Comments: Marriage: one man and one woman?

A thoughtful reflection.
Perhaps marriage did actually form, if only relatively, a positive good for women in the past when considering the difference between the rights and freedoms of those in concubinage or forced into slavery to those who were married. The least of the evils as it were.

Marriage by rape remained a feature of many modern legal systems and not just in Muslim countries.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 12:49pm BST

I hope this is the first of several contributions from members of the English faith and order grouping. There are several names on the list of members who would not subscribe to the more loaded political statements, which as others have said, are clearly aimed at some in the Anglican Communion.

Works written by committee and poured over by bishops and amended etc are often rather ragged. I can see what others find poor in the discussion paper, if we have more critiques such as this we may actually all be helped.

I am still looking for a proper discussion and appreciation of marriage as a "Christian vocation", there is some interesting beginnings here as we see a marriage described where celibacy was the normative expression of their relationship.

There are many institutions governed by divine ordinance that we as Christians, through our transformed experience of life and each other now understand to be free of historical discrimination, priesthood is just one.

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 1:15pm BST

Can this be considered to be an official "dissenting judgement"?

I'm sure we suspected, but now we know, that the FAOC were not unanimously supportive of the views set out in their latest paper. Do we know how many of them were? Were, for example, a magical "two thirds" of them in favour?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 1:35pm BST

If, as he says, they were told to justify the CoE's current position, then it may be that only a few of them really buy it.

Posted by Jonathan at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 3:16pm BST

"Traditionally this has been true in England for a long time ..."

Ever since England ceased to be pagan, in other words, and most likely before as well.

Since "Quod ubuque, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est," has somehow morphed, among the advocates of the sanctification of homosexual pseudogamy, into something like "Quod nusque, quod nusquam, quod ab nullis creditum est," among Christians, or at least here, can someone please name for me the Church Father or Gnostic teacher whose authority supports this revised criterion?

Posted by William Tighe at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 3:50pm BST

The revisionists are at it again, in their attempts to see marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman. Why, on God's earth, when there are now civil partnerships, does the liberal anything goes brigade seek to push back the boundaries even further? ! Marriage is what it is and thankfully there is at least a degree of sanity in provided exemptions for the C of E from conducting what amount to sham marriages.

Posted by Benedict at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 3:51pm BST

Did the members of the commission actually read this clear, scholarly paper from one of their own? Did they choose to ignore the historical, cultural and valid points she is making? Was it written after the publication of their own extraordinarily badly written paper? They are the revisionists in trying to make marriage fit their roseate interpretation.

Posted by sally Barnes at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 4:37pm BST

Mr. Tighe's remarks make sense if one considers that doctrine, once given, becomes the laws of the Meades and the Persians, nevermore to be altered or developed or subjected to revision in the light of new knowledge. But we know better, as any divorced and/or remarried person knows and has good reason to be grateful for.

Benedict, in support, asks why civil partnerships aren't enough? The answer(s) are simple: because separate but equal is never equal; and because, at least among Christian LGBT persons, there is strong desire to lay our relationships before God in sacramental marriage, for raising our children in the faith, for the avoidance of sin, and for the mutual society, help and comfort hat the one ought to have of the other.

Mr. Tighe and Benedict would, in effect, deny us a fundamental, common sacrament - a denial not unadvisedly, lightly or wantonly to be undertaken in view of doctrinal changes already made, even in the case of marriage.

Posted by Nat at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 4:51pm BST

Benedict, did you even read the article?

Posted by Serena at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 4:52pm BST

"Marriage in the Old Testament is certainly not simply monogamous"
That statement reads as if biblical teaching on marriage, need not always be understood as monogamous.
We should remember the sin of adultery is so singularly offensive to God that it features in the central decalogue divinely provided for the people of God.
Further,when Jesus was asked about divorce, Matthew 19, He began with what they had read in the Scriptures:
God created us male and female...for this reason..God gave us the marriage relationship ..what God had joined together He called on man not to separate.
Jesus clearly saw the marriage relationship as a monogamous relationship given by His Father to those whom He had formed in His image, specifically because He had made them male and female.
It is quite misleading to reshape the metanarrative of Scripture on the divine institution of marriage, at least as Jesus read it, by alluding to the sinful practices of men,recorded in Scripture, even good men like David and Abraham, who because of their 'hardness of heart' failed to grasp, appreciate and practise the gracious provision of God, specifically provided for the creatures God Himself had formed.
The sinful practices which dishonoured God's gracious provisions, in marriage as in everything else, while recorded in Scripture, never draw out divine praise, yet amazingly very often more grace!

Posted by william at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 5:25pm BST

Ubique, semper, omnibus.
Rather
"nonnunquam, in aliquibus locis, et a multis"

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 6:02pm BST

Thank God! Finally an excellent article that really covers the changing nature of marriage. And it's really important to note how women were treated as chattels and subjugated for a very long time.

The elephant in the room, of course, is divorce. The Bible is pretty clear about that, yet the church has come to accept it. So yes, supporters of marriage equality have every reason to note the double standard and hypocrisy.

It's heartening to see that clearly there were divergent views on the Faith and Order commission and it boggles the mind that the report was published.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 6:41pm BST

Benedict, do you know any Anglican gay couples? Have you had long and honest conversations with them? Have you worked side-by-side with them in ministry to the poor, or sick, or imprisoned?

The barriers tend to break down once confronted by real people. It is a lot harder to impose harsh judgements on people you've come to respect and love.

God has created LGBT persons and blessed us with loving partners where we contribute bountifully to the life of the church. And if one is serious about the sacraments, then loving, committed, Christians of faith are going to yearn for the sacraments, same as other faithful Christians.

You are wrestling with God. You need to ask God why she/he created us? Why so many of us have brought beauty to the world via the arts and so many other ventures? Why we would participate in a church that excludes us? Does that say something about our relationships with God? And if we are in relationship with our Creator, your objection is what exactly? The status quo? "Common sense?" All used to support slavery, racism, burning witches, etc.

There's good reason to question the status quo. It's done a lot of damage.

Posted by Cynthia at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 6:58pm BST

Cynthia - it is a huge statement to say -
"God has created LGBT persons".
If it is taken as the foundational axiom for belief and practice then it will lead to many of the conclusions which you espouse.
Within the Church of Jesus Christ our philosophical presuppositions are rooted in what God has spoken and in what Christ has accomplished, as revealed to us in the Scriptures.
This too will lead to many glorious hopes and assurances.
The vital thing for us as members of the Church of Christ is that these two roads ultimately converge, in Christ's benediction !

Posted by william at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 7:48pm BST

Thanks, Charlotte, well done.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 8:19pm BST

How disturbing. I can't for the life of me understand why Dr. Charlotte's excellent study did not undergird the Faith and Order statement in the first place. One earlier comment referred to the statement reading as though it were a 'cut and paste' job. They sure became unstuck in the process.

Posted by Rosie Bates at Friday, 12 April 2013 at 11:21pm BST

"God has created LGBT persons".

Surely that's just a highly orthodox statement if you believe that God created everything? The Nicene Creed: "God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible...Jesus Christ...by whom all things were made" or John 1: "In the beginning was the Word...All things came into being through him"

All things...

Posted by Alastair Newman at Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 11:06am BST

So who did create LGBT persons William, if not God?

Posted by Helen at Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 11:11am BST

I could imagine that the Pharisees could similarly point to the sweep of history in respect of marriage and find that Christ's insistence on the permanence of marriage was not 'rooted in the social context in which it is experienced'. Instead, He countered the relativist view by claiming that even divorce under Moses was a provisional concession from by God in forbearance (no less than Israel's desire for a human king under Samuel).

'It was not so from the beginning' applies to Christ's insistence on God's unrevoked intention for marriage to be binary and permanent. Dr. Methuen simply balks at 'it was not so from the beginning' in respect of gender' because she claims long-term partners of all orientations share similar characteristics and challenges. Twice-divorced partners, who discover enduring love on the third marriage, are not so different from the rest of us either. So what?

I'm sure that long-term marriages of every variation under the sun share similar challenges. Christ treats the variations as part of God's forbearance towards our fallen humanity. He still declares: 'it was not so from the beginning'.

Posted by David Shepherd at Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 11:20am BST

William - "Da Nile isn't just a river in Egypt."

Of course God created us, loves us, blesses our relationships, and calls us be his/her disciples in the world.

But you do prove my point that homophobia is irrational.

Posted by Cynthia at Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 5:53pm BST

We all sin - and so there are murderers, adulterers, liars ..... in this fallen world.
Is the claim now being made that God created liars, adulterers, murderers .....?
According to Alastair - yes, all things!!
Cynthia seems to be content to see her God as the source of all things; a very convenient image of God, since he can then be blamed for everything that goes wrong.
[homophobia as a label needs careful definition to be used meaningfully. Peter Tatchell's definition draws in a wide spectrum; certainly far wider than the 'irrational']
As David reminds us, as opposed to Dr Charlotte's flattening of events and causes,"'it was not so from the beginning'"

Posted by william at Saturday, 13 April 2013 at 8:29pm BST

The difference between being gay in a committed relationship, as opposed to being a murderer, liar, or adulterer, is that murder, lying, and adultery are produce VICTIMS.

Can you not see a difference between a human activity that has victims vs, a human activity that hurts no one????

Can you not see how absurd it is to equate a loving gay couple with murder!

What a bizarre view of morality and sin. Go to a place like Haiti and look at the starving people. That is sin, because the first world let it happen and inflicted much of the cause.

Are there any other sins that have no victims? Or only loving, committed gay couples?

Posted by Cynthia at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 5:56am BST

Yes God did create murderers, adulters and liars, because he created people with the capacity to murder, commit adultery and lie.

He also created LGBT people, because he created the people who identify as LGBT.

Your question sums up the problem with the report - it seems to me to come down firmly on the side of regarding any sexuality other than active heterosexuality as disordered and outside God's will, but won't come right out and say so. Hence (as you do by your choice of supplementary question) implicitly labelling LGBT people as disordered and outside God's will.

Posted by Pam Smith at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 10:22am BST

Pam - could the words "the report" be replaced with "the bible" when you say:
"the problem with the report - it seems to me to come down firmly on the side of regarding any sexuality other than active heterosexuality as disordered and outside God's will"?

Posted by william at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 12:59pm BST

Cynthia, I did not "equate" 2 activities in my comment.
Rather I was seeking to explore the biblical concept of - God creating.
To speak of God creating is something altogether unique. In the sense in which God creates, man cannot engage.
I was then seeking to get you to juxtapose that with your use of the phrase "God has created..."

Posted by william at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 1:06pm BST

William, if god didn't create LGBT people then who did?

Posted by Alastair Newman at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 8:55pm BST

William - the point you make has been answered far more eloquently than I can answer it by people who have actually made a study of the biblical basis for gay equality.

All I can offer is my personal observation that gay people I know do not appear to have chosen it - indeed, why would anyone choose to be gay and a Christian, given how gay people are treated in the church? - and therefore I have to conclude they are created gay. And I know that God looked at his Creation and called it good.

In addition to this, I observe that the 10 Commandments were much stronger on adultery than homosexuality, that Jesus was apparently much more against divorce that he was against homosexuality, that Jesus summarised the law and the prophets into loving God and loving your neighbour as yourself, and that every time Jesus spoke of people being cast into outer darkness it seems to have been for denying other people the mercy that God offers them.

I hope someone with more knowledge than me can answer your question more comprehensively.

Posted by Pam Smith at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 11:09pm BST

'Are there any other sins that have no victims?'

I'm game. Who's the victim of idolatrous thought-patterns? The sin is exercised in the mind and behaviour of the idolater who entertains and promotes a distorted perception of the deity.

Ergo, the assumption that it can only be a sin if it involves an unconsenting victim is naive. Consenting sex partners whose behaviour promotes a distortion of sexual union as inaugurated in the Genesis is a falsehood perpetrated against God.

Posted by David Shepherd at Sunday, 14 April 2013 at 11:30pm BST

William, God created and loves his/her creatures, gay and straight. I can't understand why it's such a problem. I just don't. Anyone can cherry pick the Bible. It was used to justify slavery and burning witches.

Pam utterly nailed it.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 15 April 2013 at 4:24am BST

The problem with idolatry is that we focus on the wrong gods and are not open to God and his consistent call to each one of us to keep following him even more closely.

The victims of idolatry are we ourselves because we are losing the connection with God and with that our maturing in faith.

Posted by Erika Baker at Monday, 15 April 2013 at 3:22pm BST

Good answer, Erika.

It could also be said that idolatry is the root of actions that hurt others. For example, idolatry of money might cause a society to hoard it at the expense of the basic human needs of the poor.

But I also agree that we ourselves can be victims of our own sins, such as idolatry.

I just don't see anything about loving, committed, LGBT couples as creating victims of any sort. The suggestion that we do is offensive and evidence of irrational fear, i.e. homophobia.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 15 April 2013 at 5:19pm BST

The worst idol of all, the Categorical, our demand for absolute certainty.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Monday, 15 April 2013 at 6:19pm BST

Paul had no doubts about the "absolute certainty" of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to save sinners.
If was Jesus' claim too - I am the Way ... there is no other Way to the Father.
The lack of absolute certainty on this weakens, almost certainly, fatally, the Mission of the Church as it seeks to be obedient to the divine imperative - Make disciples of all nations.
Absolute certainty is not a universal idol!!

Posted by william at Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 10:50am BST

It is absolute certainty that reduces the world to a simple black and white abstraction, and reduces men and women to mere ciphers in some larger scheme, to something less than cardboard cut outs; for example reducing people to the status of souls to be saved (or conquered).

Claims to absolute certainty with no test in reality open a door to the worst kinds of crime and depravity. The arrogance of the fanatic reduces his neighbors to the status of obstacles to be cleared, to wooden ducks at a shooting gallery.

A point on which Pascal and Montaigne (who both lived at a time of fanatic violence and religious warfare) agreed:

"Men never do evil so willingly and so happily as when they do it for the sake of conscience." --Pascal

"When they try to become angels, men become beasts." --Montaigne

I thought of both of those quotes on a morning when I stood on top of my building and watched men acting in God's name and in the name of a world purified of the decadence of Western liberalism fly planes into a building.

Posted by Counterlight at Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 12:43pm BST

We must have the humility to recognize that as mortal prisoners of time and space, all of our knowledge is provisional. We can only be more or less certain about anything, and never absolutely certain. Faith is never identical with certainty.

"We believe; but when we say this, we know that we must go on to say that our faith is compounded of unbelief. Nevertheless we know that faith is, as it was with Abraham, what we do not know." -- Karl Barth

(By the way, Counterlight is me, FD Blanchard in New York. I'm trying to drop the old moniker with mixed success)

Posted by FD Blanchard at Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 12:58pm BST

Is it not the case, though, that christian faith, faith in Jesus Christ, faith that is the gift of God, given by the life-giving Spirit of Christ, on His resurrection and ascension, to all who believe, not of man but of God Himself - of an altogether different order from how our best human philosophers can perceive or define faith - is not that the faith which we have received, in the Church of Jesus Christ, and are divinely summoned to share with this fallen world?

Posted by william at Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 4:08pm BST

'Has the Saviour anointed by God appeared on earth in the frailty of our common humanity?' The Christian says, 'Yes'. A non-Christian might either say, 'No', or 'I can never be sure?'. In spite of uncertainty, honest intentions seek greater certainty. It is disingenuous to do otherwise.

Our faith demands no more than applying a juror's response to the purpose of life. Consider the impact of a juror's response to human testimony. The verdict is life-changing, but based on partial knowledge. Yet, as scripture says, 'We receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater' What sort of life-changing decisions do we make on the basis of the partial knowledge of divine testimony?

A doctor may operate with a partial knowledge of the patient's condition. Partial knowledge is no basis for a tentative suspension of choice, we must act inductively and decisively.. unless we can prove that action poses an overt irreversible threat to exacerbate the condition that we are trying to ameliorate. The Rich Man promised that if Lazarus returned from the grave, it would provide his relatives with enough certainty to change their selfish ways. Abraham insisted that no amount of hard evidence will overcome an overarching purpose that is prejudiced to escape censure by discounting the validity of Moses and the prophets.

That's no less true today.

Posted by David Shepherd at Tuesday, 16 April 2013 at 4:17pm BST

Choice is a fascinating topic. Fortunately, Jesus gave us a criterion. He said that you can tell the real prophets from the false ones by the fruits of their labor.

I admire the fruits of the labor of MLK and Desmond Tutu. I have to believe that liberation is the fruit of Paradise. And that this liberation is for all of God's creatures. MLK and Tutu believed/believe it.

The fruits of oppression are quite ugly. It's hard for me to believe that God wishes her/his children to live with depression, ostracized, and exposed to hate.

There just isn't any legal argument that I can accept as more powerful than the palpable love of our creator for all of her/his creatures, including me and all my LGBT brothers and sisters.

Of course the particulars will have to be worked out with children. It's already complicated even for straight couples utilizing new technologies and surrogates.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 5:13am BST

William,
yes, within the Christian framework we can be absolutely certain that Jesus is the Way to the loving God.

That still leaves us with plenty of scope to get it wrong with fiery religious passion. Christians burnt witches with the absolute religious certainty that it would save their souls, the tortures of the Inquisition were based on that same idea.
People used to bury unbaptised babies in non-consecrated graveyards because they believed with absolute certainty that they were not saved.

There is a difference between being certain about Jesus and His Way being what brings us to God and being certain that this translates into "we can do no wrong when we act in His name".

Hold on to that first certainty, but let go of the second. Allow for the possibility that with regard to some of the social issues we are debating you might just be on the side of those who burnt witches. It makes for a much more careful and loving engagement with those we disagree with.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 9:11am BST

' It's hard for me to believe that God wishes her/his children to live with depression, ostracized, and exposed to hate.'

I agree. The prodigal son chose to exploit his father's providence as a means of seeking self-actualising autonomy (or liberation). He was happy until left degraded by squandered providence and in a place estranged from the comfort of his inherited status.

The prodigal son did not have to live with that depression, ostracism and hate. He chose to return home.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 9:18am BST

My dear Cynthia - the juxtaposition of your sentence "It makes for a much more careful and loving engagement with those we disagree with." and your describing those who disagree with your perspective, as we seek humbly and obediently to discern the mind of the Loving Father in the prodigal parable that David refers to, as irrational and suffering from homophobia - is stark!!

Posted by william at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 12:15pm BST

The Christian religion has a very long record of crime for which it must atone. Its crime is arrogance that reduced people, those whom Our Lord called His neighbors and who He loved, to nothing more than means to ends.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 12:19pm BST

"He was happy until left degraded by squandered providence and in a place estranged from the comfort of his inherited status."

And again, we are left to discern just what kind of behaviour and attitude constitutes a squandering of God's gifts.

And again, I would say that only means of discernment we have is Jesus's very clear statement that you can tell them by their fruit.

Do we spread love or hatred? Do we encourage others or slam them at every opportunity? Do we bring light into the world or judgement and condemnation?
What are our fruits?

Be careful who you judge, be very careful. There is only one to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secrets are hidden. The rest of us should be very careful when we casually dismiss other people's motivations and actions.

Posted by Erika Baker at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 12:27pm BST


You shall indeed know the tree by the fruit that it bears. And what sort of fruit does the rest of the world see our churches bearing? Arrogance, bigotry, hypocrisy, an eagerness to lay burdens on the shoulders of others that we are unwilling to bear ourselves; proclaiming to the world and refusing to listen to the world, belittling the experiences and thoughts of other people; an unwillingness to come clean about our past, our roles in the conquest and oppression of other peoples, and other crimes of corruption and abuse.

The filth under the clerical robes is now out in the open. The Church atones for its past by becoming an object of contempt and ridicule, and worst of all, it earned that contempt. Now we have the once unthinkable spectacle of an Irish Prime Minister publicly scolding the Bishop of Rome for his refusal to cooperate in criminal investigations.

For 2000 years, the Church has been anything but Christlike, but very much more like Caesar.

As far as I am concerned, the only meaningful difference between Muslim fanatics and Christian fanatics is a shave.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 2:15pm BST

As Isaiah said of those who found his reproof (rather than condemnation) uncompromising (ergo, unloving) and looked for a worldly remedy (the Egyptian alliance):

'They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us flattering things, prophesy illusions.' (Is. 30:10)

No change there, then.

Posted by David Shepherd at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 8:38pm BST

Describing my loving relationship as being the stuff of the Prodigal Son's activities is highly offensive. My relationship is a gift from God, as is those of many of our LGBT sisters and brothers. How cheeky to judge my life and those of so many who bring so much to this world.

So sorry that it is so difficult for some to recognize the love of God when it is so clearly present. And even sorrier that some feel they can impose their irrational prejudice on others via the church and state. I think I'll stick with MLK and Coretta Scott King, and Desmond Tutu and their support LGBT brothers and sisters. They clearly have a stronger grip on justice and the love of God than some folks here.

The ignorance and the arrogance is stunning. But of course, there have always been those with excuses to not include others, and even to go so far as to lynch or burn them. What matters is that the leadership and majority say enough.

MLK said: Let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado! Well, we're having a blizzard today, in April, it is justice ringing. And it brings peace.

Posted by Cynthia at Wednesday, 17 April 2013 at 11:34pm BST

Yes, Cynthia. TA has a strange inequality in banning offensive material. As long as it offends gays and liberals, it seems to be just fine. Ever notice that?

Posted by MarkBrunson at Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 5:06am BST

David,
when will you stop throwing bible verses at me that could equally apply to you?

These verses are always true, but we are still left to discern who they apply to and in what context. Just hurling them against someone you disagree with proves nothing - not of them and not of God.

You are not my judge, I am not yours.
These verses are only ever spoken into our own hearts to serve as aids to examine our own souls. Weapons, they are not. Proof of someone else's wrongness even less.

Posted by Erika Baker at Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 7:36am BST

"As Isaiah said of those who found his reproof (rather than condemnation) uncompromising (ergo, unloving) and looked for a worldly remedy (the Egyptian alliance):

'They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us flattering things, prophesy illusions.' (Is. 30:10)

No change there, then."


As Our Lord pointed out on many occasions, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and not the recipe.

Posted by FD Blanchard at Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 1:32pm BST

I see David now sees himself as Isaiah. Has it occurred to him that his vision may not be what is right, but what is merely uncharitable? Motes and beams come to mind.

Posted by Helen at Thursday, 18 April 2013 at 11:34pm BST
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