This Episcopal Cafe report of our May 2016 ACANZP General Synod interests me because of the clear statement in a comment or two re marriage's essence being "the vows" and not the nature of the couple making them. That comment occurs within a series of comments by Tobias Haller (a very clear TEC thinker) which, I think, set out a progressive case for extending understanding of marriage to include same sex marriage by excluding gender as a relevant consideration for understanding what marriage is.
Thus we read:
"There is no settled, single “doctrine” of marriage — history shows that many aspects of marriage have changed in church teaching — there is at present wide divergence between RC, Eastern, Anglican, and Protestant marriage doctrine and practice. I would be willing to venture the guess that a good number of heterosexual marriages that take place in churches today would not have been permitted in the fourth, twelfth, or twentieth centuries — and some that take place in some churches today would still not be allowed in others."
"Cynthia, and John, that is an excellent example.
To expand a bit on the practical (and doctrinal) reality: the current marriage liturgy in the BCP states that marriage is life-long and faithful (to a single partner) in vow language that long precedes that of the current book itself. This understanding of marriage rests on dominical authority.
At the same time, the canons allow for the marriage of a person divorced under civil law, with a former spouse still living.
Rather than seeing this as a violation of the doctrine enshrined in the BCP, it is understood as an exception; and all clergy (again, under the canon) have the right to decline to officiate at any or all such marriages.
If and when the marriage liturgy of the BCP is finally amended to allow for same-sex marriages, the same circumstance will apply. (I will note that the proposed liturgy does not specify the sexes of the couple — and can be used for any couple, same- or mixed-sex — so to some extent the doctrinal question need not arise, as the liturgy focuses on the content of the vows themselves, which remain unchanged, and which constitute the actual “making” of the marriage. The canon was similarly revised in such a way as not to make any specific mention of “same-sex” issues — it is fully applicable to all marriages.)"
"John, I can’t speak to the ANZP liturgy as I haven’t seen it; but as I noted above, the liturgy proposed for the TEC BCP isn’t a “same-sex marriage” liturgy, and it contains no new doctrine to which anyone must assent. It presents no difficulties in that regard. Using the liturgy for a same-sex couple may cause some conscientious objection — and they are free not to make use of it."
"Not in the Western tradition. The ministers are the couple, and the bond and covenant is present even in the absence of clergy. (Clergy and witnesses are required for legality, not sacramentality, for those who hold marriage to be a sacrament.)"
After all, most times cake is offered to us, we get to eat it too, so why not in gospel scholarship? There are bits of Luke which are explained by his knowledge of Mark, bits that are explained by use of exactly the same non-Markan source as Matthew used, i.e. Q, and bits that are explained by use of Matthew.
Yet problems remain. Maybe most pertinent in my thinking is Luke's Parable of the Pounds versus Matthew's Parable of the Talents. If Luke knows Matthew, why doesn't he use Talents? It is well written and has no awkward bits like Pounds has?
Of course one could posit a staged process of composition. Luke gets to see Matthew after he has composed bits and bobs of his gospel and, in the Talents/Pounds case, sticks to his own story "warts and all."
A commenter over at Anglican Down Under recently pointed out that Juvenal's Satire no. 2, lines 117 following (you can read it here) ribs marriage between two men.
Now I understand satire to be the satire of something real rather than imaginary, so I am imagining that Juvenal is ribbing an actual social phenomenon?
Or is there another accounting for why Juvenal takes on same sex marriage contemporary to his time in the ancient world?
So, is Juvenal pointing to something which some today say is new in our time?
This article makes clear that at least for a period (Nero to Domitian?) same sex marriage was tolerated in Roman society. But note something within the article is forcefully argued in another article here: there was no legal same sex marriage in ancient Rome, though there were same sex weddings celebrated. For another analysis, go here.
The Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia (ACANZP) is on a journey of understanding in respect of Scripture and human sexuality. In August 2007 it held the first of three Hermeneutical Hui. It was an introduction to hermeneutics. The second was held in May 2009. It's topic was Scripture and Church. The third is likely to be held in 2010. It's topic will be Scripture and Human Sexuality.
During the second hui a point was made in a discussion between some evangelical Anglicans: we have not done work ourselves on how we understand the Bible in relation to homosexuality ... or marriage and divorce ... or, for that matter, the ordination of women.
We may organise some hui ourselves. In the meantime this blog may be of service in developing an evangelical hermeneutic 'Down Under' (Australians welcome too!).
Why a specifically 'evangelical' blog? Well, it's possible another site may be developed which will be a kind of 'whole of ACANZP' site. On such a site presumably everything will be up for discussion, and all perspectives will contribute. On this site I hope we will not have to debate matters on which evangelicals generally have a common understanding. Comments from other perspectives are very welcome - but posts from other perspectives will be directed towards this other proposed site. Out of the deliberations here I hope some good ideas will feed on to the larger site.
There will be no posts/comments accepted which are not in accordance with respecting 'the other person', whoever that may be, as one made in the image of God; similarly for posts/comments which make presumptions about the sins and failings of 'the other side'.
I will keep under review Anonymous comments. My preference is for commenters here to name themselves when simply discussing issues. Those wishing to talk about their experiences may have understandable reasons for remaining Anonymous.
If you wish to submit something to be posted, please let me know in a comment or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, a last word from our sponsor, Soren Kierkegaard,
"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."
We are guided by traditional interpretation: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est (what is believed everywhere, always, by all) - Vincent of Lerins, d. 450.
We are wary of 'private judgement': it is more likely that the judgement of many scholars is correct than our own judgement as individuals.
We seek what the text meant when written and when incorporated into the canon of Scripture, and seek its meaning for today -both how we understand the text and how we might apply it.
We explore the world behind the text (the historical context in which the text was composed), the world within the text (the narrative world created by the text itself), and the world before the text (the world in which we as readers belong) in order to understand the text from multiple perspectives.
We read any text against the background of the whole of Scripture, seeking an understanding which is not contradictory of the remainder of Scripture; and seeking the light of Scripture as a whole to illuminate the understanding of its parts.
We acknowledge the role of our own cultural context affecting the way we read Scripture: like fish in water we may not be aware that other contexts for life exist in which there may be more light!