Wednesday, February 24, 2010


In the same-sex debate currently ongoing in the Anglican Church of Canada, a number of the arguments contra come from individuals who believe homosexuality per se to be immoral and insist that the Church cannot "bless sin." These arguments, however, are out of order, as this private opinion is not the teaching of the Anglican Church of Canada, which "affirms the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships." And so the same-sex debate has to begin with the premise that same-gender unions are holy. Recall that Nuptial Masses for same-gender couples, minus the blessing itself, are already permitted by the House of Bishops, so the question under debate is not "is homosexuality moral?" That question has already been answered by General Synod, and so authors who argue against same-sex unions on the basis of their alleged sinfulness are essentially talking past the voice of the Church and giving an argument that has already been rejected.

And so reasserters must explain why, given the integrity and sanctity of same-sex unions, and their status as a permissible subject of intercession in votive Masses, they should not be blessed. Alas, many have simply been content to cite Scripture (always focusing on smaller, arcane clauses, of course, and ignoring the more broadly sweeping themes of love and justice) and assume, almost autistically, that their interpretation is equally evident to everyone else.


Isaac Thorpe said...

But why do you assume then, that your interpretation is equally evident to everyone else?

Geoff said...

I don't. I'm painfully aware that it is not. Theological liberals, however, are not the ones seeking to have our interpretation accepted as the only one. All of the hullabaloo going on, remember, is over a local option. "Reasserters" then don't just not want same-sex marriage for themselves or their own congregations. They want nobody to have it. In other words, it's not good enough for them to have the right to follow their consciences. They also want gays and lesbians to be denied that right or they throw a tantrum.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I've just dashed off a few thoughts, so hopefully they are more or less coherent, if not compelling.

I certainly agree that in citing passages from the Bible to oppose same-sex marriage, those on the contra side of the issue tend to miss the forest for the trees. And, on the larger question, I'm firmly on the side of the pros. Placed in context, though, I don't find the specific argument in this post to be all that compelling, as I think it rests on some shaky assumptions.

First, it would seem difficult to find broad support in the Anglican tradition (or withint the contemporary church) for such an exalted view of General Synod's authority in doctrinal matters. Without this consensus, General Synod's statement, even if "true" in fact, cannot be the starting point in the matter. It would be so much easier if we had someone capable of infallible in matters of faith and doctrine!

Relativism aside, one wonders about those willing to ignore the church's explicit statement condoning same-sex relationships in one setting but unwilling to accept a position completely consistent with the statement. So, if the "don't bless a sin" folks are not guilty of the inconsistency of which you accuse them, I'm willing to accuse them of another inconsistency. Really, though, I think the "line in the sand" is mostly based on emotions or gut feelings. The line's location is not dictated by doctrine or reason or logic. Instead, it's the point where and individual feels sufficiently "uneasy" with or "bothered" by the direction he or she (or the church or whatever) is going. The tendency to develop an ad hoc intellectual framework to justify one's unease in such a situation is certainly easy to understand. I'm just speculating here, though, and I don't want to be dismissing of positions that are often sincerely held.

Between the pro and contra positions, I suspect that there is a not insignificant number of people who are truly comfortable with General Synod's statement but do not believe that the fact that the statement true or consistent with Christian teach compels the conclusion that the church should bless same-sex marriages. I'm inclined to agree, although I think there are plenty of other reasons why the church should bless same-sex marriages. I'm just not sure there's any way to make this indisputably clear unless we can find all agree on an individual who is capable of making infallible declarations in matters of faith and doctrine. :-)

Geoff said...

I'm not sure that my view of General Synod is unduly "exalted." It's the only body the Anglican Church of Canada has that represents all orders of clergy and laity and is competent to address matters of doctrine. That's as exalted a role as a body can have in the ACoC. Noting that is not any kind of assumption, shaky or otherwise.

I'm not sure what you mean by "cannot be the starting point." Shamefully, perhaps, I was not using "premise" in the technical sense. What I meant was that the debate, in the context of the ACoC, has to take the morality of same-sex unions for granted. And in that sense GS's statement's not only "can" but must serve as the backdrop for the debate.

Malcolm+ said...

One of the frustrating things in this endless saga has been the tendency of SOME reasserters to rely on the non sequiter that anyone who disagrees with THEIR interpretation of scripture therefore denies the authority of scripture.

dpb said...

(this is anon): Point taken. I was being a bit to literal. Thanks for your clarification.