the appropriate words indicated to be used where appropriate.

As for your questions about why--if the change is this simple--General Convention has begun a process of creating a new liturgy, the answer is equally simple: Any change in the BCP, even one as simple as this, requires that process.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 8:07pm BST

Fr. Haller--Most of the Episcopalians I know are content to keep the BCP and cease fussing around every time our consumerist buttons go off and we need a 'new updated model.'

So 1979 is simply indicative of that sentiment. It isn't a sacrosanct rite, but it says what needs to be said re: Christian Marriage. 1928 as well.

The tradition of goods, key texts, an estate ordained of God, male and female, Ephesians and the Church as Bride -- these are the elements that appear sufficiently regularly to identify what is worth preserving re: the distinctives of Christian marriage.

For better or worse, it will be the pressure to change that will reify 1979. We saw this even in the HOB in 2012. They didn't have the supermajority required to vote in a trial rite.

I wonder what gerrymandering will arise in 2105. TEC seems fairly able to generate the rules it needs and ignore those that are inconvenient. But that is another thread...

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 8:34pm BST

I agree with your comment about 'ingrained.' We are talking 1928. Whatever it did or did not have was not under the influence of questioning the Genesis-Cana-Matthew 19-Ephesians nexus.

(It's like noting that the PB was in the potential role of chief consecrator in 1928 and reading great meaning into that -- of course the PB was a very different figure--still a Diocesan--in 1928 than in our present season, and no PB flew around in airplanes to attend consecrations in 1928...).

TAs might be curious at "my lack of interest in pressing for change in the present liturgy."

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 9:36pm BST

I shudda gone ahead calling the Rev'd Dr Christopher Seitz a fundamentalist -- what else is insisting on a particular interpretation of a particular form of words? Tobias thankfully shows that the litany of scripture in the marriage rite insisted upon by Dr Seitz isn't fixed or historical.

Dr Seitz's questions assume the answers they seek -- I think this is called "begging." In any event they are not being answered to his satisfaction because they are irrelevant to church order and daily life. Issues are theological only to theologians.

As Susanna, Erika, and I keep saying, marriage is between partners, and rites are simply public acknowledgements that place the couple in the social order. Dr Seitz is concerned about placing them in church order, but that's a separate matter, irrelevant to daily life (unless you make it so). You go home from the ceremony in church, registry office, or court house, and there are dishes to be washed and important conflicts to resolve (should toilet paper roll over or under?).

Look, Genesis is legend, wrong in physical and biological details; the Cana story is about miracles, not marriage -- it could have been set at a Bar Mitzvah; etc., etc. The Bible is important to us as it resonates with present-day life -- it's no rule book and people who seek guidance from it must and do cherry-pick. Setting up its present form as Authority seems to make it an idol. (Who knows what an idol wants? Its priests.)

Thank god this discussion is approaching the end of the scroll and will soon disappear into the archives.

Posted by: Murdoch on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 9:41pm BST

Mr Murdoch,

I believe you did in fact call me a 'fundamentalist,' and the late Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale University as well! That tells us all we need to know about how words and meanings work in your private universe of referentiality.

Your comment wasn't derogatory. It was ignorant.

That can happen!

grace and peace in Christ Jesus.

Posted by: cseitz on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 at 10:27pm BST

CSeitz: "Fr. Haller--Most of the Episcopalians I know are content to keep the BCP and cease fussing around every time our consumerist buttons go off and we need a 'new updated model.'"

I agree with this as far as alteration of the BCP goes. I'm on record as having opposed, for instance, the alteration of the Lectionary. I am a liturgical conservative, some might say, traditionalist. I am also a historian of liturgy, so I am aware that changes do not always arise from hot button issues although that is sometimes the case. In re the BCP, I deplore the loss of what was once an essentially "common prayer" for a menu of so many options that one might never guess what is being served up at another parish.

CS: "TAs might be curious at 'my lack of interest in pressing for change in the present liturgy.'"

I'm not sure if this means you are curious or not. If you are, I hope my comment above has shown my concerns about changes to the present liturgy. It is true that some years ago (I think perhaps 2006 or 2009) I joined as a co-sponsor of a resolution that would gently have revised the present BCP marriage liturgy (leaving the biblical resonances untouched) by italicizing a few words, as suggested above. Even at the time this was a symbolic gesture, as the proposers knew. But that was the full extent of any "pressing for change" to the BCP. (Although, to be frank, I would welcome one alteration to the marriage rite: placing the prayers for the couple prior to the exchange of vows, as is the case in all other pastoral rites. I have never officiated at a wedding where I have not sensed the "bump" at the point at which all expect "You may kiss the bride" and instead hear "Let us pray"!)

This does not, of course, mean I am opposed to the development of authorized supplemental rites for circumstances not directly provided for in the BCP (such as the blessing of a same-sex couple). However I remain a minimalist in that regard, and am not sanguine about supplemental rites that multiply on perfectly acceptable existing rites. (I'm no fan of the EOW alternative Eucharistic prayers, for instance.)

If curiosity remains, I welcome any questions.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 4:05pm BST

I always fear that I don't know enough to say what I've said. Capital F Fundamentalism is one thing: "A movement in 20th century Protestantism emphasizing the literally interpreted Bible as fundamental to Christian life and teaching." (Wiki) By using the lower-case f, I hoped to refer to a more general definition: "Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to orthodox theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology." (Wiki again) Dr Seitz has insisted on strict adherence to his doctrines over and over in this discussion, and the late Sterling Professor of Divinity at Yale "believed his work to be a new departure, replacing the entire historical-critical method (more Wiki)" -- i.e., the modern understanding of tradition.

I don't know enough to debate theology or scripture with Dr Seitz, but I can see that the rigid certainties he's brought to this discussion ignore the experiences of me and others outside heteronormality, give authority to texts that they cannot bear, and are irrelevant to people unconcerned in church matters (and to many who are).

One mark of a fundamentalist is a need to convince others in order to confirm their own faith. Dr Seitz is very secure in his positions -- why has he continued to try to overthrow the beliefs and experiences of others in this discussion? His pose of genial superiority seems to me patronizing. When he concludes "Grace and peace" or the like, I'm afraid that I hear the good old Southern put-down, "Bless his little heart."

The certainties the church offered me in the first half of my life have turned out to be not so certain after all. Its view of sexual orientation was just wrong. Grace and peace I found elsewhere. Forgive me when I react badly to echoes of that old smug paternalism.

Posted by: Murdoch on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 6:02pm BST

Fr. Haller--thank you for your response. My curiosity was more to do with what the TAs might Think, but perhaps you will engender response by your last comment.

I agree that proliferating rites is a terrible thing in a church without confessions or any other polity parameters (these too are breaking apart under the will to power). Our BCP is our backstop, and at present it is being threatened with wax-nose status. I see this as western consumerism.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 7:12pm BST

Bless you, Mr Murdoch.

Rigid certainties. Fundamentalist. Smug paternalism.

Genesis is legend. Thank 'god' this thread is at an end. Cherry pick. The earth is not flat. Solemn things to say. Arm chair theology.

You seem pretty certain yourself if I may say so!

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 11:58pm BST

Dr Seitz missed my saying that I'm _never_ sure of myself. I'm not a scholar like my husband -- I'm an editor who reacts to inconsistencies and contradictions in texts, as well as to statements that go against evidence. Dr Seitz may belong to a school that supersedes the entire historical-critical method, but I remain stuck in it. It seems based on evidence, not authority.

I'm glad that Dr Seitz noted some of the points I tried to make, although to sneer at them rather to engage them. I said what I have to say above. I started by complaining about the repetitions in this discussion and ended by adding to them. Sorry.

Posted by: Murdoch on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 5:56pm BST

"...supersedes the entire historical-critical method."

Why not read any of my books and see how deeply trained I am in historical-critical methods, which I teach all PhD students at the University of Toronto, as previously in St Andrews and Yale.

You continue to sloganeer in Wiki style. Childs was the thoroughly historical reader of scripture of our present era. One must ask what history is.

Measured against reader-response he looks positively objectivist.

Historical-criticism is a method with vast internal permutations, as anyone teaching the 19th and 20th century scholarship knows. The distance from Wellhausen to Rendtorff or Childs is enormous, yet all are relentlessly historical readers of texts, after modernity's use of that term.

Posted by: cseitz on Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 7:07pm BST

Happy to hear you were at St Andrews, Christopher - so was I. And my daughter's doing postgrad Theology there right now. Fantastic place to study!

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 12:08am BST

I apologize for misrepresenting Dr Seitz’s academic work. I am indeed ignorant of it, and it is irrelevant to this discussion. The topic was the place of same-sex marriage in the church, in view of Justin Welby’s controversial call to downplay the issue in order to maintain relations within the Anglican Communion.

This is a call that Dr Seitz and his colleagues in the Anglican Communion Institute have consistently made. In a speech delivered in 2013, Dr Seitz conceded that the political battle had been truly lost, and pleaded for room in the church for traditionalists like himself to “walk the well-worn paths of the faith.” In practice this seems to mean giving no official recognition to gay relationships, so that traditionalists are not forced to deal with the absence of sexual orientation in the tradition. Let gays take their parts in society and culture – let the church continue to treat their relationships as individual aberrations.

http://www.anglicanink.com/article/seek-peace-honor-tec-wars

This matter has come up repeatedly in Thinking Anglicans – gays and lesbians have pointed out that the assumptions in Leviticus and Romans do not reflect reality as present-day gays and lesbians experience it. To take those passages as accurately reflecting same-sex practice derails any discussion of same-sex relationships as experienced today. Yet, omission in scripture of such a basic fact as sexual orientation seems unthinkable – hence the obdurate insistence on the letter of scripture and the traditional interpretation of same.

Dr Seitz and his colleagues have dug in their heels – there seems little point in discussions with them. Dr Seitz is comfortable teaching at Wycliffe College in Toronto, whose Statement of Moral Vision includes: “We Are Called To Fidelity And Self-Discipline -- The Bishops of the Anglican Church, in Canada and globally, teach that for ordinands the appropriate context for sexual union is between husband and wife, and we deem this norm appropriate for all Christians.” Gays are not contemplated (although implicitly excluded) but forbidden sexual expression of their loves.

Leaving room in church for Dr Seitz and his followers seems to deny room for gay and lesbian Christians walk THEIR paths of faith. Individual and group choices must be made.

Posted by: Murdoch on Friday, 25 April 2014 at 11:25pm BST

Because this dispute will probably come up again, here is the Anglican Communion Institute's case against same-sex realities, expressed by Dr Seitz's colleague, Dr Ephraim Radner:

http://www.anglicancommunioninstitute.com/2013/07/same-sex-marriage-is-still-wrong-and-its-getting-wronger-every-day/

This is For Information only. Thank you.

Posted by: Murdoch on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 1:22am BST

"Leaving room in church for Dr Seitz and his followers seems to deny room for gay and lesbian Christians walk THEIR paths of faith. Individual and group choices must be made."

I think there are many rooms, but one home, and at the heart of that home is God.

In the end, the truth will be known, and we will understand, as we are understood.

To me, there is absolutely room in the Church for priests and Christians who believe in good conscience that man-man sex is wrong, and that marriage is between men and women only.

I disagree with that view, and along the same principle of 'unity in diversity' believe there is also absolutely room in the Church for priests to marry their gay or lesbian partners, to bless and celebrate all marriages, and to move beyond the fears of gender and sexual orientation, towards our essential personhood and humanity.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 11:45am BST

"...it is irrelevant to this discussion."

I fear that is probably correct. Professional biblical scholars like NT Wright (St Andrews), Markus Bockmuehl (Oxford), W. Moberly (Durham), R. Hays (Duke), J. Levenson (Harvard), J. Webster (Aberdeen) -- whose views on sexuality are akin to my own -- probably need to be called fundamentalists and obdurate.

And, if memory serves, Leviticus and aberration have made no appearance in my comments or those of my colleagues. But thanks for the links.

Yes, Christian marriage is a state of affairs we have defended as ordered by God in creation, adorned by Christ at Cana, and praised by Paul in Ephesians as a great mystery. That is what you have read in this thread and it is consistent with the view of ACI. That may be a surprise to you, but I doubt it is to anyone familiar with ACI.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 12:37pm BST

Susannah,

"To me, there is absolutely room in the Church for priests and Christians who believe in good conscience that man-man sex is wrong, and that marriage is between men and women only"

yes, provided these people are content with their belief and do not attempt to force me to live accordingly.
At the moment views like that and the people who hold them still have to be fought.
Once we have 100% gay equality in the church I shall be happy to give any amount of room to people who believe differently.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 3:51pm BST

Erika,

The problem I feel is that both 'sides' tend to take a 'Them and Us' attitude, and I'm just making the point that respect for conscience works both ways. If we could only all agree on a 'Them *and* Us' attitude, with recognised space for both viewpoints, then I think we might start to build the kind of 'unity in diversity' which to me is a key Anglican trait and conduit of grace.

But I agree that the present status quo, which attempts to impose one conscience on another conscience, should be challenged all the way.

It's a bit like our individual colloquys with ourselves and God. I am biblically liberal, but deeply conservative in Carmelite tradition. There are tensions and paradoxes.

But I think the tensions throw us back on God, and I think it is the same in the life of our Church, if we can only seek the grace and love between us.

Perhaps, in the end, the love we find for each other is as significant as the doctrinal arguments. Perhaps, to draw on Rosemary Hannah's post higher up the page, the real substance and growth comes not from a perfect but from a wounded Church?

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 6:40pm BST

Yes, Erika, currently, those in the C of E who believe same-sex relationships are always wrong have helped to quadruple-lock the established church so that same-sex couples are treated like second-class members, barred from contracting a civil marriage in church and serving in leadership positions in certain dioceses. Gay and lesbian priests are supposed to be or pretend to be celibate and if they must be in a relationship, they are only allowed second-class civil partnerships (which are much less likely to recognized in other jurisdictions). Gay clergy are not even to be allowed to marry at the registrar office. Celibacy, which is supposed to be a vocation, is imposed on a whole class of people. While they are at it, why doesn't the C of E require married heterosexual priests to abandon their spouses? Those who are not ordained are given a little more leeway, but the message is the same that a same-sex relationship is wrong, which only contributes to a climate of homophobia, which is especially destructive for LGBT youth. This sort of toleration is not much better than the closet.

Straight privilege means never offending the moral sensibilities of true believers, while LGBTs are denied their civil rights--an ongoing injustice.

I would not hire a priest who believes homosexuality is wrong any more than I would hire a social worker or psychotherapist who insisted on imposing his or her value system on a client. I wouldn't hire an antisemite either.


At the end of the day, equality is what matters.


Gary Paul Gilbert


Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 6:40pm BST

Very powerful comment, Gary.

Fundamentally, a section of the Church believes that sex should only take place inside marriage, AND that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

The consequence of that is, as you say, an imposed celibacy on a whole class of people.

It implicitly stigmatises, diminishes, and morally vilifies people's natural, tender love and precious, costly commitment and fidelity.

And, as you say, and I find it very disturbing... it sends a *terrible* message of the same to young people... who may be straight kids who will be put off the church as a result... or straight kids who find mandate for diminishing lgbt kids themselves... or the impact on lgbt kids, in the difficult, often lonely journey of respecting their own sexuality or gender, of teachings that disrespect them, alienate them, diminish them, and make them feel like shit.

It is not enough to project a message that "you are welcome" when the subplot is that what you are doing is invalid, out of bounds, and 'less good' than the relationships that heterosexual people are allowed to enjoy (including full and healthy sexuality instead of imposed celibacy).

"Tolerating" lesbian and gay people is not enough. Lgbt individuals, couples and their relationships should be recognised and celebrated, and seen as precious gift and gift to the community, worthy of communal celebration, blessings, and complete support.

Not every Christian agrees, but at least the half of the Church which is willing, should go ahead and celebrate these values and get that message across.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 8:49pm BST

Susannah,
and there you have perfectly expressed the tension with your two last comments.

I agree that conscience works both ways. But tolerance has to mean something more than "I'll tolerate you provided you live as I say".

The "them and us" attitude will remain until this has been solved.
I hope we can be kind to each other, polite, recognising that we are all human, that no-one is a single issue. Respect for the humanity of those on the other side is imperative, as is a willingness to engage, not to insult, not to judge, not to dismiss.

And I will continue to try to do that even when it is not reciprocated.
And I will continue to fail and to have irrational outbursts and to get terribly cross and frustrated.

It's complex!
But I will not rest until the inherent imbalance has been removed and until we genuinely stand as equals in church.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 26 April 2014 at 10:55pm BST

Conviction has to be balanced with other values, such as equality and fairness--as well as with facts.

The compromised idea that it is okay to be gay provided one remain celibate messes people up. If the church is to recognize families, then it should recognize all families, including those of same-sex couples.

Gary Paul Gilbert

Posted by: Gary Paul Gilbert on Sunday, 27 April 2014 at 4:22pm BST
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