Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Who Dares Call It by Name?

There appears to be some reluctance on both sides of the aisle to express the full rationale behind the Primates' vote to impose consequences upon ECUSA for its adoption at GC2015 of canons allowing the performance of same-sex marriage ceremonies in the church, in parallel with the traditional ceremonies between a man and a woman.

The activists within ECUSA see the consequences as unjust "punishment" for their having taken a visionary stance -- out in front of the entire Communion -- to support full sacramental equality in the Church for LGBT Episcopalians. They express hurt for what they call "sanctions", but at the same time express their determination to wait out the three-year period without changing a thing, and certainly without trying to undo the marital canonical changes at GC 2018.

The orthodox and traditionalists who support the vote of suspension, on the other hand, do so on the ground that "changing the Anglican doctrine of marriage as between a man and a woman" was the straw that broke the camel's back, and say that the move simply could not be ignored. Unfortunately, this rationale appears to give a wink and a nod to provinces that adopt merely rituals of blessing for SSUs (like Canada), and (thus far, at any rate) stop short of celebrating same-sex marriages within their churches.

This debate engages nothing, and can go nowhere. It is like two ships passing in the night. There will be full engagement within the Communion only when the whole ground underlying the vote has been articulated plainly for all to see and discuss.

At the root of what ECUSA has seen fit to do with its marriage liturgies is, to speak simply and directly, the sin of blasphemy -- against both Jesus Christ our Savior, and against the Holy Trinity. Nothing has changed since I laid it out in this earlier post:
The blasphemy begins in the rite at the point where the celebrant says to the congregation (see p. 98 of these materials; my bold emphasis added):
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.
As I wrote in an earlier post, critiquing the rite when it was first proposed, the bold language evinces a category mistake of the worst sort, by equating the union of two people of the same gender to the holy union between Christ and His Church. (How can they be so equated? In the former, which of the two men -- or two women -- signifies Christ, and which the Church?)
The earlier posts also explain how the trial rites for same-sex marriages go on to blaspheme the Holy Trinity, as well as each of the three Persons separately, so that the sin is comprehensive and complete. (Was no one on the drafting committee, or among the bishops, clergy and laity who voted for the rituals, mindful of Jesus's warning in the twelfth chapter of Matthew?
[31] Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. [32] And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32 ESV))
Regardless of what may be the spiritual consequences of such blasphemy, it simply cannot be that a Communion of Christian churches will ignore, let alone accommodate, one of their member provinces as it systematically goes about promoting and uttering blasphemy in its rites and liturgies.

To be sure, churches bless animals, flags, tartans, and all manner of objects -- but those rites do not invoke any of the theology of matrimony. Nor do they try to alter an institution which God established and defined. So they do not risk blaspheming the Trinity.

If I am simply wrong in my claim, then let those who are theologically more knowledgeable tell me where I err. For the present, the silence of the orthodox remaining in the Episcopal Church (USA) in response to such blasphemy simply baffles me. If Episcopalians really believe that by just lying low for three years, the problem with their actions will go away, then I fear they truly are blind to how deep a wound they have cut, with these rites, into the Body of Christ.

Even if the offending language were excised from the liturgies, I do not see theologically how the fundamental fallacy that underlies invoking the triune God's blessing on same-sex unions in the Church could be overcome. For as the BCP says, the union between a man and a woman is modeled on the mystical union between Christ and His Church -- but unions of the same sexes cannot ever  be said to model that relationship, without veering into the sin of blasphemy. Nor can the Father, the Son nor the Holy Spirit be asked to bless that which God has declared cannot be joined together.

I am aware of a significant possibility for misunderstanding here, and I am trying my utmost to be plain and clear. Regardless of how one chooses to read Scripture's prohibitions against sexual relations outside of holy matrimony, Scripture -- as interpreted by one no less than Jesus Himself -- is unequivocal in defining matrimony as between a man and a woman. It is just as unequivocal in declaring that God joins them together, man and woman, as one flesh. This is God's prescription, not proscription, for marriage as a covenant blessed by Him through His church.

One can fail to agree with the proscription against sinning, and engage in unrepentant same-sex behavior -- that is between God and the sinner. But man cannot alter God's prescription for holy matrimony; any attempt to do so is a nullity. Moreover, as noted, the attempt inevitably leads to blasphemy. 

Therefore, if ECUSA really wants to accept the consequences of what it has done, let's have an open debate, culminating in a vote at GC 2018 either in favor of or against blaspheming the Holy Trinity. That way the whole world will know what that denomination is doing, and what it chooses knowingly to bless. And the Communion in good conscience can then make its separation from ECUSA -- as well as from any other member province that chooses the same path -- permanent, as it will have no other choice.


  1. 1. "The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church." This will be further morphed by removing the word "two".
    2. The way Canterbury is allowing the discipline to go forward only recognizes the actions of TEC as being out of step with the rest of the communion which leaves the door open for endless waiting for the rest of the communion to get on board.

    1. Since there is no marriage in heaven, and the rite of marriage is not revealed in scripture, your biological argument simply falls into the same pit as the anti-women clergy lobby. God speaks of "one flesh" and why does that not mean as in the bearing of children who are half of the one and half of the other person? The Holy Trinity is not blasphemous when when are all of the same essence, yet not in anyway defaming the other. When a man participates in the marriage supper of the Lamb, is thus God who made that man, committing transgression of his own holiness???? You err I fear in the manner of your argument. You still could be right, however I think your current argument logically falls apart. The reasonings allow the current African "primates" to pervert marriage One flesh, oops...one flesh, and another flesh, and another and another. The "biology" fits, so gay and lesbian persons, who did not get to pick but chose to allow their lives to have some integrity, may be banished, defamed, tortured and killed by the African "body of Christ" in members and leaders in particular, is somehow righteous??? God forbid.

    2. "...and the rite of marriage is not revealed in scripture ..."

      Aren't you being rather hypertechnical, Rob Bagwell? God did not publish a "marriage rite" for Adam and Eve to follow, it is true, but no one has ever questioned that they were the first married couple. And "one flesh" refers to their union, not to the children they bore. (Not every marriage results in children. Would you deny that a man and a woman who marry are not "two joined as one flesh" unless and until they have children?)

      Last I heard, it was the various African states and their governments which were enacting laws that punished homosexual behavior; it was not the African Anglican churches. So take your complaints to those governments (oh, and be sure to include Saudi Arabia, India, and all of the other 80 or so countries who do likewise -- don't be selective).

      The rest of your argument makes no sense. The blasphemy in ECUSA's trial marriage rite consists of comparing the joining of two men, or of two women, to the joining of Christ with His Church: it attributes homosexuality to the Son of God. If you don't perceive that plainly, perhaps you should choose some other forum in which to post your thoughts.