The U.S. based Episcopal Church's recognition of same sex unions last month mostly excited a big yawn. More interesting is the resistance of its mother body, the Church of England, to Prime Minister David Cameron's attempt to install same sex marriage in Britain. The latter's opposition is more significant because it remains its nation's established church and still wields political and constitutional powers.
Episcopalians have often behaved as the established church in America. It once was the church of America's elites. But now below 2 million members and spiraling, the Episcopal Church no longer excites more than knowing smiles. Its affirmation of transgender clergy last month, at its General Convention, fulfilled stereotypes about modern, liberal Episcopalians.So begins an article ("This Could Be Its Finest Hour") by IRD's Mark Tooley, published at the site of the American Spectator. The presenting issue, as always in recent times, is the destruction of an age-old institution to accommodate the proclivities of a tiny segment (comprising less than 2%) of the population: same-sex marriages, or the Oxymoron That Makes a Moron out of Heterodoxy. Only for the Church of England, there is a bit more at stake:
The Church of England similarly often has a penchant for striving to be trendier than thou. But even as it presides over an increasingly secular Britain, it cherishes its role as senior church in the global, 80 million member Anglican Communion. And its few pockets of spiritual vitality in Britain often tend to be evangelical, often immigrant. Its second senior most prelate, the Archbishop of York, is himself a Ugandan and potentially the next Archbishop of Canterbury.
It's also true than in a secularizing country, the Church of England (unlike U.S. Episcopalians, who mostly just resent more numerous evangelicals) appreciates the threat to religious liberty under a regime of imposed same sex marriage. How would the established church disallow what the civil law requires? The church may have to disestablish, especially if it desires any continued leadership over global Anglicans.And so the Church and its leaders, perhaps realizing at last that this was their last bit of ground on which to remain the established Church of England, stepped up to defend the institution of marriage:
British media quoted church officials dismissing government plans as "'half-baked,' ‘very shallow,' ‘superficial' and ‘completely irrational.'" Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Archbishop of York John Sentamu only slightly more diplomatically lamented that government proposals "have not been thought through and are not legally sound."
The church's official response rejected the government's push with vigorous, point-by-point rebuttals. One organizer of that response was Bishop of Leicester Tim Steve, who declared on his own: "Marriage is not the property of the Church any more than it is the property of the Government. It is about a mutually faithful physical relationship between a man and a woman." He warned, despite government claims of protection for churches, "If you do what the Government say they are going to do, you can no longer define marriage in that way. It becomes hollowed out, and about a relationship between two people, to be defined on a case-by-case basis." Imposed same sex marriage would precipitate the "gradual unravelling of the Church of England, which is a very high cost for the stability of society."For that defense, of course, the leaders received only ridicule from the liberals, who already want only to mold the Church into their own image (meaning an image of man's devising). One notorious cleric (who might have been -- and could still become, if the liberals get their way -- a Bishop) called the defense "institutionally expedient, but morally contemptible." And just whose morals would those be, Dr. Johns? Perhaps it would be well to invoke here the words of another Englishman, written in 1905 (try to guess the author before you finish the excerpt):
The vice of the modern notion of mental progress is that it is always something concerned with the breaking of bonds, the effacing of boundaries, the casting away of dogmas. But if there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty. When we hear of a man too clever to believe, we are hearing of something having almost the character of a contradiction in terms. It is like hearing of a nail that was too good to hold down a carpet; or a bolt that was too strong to keep a door shut.
Man can hardly be defined, after the fashion of Carlyle, as an animal who makes tools; ants and beavers and many other animals make tools, in the sense that they make an apparatus. Man can be defined as an animal that makes dogmas. As he piles doctrine on doctrine and conclusion on conclusion in the formation of some tremendous scheme of philosophy and religion, he is, in the only legitimate sense of which the expression is capable, becoming more and more human. When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.Indeed. The "refined scepticism" that leads modern clergy to scrap the institution of marriage for a farthing's worth of inclusivity is touted as "progress," but as G.K. Chesterton admirably pointed out (the excerpt is from Chapter XX of his book Heretics), such progress is in the direction of the animals, and not toward our potential as the only creature made in God's image.
Make no mistake -- the fight to preserve traditional marriage from obliteration by secularized liberals is a fight for our humanity. If the Church of England stakes its establishment in defense of marriage, it is acting like a true church. ECUSA, alas, has long since gone to the turnips.