Comments: SEC General Synod: statements in reaction to decision

This is a rare case of Thinking Anglicans posting inaccurately and in a way that could be quite damaging.

The second page referred to above indicates people who signed as supporters after last year's synod not this year's synod.

Some of those listed spoke in the debate this year about how they appreciated very greatly the attempts made to secure them a place in the SEC.

Not a single person in the debate threatened to leave the church.

At least one of those listed as supporters actually voted in favour of the legislation this time around, maybe more.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 7:37pm BST

Kelvin, thanks, I have amended the article to remove the misleading link.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 7:45pm BST

Galatians 3:28 teaches their is no male or female in Jesus. We are better placed than any previous generation to understand this teaching now that sex reassignment surgery is commonplace. The body is only earthly clothing for an ungendered immortal soul. It is a little harder to change than a suit or dress, but still entirely mutable and absolutely mortal.

References to gender don't belong in the Canon. Removing them brings the Canon in line with Biblical teaching, not to flout it. The conservatives and GAFCON are quite simply wrong IMHO. They might win other, allied arguments on sodomy for example, but on the simple deletion of references to male and female from the Canon the Bible verse which speaks mostly expressly on that point is starkly against them.

Posted by Kate at Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 9:49pm BST

The 'Scottish Anglican Network' website does not appear to name any actual people as its members, but it links to the website livingout.org, which seems to sum up their view of gay and lesbian people:

"Homosexual sin is serious. Paul says the active and unrepentant homosexual (as with all active, unrepentant sinners) will not enter God’s kingdom. Paul urges his readers not to be deceived on this point. He assumes there will be those who deny this teaching, and argue that some forms of homosexual conduct are acceptable to God. But Paul is clear: homosexual conduct leads people to destruction. This is a gospel issue."

( http://www.livingout.org/the-bible-and-ssa )

I am not at all clear that most people in the Church of England would sign up to those views, let alone most members of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

On the ground, I really don't think that most members of either Church believe gay and lesbian people are destined for "destruction".

Of course, we should respect the right of this group to exercise their conscience on the issue. Equally, churches, priests and communities who affirm gay and lesbian relationships should have their consciences respected.

And that is exactly the principle the SEC seems to be proposing: respect for conscience.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bishops and archbishops of the Church of England, who insist on uniformity, not unity in diversity.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 10:50pm BST

Prayers for the Scottish Episcopal Church during this time of listening intently to each other and recognising the riches of diversity.

Posted by Pam at Sunday, 12 June 2016 at 11:31pm BST

'The body is only earthly clothing for an ungendered immortal soul'.

Not quite sure how this fits in with the idea of the 'resurrection of the body'. Also, Genesis says that the combination of the material ('dust') and the breath of God produced 'a living soul'. Soul thus describes the whole person, not the non-physical part.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 12:52am BST

The sentence with 'gay' and 'destruction' in, may not even be legal-p hateful ? inciting ....?

After Orlando it becomes even more distasteful, and concerning.

How much does speech like this world-wide lead to violence against us ?

Unqunatifiable, but we see 'the destruction' of lgbt all around us these days...


Posted by Laurence Roberts at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 1:07am BST

Whenever I see something like the "The Scottish Anglican Network" or Gafcon, or an African church aying they are not in communion with this or that diocese I think of the number of good people driven away from religion altogther by our pettiness.

In the flood of discussion about today's Orlando shooting, with the Christian-Muslim and conservative-liberal name-calling and finger pointing, I found this, and I believe it is something we all need to bear very close to the front of our minds:

"Whenever I hear someone say "I'm a good Christian", I know enough to run, don't walk, as far away as possible. Or brace myself for judgmental, small-brained statements that reflect a thoroughly un-Christian attitude. It never fails."

How do you answer that?

Posted by Nathaniel Brown at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 2:21am BST

"The body is only earthly clothing for an ungendered immortal soul."

Please take that statement in.

The resurrection body of Jesus was not an ungendered immortal soul and catholic Christians do not believe "the body is earthly clothing for an ungendered immortal soul." That is the view of gnostics (who also have a negative view of women).

We are beginning to see the eccentric underpinnings of some progressive thinking.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 6:02am BST

"The resurrection body of Jesus was not an ungendered immortal soul and catholic Christians do not believe..."
@cseltz

So what is 2 Corinthians 5 about then? Or 1 Corinthians 15?

And obviously I'd missed the Resurrection narrative where Thomas checks the genitals as well as the marks of the nails and spear.

You also need to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (section 997 onwards).

What Kate had to say was somewhat clumsily expressed (sorry Kate), but it's not incompatible with Pauline notions of the resurrection nor a Catholic understanding of the relationship between soul/body.

Throwing accusations of gnosticism around is both intellectually lazy and overreacting.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 10:44am BST

Tim, can I refer you http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p123a11.htm where the Vatican explains in 997 that at death the soul is separated from the body. They are not one and the same.

Christopher, you speak of the physical resurrection of Christ in the period between rising from the dead on the third day and later Ascension. That is a special case and I don't think it is relevant.

In Catholic beliefs as well, "body" anyway has a rather special meaning which is how transubstantiation has to be understood.

All the references show Word/spirit/soul to be separate to body. Body seems to be simply a device which helps souls to interact with the physical earth - and the existence of the Holy Spirit suggests a body is a convenience not a necessity for interaction.

I am aware of no Biblical reference which suggests souls are gendered but if I have missed one, please educate me.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 11:33am BST

Living Out is not anonymous, Susannah

http://www.livingout.org/who-we-are

That site is brimful with errors and inconsistency though.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 11:56am BST

I, as an overseas observer of the fallout from SEC's brave decision to go forward with Same-Sex Marriage consideration at its next meeting of the General Synod in 2017, was most interested to note the identity of those who signed the Letter of Protest from "Gafcon UK':

"The Rt Rev John Ellison, The Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, The Rt Rev Wallace Benn, and The Rt Rev Ken Barham, on behalf of the Panel of Bishops, Gafcon UK The Rev Paul Perkin, The Rev Michael Ovey, on behalf of the Exec Committee, Gafcon UK The Rev Canon Andy Lines, Mr. Dan Leafe on behalf of the Anglican Mission in England"

How on earth did people like Bp. Nazir-Ali and the Revd Paul Perkin get to represent the mavericks of Gafcon in the UK?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 12:02pm BST

"We are beginning to see the eccentric underpinnings of some progressive thinking."

- cseitz -

Conversely, in the Orlando Massacre, we are seeing the underpinnings of outdated homophobic thinking

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 12:23pm BST

I would add that ACC-16 effectively reinforced the principle that rites effected in one province affect all provinces by recognising the ecclesiastical standing of women as priests and bishops. Indeed a woman celebrated communion in Lusaka Cathedral even though the Church in Zambia won't ordain women itself.

It is now up to Synod to either vote for same sex marriage or vote to reject it AND vote to declare impaired communion with any province which decides to perform same sex marriages. If the powers-that-be keep kicking the vote into the future, or don't expressly vote on an impaired communion, then I think ssm has entered CofE by the back door. Hopefully this realisation and the impossibility of getting a sufficient majority to declare an impaired communion will prevent further delays.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 12:53pm BST

Thanks for using one commenter's post above to make such a sweeping statement about all progressive thought, Mr. Seitz. Sloppy logic. Perhaps in that same spirit we could point to a disturbing event over the weekend in Florida and say that we are starting to see the underpinnings of conservative religious thought? Argument from one example and such, after all. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Do you understand?

Posted by Dennis Roberts at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 1:36pm BST

Regarding the rejoinders to Kate's statement from Tim Chesterton, "Genesis says that the combination of the material ('dust') and the breath of God produced 'a living soul' ", and from cseitz, "The resurrection body of Jesus was not an engendered immortal soul ..."

While the body soul notion itself is reasonably subject to critique, the general direction that Kate's comment takes i.e. the difficulties in tying our current biological state to eschatological destiny, is an interesting one.

One notes that the body of The risen Lord is transcendent. Now there is a concept one is advised to take in.

Even in the NT mythology on the one hand the risen Christ eats and drinks but on the other hand is not abound by closed doors, shows himself and then disappears from sight, is recognized only when he chooses to be disclosed.

I recall a drôle remark from a clergy conference years ago during the debate about the ordination of women. Q. "Does the risen Christ have a penis?" A. "If so it would be a 'glorified' penis". Common room humor does sometimes make a point.

People of all sorts and conditions currently suffer from the view of others that biology is their destiny in the here an now. Let's not use ambiguous religious language to suggest the injustice may extend into the hereafter.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 2:33pm BST

"The body is only earthly clothing for an ungendered immortal soul."

Read any funeral service.

Do people here really believe this?

Paul speaks of a soma pneumatikon.

Yes, the resurrection body of Jesus is critical and the Articles clearly speak of his taking this Body into the heavenlies at the Ascension.

He is 'first fruits of them who sleep'.

This is the faith of the church.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 4:02pm BST

IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ

Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man's nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

Posted by cseitz at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 5:50pm BST

My brother was stillborn but his body was apparently grossly deformed and, had he lived, he would have had terrible disabilities. Christopher, do you really believe people will be inflicted with terrible deformities for an eternity? Do you believe that someone terribly injured just before death will retain those injuries? Do you believe that the elderly, the halt, the lame and those with dementia will be afflicted forever?

I don't. I can't. What compassionate, loving religion could ever do so. Our heavenly bodies must transcend the terrible indignities some suffer. As I have said before, part of the mystery of transubstantiation is to encourage us not to see the term body in such a literal way but to recognise and expect transcendence.

Posted by Kate at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 7:48pm BST

@cseitz, "This is the faith of the church." Good you resolved that for yourself; but that does not beget in others a conclusion to the matter under discussion here; nor does quoting article IV from the historically contextual 39 articles.

"Read any funeral service." As many other folks here have have done no doubt, I've taken hundreds of funerals and preached on just about any text relevant for a funeral liturgy. None of which addresses the particular point under discussion i.e. biology as eschatological destiny.

Folks so interested may wish to take a look at, The End of the Word and the Ends of God ( John Polkinghorne and Michael Welker, eds.)

Welker has a nice little article in there titled, Resurrection and Eternal Life, wherein he writes: " The pre-Easter person and the pre-Easter life here continue in a new way. .. The pre-Easter Jesus is transcended and yet remains true to himself. The biological body is not restored. The biblical texts speak of a 'glorified' body or of a 'spiritual' body."
[Ibid., p. 283]

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 8:47pm BST

oops, that title ought to be, The End of the World and the Ends of God. ( John Polkinghorne and Michael Welker, eds.Trinity Press International 2000)

Posted by Rod Gillis at Monday, 13 June 2016 at 10:29pm BST

The topic was not disability but a genderless immortal state.

The Risen Jesus was continuous with his earthly self but glorified, so same voice, hands, visage, body. The beloved disciple could say 'It is the Lord.'

Paul was confronted by the same Jesus, not a genderless entity.

Yes, a soma pneumatikon. Yes, a glorified body. But not a genderless immortal soul.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 5:41am BST

I have sometimes - at funerals - tried to explain the phenomenon of the 'resurrection body', with the expressed hope that I will not be raised with my bald head and gout. But who (excepting Jesus) has ever come back to report on the matter?

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 7:57am BST

Funny how Gafcon missed the Welsh developments. Prayers for same sex marriages which are described as not being blessings, but in reality are. Reminds me of when I lived in South Africa, apartheid was called plural democracy.

Please note all these GAFCON signatories support divorce/ remarriage and contraception...all once unequivocally condemned in the C of E

Posted by robert ian williams at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 8:22am BST

Body and Soul.

Isn't the truth that we really cannot fully conceive or understand what God has prepared for us in the deeper reality and eternity?

We understand in part, and God may disclose different things to different people, but even that disclosure by the Spirit will be in part. "Eyes have not seen, nor ears heard, nor mind conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."

Personally, I believe that the sovereign realm of God and those who dwell in it are *more* physical, not *less* physical than the world we presently live in and the bodies we transiently inhabit. So much so, that this world by comparison seems shadow-like.

Some people who have seen visions report that, in those apertures into eternity, the things they see appear physical and substantial in a way that makes the world they return to seem flat and veil-like by compare, as if you could put your hand through it... or walk through a door.

And yet, at the same time, others experience a sense of the soul as having vast capacity, the capacity for God in person to dwell therein. And while the tangibility I describe may be one aspect of the transcended body and the heavenly country, at the same time, there may also be something else going on, something free from body, something that can share in the consciousness and awareness of God.

Personally I think that you can have and not have physicality. But I suspect the body and soul are integrated. Just as they are in this lower-dimensional world.

I completely believe we shall have bodies... lovely physical bodies... and that deformities and sickness will be transcended. But I also believe in the soul as a vast place where God dwells, and where we come home to ourselves to meet God, who is ever waiting for us, right in the innermost cloistered garden of our being.

But what is out there and what is in there may be convergent and not contradictory. Yet really, how can we more than stumble in finding words or understanding for holy mysteries.

What I *do* feel sure is: God will be everywhere, and there will be this strong and ubiquitous peace, and beauty... so much beauty... and eternal grace and kindness and relationship.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 9:44am BST

@ cseitz, "Yes, a soma pneumatikon. Yes, a glorified body." But is it a biological body of which gender is a characteristic?

How could it be? How could a biological body which is a dynamic state be "immortal" or incorruptible? How may it correspond, for example, to the language used by Paul? How could a biological body live except within a biosphere? So despite the attempted shift in ground to resurrection in general, the questions raised in Kate's posts remain unanswered.

Michael Welker is on to something that may have relevance to the topic at hand. Certainly, in terms of moving beyond NT language to the language of theology the notion that gender is be accommodated as a required aspect of a Christian notion of resurrection is highly problematic. What in heaven for, as it were?

Posted by Rod Gillis at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 1:55pm BST

Most recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reiterated this long-defined teaching, stating, "‘We believe in the true resurrection of this flesh that we now possess’ (Council of Lyons II). We sow a corruptible body in the tomb, but he raises up an incorruptible body, a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42–44)" (CCC 1017).

Augustine simply reiterates the constant teaching of the Church Fathers:

"Perish the thought that the omnipotence of the Creator is unable, for the raising of our bodies and for the restoring of them to life, to recall all [their] parts, which were consumed by beasts or by fire, or which disintegrated into dust or ashes, or were melted away into a fluid, or were evaporated away in vapors" (The City of God 22:20:1 [A.D. 419]).

The Fathers were well aware of rival views to the Christian witness, not least the Manichean tendencies of body negativity, which Augustine knew very well.

Posted by cseitz at Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 6:25pm BST

"But is it a biological body of which gender is a characteristic?"

The question is awkwardly phrased.

The 'biological body' is what is sown corruptible, to quote Paul. So a glorified body is not a corruptible body.

Gender is characteristic of Jesus Risen body in that *he is himself*. He is not an immortal soul. He asks Thomas to put his hand in his side and to probe his nail wounds. His voice is recognized. Mary seeks to hold on to him. His is a glorified Body not a genderless immortal soul. He gives commands consistent with his prior self: Jesus born of Mary.

One notes the use of scripture shifting from refutation of 'clobber verses' toward a 'genderless' lens. No one would have expected Matthew 22 to become a central text in this season. The common thread is 'genderless-ness.'

Posted by cseitz at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 6:50am BST

Christopher, your quote from St Augustine, while both apt and appealing, actually leaves unanswered more than it answers.

Consider a boy born with micro penis. As so often happens, doctors intervene, decide the pens is inadequate and reassign the baby as female legally, surgically and medically. Is the resurrection body going to be male according to the state at birth, or female as the individual has lived, loved and married? (Remember gender identity is strong in some people but weaker in others.) Unless the resurrection body was to be one of an infant, an adult male resurrection body could only be hypothecated because it would never have existed. Those who knew a woman in life wouldn't recognise her if a man stood before them.

What if surgery was a month after birth, or a year, or thirty years?

I understand the appeal of Augustine but we know so much more today about the incredible richness of God's creation and the remarkable diversity of gender, that his statement must now be recognised as so overly-simplistic as not just to be useless but a slight to an appropriate recognition of the diversity of God's creation.

We know angels are genderless so gender is not a pre-requisite for admission to heaven. So the question remains, are human souls / spirits gendered and, if not, if gender in any way relevant to marriage?

Posted by Kate at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 12:13pm BST

@ cseitz, Fascinating controversy."The common thread is 'genderless-ness.' "

More tightly focused, the common thread is sexual differentiation. Does a resurrected body have the sexual differentiation of the biological body? Only then can we proceed to further questions about gender, congruent or not, and the resurrected "body".

For those so interested, there is very interesting article, Bodily Resurrection in Catholic Perspectives, by Bernard P Prusak (Theological Studies 61, 2000).

From his lengthy survey and analysis of modern Catholic systematic theologians Prusak writes:


"Contemporary theology does not understand the resurrection of the
body in the manner of Aquinas who said that flesh, bones, and blood would
be included." [Prusak, p. 99]

Prusak, analyzing the theology of conservative theologian Joseph Raztzinger, notes the following:

In Ratzinger’s view, “both John (6.53) and Paul (1 Cor 15.50) state with
all possible emphasis that the ‘resurrection of the flesh’, the ‘resurrection of
the body’ is not a ‘resurrection of physical bodies’.” He thus argued that
“the Pauline sketch is far less naive than later theological erudition with its
subtle constructions on the question how there can be eternal physical
bodies.” For, according to Ratzinger, “Paul teaches not the resurrection of
physical bodies but the resurrection of persons . . . in the different form of
the life of the resurrection, as shown in the risen Lord.” In Ratzinger’s
understanding, Paul expressly describes the idea of “the return of the
‘fleshy body’, that is, the biological structure” as impossible: “the perishable
cannot become imperishable.” [ ibid.p. 73]

Now, this is interesting:

"The modern authors we have considered all agree that a human is not
annihilated by death, and that “what” is resurrected is not the chemicophysical
body we had in life, but the same personal “self” or identity." [Ibid. p. 100]

The question then turns on whether the resurrected essential self requires gender identification and gender roles which in turn can only be rooted in biological sexual differentiation. I suspect in our current politcal climate, the debate will continue for some time.


The entire pdf article may be had via

http://cdn.theologicalstudies.net/61/61.1/61.1.4.pdf


Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 2:31pm BST

"His is a glorified Body not a genderless immortal soul."
@cseltz

But surely he has a soul?

Can we break this down:

1) Do humans have immortal souls?
2) Are those souls gendered?
3) Do resurrection bodies have genitals?
4) If 'yes' to 3), why? (as you point, Matt 22)
5) If 'no' what then is it that makes the resurrected Jesus gendered?

This argument, as far as I can see, rests on precision in language / theology. There's not a hidden agenda to introduce genderless-ness everywhere.

The original argument was not that we are *only* an immortal soul; we are, pre and post resurrection, a psychosomatic unity, but as far as we can tell, only the earthly body part of that has gender.

Posted by Fr Andrew at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 4:16pm BST

Is this the same Catholic Catechism that states that gay sex acts are acts of grave depravity and can never be approved?

Posted by robert ian williams at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 5:00pm BST

@ Fr. Andrew, "we are, pre and post resurrection, a psychosomatic unity, but as far as we can tell, only the earthly body part of that has gender."

You may be interested in this section of another article by Bernard Prusak,

" With Karl Rahner, we say that the body is the symbol, or self-expression, of the self/person/soul. As Joseph Ratzinger has noted, “the body gets its identity not from matter but from the person, the soul. The physiology becomes truly ‘body’ through the heart of the personality. Bodiliness is something other than a summation of corpuscles.”

There is an interesting comment below Prusak's article by Luis Gutierrez which I quote here in part.

" ...it seems to me that what matters for the sacramental economy, and for the priest to be a visible sign of the acting presence of Christ, is not that Jesus is male and his flesh contained molecules with X and Y chromosomes, but that the eternal Word assumed human nature in a human body, and became a human being. ...The difference between X and Y chromosomes is no longer relevant for building the body of Christ under the New Law, and the patriarchal 'binary' is now becoming a hindrance for the new evangelization."

Keep in mind the article is about sacramental theology, but the observations are of interest notwithstanding. The full article and full comment may be found here.

http://americamagazine.org/issue/culture/my-body

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 7:48pm BST

Part of the difficulty with the somewhat materialistic view of the resurrection espoused in earlier times (i.e., Origen and Augustine), to wit, that the resurrection is in "the same body" assembled from all of its bits that might have been dispersed through natural processes, lies in the fact that the human being is not made up of a fixed lump of matter, but of a constantly changing ensemble of material particles which are exchanged with the wider environment (including other living things) on a moment-to-moment basis, "with every breath you take." Some of the atoms that will be part of my body when I die will go on to be part of someone else's body when he or she dies.

Paul rightly anticipated the problem, in contrasting the "man of dust" with the "man of the Spirit." The risen body is not made of dust, but of spirit.

Add to this the problem that modern physics shows us: that matter itself will some day decay into nothingness. That being the case, our risen bodies must perforce be made of sterner and eternal stuff -- which is to say, Spirit.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 9:32pm BST

Some other thoughts on sex, gender, and God.

We are talking about states of deeper reality than the realms we are inhabiting, here, in time. Much is likely to be conjecture when we try to imagine or understand that deeper reality.

I certainly hope I won't be genderless in eternity. I hope I will be me.

Sex and gender were part of the 'image' we inherited from God. Part of the blessing. Part of the physicality and the spirituality of the deeper reality outside of time. I don't anticipate neutering at all, because I think God is actually very 'sexy' (in inverted commas, meaning, in a more substantial and sensual and yet spiritually different way).

But once again, 'eyes have not seen, nor mind conceived, what God has prepared' for those who love, and are loved, by God. So still we conjecture, and wonder, and wait.

One day it will be revealed, and "your eyes will see the beauty of the sovereign, and behold a land that stretches afar." (Isaiah 33:17)

We shall see God in all loveliness, and we shall see one another (I believe), and part of our loveliness may involve those parts of our identity that are gendered, sexual, and not neutered or fig-leaved out by morality police.

Lover: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!...”

Beloved: “How handsome you are, my lover! Oh how charming! Our bed is verdant...”

Lover: “You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride. You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes...”

Beloved: “Let my lover come into his garden, and taste its choice fruits...”

Lover: “Open to me, my sister, my darling... my head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night...”

Beloved: “I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me...”

Lover: “You are beautiful, my darling... turn your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me.”

Yes, I believe God may be very sexual, very sensual, and may desire us. There may be physicality involved. If we live ‘in the image’ of God, then God’s own attributes may include attributes that we find in ourselves. I believe God is a jealous lover. Gender, in one expression or another, could well be part of who we are, who we become, and who we always were.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 10:30pm BST

@ Robert Ian Williams, re the Catechism (CCC) on moral theology, your observation is noteworthy.

Catechisms tend to be conservative documents that "freeze frame" doctrine. Such was one of the criticisms raised when the current Catechism of the Catholic Church was first published. Across the broad spectrum of R.C. theology, the Catechism gets something of an eye roll from some theologians.

However, that same broad theological spectrum in the R.C. church includes some very interesting theologians who are working on theological problems as they relate to both culture and science.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Wednesday, 15 June 2016 at 10:56pm BST

I can see now why someone suggested my earlier contribution was clumsy. It was. My thanks for the contributions people have made.

Some observations, with advance apologies for my clumsiness. We all agree, I think, that bodies have gender, but not necessarily that gender is either binary with no intervening states between male and female, nor that it is immutable. If Ratzinger is correct that the body gets its identity from the soul, then it is likely that a soul has a gender identity IE is predisposed to expression as a particular gender when embodied.

The Prusak article was very interesting, thank you, and this takes us in a different direction in two ways. Firstly Prusak fails to consider the gender of communion bread. If the bread is the body of Christ (either literally or symbolically) and gender is an intrinsic aspect of body, then communion bread has a male aspect. I am struggling to begin to understand what this means but, at the least, it suggests one of our assumptions is correct (eg that gender is a vital aspect of body) or that gender has a greater significance than we liberals generally believe.

Likewise, what of the statement "we are all one body [IE all the same gender] because we all share one bread"? Doesn't that suggest that, at least symbolically, we are all capable of manifesting the same common gender (leaving aside whether that is male or female?

I thought the biological manifestation of gender was complex and confusing enough, but the theological issues seem even more complex.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 5:21am BST

Incidentally, I don't think this discussion is abstract without practical import.

I was reading back over an earlier TA post http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/003915.html It seems to me that if we are all of one body when we (priest and congregation) share communion and might then at some level all be the same gender (the gender of the "one body") then the gender of the celebrant is irrelevant because it is irrelevant in the context of the gender of the one body sharing bread together. I would be interested what others think.

Although firmly on the side of same sex marriage I have struggled personally with the question of women priests because mere issues of equality seem an insufficient justification. However the one body / one gender line of reasoning would address that for me because it suggests that the celebrant's gender can theologically be shown to be irrelevant.

Posted by Kate at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 5:56am BST

Fr Andrew. Matthew 22. An absurd example meant to trap Jesus. Jesus affirms the resurrection but insists that marriage, which involves procreation, does not occur in heaven. Angels do not procreate. We are like them in heaven because we live forever and need not procreate. He isn't saying we become angels while once we were not.

The resurrection of the dead is a confession rooted in scripture, as Jesus indicates in this exchange. It involves the rising to life eternal of our bodies. There is no genderless immortal soul conception in scripture.

Jesus inaugurates the final resurrection, in the middle of time, instead of, as expected, at the end of time. Why? So that the full number of gentiles might come in, joining those whose confession was: the final judgment of God and the resurrection of the dead righteous. Which we affirm in our Nicene Creed.

I think it is fairly clear that removing 'male' and 'female' from a marriage service spills now into a genderless essentialism. We are no longer male and female but persons. And this not by accident but by firm conviction and intention.

This is however a rival conception, and not a complementary one. Saying it is so is not making it so. And there is the division.

Until this is grasped it will always be offensive to LGBT advocates to have Christians say they oppose crimes against those in the LGBT articulation, but will not alter what they hold as essential to marriage: male and female, and the constellation Genesis 1--2; Jesus' affirmation of this; and Ephesians sacramental vision of the church and marriage.

The genderless conception is a different starting point and ending point. It is grounded in a different account of creation and of final life with God both.

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 6:29am BST

"The risen body is not made of dust, but of spirit."

No one is saying otherwise. It is a spiritual body. It is not a body corruptible.

"Some of the atoms that will be part of my body when I die will go on to be part of someone else's body when he or she dies."

I don't know what this means exactly, and less still how you can declare it as fact, but leaving that aside. The sterner stuff of eternal life with God is not genderless in character. CS Lewis spoke of grass that could cut our feet. If the analogy is apt, biological gender will be transformed into a sterner stuff as well. Not eliminated.

The rabbis described Adam and Eve as gloriously appareled in Eden. When they put off this eternal bodily state, they were given skin so as to live in this life, but skin corruptible all the same. The glorious raiment of Jesus at Transfiguration anticipates his Risen Body and also gathers up the first glorious eternal body of Adam. As in Adam all die, so in Christ all are made alive. Adam and Eve were not genderless in their Edenic life, but profoundly and gloriously gendered. "Sterner stuff" might well be apt.

(See Notre Dame's Gary Anderson's "Garments of Glory").

Posted by cseitz at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 9:10am BST

Replying to Father Andrew:

1. Do humans have immortal souls? I believe yes. But what are souls? What form if any do they take? And if they dwell in eternity, outside of time, are they immortal and existent only after we die here on earth, or are we, in a sense, existent forever, not only 'after' our lives but 'before' our lives? Perhaps we had original beauty long before we ever had original sin.

2. Are those souls gendered? Well first, you say 'gendered' not 'sexed' and there is a distinction. Gender identity and physical sex are not always congruent. But to the extent that gender is an aspect of your identity, if you believe your identity survives death, it is reasonable to think your gender identity (part of who you are) might too.

After all, God made us in his/her own image in genders, so arguably gender is good, and maybe something lovely, with all its variety.

3. Do resurrection bodies have genitals? How can we possibly know? Is there some kind of sexuality and desire and delight in eternity? Arguably, since these can be such good things, then yes (maybe). Does that need genitals? Who knows, but quite possibly not. Nevertheless, there is no particular reason to suppose that God wants to neuter us. On the contrary, I believe sexual desire is a shadow and image of God's own desire and feelings for people created to be loved.

4. If yes to genitalia, then why? Well if sexuality and sexual physicality are good - which I believe they are, and lovely - then that may be reason enough in itself. Or at least, for some kind of equivalent physicality, sexuality, sensuality to exist. It's not all about having babies, Jesus didn't have children.

5. If Jesus didn't have genitalia after the resurrection, how can Jesus be gendered? Well gender identity is not the same as genitalia anyway. Gender and sex are not synonymous. But to the extent that Jesus has the same identity he had on earth, he could be male or... there may be more to his gender identity and expression than what was seen on earth. But a wider expression of gender does not imply the "genderless" state people mentioned, and on that point at least, I agree with Christopher Seitz.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 7:07pm BST

"I think it is fairly clear that removing 'male' and 'female' from a marriage service spills now into a genderless essentialism."

Christopher, removing the *necessity* that it must be 'male' and 'female' does not equate to genderless essentialism.

As part of a lesbian couple, I assure you there is still plenty of gender in our relationship (and in our marriage to come).

The idea that removing discrimination from marriage makes marriage genderless seems really strange to me.

Just because we are both female, that does not mean that we are neutered or our future marriage genderless.

It is full of gender. It just doesn't happen to be male gender.

Posted by Susannah Clark at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 7:22pm BST

@cseitz, "The sterner stuff of eternal life with God is not genderless in character." But then again, as you note, "Saying it is so is not making it so. And there is the division."

So it goes with all speculation on both sides, especially issues like this one where a question not anticipated in the tradition hitherto fore takes on a life of its own grounded in current cultural and politcal differences.

@Kate, "I thought the biological manifestation of gender was complex and confusing enough, but the theological issues seem even more complex."

Tks for the feedback on Prusak. Indeed your original comment has sparked very interesting debate here from all concerned.


An acceptable theory is that which makes best use of the available evidence. In this case, the evidence regarding post resurrection "gender", or not, is pretty slim.

For my side, resurrection is about the resurrection of the person in a non-biological state. To fess up, as it were, I view NT stories about empty tombs, clinging to Jesus, his eating and drinking, even his talking in terms of voice production, as legendary accretions retained alongside conflicting material in the service of a valid point.

The texts want to emphasize continuity between the historical Jesus and the risen Christ; but unlike modern problem solving in the applied sciences which require integration and congruence among solutions to a set of related problems, mythological language is happy to live with ambiguity.

Others see things more traditionally, I realize, and such is what makes life and religion most interesting.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 7:56pm BST

CSeitz, my comment about my atoms that will some day be someone else's is a scientific fact. I recall it from grade school, as it struck me as particularly interesting. I don't recall the title of the physics book, but it stated that every time you take a breath, you are inhaling a number of oxygen atoms once exhaled by Leonardo da Vinci. (The same is true of Jesus, of course.) A more recent citation of this fact (with a great deal of explanation) is in the article at this link:

www.wired.com/2014/12/your-atomic-self-how-your-breath-connects-you-to-universe/

This renders the crude materialism of, for instance, the Articles of Religion, problematical. Since the Scripture does not appear to require such a materialistic view (and may contradict it) it seems prudent simply to affirm the resurrection as "bodily" without getting into the long grass of mechanism.

For similar reasons, I remain agnostic on the topic of gender in the resurrection. Gender may perdure, or it may not. Paul appears to suggest it is irrelevant to the new life in Christ; but irrelevance does not require nonexistence.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Thursday, 16 June 2016 at 8:31pm BST

There are no plans to change the marriage liturgy of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Friday, 17 June 2016 at 10:45am BST

"I view NT stories about empty tombs, clinging to Jesus, his eating and drinking, even his talking in terms of voice production, as legendary accretions retained alongside conflicting material in the service of a valid point."

I know you do. And because of this the ability to speak logically about a mystery the Gospels have carefully preserved in their narrative depictions will in the nature of the case go nowhere. If the descriptions are legendary, then we have no revelatory material even to disagree about.

"For similar reasons, I remain agnostic on the topic of gender in the resurrection. Gender may perdure, or it may not."

That is a refreshing admission.

Also, ind I do not read Paul as saying males and females no longer exist or matter, but that in Christ they now have a special purposeful complementarity, as do Jews and Christians. That is why household codes do not disappear, but are reconfigured in the Pauline Letter collection. See my Colossians commentary

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 17 June 2016 at 12:23pm BST

"my comment about my atoms that will some day be someone else's is a scientific fact. I recall it from grade school, as it struck me as particularly interesting. I don't recall the title of the physics book, but it stated that every time you take a breath, you are inhaling a number of oxygen atoms once exhaled by Leonardo da Vinci."

Talk about materialism being directly transferred into the realm of eternity! Some things one really doesn't need to know only to reject them as accounts of the resurrected life! Halitosis indeed.

Posted by cseitz at Friday, 17 June 2016 at 1:34pm BST

@ cseitz, "...because of this the ability to speak logically about a mystery the Gospels have carefully preserved in their narrative depictions will in the nature of the case go nowhere."

In terms of the nature of the particular case at hand, I tend to concur. There is nothing in NT narratives, however understood, that speaks to a current understanding regarding sexual differentiation in relationship to the continuum of human sexual response, gender roles, congruency of gender roles, and so forth.

Of course, if resurrection is not genderless then one must concede that transsexual and transgender states are to be included in the post resurrection state.

However,the Matthew 22 material, if it suggests anything relevant at all, suggests this entire conversation, whether one is pro or con, is misplaced. Or, if one prefers, we have no word from the Lord on this.

With regard to "revealed" material in the larger picture, that depends on what one means by revelation in relationship to narrative. The initial religious experience of the resurrection "witnesses" was probably a completely interior experience (by which I do not mean merely psychological in the clinical or popular senses of the term), perhaps a charismatic experience of some sort, on the part of a very few key influential members of the founding community. Beginning with such,the seed of a latter burgeoning narrative tree was planted; but who knows.

What is important from my side as a Christian in the 21st Century is that the experience of the post-resurrection community is both authentic and crucial--however accounted for in NT mythology and later in theory and interiority. The Prusak survey is very interesting in that regard.

That kind of brings us back around the block again.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Friday, 17 June 2016 at 5:02pm BST

CSeitz: surely the Household Codes (such as that in Colossians) have no relevance in the life of the world to come, where there is (per Matt 22) no marriage or giving in marriage (apart from that of the Lamb), no children but the children of God, no more slaves or masters other than the One Lord and all his servants, and no more division of Jew from Greek but one plebs sancta Dei.

If all become one as the Father and Son are one, then all such differences must pass into insignificance, if they can be said to "exist" at all. To go any further, absent a clear indication from Scripture as to the state of the Risen Life than it provides, seems to me to be assertion without evidence, on either side.

Posted by Tobias Haller at Friday, 17 June 2016 at 7:54pm BST

"surely the Household Codes (such as that in Colossians) have no relevance in the life of the world to come"

I suppose it depends on how you understand their transformed character. I won't repeat my Colossians treatment here.

The reference to 'neither Jew nor Greek' I did not understand to mean only an eternal context, but something transforming Jew and Greek in Christ now.

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 6:18am BST

"The initial religious experience of the resurrection "witnesses" was probably a completely interior experience"...

And you have a word of the Lord on this?

I'm glad the narratives don't set the matter up in this way!

Posted by cseitz at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 6:21am BST

@cseitz, "And you have a word of the Lord on this?" ( : Hardly, something much more pedestrian I'm afraid, just an attempt at problem solving and abductive reasoning, a kind of faithful guesswork if you will, intrigued by what may be behind the paradox of the texts as analysed decades ago by Xavier Léon-Dufour. Problem solving always seems to involve those pesky Jesuits.

Posted by Rod Gillis at Saturday, 18 June 2016 at 4:17pm BST
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