Saturday, 21 May 2016

Scottish Episcopalians consider equal marriage

While the [presbyterian] Church of Scotland is due to vote today on whether to allow its ministers to be in same-sex marriages, Harriet Sherwood also reports in the Guardian: Scottish churches push forward on gay rights that:

…The Scottish Episcopal Church is expected to take the first step in a two-stage process at its synod next month towards changing church law to allow same-sex weddings in church. If passed, a second vote would be required next year.

Such a move would invite de facto sanctions by the international Anglican Communion similar to the measures imposed on the US Episcopal Church earlier this year after it permitted clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

David Chillingworth, the primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, said: “The canonical change would make it possible for our clergy to conduct same-sex marriages and to be in same-sex marriages – that’s the direction in which we’re moving.”

However, he added, “there is also a significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church”. He said his job was “to preserve the unity of the church”.

If the change to church law passed next year, he said, “we’re aware we will probably find ourselves in the same position as the US Episcopal Church. These are difficult issues; we are all in transition.”

ACNS has a more detailed report on this by Gavin Drake: Scottish Episcopal Church to debate changes to marriage canon.

…The current Canon, C31, begins by defining marriage by stating: “The Doctrine of this Church is that Marriage is a physical, spiritual and mystical union of one man and one woman created by their mutual consent of heart, mind and will thereto, and is a holy and lifelong estate instituted of God.”

The proposed amendment to Canon C31 would replace that wording with a new clause which says: “In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. . .”

The full text of the report by the Doctrine Committee on the Theology of Marriage which has led to this debate can be found here.

This page contains links to all the documents for the June meeting of the Scottish General Synod.

Fulcrum has published a lengthy critique of the doctrine committee’s proposals by Oliver O’Donovan available here, but also more conveniently as a PDF here.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 7:45am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Scottish Episcopal Church

The Scottish Episcopal Church is divided on the subject of lesbian and gay marriage, just as the Church of England is.

In England this division down the middle on grounds of sincere faith and conscience is 'resolved' by one group dominating the other group and sanctioning them if they do not live submit to the imposed uniformity.

Now let's look at Scotland: "“In the light of the fact that there are differing understandings of the nature of marriage in this Church, no cleric of this Church shall be obliged to conduct any marriage against their conscience. . .”

Respect for conscience.

An incredibly more mature way of proceeding. A recognition of reality: there just are diverse views on human sexuality. Instead of ostracising people, let priests and PCCs and local churches act in their own good consciences. It forces nothing on anyone else.

Provision for conscience was written into the female priests and bishops issues. Are the consciences of LGBT-affirming people any less worthy of respect?

Unity in diversity - and respect for conscience - is a challenge of grace... a grace to love one another, even when we have diverse views.

I'm sorry, but the Primates of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the English Bishops who stood by the 'Pastoral Letter' to priests... they are being dominating, and they are out of step with the reality in England, in Scotland, in the US, in Canada.

As a Scot, I am proud of the lead that Scotland has shown on gay and lesbian issues, and notably on transgender rights.

We need to minister to our actual communities, and many English priests want to be affirming of gay sex, and want to welcome and celebrate lesbian and gay relationships, in their own communities.

Those people who don't want to, should be given strong protections on conscience grounds, and they should serve and minister to their communities in their own good faith and conscience.

Diversity should be recognised, and unity found in Jesus Christ, not in an attempt to impose uniformity that does not exist.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 9:51am BST

Well said, Susannah: and for some reason, despite all indications otherwise, I can see this passing.

Logically, if the "consequences" stopped equal marriage passing in the Canadian church, it shouldn't pass anywhere. Thankfully, and with all due apologies to Mr. Spock, we're not governed by logic alone.

Posted by: James Byron on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 12:54pm BST

O'Dpnpvan's essay is weak in its critique of form over substance. He continues to hammer away on what he regards as the real theology of marriage confected by "Barth and the Nouvelle Theologie" which desperately seeks to ground the sex-difference in dogmatic terms, and downplaying the "goods" or "ends" approach as if it were a mere convenience lit upon by Cranmer. In this, of course, he is the one rejecting the tradition, since strained efforts to invest the sex-difference with dogmatic weight crumble on canonical-scriptural grounds (Jesus and Paul having a good deal to say to the contrary) -- while all of the real theological heavy lifting up until the mid 20th century did in fact emphasize the "goods" or "ends" of marriage (the Anglican liturgy was the only comment apart from the sparse treatment in the articles; and the Catechism was silent on the subject). Moreover, it is these goods or ends that make marriage a human thing -- since the sex difference is clearly something we share with the rest of biological reality. The reason same-sex marriage is legitimate is that it fulfills the ends of marriage, which is where moral value lies.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 3:54pm BST

However, (the Primus) added, “there is also a significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church”. He said his job was “to preserve the unity of the church”.

Yes, His job is to preserve the institutionalized, judgmental hatred for gay people in the church.

Posted by: Daniel Berry on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 5:05pm BST

"I'm from the church, and I'm here to preserve the unity of the church." The most chilling words in the language.

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 6:04pm BST

Just to report the *Church of Scotland* did approve the proposal before it today that was mentioned in the earlier Guardian article.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 6:35pm BST

And here is the official Church of Scotland press release

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 7:28pm BST

@ James Byron, "...if the 'consequences' stopped equal marriage passing in the Canadian church.."

James that has not happened yet although I think that will very likely be the outcome in July. My money is still on the use of parliamentary procedure to kick the can down the road, followed by hearty hymn singing.

"Consequences" have likely made an impact on the Canadian House of Bishops, but it is difficult to know how significant a factor that is relative to other issues given that about one third of the Canadian bishops are in the conservative column.In fairness the fear of "consequences" have probably impacted the third of the Canadian bishops who are in the 'not at this time' group.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 8:40pm BST

First the Church of Scotland.

Then the Scottish Episcopal Church in June.

Does the Church of England have a sense of shame? Is it embarrassable?

Posted by: Jeremy on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 9:44pm BST

I do hope and pray that our Scottish sisters and brothers prove more successful in their efforts to bring about change than we in Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia have been. TA readers may not be aware that at our General Synod just over a week ago, they were unable to come to an agreement, and have shelved the matter for two more years.

After a major commission leading up to the 2014 session of General Synod, a commitment at that synod to finding a way forward, and another commission working hard over the past 2 years, the Synod was considering a proposal to authorise liturgies to pronounce blessings on marriages conducted elsewhere. This is therefore a less radical proposal than the one being considered in Scotland.
Unfortunately, after three days' discussion, and despite the unanimous support of Tikanga Maori and Tikanga Polynesia, the "...significant group of people who regard it as wrong, contrary to scripture and the fundamental teachings of the church..." were able to prevent the proposal's acceptance.
Needless to say, there are some cross kiwis around the place.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Saturday, 21 May 2016 at 10:30pm BST

What Edward has not mentioned here, and I believe to be a factor in our ACANZP GS2016 deferral of any decision on this matter to the next G.S in 2018; is that a few days before the GS Meeting, there appeared - in Christchurch and Auckland - hurriedly convened meeting of the Australian-sourced FoCA (Fellowship of confessing Anglicans).

Led by overseas speakers, this new sodality - now known as FOCANZ - was formed, one can only suspect, with the direct intention of focussing opposition to the 'Way Forward' process that would have allowed for the Blessing of S/S Civil Marriage to take place in our churches.

More than one G.S. Member in our Church has confessed that the reason the decision to go ahead with the process was deferred because of veiled threats of a schism were expressed during the course of the Synod proceedings.
The reason given by the archbishops - for a further period of study - was to 'preserve the unity of the Church'. This, to my mind, was a classic failure of nerve, in the face of an organised conservative (FoCA) coup.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 12:15pm BST

*O'Dpnpvan's essay is weak in its critique of form over substance*

"Essay" is giving it ideas above its station, and if the writer has students, I hope they don't take this as a model. It is a rambling blog-post, which has pre-conceived outcomes which are unsurprisingly found to have support. Setting up a straw-man caricature of your opponents' arguments isn't made any less dishonest by claiming to be doing it "not too unfairly" (p. 6). If you immediately characterise your opponents' conclusions as "remarkable" you are asserting that they are wrong before even troubling yourself or your reader with why, and the rest of page 7's leaden sarcasm follows in the same manner.

The "tl;dr" is "I'm right, the other lot are wrong, obvious, innit?" It's the sort of thing that looks erudite to the semi-educated, and therefore bolsters your own echo-chamber, without actually making substantive arguments.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 3:02pm BST

O'Donovan's argument hardly is form without reference to material claims and issues. Even a cursory reading of it shows the opposite. He mentions the selective hermeneutical base, as the committee leaves out John, deuteron-Pauline writings, and specific teachings of Jesus. He points out the material problem in the committee's dead wrong understanding of biblical and early church affirmation of the unitive aspect of marriage. ["They even venture to write, “It was not imagined either in biblical times or in subsequent church teaching that sexual acts were morally legitimate only when spouses intended procreation” (¶44), apparently unaware of the huge weight of evidence against them. 4 "] You can leave out completely the reference to Barth and the nouvelle theologie and O'Donovan's essay still stands, powerfully, showing how ill-formed is the case advanced.

Posted by: William (Bill) Paul III on Sunday, 22 May 2016 at 6:02pm BST

Those us who are lgbti know all about 'consequences'.

We have lived with them all lives.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 23 May 2016 at 12:24am BST

One problem with O'Donovan is his adoption of the assertion that the unitive aspect has some value in itself, as part of the nouvelle theologie's virtual adoption of a hieros gamos model in which the union of the sexes is in and of itself significant. This takes no account of one of the few Scriptural reflections on the subject, 1 Cor 6:16, which demonstrates that being "one flesh" is not the substance of marriage (since a man who sleeps with a harlot becomes "one flesh" with her; and harlotry is explicitly not marriage. In fact, Paul teaches the opposite: that it is marriage which sanctifies sex, not that sex confects the marriage. O'Donovan is quite wrong.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 23 May 2016 at 4:44pm BST

When I saw that O'Donovan had used the phrase, "the repository of the saving words and deeds of God," to describe the scriptures, well,

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Monday, 23 May 2016 at 5:41pm BST

Mr Wm Paul. I also thought of responding but have begun to wonder if this is time well spent.

Professor O'Donovan is FBA. Senior Chairs at Oxford and Edinburgh.

But without any blog hesitation his arguments are not engaged. He is dismissed with reference to Barth and nouvelle theologie, as if these too were unitary phenomena.

For my part the most damning reference in passing is to the total lack of knowledge of primary sources in the early church.

One suspects that the desired conclusions are now all that matters, and history is accidents of that final substance.

Posted by: cseitz on Monday, 23 May 2016 at 6:43pm BST

Whatever the result..don't resort to the hypocrisy of the Church in blessings of ssm but affirmation statement prayers which are de facto blessings!Satisfying no one on either side.

Let your no be a no or yes a yes.

Just like the Govt Referendum leaflet I received yes for the EU and at the same time boasted semi-detached membership of it.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Monday, 23 May 2016 at 10:00pm BST

Essentially the church still doesn't recognise same civil sex marriages so there's no problem if a clergyman/woman is in one. It makes a sort of sense.

But it doesn't. Are we really saying that someone who marries in a civil ceremony belongs in holy orders? It sends totally the wrong message about Christian marriage.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 at 5:55pm BST

Just for the record, it was O'Donovan who referred to the "convergence" of Barth and the nouvelle theologie on the notion cited.

As to history and "the early church" -- if depends on what one means by that: is this the writings and opinions of individual fathers, or the decisions of the conciliar church? On both counts, one can put together a florilegium of citations that failed to pass muster in a later era, for much of what both individuals and councils in "the early church" said about marriage has long since been overturned or amended.

That being said, a full-blown fisking of O'Donovan's article is not worth the time or effort. His conclusions have been settled for over a decade, as he attests in the opening paragraphs.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 24 May 2016 at 8:12pm BST

Well, perhaps a "full-blown fisking" of Martin Davies' response to O'Donovan is in order, then. His views are not "settled for a decade" -- whatever that might mean in this particular case of the SEC. Davies represents the broad swath of the evangelical-catholic segment of the CofE.

The early church views referred to by O'Donovan are all mainstream views -- his point was that they seem to be completely unknown by the authors of the material he is evaluating.

Posted by: Christopher Seitz on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 at 6:15am BST

The big problem with the O'Donovan piece is that it is a critique. He argues by selectively attacking lines of reasoning made by his own so that we are left with what passes through his sieve. His conclusions are thus hard to challenge because he has advanced no reasoning to support them. Intellectually and theologically his piece is thin gruel indeed.

For example, he critiques various views on the estate of marriage but fails to set out his own understanding of marriage. The rest of his piece then critiques various arguments in relation to same sex marriage but, because he offers no definition of marriage, such discussion is intellectually vacuous.

Tobias Haller above also makes a valid point that the Bible suggests that intercourse is what forms the union, not the marriage service which might then be seen merely as a blessing and recognition either before the event, or equally after the event. At the least, it suggests no detailed discussion of marriage is sound unless it addresses this point.

I would suggest that Interested Observer's withering criticism of the O'Donovan piece is fully justified.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 at 11:05am BST

Interested Observer, I note, did not critique, he simply dismissed O'Donovan. What single claim did IO lay out, patiently explicate and then judge? Indeed, note the patience of O'Donovan in laying out principles, bases, and assumptions in play. This is called 'rambling' by IO. Of course, O'Donovan can be disagreed with. And he is not starting from the ground up, as if marriage has to be founded afresh, which means he thinks the burden is on the revisionists. But while IO may have texted withering words, there simply is not material engagement.

Posted by: William (Bill) Paul on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 at 3:29pm BST

The Oliver O'Donovan article requires a reading as careful the one that went into writing it. There are a number of theoretical aspects of his piece that invite rejoinder. Just one follows here not having had time to study Donovan's piece as closely as I would like (nor am I conversant with the question as it has been percolating through SEC polity).

Note his opinion from the section, Tradition, Catholic Doctrine and the Good of Marriage (pdf p.2).

"When we face new questions requiring new answers, we must seek to locate them within the horizon of questions that have been asked and answered before us."

This is a somewhat problematic assertion in that it is true only as far as it goes i.e. it suggests a starting point for tackling new questions. But, at least two observations are in order: (1)New questions, or even old questions which evidence radical new complexities, often require conversation between groups with differing horizons. (Example: conversation among practitioners from various disciplines). (2) New questions may lead to a new horizon and conversion.

Folks so interested might consider the treatment of horizons, vertical and horizontal exercises of freedom, and the relationship between the notions of horizon and religious conversion developed by Bernard Lonergan. Note for example conclusions drawn from the linked article by John Francis Collins and Dr. Sandra Carroll with regard practical theology(AET 2011).

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 at 3:44pm BST

Thank you, Rod Gillis, for highlighting one of the underlying assumptions of the O'Donovan response. When it comes to marriage, the questions and answers asked, from the Hebrew Scriptures on -- including in "the early church" -- have not resulted in a monolithic or unchanging "doctrine of marriage." Even today the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox doctrines and disciplines of marriage differ widely on important grounds. Any conclusion that a further change in Scotland somehow dissolves a consensus is unsustainable, for such a consensus hasn't existed for centuries, if it ever did. Marriage is one of those realities of life to which the Vincentian Canon does not apply.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Wednesday, 25 May 2016 at 10:40pm BST

*Indeed, note the patience of O'Donovan in laying out principles, bases, and assumptions in play.*

You might call it that. I would call it the lengthy and tendentious construction of well-dressed, indeed elegantly tailored, straw men.

Page 6 is intellectually dishonest. What it does is make a set of assertions, with no evidence, about the documents under examination. In then moves rapidly from there to a claim that these are deliberate dishonesty on the part of the authors, and accuses them of not merely error, but bad faith and deliberate dishonesty. "It is not so much a hermeneutic strategy as an anti-hermeneutic one, a set of procedures for disregarding what might otherwise appear to have something of interest to teach." That isn't a critique or an argument to engage with, that's straightforward abuse dressed up in senior common room circumlocution so as to avoid getting into a fight over the sherry. The "conclusion", and the quote marks are as sarcastic as they can possibly be, that "All of which leads to the remarkable conclusion, by no means uncongenial to its anti-sacramental bias," is (a) snarky, that "remarkable" being a wink to the author's claque and (b) putting the conclusion ahead of the evidence, as there's no support for the claim of anti-sacramental bias anyway.

If you go around accusing your opponents of being biased and dishonest, you need to bring evidence to the table. The gulf between "I don't agree with your conclusions" and "you are arguing dishonestly to support your biased position" is vast, and you need to a big ship to sail across it. This is a rather leaky rowing boat.

And it gets worse from there. "If we are to make intelligent use of the Bible in this discussion", is again a wink to say "intelligent use is what I do, by contrast with the stupid use my opponents make".

And then we hit the heart of it. "There is cultural variation on how homosexual relations are viewed, and there is cultural variation on how divorce is viewed, but there is no cultural variation on whether homosexual partnerships can be regarded as equivalent to marriage."

Seriously? I'll tell you a culture in which homosexual partnerships can be regarded as equivalent to marriage. Europe, 2016. How do I know this? Because gay people are getting married under legislation passed by democratically elected governments, to wide popular support, which within a couple of years has become an entirely unexceptional part of the warp and weft of our culture. The author might not like this, but it is somewhere between begging the question and outright foolishness to claim that homosexual partnerships are not equivalent to marriage in _any_ culture. They are: most western cultures, right now.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 26 May 2016 at 8:05am BST

O'Donovan correctly points out how very odd it is that Matthew 22:23-33 has emerged out of its shadows to serve now as a key text for LGBT advocates. The NT does not say that we are angels in the resurrected life--Jesus's Risen body is not that of an angel--nor that we are without gender in heaven, whatever that might mean. The Matthew text shows Jesus defeating the Sadducees from the constraints of their own narrow canon ("you know not the Scriptures nor the power of God") where they have sought to trap him in a political squabble with the Pharisees, producing a reductio ad absurdum example of 7 successive levirate marriages. In heaven, unlike on earth, marriage/procreation no longer have their divine earthly purpose, and so there is no marrying. Rather, we are "like the angels" who do not procreate in the eternal life they enjoy. Typically angels are depicted as male (in Isaiah they cover their feet), so the point isn't becoming like an angel qua angel, but no longer marrying and procreating as in the earthly sphere -- even via the strange business of the levirate marriage of Ruth/Deuteronomy. The resurrected body of the Risen Lord is the first fruits, and our spiritual body shall be like unto his body. We do not become angels.

Posted by: cseitz on Saturday, 28 May 2016 at 11:23am BST

"If the change to church law passed next year, he said, “we’re aware we will probably find ourselves in the same position as the US Episcopal Church."

There are worse things than the position of sleeping soundly, conscience-at-rest!

Posted by: JCF on Sunday, 29 May 2016 at 5:44am BST
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