Saturday, March 8, 1997


This chapter is excerpted from my book, Two Sexes, One Flesh: Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage (Solon, Oh.: Latimer Press, 1997).

Chapter 6: Marriage Politics and the Future of the Episcopal Church
I have attempted to provide a comprehensive exposition of the Christian doctrine of marriage, particularly as it applies to the current issue of same-sex marriage. The conclusion which follows from this exposition is that the Church must say No now and forever to same-sex marriage. It must not authorize a rite that confers marital status on homosexual partnerships or accept by intentional inaction any of the current unauthorized rites in use.

To take action that accords with the Christian doctrine of marriage will require the 1997 Episcopal General Convention to take a full step backward from what has been a progression in the opposite direction over the past twenty-five years. Humanly speaking, it is hard to imagine that the Church’s crew will thrust the political engine into full speed reverse. But is there any other alternative course which will avert what many foresee as a titanic breakup of the Episcopal Church in the coming decade?

In this chapter we shall review briefly the politics that led up to the current situation; the genuine options that the Church faces, especially at its General Convention in July 1997; the costs of choosing one of these options; and the long-range effect the decision will have on the Episcopal Church.

A Quarter Century of Sexual Politics

Historians will point to the period between 1973 and 1976 as pivotal years for the life of the Episcopal Church. As is well known, the key official acts of this period include:

· the defeat of the canon allowing the ordination of women (1973)
· the revision of the marriage canons in the direction of no-fault divorce (1973)
· the successful passage of the ordination of women (1976)
· the adoption of a revised Book of Common Prayer (1976).[1]

The actual decisions of 1973 and 1976, however, may not have been so significant as the politics that drove them. According to Philip Turner, the Church began during these years to accept a new political “tradition” that substitutes prophetic assertion for reasoned dissent (when its practitioners are out of power) and bureaucratic control for legislative discipline (when they are in power).[2] This tradition emerged most clearly in 1974 in Philadelphia when three retired bishops, likening themselves to civil rights protesters, ordained eleven women to the priesthood in defiance of the decision of the 1973 General Convention. When the Church proceeded to approve women’s ordination in 1976 with only token action taken against the “Philadelphia 11” (none was re-ordained), this protest tactic became established as a means of advancing a radical agenda within the Church.[3]

The lesson from the victory of women’s ordination in church politics was not wasted on a new organization formed in 1974: Integrity, the homosexual lobby. Integrity spokesman Kim Byham has said that by 1984 the gay rights organization had adopted two goals: the official acceptance of non-celibate homosexual priests and of homosexual partnerships. Sexual liberationists by this time had developed a disciplined strategy for achieving these goals.[4]

Step 1: Make the homosexual agenda a matter of “conscience.”When the 1979 General Convention passed a Resolution “reaffirm[ing] the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage, marital fidelity, and sexual chastity as the standard of Christian sexual morality,” twenty bishops responded immediately by issuing a “Statement of Conscience.” In this Statement, they refused to obey what the rest of the Church had declared to be biblical principle and justified their defiance by claiming the moral high ground of conscience.[5] Supporters of the 1979 Resolution never challenged the dissenters’ claims to exemption as they should have by arguing that “conscience” in the Christian tradition does not grant unlimited exemption from the claims of truth. The election, in 1984, of one of the signers of the Statement of Conscience to be Presiding Bishop confirmed the fact that dissent was no bar to advancement. While claiming to be “inclusive,” the Presiding Bishop and national bureaucracy have since 1984 consistently promoted the new sexual agenda through appointments, publications, and feeble action when faced with liberationist acts of defiance.

Step 2: Act on “conscience” by ordaining non-celibate homosexuals and make such acts risk-free.Having established the grounds of conscientious objection in 1979, liberationist bishops proceeded to conscientious action ten years later. In 1989, Bishop Spong publicly flouted the Church’s traditional teaching by ordaining Robert Williams, an openly active homosexual. When the House of Bishops censured Bishop Spong in September 1990, Walter Righter, Spong’s assistant bishop, proceeded immediately to ordain another practicing homosexual, hammering home the point that they would not be deterred by paper resolutions.[6] The defeat of Bishop William Frey’s canon in 1991, which threatened liberationist clergy with ecclesiastical trials, was the final signal of intentional inaction by Church leaders. From now on, all “conscientious” acts would be risk-free.

Step 3: Move the issue of gay ordination from the moral defensive to the offensive.Following the violations by Bishops Spong and Righter, the General Convention called for a sexuality dialogue. In seeking dialogue rather than obedience at Step 2, Church leaders had already demonstrated their unwillingness to enforce a central biblical moral norm. The official dialogue, administered by liberationists, evened the moral playing field further by balancing “traditional teaching” with “discontinuous experience.” During this time, more bishops were ordaining homosexuals so that no one could reverse the trend without personally aggrieving a sizable constituency.[7] The conclusion of this step was the Righter trial. The Presenter bishops, who had employed the judicial canons to address clear breaches of Church doctrine and discipline, were themselves caricatured as violators of a new norm of tolerance for publicly active homosexuals.[8]

The first goal of Integrity’s program – widespread acceptance of non-celibate homosexual clergy – had been accomplished by mid-1996. If a gay priest living with a committed partner can serve as a “wholesome example” to God’s people, then same-sex marriage cannot be far behind. Integrity’s second goal is acceptance of same-sex marriage, and the strategy to achieve it is familiar.

Step 4: Act on “conscience” by performing or permitting same-sex unions.Proliferation and public acknowledgment of same-sex blessings began after the 1994 General Convention. It has accelerated since the Righter decision made clear that no violation of doctrine could be prosecuted successfully. Not one priest has been disciplined for performing these rites, not even Fr. Andries of Penthouse fame, who was talked into resigning on other grounds.

Step 4 is the point we have reached as the Church approaches the 1997 Convention and the debate over Resolution C042s. Since the new political strategy moves from dissent to control, we can confidently predict the next steps.

Step 5: End the dialogue and signal acceptance of same-sex unions.By declaring the “continuing dialogue” at an end, liberationist leaders now move into an official pluralism mode.[9] Either the authorization of experimental same-sex rites or the “recognized” acceptance of local option in gay ordinations and unions will be understood as the final abandonment of any normative claim to heterosexual monogamy. From this point on, the Church’s “traditional teaching” is history.

Step 6: Endorse the normative status of gay and lesbian sexual partnerships, with a conscience clause for traditionalists.
The canons already have a non-discrimination clause based on “sexual orientation.”[10] Once homosexual orientation is defined as a natural category with conjugal rights and privileges, gay ordination and same-sex marriage will be enshrined as an inalienable right and “experimental” rites will become official. Opponents of the new norm will be granted minority status and rights in this phase.

Step 7: Rewrite formularies to give full theological legitimacy to homosexuality.We may call this the “beyond inclusion” phase.[11] The Prayer Book and canons will be rewritten within a decade to guarantee equal rights to homosexuals in all respects. A single marriage service for heterosexual and homosexual couples will become the single option for the Episcopal Church. Vocal objection to homosexual practice will be declared a violation of love and collegiality, and those who find they cannot accept the new rites and norms will be excluded from leadership.[12]

The last three steps may snowball if the Church accepts same-sex rites in 1997. If the Episcopal Church becomes the first historic Christian body publicly to endorse homosexuality, we can expect an influx of gays and lesbians into its ranks.[13] This may be a fulfillment of sorts of the Decade of Evangelism. We should rejoice whenever new sheep are added to Christ’s flock, except that these converts will enter on condition that the Church affirm and bless their way of life.[14] And from their point of view, the endorsement will not be complete until Step 7 is reached.

Two Religions, Four Options

“How long will you go limping between two opinions?” Elijah asked the people of his day (1 Kings 18:21). The two opinions in Elijah’s day were, in fact, two religions; and the same is true today in the Episcopal Church. The General Convention delegates in 1997 may be given a range of resolutions, reports, and proposals on the subject of same-sex marriage. The real choice will boil down to: which will you serve, the biblical doctrine of marriage or the liberationist ethic of intimacy?

For those wishing a full menu of choices on the issue, I can conceive only four options that make any theological and political sense. Two of these options serve one religion, and two the other.

First Option: Experimental Marriage RitesThe first option, favored by Integrity and sponsored by a number of dioceses, is to authorize development of an official same-sex service by means of a Resolution. It will read something like this:

Resolved, the House of ______ concurring, That this 72nd General Convention [in 1997] direct the Standing Liturgical Commission to develop, after critical study of pertinent rites already in use by faith communities, a rite or rites for the blessing of committed relationships between persons of the same sex, and to present such forms to the 73rd General Convention [in 2000] for inclusion in The Book of Occasional Services.

Presenting the issue in this form has one apparent virtue: it forces the issue of the morality of homosexual practice to a vote. The Righter Court majority, while refusing to pronounce on this question, stated that the Church could “order its life less ambiguously” by passing binding canons.[15] In the Anglican tradition, liturgy has the same status as canons. Therefore to develop a rite which presupposes the morality of same-sex erotic relationships is, ipso facto, to endorse that practice.

Forcing a vote will push the Church from Step 4 to Step 5 without any significant debate on the specific issue of same-sex marriage. Passage of a Resolution would drain any residual power from the traditional teaching. As recently as 1994, the House of Bishops “reaffirm[ed] the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage” and said that respect for community life in the Anglican Communion “means that the Episcopal Church will maintain recognizable, faithful Anglican norms in our teaching regarding sexuality.”[16] Any Resolution to develop same-sex rites would nullify this statement.

Authorizing experimental rites would itself be an un-Anglican breach of respect, because there has never been a public debate within the Episcopal Church, much less in the Anglican Communion, about the relationship between homosexuality and marriage.[17] The bishops have merely spoken of homosexual experience as a “discontinuity” about which further dialogue is needed. But if the 1997 General Convention were to authorize development of same-sex rites, it would replace dialogue with action and normalize the discontinuity. “Enough talking,” it would in effect say, “let’s get on with the program” (Step 5).

Some may object that development of a trial rite is nothing more than the “design phase” that would help the Church make an informed Yes or No answer to same-sex marriage in the future. Given the recent history of sexual politics in the Episcopal Church, those who say this are either very naive or very devious. Consider the following:

· The whole idea of “experimental rites” is as specious as “trial marriage.” Proponents of experimentation do not see it as a design phase in the sense that the whole project might be abandoned.[18] Any implementation of a same-sex rite must presume its legitimacy. How in the world do you go back and “unmarry” someone if the experiment fails?
· Even if the experimental rites are not implemented at first, the decision will provide advance legitimization to “local option” rites and to those who have already been “united” in unofficial ceremonies.[19]
· Once an experimental rite is “on the books,” it will be very hard to revoke.
· Those who now say these rites are non-marital can later revise them further (especially if same-sex marriage becomes legal in some states), or they can implement canons that require equal treatment of homosexual couples based on the fact that an “equivalent rite” has been developed.

For these reasons, anyone who votes to develop same-sex rites “for experimentation only” is in fact authorizing their adoption in the near future. Even assuming that same-sex unions could be a legitimate form of marriage, the burden of proof must rest on the innovators. On an issue which involves a total revolution in the Church’s understanding of marriage and an unprecedented change in the legal status of marriage, the Church should proceed to experimentation only if and when such a change meets the criteria of compatibility with Scripture and ecumenical consensus within the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Communion, and the worldwide Church.[20] Therefore, it should be prepared for a lengthy period of “reception” before any change would even conceivably be enacted.

I do not believe it possible that same-sex marriage can meet these criteria for change.[21] But if experimental development of same-sex rites is approved, it will mark the Church’s overt acceptance of the ethic of intimacy and therefore the rejection of the biblical and traditional teaching.

Second Option: Local OptionThe second liberationist option is to “just do nothing.” More precisely, the Church will by intentional inaction give the nod to the various local practices of same-sex blessing currently going on. The two official committees appear to be inclining in this direction by not proposing production of official rites and laying out a menu of diverse views as the present state of marriage policy in the Church.[22] Acceptance of the official report and defeat of any orthodox resolutions and canons would signal intentional inaction. Just as liberationist leaders have interpreted the rather restricted ruling of the Righter Court as a license to proceed with more and more open affirmations of non-celibate homosexuality, so they will take official equivocation on same-sex unions as the beginning of Step 5.

Local option may seem attractive to some orthodox Episcopalians. They look at the political situation of the Church and say, “Well, that’s the most we can get. We can at least have peace in our time.” This view is an illusion. Local option would pose a dilemma to all diocesan bishops and priests the moment it is sanctioned.

· Suppose orthodox Diocese A passes a canon upholding heterosexual monogamy as the standard for all clergy and refuses to bless same-sex unions. Then suppose revisionist Rector B hires a gay “married” curate from revisionist Diocese C. The Bishop of A tries to refuse the hiring of the curate on grounds that his manner of life violates the biblical and canonical norm. Then the Rector or curate-to-be sues the Bishop, pointing out that while the curate’s union is not blessed in the bishop’s eyes, it has been blessed in Diocese C and the Episcopal Church permits local option on the matter.
· Again in Diocese A, two lesbian members of parish D openly announce their union to the congregation. The orthodox Rector of D admonishes them privately that they are living a “notoriously evil life” and threatens to excommunicate them unless they repent.[23] These two parishioners sue, as in the previous example. Or if parish D is located in Diocese C, which does condone same-sex unions, then the Rector of D would not only be in legal trouble but be under pressure from the bishop and fellow clergy to relent.

Local option is a beachhead from which the forces of sexual liberation can consolidate gains and prepare for the coming breakout: the full legitimization of the ethic of intimacy as the Church’s “marital” norm. From gay activists’ point of view, D-Day has already occurred in the Episcopal Church with the Righter decision, which established local option by judicial inaction. Accepting an officially “neutral” Report on same-sex unions will add a legislative seal of approval to the Righter precedent.

If I have correctly placed the present decision at Step 5 of the political plan, then either approval of experimental rites or acceptance of local option will represent two acceptable alternatives for those who support the homosexual agenda. Whichever of these options is chosen, the gay rights agenda and the revisionist religion that defines it will go forward. This gives liberationist politicians some room to maneuver: if developing official new rites is too controversial, tacit acceptance of local same-sex ceremonies will achieve the same end.

The first two options with regard to marital politics move the Episcopal Church over the line from Step 4 to Step 5. At that point, all claims that lifelong heterosexual monogamy is the Church’s standard are abandoned. The third and fourth options do not cross over that line.

Third Option: Moratorium
In the wake of the Righter trial, several Episcopal scholars recently proposed “An Appeal for a Moratorium on Altering the Church’s Teaching Regarding Homosexuality and for the Protection of Private Conscience.”[24] They offer a seven-point Resolution, supported by five essays, as terms of a truce in the Church’s sex wars:

1. Current resolutions of General Convention forbidding the ordination of non-celibate gays and upholding the normativity for sexual relations within marriage will be maintained without new resolutions or legislation aimed at their revision or abrogation. This will be understood as the official and public teaching of the Episcopal Church on the subject.
2. This moratorium will extend to revision or expression of official liturgical forms that would contradict the above resolutions.
3. Bishops will abide by these resolutions so as to avoid public scandal.
4. The exercise of episcopal or priestly conscience counter to these resolutions, but in a way that does not cause public scandal, will not be subject to public censure within the church.
5. Public scandal on the part of bishops counter to the resolutions will be met with prompt episcopal censure but without disciplinary measures.
6. Public scandal counter to the resolution on the part of priests will be met with the discretionary discipline of the local diocesan bishop.
7. This moratorium will be understood to be in effect for a “Sabbath of conventions,” for seven
triennia, which is roughly the period of leadership of most of the current House of Bishops.
The Moratorium would logically prohibit the Church’s developing any same-sex rites or publicly recognizing any same-sex unions. It would permit homosexual couples to live together privately without incurring public condemnation or discipline from the Church or clergy. The proposal is a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule for the Church. It is a creative pastoral attempt at averting the collision course of political parties within the Church and a theological document deserving serious discussion. Two fundamental premises undergird the proposal.

First, the Moratorium Appeal is based on a distinction between public doctrine and private conscience. It upholds heterosexual marriage as the Church’s public norm, while accepting the fact that some homosexuals in the Church will be engaged in private sexual partnerships. According to the Moratorium proposal, public discipline must be exercised against those who publicly reject the marriage norm, but public discipline will not, during this period, be exercised against those who keep their “discontinuous” lifestyles to themselves.

A “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy is not too different from pre-1970s pastoral practice.[25] Patience with church members who struggle with their identity in Christ is certainly a virtue. Such tolerance becomes more problematic when it is extended to clergy discipline, since clergy inevitably exercise a public role in the Church’s life. I interpret Point 4 of the Moratorium to mean that orthodox bishops could refuse to ordain homosexuals known to them to be non-celibate or to receive them into their dioceses, but they would agree not to discipline publicly any homosexual clergy in their dioceses who do not flaunt their activity.

The public/private distinction that undergirds the Moratorium highlights an important point in the current politics of sexuality. What makes the movement toward same-sex marriage so offensive is the institutionalization of homosexuality and the ethic of intimacy. Those who hold the Church’s traditional teaching are not scandalized by the individual homosexual man or woman who has privately accommodated his or her affections to a same-sex partner, though they would urge them privately to turn away from this arrangement. They are scandalized by the heterosexual bishop or priest who insists that this relationship be given equal and public standing with marriage and uses his office to assure homosexual couples that their affections are perfectly acceptable to God.

The second theological premise of the Moratorium is that the unity of the Church may be a higher principle than doctrinal and moral uniformity. Specifically, its supporters warn traditionalists not to succumb to a sectarian spirit, thus falling short of the aim of the “magisterial churches of the Reformation” to purify the church.[26] The warning against schism-on-demand is always in order. It has indeed been one of the ironies that the “continuing Anglican” churches quickly redivided after leaving the Episcopal Church. For the sake of unity we may live together as a Church, and have lived, with considerable ambiguity and compromise.
Nevertheless I have to ask the proponents of Moratorium: Are there no limits to the ambiguity and compromise you would endure for the sake of unity? Is there no principle, no truth of the Christian faith that takes priority over the visible unity of the Church? The Protestant Reformation claimed that agreement on essentials is a prerequisite for Church unity and that division might tragically be necessary where the truth of the Gospel is steadfastly denied.[27]

The English Reformers carefully defined the visible Church as “a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same” (Article XIX, Book of Common Prayer, page 871). But if one central sacramental rite is administered contrary to Christ’s ordinance, what does that do to the “requisites” of a legitimate visible Church?

Same-sex marriage is a violation of God’s two-sexes-in-one-flesh creation of human nature and thus touches on a biblical essential. It is not accidental that those promoting liberationist sexuality are also promoting a spirituality fundamentally different from the trinitarian faith. Those who knowingly teach the equivalence of marriage and homosexual relationships are jeopardizing their own and their followers’ salvation. In this case, the unity of the invisible Church – in which believers come “unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ” (cf. Ephesians 4:1-16) – must take priority over the unity of the visible Church.

The politics of the Moratorium proposal are both creative and problematic. It requires each side of the sexuality debate to give up something in order to create space for a peaceful resolution. The Moratorium seeks to freeze the Episcopal Church at Step 4 and let God reveal his will through time. It puts the primary burden on liberationists to accept the Church’s official teaching publicly until they can convince the Church – in such a grave matter as this, I would say the wider ecumenical Church – that same-sex marriage is in accordance with the word and will of God.

Clearly the proponents of the Moratorium would wish all the bishops of the Church to uphold the Church’s official teaching in the way the United Methodist bishops did in July 1996. But they have also accepted the terms of engagement laid down by the Righter decision, which declared that most, if not all, Church doctrine and morals are recommendatory and not enforceable, at least in the case of bishops.[28]

The key disciplinary provision of the Moratorium proposal (Point 5) requires the House of Bishops to censure, and only censure, any conscientious objector to the policy. Does this provision really advance the Church beyond its present impasse? Perhaps Episcopal censure of dissident bishops would isolate them morally in the eyes of the Church and society. But equally possible, their repeated and flagrant rejection of censure would make the Church look confused and weak-willed (once again). In short, unless revisionist bishops are willing to give up their entire action plan, they will make a mockery of the Moratorium. And there is no indication that they are willing to change their tactics.

I doubt, therefore, that the Moratorium proposal is workable. Nevertheless, out of concern for maintaining the Church’s unity, many who might prefer to “say No now and forever” to same-sex marriage may cooperate with the alternative of “say No now, and let God confirm his truth.” If there emerged a consensus around this proposal, Church leaders should be open to hear it as the Spirit speaking to the Church. Let it not be said that we refused a less-than-perfect compromise that held up the fundamental teaching of the Church with regard to marriage and sexuality.

I suspect one reaction to this book from Church moderates will be: “You are exaggerating the power of the liberationists and the speed with which their agenda is being enacted.” If they are right, then the Moratorium will be an excellent vehicle to demonstrate the conservatism of the Anglican way and to “double-moat” her from an innovation more radical than her founders ever faced.[29]

Fourth Option: Say No Now and Forever to Same-Sex MarriageThe first two options necessarily lead in one direction only: the full adoption of same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church. The third option is an intriguing compromise but may be unworkable. Therefore the fourth option – to say No now and forever to same-sex marriage – is the most consistent alternative for those who believe that same-sex marriage is contrary to Scripture, a breach of the Church’s ecumenical faith, and the abandonment of the culture to its most destructive forces.

By adding the phrase “now and forever,” I am making the point that the two-sexes-in-one-flesh principle of marriage is an “exceptionless moral norm.”[30] There are many things in heaven and earth that change; but if there were not absolutes underlying the shifting tides of history, we would indeed be fools who strut and fret our life away in meaninglessness.[31] One of these absolutes is the nature of the male-female sexual union and the moral norms and legal statutes that flow from it.[32] When Jesus commented that “the children of this age marry and are given in marriage” (Luke 20:34), he defined the character of the male-female union of persons as universal and unchangeable. Whatever continuing dialogue the Church may pursue on human sexuality, it must accept this norm as non-negotiable.

Marriage is the exclusive context for sexual activity. This has been the Church’s biblical and traditional teaching right up to the present, whatever discontinuity may be admitted for homosexual experience. Official statements of the past twenty years have tended to focus on the issue of how the sexual standard applies to ordination. Leaders need now to address more pointedly the question of same-sex marriage.

While the Righter verdict has further weakened the force of General Convention resolutions, such resolutions continue to exercise moral influence over Episcopal clergy and laity and give legitimacy to dioceses and parishes in exercising discipline. Therefore it would be appropriate and helpful if those who uphold the Church’s traditional teaching would offer a Resolution on Marriage. The following proposal is offered as an example of a centrist expression of the Church’s doctrine of marriage, drawing from the Prayer Book and other official statements:

Whereas “it is clear from Scripture that the sexual union of man and woman is God’s will and that this finds holy expression within the covenant of marriage” and that “therefore this Church confines its nuptial blessing to the union of male and female” (1977 House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter); and
Whereas this understanding of marriage is clearly stated in the Book of Common Prayer and the Canons of the Episcopal Church; and
Whereas the House of Bishops and General Convention of this Church have repeatedly affirmed this traditional teaching;
Therefore, we reaffirm that the Church’s norm of marriage as the lifelong “union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind” is the proper context for sexual activity, for procreation of children, and for building up wholesome families; and
We further reaffirm that marriage services of this Church shall be confined to the forms provided in the Book of Common Prayer, and that clergy shall participate officially only at such marriage services which uphold the Church’s traditional teaching; and
Finally, we pledge not to make any change to this traditional teaching until such time as the provinces of the Anglican Communion and other ecumenical partners have reached a consensus on the subject in accordance with Holy Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Passage of such a Resolution on Marriage would establish afresh the Church’s public teaching (the proper concern of the Moratorium proposal) with specific application to same-sex marriage. Clearly this reaffirmation would be immediately denounced by revisionist bishops and violated in revisionist dioceses. Nevertheless it would give support to those members of the Episcopal Church who wish to uphold and enforce the biblical standard.

I believe it is possible that the center of the Church – certainly the vast majority of laypeople – could agree on such a restatement of the Church’s doctrine and discipline. If, on the other hand, the General Convention pursues one of the first two options, this Resolution may serve as a guideline for dioceses and parishes that wish to endorse the Church’s traditional teaching.
Whether a Resolution on Marriage passes or fails, the issue will remain a contentious one in the Episcopal Church. If the church reaches Steps 6 or 7, traditional Christians will find themselves challenged by legal action. Therefore it seems wise now for individuals, congregations, and ministries to band together in a common confession of biblical moral doctrine. The American Anglican Council has adopted “A Place to Stand: A Call to Mission” as a statement that positively addresses several issues relevant to this current debate in the Church:

Marriage, Family, and the Single Life. God has instituted marriage to be a lifelong union of husband and wife, intended for their mutual joy, help, and comfort, and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation and nurture of children.... The single life, either by call or by circumstance, is honored by God. It is therefore important for unmarried persons to embrace and be embraced by the Christian family.

Human Sexuality. “Sexuality is inherent in God’s creation of every human person in his image as male and female. All Christians are called to chastity: husbands and wives by exclusive sexual fidelity to one another and single persons by abstinence from sexual intercourse. God intends and enables all people to live within these boundaries, with the help and in the fellowship of the Church.[33]

These are principles consistent with what we have seen to be the Church’s biblical and traditional doctrine of sexuality and marriage. They make clear that living up to the high call of God in marriage and the single state is no easy task. We who support these principles need to admit our own complicity in the breakdown of marriage in our Church and society. We can be thankful in one sense that this crisis has led us to recognize that any reform within the Episcopal Church will not be a return to “business as usual.”

Specifically, we call the Church, or a confessing fellowship within it, to rethink the following areas of its marital doctrine and discipline:

· Careful review and renewed teaching on the nature and purposes of marriage, including the pastoral use of the Declaration of Intention.
· Honest discussion of the roles (and overlap thereof) of men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, in a democratic society and in the total ministry of the Church.
· Commitment by each parish to provide a program of “engaged encounter,” “marriage encounter,” and “marriage savers” to assist couples to fulfill their marriage vows.[34]
· Review of the divorce canons in terms of the Church’s doctrine and discipline, especially as they apply to clergy.
· Training of young people in the virtue of chastity as part of their commitment to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.
· Consideration of ways to recognize and support celibates, young singles, victims of divorce, and widows/widowers in their several callings and circumstances.
· Provision of support, counseling, and care of those who are struggling with sexual addictions and homosexual orientation.[35]

Counting the Costs

Our plea to the leaders of the Episcopal Church is not to take further steps toward authorizing or condoning same-sex marriage. The costs of doing anything or doing nothing on the subject are, by this time, exceedingly high. The payment on twenty-five years of sexual politics and corporate undiscipline is now coming due for the Episcopal Church, and there is nothing anyone can do to avoid it. God will not be mocked. Therefore the best political option is also the best spiritual option: repent and do what is right (Micah 8:6; Matthew 3:7-10).

The Political Costs of Endorsing Same-Sex MarriageLiberationist politicians have shown themselves very astute in short-term calculations, but they have also frequently miscalculated the long-term effects of their actions and the strength of conviction held by those who oppose their agenda. Have they considered the total cost to the Church of a decision to endorse same-sex marriage? I see the following consequences flowing from such a decision (i.e., choosing one of the first two options).

It will cause the Episcopal Church to forfeit its claim to legitimacy as a Church.While the Righter Court, in my view, dodged its responsibility to enforce the Church’s doctrine, it did not deny the fact that the Church has “traditional teaching” other than “Core Doctrine.”[36] However weakened, the 1979 Resolution stating that “this Church confines its nuptial blessing to the union of male and female” continues to express the authoritative teaching of Scripture and the classic Christian faith within the Episcopal Church. This traditional teaching has been reaffirmed repeatedly and as recently as 1994. It represents the Church’s continuing claim to represent historic Christianity in the area of sexuality and marriage.

For the Church to authorize any kind of same-sex union ceremony would put the Church publicly at odds with this traditional teaching. In so doing, it would have abandoned apostolic doctrine, which is the only basis for its legitimacy as a Church. Since there will be no authority but the brute force of canon law, the Church of the future will preside over a pandemonium of competing canons and by-laws at all levels of its polity seeking to enforce the agenda of the day.

When a Church forfeits its legitimacy, it loses the confidence of its clergy and people, and the respect of its neighbors. The Episcopal Church today is demoralized and humiliated, possessing only a caricature of its former gravitas in American society. The financial and personnel shortages that we are already feeling will certainly become more severe if the Church makes same-sex marriage official. Like the vestries of many declining churches, some leaders seem to have embraced a future of decline, in which the last person out turns off the lights. “We’d rather die than give up our agenda,” they say. And surely their wish will be granted.

It will cause formal division within the Church.If a Church endorses same-sex marriage openly or tacitly, those committed to the apostolic faith will be obliged to separate themselves in some way from that false position and those who promote it. Such a division has been occurring piecemeal in recent years, as many lifelong Episcopalians, including clergy, have joined other branches of Christ’s Church.
Others feel called to remain in their Church by declaring themselves in “impaired communion” with liberationists. For example, the American Anglican Council has pledged loyalty to the Episcopal Church by asking God to fill the Church with all truth and to reform it where it is amiss. Its members are willing to take necessary conscientious action to oppose false teaching and practices:

We desire to be supportive of congregations, dioceses, provinces, and the national structures of the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. However, when there arise within the Church at any level tendencies, pronouncements, and practices contrary to biblical, classical Anglican doctrinal and moral standards, we must not and will not support them. Councils can err and have erred, and the Church has no authority to ordain anything contrary to God’s Word written (Articles of Religion XIX, XX). When teachings and practices contrary to Scripture and to this orthodox Anglican perspective are permitted within the Church – or even authorized by the General Convention – in obedience to God, we will disassociate ourselves from those specific teachings and practices and will resist them in every way possible.
Same-sex marriage is without question one of those practices that would lead loyal Episcopalians to declare themselves out of communion with the leadership of the Episcopal Church, or – to put it more accurately – to declare that the leadership of the Episcopal Church had put itself out of communion with the one holy and apostolic Church of Christ.

It will very likely lead to censure, disassociation, and excommunication by other churches of the Anglican Communion.If there is any validity to the arguments of this book, it follows that by endorsing same-sex marriage the Episcopal Church will violate the Lambeth Quadrilateral’s commitment to Scripture as the “rule and ultimate standard of faith” and place American Episcopalians far out of step with the rest of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop George Carey, speaking recently and controversially at Virginia Theological Seminary, stated:

I do not find any justification, from the Bible or the entire Christian tradition, for sexual activity outside marriage. Thus, same-sex relationships in my view cannot be on par with marriage and the church should resist any diminishing of the fundamental “sacramentum” of marriage.[37]

Episcopal revisionists may deny that this is so, but the vast majority of Third World Anglicans simply do not see how the homosexual agenda is compatible with the plain teaching of the Bible.[38] Even if the Lambeth Conference as a body takes no action against the Episcopal Church, it is certain that some Anglican provinces and dioceses will disassociate themselves from same-sex marriage and perhaps from the Episcopal Church itself.

It will terminate genuine ecumenical relations with Roman Catholics, Orthodox, evangelicals, and even many mainline Protestants.By neglecting the first principle of the Lambeth Quadrilateral, the Episcopal Church may unilaterally bring to an end the century-long hope of recognition by Rome and Orthodoxy.[39] Most Episcopal leaders have exhibited little interest in fostering a relationship with Protestant evangelicals, even though evangelicalism is the most vital force in American Christianity and in the Anglican Communion.[40] By adopting the liberationist agenda, the Episcopal Church will simultaneously marginalize its evangelical constituency and break any possible ties with American and international evangelicalism. One can only speculate how “mainline” Protestant churches – including the Lutherans – that have pulled back from the abyss of endorsing the gay agenda will react if the Episcopal Church leaps into it. There may eventually be a general realignment in which orthodox Christians forge formal links across denominational lines; adoption of same-sex marriage will certainly accelerate that trend.

The Political Costs of Saying NoThose who are convinced that male-female marriage is God’s unchangeable design for human nature have an obligation to say No to further steps toward normalizing same-sex marriage. Either the Moratorium proposal or a Resolution on Marriage like that proposed above would enunciate this position. I think the Resolution on Marriage has the better chance to pass the General Convention in that it simply restates current positions while focusing on the present challenge of same-sex marriage. Even though such a Resolution would be unenforceable across the whole Church, it would give moral support and legal protection to dioceses and parishes which seek to uphold (and reform) the Church’s traditional marriage discipline.

Passage of a Resolution on Marriage would lead to immediate non-compliance on the part of large portions of the Church and its leadership. By this fact, the Episcopal Church would once again be seen as a dysfunctional body that will not abide by its own rules. But that is where we are. None of the four options will avoid this humiliation since unilateral “prophetic” action is an inherent part of the liberationist strategy for changing the Church.

Failure to pass a Resolution on Marriage would also be publicly humiliating; however, if I am correct that “just doing nothing” is a victory for the liberationist agenda, then traditional Episcopalians must take the risk of losing this battle. The battlefield of marriage is probably a better place to engage the question of biblical standards of morality than, say, ordination, because laypeople know and care more about marriage than they do about ordination. It may be possible that a majority of bishops may be garnered to support such a Resolution, as was the case with the “Affirmation” statement of 1994.[41]

What if the General Convention accepts either experimental rites or local option? According to my typology, the Church will have entered Steps 5 and 6 of the liberationist program. During this period, orthodox Episcopalians will have their own obligation and opportunity to exercise conscientious objection and “local option.”[42] Congregations and dioceses must organize and reform their own houses, including passing parish by-laws and diocesan canons, and getting legal counsel to protect themselves from lawsuits. They must do this quickly, boldly, and wisely, realizing that their opponents intend sooner or later to outlaw their position. Their leaders must be willing to engage in conflict and endure obloquy if they wish to convince people that the Episcopal Church and the Anglican way is not what its national leadership makes it out to be.

A House Divided

This is not a book on the future of the Episcopal Church: I shall leave that to the pundits and historians.[43] Nevertheless, the issues surrounding Resolution C042s do constitute an historical watershed, in my typology the watershed between steps 4 and 5 in the progress of sexual liberationism in the Episcopal Church. I have tried to draw as exactly as possible the political options facing the Church. I might wish for but do not see any real alternatives to these. If there is another alternative, someone will need to develop a thorough case for it.[44]

As I have noted, the four options are divided between two incompatible worldviews, and marriage is the “stone of stumbling” between them. Everyone knows how central marriage is to human life and love, to social stability, and to the sacramental tradition of the Church.[45] The Bible and Jesus speak unequivocally about marriage as an exclusive opposite-sex relationship. To change the doctrine of marriage nationally or locally is to change the Christian faith. This is why so many Episcopalians enter the year 1997 with fearful and heavy hearts.

This study may be of help in this crisis both in diagnosing the seriousness of the spiritual division within the Church and in offering a model by which it may be resolved, namely separation or divorce.

Sex Wars and Spiritual Battles“Can’t we just get off the subject of sex and talk about something else?” some people plead. No, we can’t. I have argued at length that any understanding of marriage grounded on the ethic of intimacy will be fundamentally different from what the Church has taught throughout its history. It would be invincibly naive for Church leaders to think they could endorse such a radical revision of the Church’s historic teaching and that it would not make any difference.

The division over this issue is, finally, a matter of spiritual warfare. I have argued that the advocates of same-sex marriage hold an entirely different spirituality from classic Christian orthodoxy. It is no accident that Bishop Spong, the sexual pioneer, has accepted the position of Chair of a new Nicene Council, an event tentatively titled the “Nicea Revisited Conference.”[46] Having rescued the Bible, Jesus, Mary, and Paul from the fundamentalists, the Bishop of Newark is now on quest to rescue the Nicene Creed from its unfortunate association with the catholic tradition.[47] And we can rest assured that the theological and political methodology with which he will “rethink” Nicene orthodoxy will be the same as that used by liberationists to rethink marriage.

There is no way to split the difference on this issue: both sides know this deep down.[48] Glorying in an Anglican diversity of contraries is equivalent to Stephen Douglas’ strategy of “popular sovereignty” – which was a kind of local option – before the American Civil War. Lincoln understood from his reading of Scripture and his knowledge of nature’s God that certain matters of principle cannot be fudged.[49] How much more firmly should we hold this truth, knowing that in matters of biblical and spiritual principle, we are contending against principalities and powers in heavenly places.[50] There is a time for discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10) and a time for a prophetic call for God’s people to wake up to the spiritual crisis (Judges 5:12; Isaiah 52:1). I believe that time is now in the Episcopal Church. It is in that spirit that I move to the final sad and awesome choice facing our Church.

What about an Ecclesiastical Separation or Divorce?What priest has not been met by a tearful, agitated parishioner announcing that a collapsing marriage is over? The pastor tries as quickly as possible to get husband and wife together to air their grievances. Both partners have offended each other in various ways, but before long it comes out that one of them is sexually committed to a third party. Getting the adulterer to abandon this involvement is a crucial first step to any hope for reconciliation. If not, the couple moves rather quickly to the lawyers and from there to a “no-fault” divorce. The house divided falls.

The Episcopal Church today is just such a divided house. Except where denial reigns, grief and anxiety abound about the state of our denomination. Some clergy and congregations, like Br’er Rabbit, “just lay low” as fresh controversies break over the Church. Some band together for support. Some seek to change the subject. Others prepare to leave. All these reactions are symptomatic of a family at risk. In the sexuality battles of recent years, one finds the hypocrisy, the insults, the suspicion, the manipulations, all those provocations that precede the first visit to an arbiter. But the Episcopal Church has no human arbiter.[51] Therefore the Church exhibits the textbook behavior of a dysfunctional family.

As in every tragedy, there is irony in our situation. Many traditionalists who hold marriage to be indissoluble are contemplating renouncing their vows to the Episcopal Church. On the opposite side, those who follow the ethic of intimacy and believe that a partner is morally obligated to get out of an abusive or “dead” relationship are advocating a high view of the ecclesiastical bond.[52] While the hierarchy has let chaos reign in areas of doctrine and discipline, it has maintained iron-fisted control over church property. According to law, dioceses own parish property, and recently whenever individual congregations have sought to separate from a diocese, the diocese has acted as the abused partner and kept the property.

Actually, the traditionalists’ position is not as inconsistent as it may seem. Almost all of them would admit that one marriage partner’s persistent infidelity may obligate the other partner to separate (Matthew 19:9; 1 Corinthians 7:15). Some would go on to admit that a marriage broken in this way could legitimately lead to divorce, and the possibility of remarriage. Likewise, in their view of the Church, they ask God to deliver it from heresy and schism, but they recognize that sometimes, as at the time of the Reformation, the one necessitates the other.

The revisionist position, on the other hand, seems more duplicitous and authoritarian. If liberationist leaders think no-fault divorce is the appropriate remedy for individual couples, why not also for dioceses whose relationship with the national Church has become dysfunctional, or for parishes that feel abused by their bishop and diocese? If they idealize “base communities,” why not let their own local base communities go free? If revisionists were to admit the truth that the Episcopal Church is a house divided and that no-fault divorce is a tragic but necessary way of resolving such breakdowns, they should be willing to consider some form of ecclesiastical separation or divorce.

We are already sleeping in separate bedrooms, or even apartments. Three of the options available to the General Convention confirm this de facto separation. The great promise of the Moratorium proposal is that it keeps the family together under the roof of one public teaching, while the partners try to work out their differences behind closed doors. I fear this remedy comes too late. Like the unfaithful husband who has already promised to marry his lover and bring her into the house, the liberationists cannot accept the terms that might lead to reconciliation with their original beloved.

Separation or divorce is a last resort and a humiliating admission of failure. Sometimes, however, separation clears the air between warring partners and leads to renewed, less manipulative, conversations. Even divorced partners sometimes, by the grace of God, find themselves and fall in love again. That is where we are as a Church. We can admit it or deny it, but it will not go away.


Church historian Harold Lewis summarizes the significance of the last quarter century for African Americans in the Episcopal Church with this quip: “The adage Qualis patria, talis ecclesia (‘As the nation goes, so goes the church’) seems an especially fitting description of the modus operandi of the Episcopal Church in every age.”[53] This description aptly describes the progress of the sexual revolution in American society and in the Episcopal Church. In this case, however, having been accused so often of being behind the times, the Episcopal Church seems intent on getting to the new sexual millennium before the society does.

One irony of the history of the Episcopal Church is that its delusion about being an ecumenical bridge church has led instead to its remaining a rather small bark on the sea of American denominationalism.[54] The current embrace of lifestyle radicalism will almost certainly make it a niche church, in which orthodox Christians will become an exile church. If the gay rights agenda advances, these Episcopalians will have to sort out how much their commitment to the denomination stems from godly desire for the unity of Christ’s Body and how much from attachment to the myth of Episcopal Church as via media or from fear of letting goods and kindred go.

After nearly a decade of intensive debate and politicking over sex, it has become clear that the Church is limping between two opinions: a commitment to the unchangeable and exclusive principle of two sexes, one flesh; or a vision of human sexual liberation from traditional marriage.[55] Whether we like it or not, we probably are at Step 5. The obstacles to genuine reconciliation are theological, not political. It is time to face this fact honestly and, following Gamaliel’s advice, let each ecclesiola in the Episcopal Church pursue its own sense of vocation, whether this be under one nominal jurisdiction or separately.

“Choose today whom you will serve.” I am no prophet, but I do not see any way to avoid the momentous spiritual and political choice facing the Episcopal Church. However much we might wish, we may not be able to steer our beloved Church past this iceberg. Surely those who can should seek to influence the political outcome of the General Convention in 1997 and beyond. Everyone can pray, and I can think of no better prayer than that of Elijah on Mount Carmel: “Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back” (1 Kings 18:37).

[1] To be exact, the 1976 Convention approved the new Prayer Book on first reading. The final approval came at the 1979 Convention.
[2] Turner, “Episcopal Oversight and Ecclesiastical Discipline,” in Ephraim Radner and R. R. Reno, eds., Inhabiting Unity: Theological Perspectives on the Proposed Lutheran-Episcopal Concordat (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995) 111-133.
[3] On the twentieth anniversary of the Philadelphia ordinations, the Church’s “official” newspaper, Episcopal Life (July 1994), reported the event as an historic victory, without any reservations about the violations of order and law that it involved.
[4] I am not claiming that this seven-step pattern is written up somewhere in a revisionist playbook, but rather that their actions conform or will conform to this pattern.
[5] The Episcopal bishops said: “We give notice as we are answerable to Almighty God that we cannot accept these recommendations or implement them in our Dioceses.” By contrast, when the Methodist General Assembly reaffirmed its traditional stance in July 1996, the pro-gay Methodist bishops stated: “Once the church has spoken, as bishops, it is our responsibility to teach and uphold what the church has spoken.”
[6] Bishop Righter has claimed that the Presiding Bishop connived in this act, a claim neither confirmed nor denied by the Presiding Bishop himself.
[7] This step may be likened to the Israeli planting of Jewish “settlements” in the Arab West Bank area. The calculated character of these acts is clear from the following incident. In 1995 the Presenter bishops offered to drop the charge against Bishop Righter if revisionist bishops would agree to a moratorium on further gay illicit ordinations; the offer was dismissed on grounds that “there were too many people in the pipeline.” Cf. A Time of Trial, 16.
[8] The Righter majority (“Righter Opinion,” 16) sets up the moral equivalency of traditionalists and liberationists: “While there have been repeated reaffirmations of the traditional teaching concerning human sexuality, ... at the same time other resolutions have been introduced at the General Convention seeking to change as well as to relate the traditional teaching to blessing same sex relationships, ordination and discipline. Some have passed, others have failed to pass.” What they fail to mention is that no Resolution legitimizing homosexual practice has ever passed.
[9] Note, for example, the lead editorial in the national church newspaper Episcopal Life (Dec. 1996), which warns that anger from the Penthouse scandal should not be directed against “non-celibate gays and lesbians in our church who are living in committed, monogamous relationships.” The editorial begs the question of Resolution C042s, whether such relations are acceptable. The editor presumes, it would seem, that the question has already been settled.
[10] Canon I.17.5 reads: “No one shall be denied rights, status, or access to an equal place in the life, worship and governance of the Church because of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, disabilities or age, except as otherwise specified by Canon.” Whereas originally “sexual orientation” was used expressly to distinguish between a psychological disposition and “practice,” liberationists now use the word “orientation” to include both of the above as natural complements.
[11] The “Beyond Inclusion” conference in April 1997 promises to express a new philosophy: “The term ‘inclusion’ signals a group on the ‘inside,’ and a group on the ‘outside’....” Promoters of “Beyond Inclusion” “propose to go beyond this definition to a point where everyone is warmly encompassed in the Episcopal community as they journey with God.”As with the earlier “inclusivism,” however, this philosophy only applies to those who accept its revisionist starting point.
[12] The Church will have reached Step 7 in the case of women’s ordination if the 1997 Convention passes the amendment to Canon 3.8.1. that prohibits bishops and priests from refusing to ordain women and acknowledge their priestly rights.
[13] The Episcopal Church has, of course, been attractive to homosexuals for many years, especially since the 1970s. As the Presbyterians and Methodists draw back from gay ordination, we may expect a migration from their ranks into the Episcopal Church.
[14] By contrast, when St. Paul says “Do you not know that ... neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), he is probably reminding them of a very different set of conditions with which they were baptized as Christians.
[15] “Righter Opinion,” 19.
[16] Continuing the Dialogue, 92.
[17] Continuing the Dialogue, for example, discusses heterosexual marriage and homosexual relationships, but it does not raise any of the specific issues of same-sex marriage or unions discussed in this paper.
[18] Resolution C042 at the 1994 General Convention (Journal, 258) originally proposed that experimental rites be used immediately so that the “experience” of Church-blessed same-sex unions might be assessed. This same experiential logic was used in the Inclusive Language rites in 1987.
[19] See “Illustration,” 3-4.
[20] To our knowledge, only the Metropolitan Community Church, the Unitarian-Universalists, some Reformed Jewish congregations have permitted same-sex “marriage.” The United Church of Christ will reportedly vote on this issue at its convention in early July 1997..
[21] These criteria have also been used by those who opposed the approval of women’s ordination. The cases, however, are not wholly analogous. The universal rejection of homosexuality – and particularly the idea of same-sex marriage – in Scripture, history, and the churches is not the same as the more complex evidence on women in Church leadership.
[22] This is also the direction taken by the Board of Trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary on January 23, 1997, when they replaced their existing traditional sexuality statement with one in which “issues of sexuality need not automatically bar one from admission.”
[23] This discipline would be in accord with the Book of Common Prayer, 409, if one believes that insistence on homosexual acts is a sin.
[24] The Harvest 6/1 (July/Aug. 1996) 1. The Harvest is a publication of Scholarly Engagement in Anglican Doctrine, a group of scholars and clergy advocating “dynamic orthodoxy” in the Episcopal Church. The Appeal appears under the names of the Rev. Drs. George Sumner and Ephraim Radner.
[25] This praxis is also one option admitted in the English House of Bishops’ Statement (Issues in Sexuality, sec. 5.6 [pages 41-42]).
[26] George Sumner, “The Historical Occasion: ‘The Day of Little Things’,” The Harvest 6/1 (July/Aug. 1996) 4.
[27] This principle is the legitimate insight of the Righter Court’s “Core Doctrine” idea, although they reduced the core to the vanishing point. It is also the theological basis for the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome. If unity trumps this principle, then a return to Rome would seem the logical corollary.
[28] The Moratorium proposal accepts the double standard implied in the Righter decision. A bishop may depose a publicly dissident priest (Point 6), but the House of Bishops may not depose a publicly dissident bishop (Point 5).
[29] See George Herbert, “The British Church”:
But, dearest Mother, what those misse, [i.e., Rome and Geneva]
The mean, thy praise and glorie is,
And long may be.
Blessed be God, whose love it was
To double-moat thee with his grace,
And none but thee.
[30] The phrase “exceptionless moral norms” comes from John Finnis, Moral Absolutes: Tradition, Revision, and Truth (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1991) 1-6.
[31] This is the point of the single most glorious sentence (!) of Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (I.3.2):
"Now if nature should intermit her course, and leave altogether though it were but for awhile the observation of her own laws; if those principal and mother elements of the world, whereof all things in this lower world are made, should lose the qualities which now they have; if the frame of that heavenly arch erected over our heads should loosen and dissolve itself; if celestial spheres should forget their wonted motion, and by irregular volubility turn themselves any way as it might happen; if the prince of the lights of heaven, which now as a giant doth run his unwearied course, should as it were through a languishing faintness begin to stand and to rest himself; if the moon should wander from her beaten way, the times and seasons of the year blend themselves by disordered and confused mixture, the winds breathe out their last gasp, the clouds yield no rain, the earth be defeated of heavenly influence, the fruits of the earth pine away as children at the withered breasts of their mother no longer able to yield them relief: what would become of man himself, whom these things now do all serve?[32] Hooker, Laws I.9.10, notes, for instance, that while reason alone should be sufficient to ban incest and .polygamy, laws may have to reinforce it against “lewd and wicked custom” (cf. Laws I.8.11).
[33] From the official statement of faith, “A Place to Stand, A Call to Mission,” adopted August 7, 1996 (available from the American Anglican Council, P.O. Box 720669, Dallas, TX 75372).
[34] For information on “Episcopal Engaged Encounter” and “Episcopal Marriage Encounter” see notices in The Episcopal Church Annual. Other packaged programs include Ron Brusius and David J. Ludwig, Building Christian Marriage (St. Louis: Family Films, 1990); and Michael J. McManus, Marriage Savers (Quadrus Media, 1994).
[35] For a comprehensive pastoral approach, see [David K. Foster], Sexual Healing: God’s Plan for the Sanctification of Broken Lives (Mastering Life Ministries, P.O. Box 54, Hermitage, TN 37076).
[36] As noted earlier (page 34), the Court suggested that “uncontested” moral norms might have the force of law. While this is hardly a suitable criterion in itself, the confining of marriage to opposite-sex partners certainly qualifies as one of the most unanimous practices of human history.
[37] Reported in the Washington Times (Mar. 4, 1997).
[38] The bishops of the Church of Uganda, for instance, representing 6.7 million Anglicans, recently issued an explicit warning to their Western brothers and sisters when they stated that “since God’s purpose for sexual relationships is between woman and man, other sexual relations are deviations and perversions and not merely variation.”
[39] Speaking in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury on Dec. 5, 1996, Pope John Paul II said:
Thirty years ago, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, moved by the Holy Spirit, set out with determination along the path that would lead to the restoration of unity. It is a journey that is proving more difficult than was expected at its beginning. Sadly, we are faced with disagreements, which have arisen since we entered into dialogue.” Did the Archbishop ask his Holiness whether approval of same-sex marriage might constitute yet another disagreement?
[40] On the importance of the evangelical movement for the Church in general and for Anglicanism in particular, see Alister E. McGrath, Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1995); and The Renewal of Anglicanism (Harrisburg, Pa.: Morehouse, 1993).
[41] Bishops at the 1994 General Convention offered contrary statements on sexuality. More than one hundred bishops signed “An Affirmation” of the Church’s traditional teaching, while over seventy signed the liberationist “Koinonia Statement.”
[42] In pointing out the use of “conscience” as a tactic for change, I do not deny that Christians must at times say, “We must obey God and not men” (Acts 5:29). Conscientious objection is not a carte blanche, but it is a necessity when a central tenet of the Gospel is threatened. Marriage is such a tenet.
[43] Richard Kew is revising the optimistic view of a united, orthodox Episcopal Church in the new millennium that he advocated in his and Roger White’s book, New Millennium, New Church: Trends Shaping the Episcopal Church for the 21st Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley, 1992). After the Righter Trial, he writes: “I also found myself wondering why Roger White and I had got this piece of the puzzle so wrong in New Millennium, New Church. I think the answer to that was that we did not expect the whole lesbigay phenomenon to get so out of hand so quickly. If you recall, we hardly mentioned this in our book.” For Kew’s and White’s latest thoughts, see Toward 2015: A Church Odyssey (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley, 1997) 141-164.
[44] As a thought experiment, I recently suggested the following version of the Moratorium idea: a Resolution that “this Church will not revise its Prayer Book or Book of Occasional Offices before the year 2029 [fifty years after the present Prayer Book].”
[45] By contrast, ordination is, for many Episcopalians, something “they do out there,” which does not affect them except in the person of their parish priest.
[46] See Publishers Weekly (Nov. 15, 1996).
[47] Although for many years Bishop Spong was content to sing the Creed rather than say it, now he has apparently decided it is time to rewrite the lyrics. The diocese of Newark is presently experimenting with its own illicit liturgy that includes a rewritten Creed that might have shocked even Arius!
[48] Cf. the addled comments of Bp. Michael Ingham (“God So Loved the World,” see page 29, note 33), who simultaneously praises an Anglicanism that can produce a Jack Spong and a John Stott and goes on to say: “I have come to think that the basis for our continued denial of dignity and intimacy to gay and lesbian people is not theology but pathology. I believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ now requires us to recognise the full humanity of every child of God, whatever their sexual orientation.” If evangelicals are pathologically impaired and the Church is to require recognition of the gay agenda, it is hard to see how it has a place for John Stott. He at least recognizes this. In an interview with Christianity Today (Jan. 8, 1996) 26-27, Stott was asked: “No Christian can give unqualified allegiance to any institution. What, for you, would be the signals that it is time to leave the Church of England?” He replied: “If you want me to stick my neck out, I think I would say that if the church were officially to approve homosexual partnerships as a legitimate alternative to heterosexual marriage, this so far diverges from biblical sexual ethics that I would find it exceedingly difficult to stay. I might want to stay on and fight for a few more years, but if they persisted, I would have to leave.”
[49] In his Springfield address (June 16, 1858), Lincoln said: “‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.” Lincoln was proved right, but only at the price of a bloody civil war, an event that continues to reverberate in our national consciousness.
[50] In his science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis describes the mission of the revisionist National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.) as the beachhead of the “dark eldils,” the principalities of a dehumanizing secularism. A reading of Lewis’ prophetic book while drawing analogies with recent Episcopal history is a most enlightening and upsetting experience.
[51] The bishops acknowledged after 1991 that Scripture might help lay down ground rules for the debates, but they could not agree on a way to read Scripture that would allow it to serve as an arbiter.
[52] Cf. the view of the Righter Court majority (“Righter Opinion,” 10): “We have come to see and understand that marriages can die and even be places of destruction which may justify their termination.”
[53] Harold T. Lewis, Yet with a Steady Beat: The African American Struggle for Recognition in the Episcopal Church (Valley Forge, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1996) 147. Lewis, who was until recently on the national Church staff, gives the following interesting insight into priorities among the “isms” at the Episcopal Church Center in New York: “Other groups had, after all, piggy-backed on the success of the civil rights movement and started revolutions of their own.... So while [Presiding Bishop] Browning gave lip service to the evils of racism, even railing against it on occasion, his passion was confined to problems inherent in sexism and clericalism...” (page 168).
[54] For the historical roots of this situation, see Allen C. Guelzo, For the Union of Evangelical Christendom: The Irony of the Reformed Episcopalians (University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 1993) 59-74.
[55] In a review for United Voice (May 1997), I have noted: “The Human Sexuality Dialogue Committee recently admitted that the sexuality ‘dialogue’ in the Episcopal Church is no longer continuing. Actually, it never began, because orthodox Episcopalians will not budge from the starting point of Scripture’s plain teaching on sex and marriage and ‘revisionists’ have already embraced the end-point of ‘sexual intimacy’ between consenting adults as the sacrament of liberated consciousness.”

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