Episcopal Bishop of Iowa: What our faith demands of us, even as we disagree

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Iowa finds itself along with the dioceses of the five New England states where equal marriage is upheld in the forefront of the church's conversation on marriage equality. Faith communities are deciding what this means to their traditions or what it does not. Many faith communities have long awaited the chance to celebrate civil marriage for same-gender couples. The Episcopal Church has been engaged with this for more than 30 years - almost alone among churches of the Catholic tradition. That Episcopal couples were among those cited in the Iowa State Supreme Court Ruling is significant.

Of course, we are not of one mind in this. Not all my own clergy or congregations agree with my position in celebrating this opportunity for same-gender couples. But is there not a beauty in this situation? Faith communities that cannot and will not welcome or embrace these marriages have that freedom in this state and nation, even while others that do coexist beside them peacefully and lawfully. When a bishop in Southern Africa learned of the Iowa ruling, he sent me a note asking me its implications. He was concerned that we might be seen as going against the constitution now if we disallowed such marriages. He found it rather admirable that there was no such pressure upon religious institutions, and that there was a specific exemption for religious institutions to pursue their consciences.

Marriage and its significance for all people is an essential value in our social life. For every faith community, marriage exists not only to protect but to reveal the deeper connection of God's love for us. It is precisely as such that it is as important an institution to same-gender couples as it is to heterosexual couples in those same faith communities.

Read it all.


Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Sexuality Debate (in Anglican Communion)Same-sex blessings* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, WorshipParish Ministry* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesMarriage & FamilySexuality--Civil Unions & Partnerships

50 Comments
Posted September 28, 2009 at 9:15 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bishop Daniel Martins wrote:

There are, of course, multiple angles from which one could respond to Bishop Scarfe’s remarks, and those who frequent this venue will doubtless think of them all with minimal prompting. I will simply choose what I believe is the most fundamental, and which reappraisers need to be challenged on tenaciously, lest, by sheer repetition, their underlying false premise gain acceptance as axiomatically self-evident. It is this: That a heterosexual couple and a homosexual “couple” are two speciations of the same thing, that two consenting non-consanguinous adults may choose to constitute themselves as a “couple,” and that any distinction between those of the same sex and those of opposite sex is arbitrary and invidious. To make such an intellectual leap violates common sense, at the very least, yet any argument otherwise is being painted as presumptively bigoted. If you don’t recognize same-sex and opposite-sex relationships as different things, but merely as two varieties of the same thing, then, yes, to discriminate is unjust. Reaaserters need to frame and develop coherent but simple arguments to the effect that reserving “marriage” for opposite-sex couples is not discrimination; it is merely treating “different things differently” (in the words of a recent very fine statement from the RC Bishops in New Jersey). Only when one sees the two as indeed “different things” does it make sense to reserve “marriage” to only one of the “things.”

September 28, 10:05 am | [comment link]
2. frdarin wrote:

Actually, I think the format of the article is more interesting.  The good bishop (formerly my bishop) is using a typical argument being tossed out by reappraisers.  The red herring of “we have more important things to worry about.”  As if folks who disagree on The Issue cannot cooperate on the matters of alleviating poverty, addressing famine, etc.  Truthfully, we can stand for traditional marriage AND these other important issues at the SAME TIME. 

Fr. Darin Lovelace+
St. David’s Anglican Church
Durant, Iowa
http://www.stdavidsdurant.info

September 28, 10:32 am | [comment link]
3. frdarin wrote:

Oh, and to cite the “Catholic” tradition is rich.  Seems that the Catholic tradition, in the sense of that which has been everywhere, by everyone at all times believed (Vincentian Canon) has been used conveniently by the Episcopal Church for years.  The arrogance of such a statement in itself speaks volumes - seems only those outside TEC can hear it.

Fr. Darin Lovelace+
St. David’s Anglican Church
Durant, Iowa
http://www.stdavidsdurant.info

September 28, 10:39 am | [comment link]
4. Pb wrote:

It is always “my position.” Scripture and tradiiton are gone and evidently replaced by state law.

September 28, 10:40 am | [comment link]
5. Philip Snyder wrote:

Q:  If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have?
A:  Four.  Calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg
(Abraham Lincoln)

Calling two men or two women living together (even under the auspices of civil “marriage”) a “marriage” does not make it a “marriage” as far as the Church is concerned. 
From the Catholic Tradition, and from Holy Scriptures and from the Book of Common Prayer and the Canons of the Episcopal Church, Marriage is the union of one man and one woman for life.  There is no other definition.  All sex outside of marriage is sinful and, thus, ineligible for being blessed by the Church.

Now, if you can show me in Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition where this argument is wrong or lacking or where blessing the union between two men or two women is closer to God’s will than what we are doing now, I am willing to change my mind.  But until I see argumentation that is based on Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition, then we are stuck at an impasse.  On side is being faithful to the Catholic Tradition and the other is being faithful to the “spirit within.”

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

September 28, 11:27 am | [comment link]
6. phil swain wrote:

Father Martins, a church which accepts contraception is never going to be able to develop a theology of the body which is capable of explaining why these are different things.

September 28, 11:34 am | [comment link]
7. Crypto Papist wrote:

A church which accepts contraception is never going to be able to develop a theology of the body which is capable of explaining why these are different things.

Exactly.

September 28, 11:45 am | [comment link]
8. Brian of Maryland wrote:

I think the very title of the article is rather insightful.  “Faith demands of us” is, for this Lutheran, an oxymoron.  Either faith is a free gift of the Holy Spirit or it isn’t.  Now, the Law may demand things, you know, like repentance when a person ... or an entire church ... has strayed from authentic Christian belief and practice.  Collapsing faith, grace, and gospel into a social justice ethic, IMHO, is the core of where he is simply wrong.

September 28, 11:48 am | [comment link]
9. tired wrote:

“What our faith demands of us…”

How does he know what faith demands?  What is the basis or justification for his arguing that anything at all is demanded of us?  Would it not be based on the same, apparently unreliable, basis he has rejected in “celebrating this opportunity?” 

rolleyes

September 28, 11:53 am | [comment link]
10. Already left wrote:

#6 - Where is “contraception” mentioned in the Bible?

September 28, 11:58 am | [comment link]
11. Dale Rye wrote:

The mention of contraception in the Bible is at Genesis 38:9.

Pope Pius XI in 1930 referred to this passage when he wrote “Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death” (Encyclical Casti Connubi). In addition to scripture, Pius based the ban on birth control in natural law: “Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit an act which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.”

Incidentally, the impetus for Casti Connubi was the 1930 Lambeth Conference—those who, “openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition … have recently judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question.”
The Conference had written:

where there is a clearly-felt moral obligation to limit or prevent parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding total abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. … [The Conference also states] its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception-control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

The Vatican felt that allowing any form of contraception other than total abstinence was setting out on a slippery slope that would permit the separation of the intent to procreate from the act of marriage. Ironically, the next Pope, Pius XII, stepped out onto that slope in 1951 by allowing the deliberate timing of intercourse to avoid conception.

September 28, 12:39 pm | [comment link]
12. teatime wrote:

I live in a very conservative area dominated by the Church of Christ and the Baptists. So, I was VERY surprised to read in our local paper that one of the largest Church of Christ churches in our city is starting a program on welcoming and accepting homosexuals and same-sex couples in their congregation. According to the article, there are materials available about changing the orientation but it’s NOT the thrust of the program or even a sizable portion.

Are even very conservative denominations softening their stances, then? It seems so.

September 28, 12:48 pm | [comment link]
13. Dale Rye wrote:

P.S. Just to tie in the relevance of the above: the massive shift within the Christian community in attitudes towards contraception, even within the Roman communion, illustrates that the Church’s attitudes and rules regarding sexuality are subject to change. That emphatically does not mean that every suggested change is desirable, but it does suggest that some suggested changes may be possible while retaining allegiance to historic Christianity, its Scriptures and traditions.

September 28, 12:52 pm | [comment link]
14. palagious wrote:

Someone enlighten me but has there ever been one instance where SSM was approved by plebiscite?  Or has it all been courts and legislatures?

September 28, 12:58 pm | [comment link]
15. Intercessor wrote:

God will not debate marraige as defined by the scriptures nor will he bend to the contorted reasoning by the Bishop of Iowa or anyone for that matter. Who do they think is in control here?
Intercessor

September 28, 1:06 pm | [comment link]
16. John Wilkins wrote:

#15 - In scripture, God routinely argues with his intercessors, who argue cases for more mercy.  Some want harsher punishment. 

#9 - What does the Lord Require of Us?  Micah, 6:8.

Philip, Marriage for most cultures, including Hebrew culture, was a property relationship.  Most of church history assumed that procreation was a part of the bond.  But that’s not peculiar to Christianity. 

Nor is it particularly logical.  For if only people who could procreate could get married, then menopausal women and impotent men should not get married.  The best one can do is say that there is something about complementarity that God loves.  However, sex does not make human beings special.  Sex is all over the animal world.  What makes us each made in the image of God is choice, not sexual preference.  Or procreation.

There are good reasons for the church to bless marriage and be agnostic about sex outside of marriage.  Personally, if the church worked only to keep marriages together, rather than worry about Gay people knocking down the doors to get married, it would still have its hands full.

Granted, one gay friend said to me, “given the ways you guys do it, I’m not sure why we’d want it.”  Perhaps by saying we don’t think gays should be married, we don’t think very much of the institution, or that it can do what we say it can do - help with self control, and be more joyful than the alternative: promiscuity, predation, loneliness, and despair.

September 28, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
17. Matthew A (formerly mousestalker) wrote:

If there’s an argument for same sex marriage that doesn’t ultimately boil down to ‘all the cool kids are doing it’ I haven’t heard it.

And as far as the business of the church, marriage is the business of the church. Family is the business of the church. Last timne I checked the business of the church was our relationship with God and our relationships with each other. A failure to maintain boundaries in the latter is a clear sign that the former is broken, imho.

September 28, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
18. tired wrote:

[16] The Bishop of Iowa just communicated to me that the Bible is not really helpful - so I need some other basis.  Or, maybe the Bible can be considered helpful and relevant for things his position might endorse, such as tithing?  ISTM if that is the case, then we’re going to need some sort of verse by verse key to each bishop, which clearly identifies a verse’s degree of relevance.

This could get confusing - better yet, for consistency throughout TEC, perhaps every three years General Convention could vote to assign a relevancy rating to each verse.  It couldn’t be called relevancy rating though – that would be a dead giveaway.  The phrase may have to be changed to something a bit more obfuscating, like “Context Category,” “Appropriateness Level,” “Neutrality Number,” or “Archaic Applicability Rating.” 

wink

September 28, 2:52 pm | [comment link]
19. mannainthewilderness wrote:

#11:
I know that Pope Pius used the passage in support of his piece on contraception, but I don’t know that the passage lends itself to that interpretation without some violence to the text.  The brother’s sin is that he is cutting of his brother’s inheritance (closer to boundary marker moving than a treatise against contraception) in direct contravention of Judah’s instruction to raise up heirs for his brother.  We are even told that the motivation behind his act is because “he knew the offspring wold not be his.”
I agree that God is God of all things, even in the bedroom, but I think there are other passages which speak better to your position than the one you chose.

September 28, 3:03 pm | [comment link]
20. phil swain wrote:

Dale, how did Pope Pius XII step out on a slippery slope?  Paragraphs, 53 and 59 of Casti Connubi recognize that married couples may on occasion refrain from the marital act during fertile periods.  When you use the phrase ” separation of the intent to procreate from the act of marriage”, you misunderstand the meaning and use of “intent”.  What the Church is saying is that the marital act must be procreative in behavior(as a human act).  Of course, the effect of the marital act may or may not be procreative.  The “intent” of the act is procreative, even during a known infertile time, if the married couple is not contracepting.  Intent is being used here in an objective way similar to the way final cause is used.  I believe you’re using the word intent as a subjective quality.

I won’t deny nor defend “massive shifts in attitude”, but these particular “rules”(I prefer to call them natural laws) are not subject to change.

September 28, 3:45 pm | [comment link]
21. Philip Snyder wrote:

Philip, Marriage for most cultures, including Hebrew culture, was a property relationship.  Most of church history assumed that procreation was a part of the bond.  But that’s not peculiar to Christianity. 

John, you are confusing the purpose of a thing with the thing itself.  But, before that you are discussing cultures and I am discussing a thing that is supposed to be beyond culture and transformative of the culture - the Church.  Can you point to any point in Church History where Marriage was not between one man and one woman?  The “why” of marriage may have changed, but its basic definition has not.

Now, if you want to argue that heterosexual have abused and destroyed marriage, I’m right there with you.  I believe that this push for “gay marriage” is the result of the destruction of marriage rather than the cause of the destruction of marriage.  So, instead of further erroding marriage within the Church, why not do what we can to build it up?  Why not require greater faithfulness on the part of our clergy and our people?  Why not lift marriage up to where it belongs rather than continue to let it decline to the lowest common denominator with our broken and sinful society?

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

September 28, 3:49 pm | [comment link]
22. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

As a latecomer to the thread, let me express my thanks to several commenters above.  I particularly agree with some of the early ones here, such as Fr. Martins (#1), Fr. Darin (#2-3), Phil Snyder (#5), and Brian from Maryland (#8).

Re: #1, Yes, Dan+, in order to win over the masses and the unconvinced, we must somehow get them to realize that the axioms that liberals take for granted are actually highly dubious.  It’s not easy, but framing it in terms of viewing different things differently is one effective starting point.

Re #3, Yes, Darin+, I was also struck by the gratuitous, casual claim to reconcile Catholic teaching with this perverse innovation.  It reminds me of the famous, delightful quip by Robin Williams comparing TEC to the RC Church:  “All the pomp.  None of the guilt.”  Or as my son paraphrased that line recently, “All the form; none of the substance.”

Re: #5,  Phil, I loved your citation of the Abe Lincoln joke.  Very apt.  Somehow, it never gets old.

Finally, re: #8.  Brian, great point.  And a typically Lutheran one.  It’s good to have someone around here with a sharp eye for distinguishing Law from Gospel.

However, I must vigorously dissent from those above who draw a straight line from approval of contraception to approval of homosexual behavior.  Sorry, there is no direct connection.  It simply doesn’t follow.  The two issues aren’t comparable in many ways, not least in terms of how clearly and emphatically these matters are treated in Holy Scripture.

David Handy+

September 28, 4:26 pm | [comment link]
23. Ken Peck wrote:

C. S. Lewis argued that those arguing for the ordination of women were, in effect, adopting the post-war view of the assembly line or machine, in which one “worker” can be interchanged with any other “worker”. Essentially the argument for the ordination of women is that men and women are sacramentally interchangeable. And from this notion comes the idea that “male” and “female” are interchangeable in the sacrament of marriage. Because male and female are seen as equivalent “parts” their unique character is diminished. Treating men and women as “unisex” dehumanizes us. God doubtless created male and female for a purpose, even if that “purpose” is the mere joy of nature’s diversity. But in reality the purpose of male and female is tied up with God’s first commandment to his creation: “Be fruitful and multiply.”

It’s been a while since I read the sociological study of the growth of the early Christian Church (from the time of the apostles to Constantine). I think it was The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul by Wayne A. Meeks, but it may have been something else along the same line. In this work he attributed the growth of the early Christian Church not so much as to the “Holy Spirit” but to the fact that those Christians (1) did not practice contraception or Coitus interruptus, (2) did not practice abortion or infanticide, (3) adopted children abandoned by pagans practicing infanticide and (4) cared for the sick in the cities in the time of plagues. TEC is far more like the Roman pagans of those centuries than it is like the Christians then.

September 28, 4:58 pm | [comment link]
24. Ad Orientem wrote:

The Episcopal Church has been engaged with this for more than 30 years - almost alone among churches of the Catholic tradition .

(emphasis mine.)

That’s where I ceased reading.  When something that absurd is written it becomes impossible to take anything else in the essay seriously.  Moving on…

In ICXC
John

September 28, 5:05 pm | [comment link]
25. Terry Tee wrote:

John Wilkins (# 16) I am afraid that you need to be challenged on your concept of marriage in the ancient world as essentially like a property transaction.  Hardly.  Have you ever read the Song of Songs?  And here is an extract from Book Two of Tertullian’s Ad Uxorem, or letter to his wife, written around the year 200 AD:  he is describing marriage, the relationship of husband and wife:  ‘Nothing divides them, either in flesh or in spirit. They are, in very truth, two in one flesh; and where there is but one flesh there is also but one spirit. They pray together, they worship together, they fast together; instructing one another, encouraging one another, strengthening one another. Side by side they visit God’s church and partake of God’s Banquet; side by side they face difficulties and persecution, share their consolations.’  This is love and commitment, and not a property transaction.

This discussion raises at least implicitly the difference between marriage and a covenanted same sex relationship.  One way of describing it would be to say that marriage by its very nature depends upon the difference of the genders:  man spends a lifetime learning to see through the eyes of a woman, to feel as she feels, and in the process overcoming the most fundamental division in the human race.  The woman, of course, does the same in learning to see through his eyes, feel as he feels.  It depends upon the chemistry of the genders.  Of course a same-sex relationship can be loving and generous.  But this sense of being extended, being taken into a very different world, embraced by that world, challenged to your core by the other who is different from yourself, yet within a precious unity:  this is unique to marriage.  Man calls something special out from woman, and woman from man.  Nothing can replace it.  It is, paradoxically, their difference that makes their unity possible.

September 28, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
26. John Wilkins wrote:

Conceptually, I don’t think it is possible to say that the church is beyond culture.  The church is a culture (or multiple cultures), and different traditions pose it differently against other sorts of culture. 

I admit some confusion about your assertion that the “basic definition” has not changed.  Paul seems to indicate that the purpose of marriage is an alternative to burning with lust.  This is a biblical reason for marriage.  Those who are sinless, perhaps, should not get married.  Sinners should. 

What I object to is the idea that the mechanics of sex are of interest to God.  The mechanics tell us very little about how we are interesting to God or what God wants for us.  Nor do I think that marriage should be reducible to sex acts.  For it seems that the reasserting position implies that the ONLY thing that makes a marriage a marriage is complementarity.  The position of the reexaminers is that marriage changes people and relationships for the better, which is God wants for us.  One aspect of love is wanting to be desired by the person you desire.  The alternative is… cruelty, which is why, of course, lots of gay people reject Christianity.  It is a veil for justifying cruelty, of a calcifying lack of empathy or understanding for gay people.

September 28, 5:42 pm | [comment link]
27. Philip Snyder wrote:

John, John, John,
Again, you confuse why something is, with what it is.  Let me try to explain using something that is not so emotionally laden as “marriage.”  Let’s take a computer program.  A computer program is a set of instructions to the computer.  Computer programs are written for various reasons.  I am working on a computer program whose purpose is to convert the benefit accumulators for members from one system to another.  Tactically, the purpose of this is to make the information in the new system as complete as possible.  Strategically, it is so that our customer may process health insurance claims more efficiently and avoid fraud and abuse in processing those claims.  The program is the set of instructions.  The purpose is the reason the program exists.
Now, Marriage is the union of husband and wife (man and woman) in body, mind, and spirit with life long intention.  The reasons for marriage have changed as society and the Church Militant change, but the definition of what constitutes a marriage have not changed.  Never has the Church said that marriage was to be temporary or of any other lenght than life long.  Never has the Church said that marriage was between men and animals or women and animals or between more than one man and one woman.  The Church has never said that marriage is between two (or more) men or between two (or more) women.

I believe that God is very interested in everything we do - sex included!  If God knows us so well and is so interested in us that the hairs of our head are numbered, I can’t imagine that He is not interested in how we live our lives - especially when He has shown us the way He designed us to be!  All of our desires here on earth are to be subject to God.  The problem is that we don’t know which God we will worship?  Do you worship the God revealed in Holy Scripture and in the tradition of the Church or do you worship the god revealed in your heart?  Encouraging someone to engage in sinful and rebellious behavior is more cruel than understanding them.

We don’t know ourselves.  If we define ourselves by what we do or what we want to do, then we will always be rebellious because our natural desires (gay or straight) are all away from God.

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

September 28, 6:05 pm | [comment link]
28. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and “if your eye is dark, how deep is your darkness” - or something very close.  This article is exempla gratia #umpteen.

September 28, 6:11 pm | [comment link]
29. mannainthewilderness wrote:

I suppose a couple of questions I would pose to the bishop would be:

#1 if marriage exists not only to protect but to reveal the deeper connection of God’s love for us how can “same sex marriage” accomplish this if God has declared it an abomination or anathema?  If we can pick and choose on the accuracy of Scripture in this, where else are we free to pick and choose?

#2 Do not the resources for God’s mission always show up?  Might not the fact that your churches so supportive of this activity have had their resources tied up in this that they have been unable or unwilling to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and otherwise serve the community be the fruits that tell you that the Holy Spirit is not at work in this?

September 28, 6:51 pm | [comment link]
30. Ross wrote:

#23 Ken Peck says:

C. S. Lewis argued that those arguing for the ordination of women were, in effect, adopting the post-war view of the assembly line or machine, in which one “worker” can be interchanged with any other “worker”. Essentially the argument for the ordination of women is that men and women are sacramentally interchangeable. And from this notion comes the idea that “male” and “female” are interchangeable in the sacrament of marriage. Because male and female are seen as equivalent “parts” their unique character is diminished. Treating men and women as “unisex” dehumanizes us.

But men and women are “sacramentally interchangeable” for at least some of the sacraments.  There is no difference in the rite for baptising a man versus a woman, or for laying hands on a man or a woman, or for hearing the confession of a man or a woman.

So the question is: are there cases where men and women are not sacramentally interchangeable, and if so, why?  What is it about some sacraments that prevents them from acting upon common human nature which all people share—and which seems a sufficient ground for baptism or reconciliation—but instead insists upon acting on specifically male or female human nature?

September 28, 7:30 pm | [comment link]
31. Brian of Maryland wrote:

Ross,

The answer is fairly simple: the bringing forth of life.  Same-sex marriage never brings forth another human being.  Or to state it another way, when it comes to creation, two distinct attributes are required; male and female.  All same sex acts cannot reproduce a similar result.  Pun intended.

[Edited by Elf]

September 28, 7:37 pm | [comment link]
32. TACit wrote:

Yes, #24, that’s exactly where I stopped reading and thought, this needs a comment.  Thanks for enlarging on the somewhat off-handed point that #3 made, as it is the most important of all, to my perception.  The seemingly casual mention of TEC as being ‘almost alone among the churches of the Catholic tradition’ is, I think, actually part of a bald-faced attempt to completely re-frame the issue, a la [that guy who wrote the book about re-framing the debate, sorry I can’t think of his name right now.]  In fact TEC has by its decisions and actions removed itself out of the group of churches that are in the Catholic tradition; it has taken a different direction at a fork in the road more than once, and is now at a different place which is not the Catholic tradition.  That point needs to be made loudly and clearly and frequently.  It was the reason for the Affirmation of St.Louis in 1977, and its initializing probably about 1930 over the issue of contraception has been helpfully discussed in earlier comments here.  So when readers or listeners are exposed to this verbal ‘sleight-of-hand’ claiming that TEC remains in the Catholic tradition our ‘antennae’ should twitch, our ears should sting, we need to discern that a lie is being slipped into a seemingly innocuous sentence and its deliverer is of a mind that is not recognizably Catholic (nor, presumably, Orthodox).

September 28, 7:42 pm | [comment link]
33. Ross wrote:

Well, actually, “creation” in that sense requires male and female, in sufficiently good health, without any of a number of conditions that cause infertility, and within a certain range of age.

And yet, when it comes to the marriage of a man and woman too elderly for childbearing, or known to be infertile for one reason or another, the church says, “Well, in general marriage is about bringing forth life, but this case is an allowable exception.”  But for some reason a same-sex couple does not get the same exemption.

September 28, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
34. Brian of Maryland wrote:

Ross,

Show me a same sex couple, any same sex couple, who are able to produce another human being - without artificial means - then you’ve made your point. All else is silly and not worth the effort to respond.

Same-sex couplings will *always* be about the needs of adults.  Marriage as God intended also has the dimension of children.  That my tradition has wasted millions of dollars and the twenty years of its post-merger time and talent (the ELCA) is a powerful testament of adult narcissism at its worse. At no time during the last two decades has my church spent any credible effort on trying to strengthen families with children. Why is that do you think? Perhaps because children don’t have secular foundations from San Francisco underwriting their needs and voices. 

You can never make your point Ross because same-sex couples will never produce life.  Ever.  That tells me on a fundamental level God does not bless those unions.

September 28, 8:10 pm | [comment link]
35. Ross wrote:

A couple where the woman has (for whatever reason) had a complete hysterectomy will never produce life.  Ever.  Does this mean that God does not bless their union?  Should the church forbid their marriage?

September 28, 8:37 pm | [comment link]
36. Brian of Maryland wrote:

Give it up Ross.  Biologically no same-sex couples can ever produce children.  Your argument is simply silly and shallow.

September 28, 8:39 pm | [comment link]
37. deaconmark wrote:

“In A.D. 527-565 during the rein of Justinian lawyers drew up laws called the Justinian Code and this was a regulation of their daily life including marriage. Up until the time of the Justinian Code just saying you were married was enough.

Until the ninth century marriages were not church involved. Up until the twelfth century there were blessings and prayers during the ceremony and the couple would offer their own prayers. Then priests asked that an agreement be made in their presence. Then religion was added to the ceremony.

English weddings in the thirteenth century among the upper class became religious events but the church only blessed the marriage and did not want a legal commitment. In 1563 the Council of Trent required that Catholic marriages be celebrated at a Catholic church by a priest and before two witnesses. By the eighteenth century the wedding”
A small quote for your edification.  To argue that the Church has always married one man and one woman is disingenouus or ignorant.  The Church in fact disapproved of all sexual acts to some extend in her earliest days. And certainly did not bless them.  The Old Testiment witnesses all sorts of couplings and arrangements and clearly Jesus is decended from one of these via David.  Jesus words about marriage were few and far between.  To suggest that the Marriage Feast at Cana was an endorsement of marriage is a real stretch.

September 28, 8:44 pm | [comment link]
38. Ross wrote:

And your argument is incoherent.  “Marriage must be between two people who can reproduce.  Except sometimes not.”  If reproductive potential is the requirement for marriage, then any couple—same-sex or opposite-sex—who cannot reproduce must be forbidden to marry.  If reproductive potential is not a requirement for marriage, then you have to come up with some other reason for forbidding same-sex couples to marry.

September 28, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
39. The_Elves wrote:

[Would commenters please return to the topic of this thread, the Bishop of Iowa’s remarks above]

September 28, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
40. Ken Peck wrote:

33. Ross wrote:

And yet, when it comes to the marriage of a man and woman too elderly for childbearing, or known to be infertile for one reason or another, the church says, “Well, in general marriage is about bringing forth life, but this case is an allowable exception.”  But for some reason a same-sex couple does not get the same exemption.

“The Church” says no such thing. Not even TEC!

Notice that in the statement that opens The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage in the BCP we find these words…

when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children (p. 423)

There is no option to make an “exception” and leave that part out. Furthermore,  Title I, Canon 18, requires the following:

Sec. 3. No Member of the Clergy of this Church shall solemnize any marriage unless the following procedures are complied with:
...
(d) The Member of the Clergy shall have required that the parties
sign the following declaration:
...
(e) “We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy
Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold
marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife as it is set
forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

(f) “We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body,
and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help
and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and,
when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their
nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. (Emphasis added)

There is no exception for the language of this required declaration.

And, while we are celebrating the women of the Bible, let us not forget Sarah and Elizabeth. God sometimes wills that which we do not expect.

September 28, 8:51 pm | [comment link]
41. John Wilkins wrote:

“when it is God’s will.”  Clearly, for gay marriages, it is not in God’s will.  However, gay couples can raise straight children.  Christian, unbigoted children. 

Procreation is not essential to marriage among straight people.  Until it becomes such, the point is moot.  Unless the reasserting position is merely pornographic in its detail about genitalia.  If marriage is about more things than correct slots, and about love, hope, charity, the reasserting position is facile and shallow, an example of taboo rather than based on theological argument.

September 28, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
42. w.w. wrote:

#12 teatime

Are you sure that story wasn’t about a UNITED Church of Christ congregation?  Almost impossible it was a Church of Christ one. If it is in North Carolina, where the UCC is getting some press mileage on the issue, it most likely was a UCC congregation. The UCC was the first mainline denomination to sanction non-celibate gay clergy and later, same-sex marriage.
w.w.

September 28, 9:21 pm | [comment link]
43. DavidH wrote:

23, Ken Peck, wrote: “Essentially the argument for the ordination of women is that men and women are sacramentally interchangeable.”

Not exactly.  I think it is that there is nothing about being a woman that is a basis to deny ordination.  Someone in an extramarital heterosexual relationship or in a same-sex relationship is (at least according to the traditional view) sinning, and thus that’s a very different question with respect to a basis for denying ordination.

September 28, 10:06 pm | [comment link]
44. Brian of Maryland wrote:

John,

Yes, it is always about basic biology.  It has everything to do with how we were/are created. Yes, our God is a bigot; He created women to carry children to term and men to to join with them to get the process going.  If he was a truly compassionate God, He would have allowed men and women to chose those functions.  Alas, it’s hardwired into every human being’s DNA.  It’s how human life happens.  It’s the only way God seems to allow for it.

So the good Bishop is simply wrong.  That somehow a small (and rapidly growing smaller) gathering of American white, middle-class liberal protestants can tumble to an answer about human sexuality and relationships that is different than nearly 3000+ years of how Jews and Christians have reflected on human sexuality is, quite simply, the height of hubris.  Or arrogance.  Take your pick. 

You can even call me a bigot if makes you feel better, but like I keep saying, calling people names won’t change basic biology.  And it’s in basic biology we see the sorts of human couplings God blesses.

September 28, 11:31 pm | [comment link]
45. tired wrote:

“But is there not a beauty in this situation?”

Actually, no.  The bishop is approaching things as a question of prudential ethics for a modern context.  This explains how he appreciates co-existence with a variety in conclusions - yet of course, for him and TEC - the ethical conclusion leads to marriage equality - others will be brought along to share this view, with the course of progress.

To the reasserter, marriage is a revealed institution.  If it is revealed, then to teach contrary to the revelation is a false teaching - and diversity within the church means to accept false teaching.  What the bishop is demanding of the reasserter is not merely that reasserters co-exist with his position, but that they accept a re-categorization of the issue to be a question of prudential ethics.  The bishop has converted the incarnate God of the universe into a time-bound ethicist with some interesting thoughts - a consequence of his position is that Jesus Christ is unable to teach authoritatively on things such as porneia, or a revealed marriage of one man and one woman.  Instead, these things fall in the domain of current church authorities, who better understand our context and the ethical obligations of equality.

If one party relies on revelation and the other looks to prudential ethics, then there is no common basis for discussion - as some of the comments on this thread show.  For the ethicist in this matter, the authority of the revelation must be denied (usually implicitly - for reasons of good taste) as it interferes with a just and ethical outcome.  This makes the bishop a sad example of a man with a weak, unreliable god.  But wait, there is more - he feels compelled to teach others to reject the authority of the revelation.

The Bible describes the path he has chosen, and it is not promising; but then again, perhaps even that teaching is part of a devalued revelation. 

rolleyes

September 29, 9:49 am | [comment link]
46. Billy wrote:

John, # 26:  “What I object to is the idea that the mechanics of sex are of interest to God.  The mechanics tell us very little about how we are interesting to God or what God wants for us.  Nor do I think that marriage should be reducible to sex acts.  For it seems that the reasserting position implies that the ONLY thing that makes a marriage a marriage is complementarity.  The position of the reexaminers is that marriage changes people and relationships for the better, which is [what] God wants for us.”

John, I don’t think you can limit reasserters’ position like that.  Certainly complentarity is a part of marriage, and apparently it was and is a part of God’s plan for humankind.  But reasserters also want themselves and their relationships to become better through those relationships with each other and with God.  The complementary nature of heterosexuality requires true trust and vulnerability from each party, just like our faith in God, because there is mystery in the opposite sex, just like mystery with God.  There is no mystery in the same sex - we know each other.  There is little vulnerability over mystery - perhaps there is vulnerability over too much knowledge about the same sex. 

As far as sex goes, the opposite sexes cannot know how each other feel during sex - they have to trust and care and be blindly attentive to their partners.  Homosexuals can know how each other feel during sex - they experience it themselves.  God made sex for the wonder of it- for the mystery of it to bridge the mystery between the sexes - not to reinforce the sameness of one sex.) 

If TEC (and you) are so sure of marriage containing nothing more than interchangeable parts, then why have HOD and HOB not changed the prayerbook to make it so?  Why have SSBs before changing the liturgy?  I’ll tell you why:  because they know that they would quickly have many empty church buildings because they know the people don’t believe in interchangeability.  Jesus did not say a man will leave his parents and cleave to his best friend - He said he will cleave to his wife.  The difference between the two, the vulnerability which requires the ultimate trust in each other and in their Creator, is what makes the love between a man and a woman, committed before God in marriage, a holy love.  The lack of vulnerability in the love of sameness is not such a love, regardless of pronouncement of HOB in B0026.

September 29, 3:32 pm | [comment link]
47. John Wilkins wrote:

Brian, if procreation were the primary reason for marriage, then clearly people who cannot have children should not marry at all.  This insinuates that women who can not bear children, or impotent men, are less than human in some way. 

I’m also skeptical of using evolution to support marriage. 

I also did not call you a bigot.  Procreation doesn’t say much about how God loves us, but it does say something about sex.  I just don’t think God cares about the mechanics as much as he cares about the quality.  It prioritizes an act above the intention behind that act. 

I don’t think the reasserting position is very coherent, as it generally relies on a “it’s always been this way” or on a conventional view of nature, as if what we always construe as natural is not the same as what God has ordained (war, for example, seems to be a part of our species, in spite of God’s peace being what he wants for us). 

I don’t think that marriage is “revealed.”  It may be a metaphor for describing a relationship, or a covenant.  What is revealed is that the ends for us will be the kingdom of God rather than the Garden of Eden.  In this case, I believe the reasserters have mistaken etiology for teleology.

September 29, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
48. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

There is no teleology without etiology, John Wilkins, and they coinhere.  Same sex relationships do not coinhere with the Divine etiology of marriage per God Incarnate.  Tough, but true.  So either Jesus was correct or you are.  Personally, my trust is in Jesus.

September 29, 4:56 pm | [comment link]
49. Ken Peck wrote:

47. John Wilkins wrote:

Brian, if procreation were the primary reason for marriage, then clearly people who cannot have children should not marry at all.  This insinuates that women who can not bear children, or impotent men, are less than human in some way.

I think there is a difference between saying “procreation is a primary reason for marriage” and saying “procreation is the only reason for marriage”. The Church (i.e., TEC) gives three “reasons” for marriage in the BCP (which anyone wishing to marry in TEC must sign off on or else the priest cannot preside as is explicitly stated in the canons). Those three reasons are:

1. for their mutual joy,

2. for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity, and

3. when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord.

So we have three primary reasons, not one. But I would suggest to you that they are “of a piece”. You suggest that two out of three isn’t bad. O.K. Then suppose we have a couple who are capable of procreation but incapable of either “mutual joy” or “help and comfort”. Should the priest bless that arrangement? I think most priests would not; it is a recipe for divorce.

As for your second argument, I again refer you to the two biblical counter arguments—the case of Sarah and the case of Elizabeth—both of whom could “not bear children” but who bore Isaac and John. (See Genesis 17, 18 and 21:1-7; Luke 1:5-59) And if that is insufficient, most of us know of instances where someone who was thought to be impotent, unexpectedly conceived a child. But what seems rather obvious to many of us is that while sometimes the coupling of male and female who are thought to be incapable of procreation, procreation does sometimes occur unexpectedly, but no amount of coupling of male and male or female and female is going to result in new life.

September 29, 5:02 pm | [comment link]
50. tired wrote:

“I don’t think that marriage is “revealed.””

Then there really is not that much to discuss with those who do.  I think I’ll stick with the words of Jesus Christ, the rest of the canon, and the catholic teaching of the church.

September 30, 4:13 pm | [comment link]
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