Friday, March 14, 1997


The following is an excerpt from my book, Two Sexes, One Flesh: Why the Church Cannot Bless Same-Sex Marriage (Solon, Oh.: Latimer Press, 1997). Used with permission.

CHAPTER 1: What Are We Talking About?
Have you ever asked yourself why the Decade of Evangelism in the Episcopal Church has seemed more like the Decade of Sex? It’s no accident we cannot get our message straight. The Episcopal Church is in the midst of a “worldview crisis,” pitting those who hold to the classic formulations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ against others who wish to “revision” the Gospel in terms of “liberation.”[1] The centerpiece of the revisionist project is the detaching of God’s blessing of sex from its exclusive association with heterosexual marriage. The push to bless same-sex relationships is not therefore an isolated issue. The decision on this issue will signal how the Church defines the Gospel not just for this decade but for the foreseeable future.

What confuses many church-people is that both sides of this debate often use the same language of the Bible, Prayer Book, and theology. “Is there really such a crisis? Aren’t you merely quibbling over words?” they say. Some theological debates, to be sure, involve mere verbal nit-picking. Other wars of words are important. In the case of the doctrine of the Trinity, one little iota – homoiousion as opposed to homoousion – separated those who believed Jesus Christ is like God from those who believed he is God. I contend that the meaning of marriage is at issue in the current debate, and that if the Church’s understanding of marriage changes, the full experience of marriage will be jeopardized.

“But the Resolution referring to ‘rites honoring love and commitment between persons of the same sex’ makes no mention of marriage.” This is true but not decisive. It poses for me the paradoxical challenge of demonstrating:

1. that the intended rites are essentially marital and that “same-sex unions” and same-sex marriage are one and the same thing; and
2. that the “ethic of intimacy” that informs the concept of same-sex marriage will subvert and ultimately overthrow the Church’s doctrine and discipline of marriage.

Resolution C042s is about marriage, same-sex marriage; but same-sex marriage is not marriage by any recognizable Christian definition.

Sexuality and the Transformation of Intimacy

Sexuality is a word less than two centuries old. It can be understood in a neutral sense as “the constitutionally bipolar character of human nature” (N.B. sex from the Latin “to cut”).[2] According to this definition, sexuality includes:

· the biological duality of male and female sexes as necessary for reproduction;
· the psychological identity of each person as either a man or a woman;
· the erotic longing of a woman and a man for each other;
· the social construction of gender roles within family and society; and
· the sublimation of erotic love as motive for art, philosophy, and religion.

This definition of sexuality mirrors God’s purposes for marriage (see Chapter 3), because sexuality is a rung in the “ladder of love” that culminates in marriage.

In contemporary parlance, however, sexuality is most often associated not with marriage but with liberation from it. Sociologist Anthony Giddens recently published a history of modern sexuality under the title The Transformation of Intimacy.[3] Sexuality and intimacy, according to Giddens, are terms that convey a revolutionary new meaning.

· Sexuality in its modern usage means plastic sexuality. Giddens does not use “plastic sexuality” as a pejorative term, suggesting artificiality.[4] On the contrary, it represents the emancipated possibilities of sex “severed from its age-old integration with reproduction, kinship and the generations.”[5] The two marks of plastic sexuality are female sexual autonomy and the flourishing of homosexuality.[6]
· The advent of plastic sexuality makes possible confluent love. Confluent love is an opening of one person to another for the purpose of self-realization and self-enhancement. Specifically, confluent love makes mutual sexual satisfaction the sine qua non of an intimate relationship.[7] “Confluent love is active, contingent love, and therefore jars with the ‘for ever’, ‘one-and-only’ qualities of the romantic love complex.”[8] Whereas romantic love fastens on one “special person,” confluent love is realized in one or more “special relationships.”[9]
· The kind of relationship formed by confluent love is termed the pure relationship. “In the pure relationship, trust has no external supports and has to be developed on the basis of intimacy.”[10] Intimacy or commitment in this sense must continually be negotiated in what Giddens calls a “rolling contract.”[11] Lest intimacy slide into codependency, partners in a pure relationship must be willing to grow or break apart: “It is a feature of the pure relationship that it can be terminated more or less at will by either partner at any particular point.”[12]

Giddens notes that heterosexual marriage has no special claim on love and intimacy as he defines them. In fact, homosexuals are the pioneers of the dawning age of pure relationships, because “in gay relationships, male as well as female, sexuality can be witnessed in its complete separation from reproduction.”[13]

Speaking as a secular prophet (or pied piper), Giddens observes that traditional marriage has lost its legitimacy and has already decayed into unstable “companionate” relationships based on friendship or utility. He expects these companionate forms to “veer towards the pure relationship, within the life experience of the individual and the society at large.”[14] He sees this evolution of marriage both as inevitable and desirable, though he admits that no one knows for the future “if sexual relationships will become a wasteland of impermanent liaisons, marked by emotional antipathy as much as by love and scarred by violence.”[15]

With this shrug of the shoulders, Giddens avoids the logic of his own view: intimacy as he defines it is not truly intimate but is individualistic and atomistic. The chaos of the sexual revolution is not transitional but is bound up with the rejection of marriage as a genuine union of persons. The sexual utopia, like the Communist withering away of the state, will never come; rather, we will experience more of the same sexual and social dysfunction until the society as a whole cries out, “Enough already!”[16]

Writing in a more popular venue, columnist Tim Stafford, who has served as a “dear Abby” to hundreds of Christian teenagers, describes the same phenomena in our culture as the outworking of a new ethic of intimacy.[17] This ethic includes the following characteristics:

· an invariably positive view of sex;
· belief in sex as a private bodily right;
· a requirement of personal, repeated consent to sex;
· an ongoing search for “compatibility” among partners;
· insistence that sex has no necessary consequences;
· rejection of the double standard on the sexual freedom of men and women;
· an age of “maturity” (usually age 16) as the doorway to sexual activity.[18]

Some elements of sexual intimacy are common to traditional marriage and other “committed relationships”; but in marriage, sexual intimacy is only one goal of a larger design and project. We pity a married couple who stay together simply out of duty or “because of the kids,” but we recognize their deficient relationship as consistent with the ethic of marriage, and may even admire them for sticking it out. By contrast, an unmarried couple who stay together after love has “died” and sex ceased do so against the grain of the ethic of intimacy.

Many married couples today may be living by two sets of rules without realizing it – until a crisis occurs, e.g., sexual dissatisfaction, unwanted pregnancy, or the “personal growth” of one partner. Then suddenly one partner exercises the “right” to sexual intimacy by opting out with the aid of no-fault divorce (see an example on pages 63-64).

The ethic of intimacy, Stafford thinks, is the reigning norm among non-Christians and even very common among Christians. It is found both among mature heterosexuals and homosexuals.[19] One major contention of this book is that the concept of same-sex marriage is so bound up with the ethic of intimacy that it cannot be adapted to the requirements of classical Christian marriage. Legitimizing the ethic of intimacy by approving same-sex marriage will further confuse Christians struggling with the allurements of contemporary culture.

Terms of Endearment

Revisionism begins at the most basic level, by reinterpreting the meaning of words. The recent Episcopal sexuality dialogues use terminology common to the language of traditional marriage and the ethic of sexual intimacy. Therefore the words love, commitment, blessing, and unions, as used in Resolution C042s, may not mean what many ordinary Episcopalians take them to mean.

The Resolution speaks of rites “honoring love and commitment between persons of the same sex.” What kind of love are we considering? C. S. Lewis spoke of “Four Loves”: family affection, erotic desire, friendship, and Christian compassion (agape).[20] To a Christian coming from another culture or another century, the intended meaning of this Resolution might be obscure. “Perhaps,” she might wonder, “they wish the Church to bless friendship in an age where it has lost its meaning. Maybe they want to commend the fidelity of long-term roommates or the vows of monks and nuns.”

To this stranger, we would have to reply: “The Church is not developing rites to honor the love of friends, companions, or soul-mates, which love has traditionally included an assumption of erotic indifference or a vow of sexual abstinence. No, this Resolution is aiming to legitimize a new relationship that may include friendship, affection, and compassion, but which is constituted by erotic love and genital acts between two persons.” [21]

Let’s suppose the Church authorizes a same-sex rite, and members of the Brotherhood of St. Andrew apply to use the rite to seal their commitment to each other in Christ. Is the rite appropriate for this group? Of course not: they may be friends and spiritual companions, but they are not lovers and they are not coupled. What if two old-fashioned bachelors were to inquire of their priest whether they should make use of the rite? The priest would need to ask: “Are you romantically attracted to one another, and are you engaging in genital acts with each other? If you are, this rite is for you; if not, you should live out your love for each other under the general provisions of your baptismal covenant.”

So Resolution C042s is considering the Church’s institutionalizing of a particular kind of love, namely the erotic relationship and activity of homosexual lovers. What will the inclusion of this kind of love mean for the character of marriage? Will it make no difference? The love spoken of in this resolution is, I conclude, more like the “confluent love” characteristic of the ethic of intimacy than the covenant love of the Church’s tradition of marriage.

Commitment, in religious usage, is a relatively recent word emphasizing the subjective, existential side of faith, as in a “personal commitment” to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Commitment is certainly an important part of marriage, as symbolized in the “betrothal,” when bride and groom say “I will.” But to use the word “commitment” to summarize what goes on in marriage is to downplay the givenness of “holy matrimony” as God’s work, not ours. Dietrich Bonhoeffer captures the balance between institution and choice in his “Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell”:

The children of earth are rightly proud of being allowed to take a hand in shaping their own destinies and something of this pride must contribute to the happiness of a bride and bridegroom.... [Now] God adds his “Yes” to yours; but by doing so, he creates out of your love something quite new – the holy estate of matrimony.[22]

Commitment in its true sense is a response to covenant and covenant is always initiated and defined by God, whether it be the baptismal covenant or the marriage covenant. In both baptism and marriage, believers respond to God by committing themselves in a vow to accept the terms and duration of the covenant (cf. Matthew 7:24; John 14:15). Both baptism and marriage call for a commitment to chastity, which means for the unmarried abstinence from sex before marriage, and for the married exclusive fidelity to one’s husband or wife.[23] The true commitment called for in the baptismal and marriage covenants is part of a strenuous though life-giving ethic of “walking in the way of the Cross” (Mark 8:34-38).

The use of “commitment” in the Resolution, however, signals a more subjective and elusive understanding of the baptismal and marriage vow. Philip Turner has noted that “if one reads the literature carefully and asks exactly what the moral requirements of ‘commitment’ are, it is in the end very difficult to say.”[24] According to the ethic of intimacy, commitment is compatible with varying numbers and durations of intimate relationships, and sexual “fidelity” is a qualitative rather than an exclusive characteristic. Later in the book (pages 61-63), I question whether same-sex marriage involves the same commitment to lifelong duration, chastity, and normativity that has constituted traditional Christian marriage.

To speak of “rites honoring the love and commitment” of same-sex couples is an exercise in euphemism. The Episcopal Church has never provided liturgical forms for honoring living people. We may honor our fathers and mothers, but we do not provide a liturgy for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Blessing is the intended word, and in fact “same-sex blessing” is shorthand for same-sex marriage, since the “nuptial blessing” in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the Church’s distinctive, sacramental contribution to marriage.

Blessing in the Bible is always found in the context of the relationship between God and the world or God and his people. Blessing carries with it an implicit moral judgment since God not only blesses but curses. Human beings can also bless or curse, but they do so rightly only when their will corresponds to God’s moral will. We cannot bless what God has not blessed (cf. Numbers 23:8; Malachi 2:2).

The Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:23-27) sets forth a paradigm: God’s blessing is mediated through the High Priest. In the New Testament, God’s blessing is perfectly revealed in the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, and in his Gospel: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3). For this reason, the Prayer Book uses the word “blessing” sparingly and specifically in those contexts in which the mystery of the Gospel is being communicated. Christian marriage participates in God’s blessing especially because it symbolizes the union between Christ and his Church (see Chapter 5).

The Marriage service opens with the declaration that “we have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.” It follows that people and priest may bless a marriage only insofar as it conforms to the God-given institution. In a parallel Occasional Service providing vows for lifelong celibacy, God is blessed for having “called men and women to imitate their Lord” in the single life.[25]

The absence of rites other than these is not accidental. Given the Bible’s uniform condemnation of sex outside marriage, there is no alternative state to heterosexual marriage and abstinent singleness.[26] What is totally absent in the Bible and the Prayer Book tradition is the idea that God’s blessing might be invoked for a non-marital sexual relationship.[27] It follows that since marriage and celibacy are the only two conditions that can receive God’s blessing liturgically, same-sex unions can only be blessed if they are considered a form of marriage.

While the Resolution does not speak of “same-sex unions,” this phrase, like “same-sex blessing,” is commonly used in the current sexuality debate. Is there a difference between same-sex unions and same-sex marriage?

The word “union” derives from the biblical definition of marriage: “the two shall become one flesh.” The Prayer Book defines marriage as “the union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind.” Clearly the language of same-sex unions intends to extend the heterosexual marital union to homosexual couples. While I shall argue that homosexual “unions” fail to fulfill the purposes of marriage, there can be no question that the language of union is marital language, and that erotic and genital relations are a necessary part of the idea.

The Key Question: Is This Marriage, or What?

It has been a universal assumption in human history that marriage has to do with husbands and wives, even where husbands and wives are part of some polygamous arrangement. Christian marriage, according to the Episcopal Prayer Book and canons, is “a lifelong union of husband and wife” that aims at certain goods or purposes. By any definition, the opposite-sex character of marriage has always been assumed.[28]

Marriage is the only sexual partnership recognized by the state.[29] Some private companies, municipalities, and insurance providers recognize heterosexual or homosexual “domestic partners” as qualifying for benefits usually reserved for spouses.[30] Even in cases where homosexual couples have participated in authorized or unauthorized same-sex religious ceremonies, no state to this day has recognized couples married by same-sex rites as legally married.[31]

Straight Talk about Same-Sex MarriageSo when gay-rights advocates talk about homosexual unions and when Resolution C042s refers to “committed relationships,” are we talking about marriage or some non-marital relationship? The answer to this question seems necessarily to be same-sex marriage, for several reasons.

· The terminology of love, blessing, and union clearly fits the biblical category of marriage as a “two-in-one-flesh” union of persons and clearly implies genital acts between two and only two partners.
· Homosexual advocates have never promoted “committed relationships” on any other model, e.g., erotic friendship.
· Proponents of same-sex blessing have not asked to have a commitment ceremony for heterosexuals in non-marital sexual relationships, even though the logic of the ethic of intimacy might lead to such an idea.[32]
· The same-sex rites and ceremonies that have been devised all mirror the marriage service and not some other known rite.
· Most advocates of same-sex unions assume that same-sex couples should possess identical rights and privileges of married couples, including the right to adopt children.
· The debate in the broader culture is carried out in terms of “same-sex marriage.”
· The legal strategy among gay-rights activists is, increasingly, to seek directly the “right to marry,” rather than the halfway house of domestic partnerships.[33]

To test the conclusion that the matter at hand is same-sex marriage, consider the following situation. Suppose the state of Hawaii legalizes same-sex marriage and the Episcopal Church approves rites for committed relationships. A homosexual couple bearing a marriage license from Hawaii approaches a liberationist Episcopal priest and asks the Church’s blessing on their marriage. Imagine the priest saying, “I’m sorry, but you have made a serious category error. Same-sex unions are essentially different relationships from Christian marriage. You should not have gotten married in Hawaii, and I will be unable to recognize you as a married couple in our church. I will perform the religious ‘commitment’ ceremony for you, but I need to make clear that it is totally unrelated to your marriage in Hawaii.” An answer such as this sounds incredible because everyone knows that homosexual couples are seeking marital status.

Same-sex marriage is the innovation envisioned in the Resolution, whether called by name or not. Because marriage is a bedrock institution of Church and society, with a deep foundation in Scripture and an age-old tradition of practice, it would be totally irresponsible for the Church to avoid full discussion of this innovation by the sleight of hand of calling it something else. Therefore this book will speak of same-sex marriage and attempt to understand the proposed rite in terms of the Church’s doctrine of marriage.[34]

Lovers’ Vows or Marriage Rites?
Any rite “honoring love and commitment between persons of the same sex” will require a revision of the Church’s understanding of Holy Matrimony, with the result that same-sex unions will be considered identical or equivalent to marriage. Attempts to circumvent the marriage-like character of same-sex unions highlight the conceptual necessity of equating marriage and same-sex unions.

· Some proponents and opponents of same-sex blessing have likened it to “blessing the hunt,” i.e., an invocation over a private “lifestyle” event. The analogy of blessing the hunt is rightly rejected by homosexuals, as it trivializes the claims of same-sex couples to a divinely sanctioned union of persons.
· Some propose use of “A Form of Commitment to Christian Service” in the Book of Common Prayer (pages 420-421). But this is no solution. The proposal confuses a Spirit-led ministry with a God-ordained institution. Marriage is not essentially a Christian ministry, nor do same-sex unions pretend to such status.
· The “Second National Consultation for Episcopalians on the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions” is proposing to the 1997 General Convention that a separate rite or rites be included in The Book of Occasional Services. This proposal must be seen as a transitional move. The Prayer Book alone provides discrete services for formal, canonical, and binding commitments like marriage and ordination, and it is this kind of recognition that homosexual couples are seeking. So when the Consultation speaks of the proposal as “a logical next step,” it presumably expects the final step to occur in the next edition of the Book of Common Prayer, when the marriage service will be revised “inclusively” or a same-sex rite placed alongside it, with appropriate changes in the marriage canons.[35]

You simply cannot have it both ways: if justice requires same-sex couples to have parity with married couples in the Church’s life, then the only choice is either to expand marriage to include homosexual couples or devise a parallel rite. Both choices amount to the same thing.

Changes in marriage doctrine and discipline cannot ultimately be a matter of local option. Morally, same-sex marriage is either real or unreal, right or wrong.[36] Those who see same-sex marriage as a “justice issue” understand that such a change in the Church’s practice must eventually be binding across the Church, as they are now insisting is the case with women’s ordination. Advocates may employ local option temporarily as the camel’s nose in the marriage tent, but the final step in their program will be same-sex marriage as a universal mandate (see pages 86-89 for the politics that will lead to this end).

The Episcopal Same-Sex Rite
The proponents of same-sex marriage in the Episcopal Church have given us a clear idea of what they intend. The first “national consultation” of Episcopalians for the blessing of same-sex unions met in July 1993. This ad hoc group was small but influential, including four bishops and five seminary faculty. The “consultation” petitioned the 1994 General Convention to prepare same-sex rites for approval in 1997, including immediate trial use.[37] It also prepared “An Illustration of a Rite for the Celebration of Commitment to a Life Together,” including basic theological argumentation in favor of a change in the Church’s marriage liturgy.[38]

The “Illustration” is “a single rite, such as could be adopted in addition to that now in the Book of Common Prayer [i.e., like Rite One and Rite Two forms], for the Church’s celebration and blessing of all couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual.”[39] It follows the form and language of the marriage service. As in the Prayer Book, the service has two parts: engagement promises (“betrothal”) and marriage vows (“espousal”). In the Collect, the officiant prays for the couple that God would “bring them together to the heavenly feast of your heavenly reign...”[40] The preparatory counseling of the couple is similar to premarital practice, including discussion of “children (already present or hoped for).”

The theological argumentation included with the “Illustration” rite justifies the description of same-sex marriage as a “Trojan horse” that will lead to the overthrow of traditional marriage. The authors are quite upfront about the moral imperative driving their movement: “This Gospel compels us to break with existing conventional forms, in order to include people previously excluded by them.”[41]

The proposed rite looks like marriage and sounds like marriage, but is it marriage? Yes and No. At the 1996 “Second National Consultation,” Professor Charles Bennison (elected in late 1996 to become Bishop of Pennsylvania) argued that same-sex blessing requires the Church to rethink its doctrine of marriage.[42] Bennison, like Anthony Giddens, believes that our society is in the midst of a massive paradigm shift in which old perceptions of sex and marriage are being made new. Homosexual marriage, he thinks, will take on an “ecclesial” shape like an extended family and will reform the unjust power structures of the traditional family. So it is marriage we are talking about, but marriage constituted by the liberationist ideas of plastic sexuality, confluent love, and pure relationship.

Some may argue that the “Illustration” represents the most extreme form of same-sex rite and that the Standing Liturgical Commission will moderate many of its more radical features. This may be. The Church might try to compromise between these liberationist proposals and the existing marriage service, maybe in a Rite One/Rite Two fashion. The latter solution would hasten the formation of two churches within the Episcopal Church, each using its own marriage rite as a matter of conscience.[43]


The ambiguity of language about “love and commitment” in Resolution C042s should not mislead any member of the Episcopal Church as to its underlying assumption, that heterosexual marriage and homosexual unions are the same in practice if not in name. I am grateful to proponents of same-sex marriage for spelling out their expectations of this Resolution: they want a paradigm shift in the doctrine of marriage, which will reconceive it in terms of the ethic of intimacy.

Marriage cannot serve two masters. According to its historic definition, marriage cannot accommodate same-sex unions. In following the ethic of intimacy, neither heterosexual nor homosexual relationships will manifest the same kind of love and commitment that characterize traditional marriage – and these relationships cannot be blessed by God because they are contrary to his express will for human sexuality.

The challenge to clarify the meaning of marriage carries with it a potential for renewal. It should lead us back to the fundamental question: what is the Church’s doctrine of marriage? This is the question the Church must decide before it begins devising trial rites.[44] If the definition of marriage should be revised, the General Convention should not hide behind vaguely worded Resolutions but should spell out the full implications of its position.

Some liberationists may think obscurity on sexuality issues is necessary at present because of the “heterosexism” or latent “homophobia” of ordinary Episcopalians who will oppose the new agenda out of prejudice. Behind this judgment lies a caricature of the average pewsitter:

Without necessarily being homophobic, individuals living in such a society [as ours] can still be heterosexist – unless they work intentionally to change the heterosexist structure into ones that are just.[45]

The idea that laypeople must be brought along gradually by consciousness-raising exercises shows how patronizing the opponents of “patriarchy” can be toward those who disagree with them.[46] Opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage among the majority of Episcopalians, not to mention the American people as a whole, is not due to some irrational phobia or delight in excluding people. It represents an instinctive and reasonable conviction that marriage is naturally, legally, and sacramentally ordained by God to be the union of a man and a woman, and that this is the plain teaching of the Bible.[47] I hope to ground that conviction in the following chapters.


[1] Latin American liberation theology critiques economic structures and proposes collectivist utopias (e.g., base communities) as an alternative, while North American liberation theology focuses on the oppressive character of social structures like traditional marriage and proposes “pure relationships” as an alternative.
[2] For a standard definition, see “Sex and Sexuality” in Encyclopaedia Britannica, Macropaedia (15th ed., 1986) 27.245: “As a rule, male and female complement each other at all levels of organization: as sex cells; as individuals with either testes or ovaries; and as individuals with anatomical, physiological, and behavioral differences associated with the complemental roles they play during the whole reproductive process.”
[3] The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992).
[4] Cf. André Béjin, “The Influence of the Sexologists and Sexual Democracy,” Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times (New York: Blackwell, 1985) 208-210, who disdains the modern project to “scrap certain differences between not only the sexes but equally between ages, classes, nations, races, and to lump the entire human race into a mass of ‘sexual partners.’”
[5] Transformation of Intimacy, 27.
[6] Transformation of Intimacy, 28.
[7] See Margaret A. Farley, “Sexual Ethics,” in Encyclopedia of Bioethics, ed. Warren T. Reich (New York: Free Press, 1978) 1586.
[8] Giddens, Transformation of Intimacy, 37-47, sees “romantic” love and bourgeois marriage as a transitional phase between traditional reproductive sexuality and the pure relationship.
[9] Transformation of Intimacy, 62.
[10] Transformation of Intimacy, 138.
[11] Transformation of Intimacy, 192: “A rolling contract does not deal in ethical absolutes” [page 194].
[12] Transformation of Intimacy, 137.
[13] Transformation of Intimacy, 143.
[14] Transformation of Intimacy, 154-155.
[15] Transformation of Intimacy, 196.
[16] For a recent crie de coeur, see Katie Roiphe, Last Night in Paradise (New York: Little, Brown, 1997). Like so many daughters of the sexual revolution, Ms. Roiphe is fatalistic about finding any way out of the labyrinth of easy sex and superficial love.
[17] Tim Stafford, The Sexual Christian (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1989) 15-19.
[18] The 1995 movie Clueless, a Generation X remake of Jane Austen’s Emma, reflects this ethic perfectly. By good intentions and good luck, the heroine, who is fifteen, preserves her virginity, though it is clear that she will not make it intact to her wedding day.
[19] Stafford, Sexual Christian, 14-16, notes one other contemporary option, the “Playboy philosophy” of promiscuous sex. Often young heterosexual and homosexual men (and women) pass through this phase in practice if not in theory.
[20] The Four Loves (London: Fontana, 1960).
[21] By “genital acts,” I include various homosexual acts. The term “sexual intercourse” properly applies only to vaginal penetration and ejaculation. In moral casuistry, only vaginal intercourse constitutes “consummation” of a marriage. According to the ethic of intimacy, mutual orgasm, attainable by homosexual as well as heterosexual acts, is the goal of sexual activity.
[22] Letters and Papers from Prison (New York: Macmillan, 1971) 42.
[23] Alternatively, some define “chastity” as abstinence outside marriage, and “fidelity” as exclusive sex within marriage. Either definition expresses the same principle.
[24] Philip Turner, “Limited Engagements,” in idem, ed., Men and Women: Sexual Ethics in Turbulent Times (Cambridge, Mass.: Cowley, 1989) 74.
[25] Book of Occasional Services (2nd ed.; New York: Church Hymnal Corporation, 1988) 257.
[26] Single individuals not called to celibacy may serve God faithfully by abstinence as part of their baptismal promises, but their marital status is circumstantial, not vocational. Thus it would be inappropriate to have a “bundling” rite for “transitional singles.”
[27] John Boswell, in Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe (New York: Villard Books, 1994), sought to identify patristic and medieval “brother-making” rituals as an official recognition of same-sex unions. This thesis and Boswell’s use of sources has been widely criticized, e.g., by Robert Wilken in Commonweal (Sept. 9, 1994) 24-26. One criticism of Boswell is his tendency to read homoerotic content into traditional words like “love,” “brother,” and “friend.” See Brent D. Shaw, “A Groom of One’s Own?” The New Republic (July 18, 1994) 33-41, with further exchange on Oct. 3, 1994.
[28] Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary includes a secondary definition of marriage as “an intimate and close union .” But even in this sense, the intimate union of painting and poetry is based on the idea of difference in unity.
[29] Only a few states still recognize “common law marriage.” Common law marriage was important in the past to establish the legitimacy of children born to couples who put themselves forward publicly as married without benefit of civil or religious ceremony. For the ontological status of such a marriage, see page 46.
[30] On the overall issue, see William N. Eskridge, The Case for Same-Sex Marriage: From Sexual Liberty to Civilized Commitment (New York: Free Press, 1996) 58-59. The federal government, because it does not recognize domestic partnerships as marriage, refuses to grant the employer subsidy for fringe benefits to domestic partners.
[31] This may be about to change in Hawaii (see pages 67-68). The recent Georgia Supreme Court case, Shahar v. Bowers (1995), involved a lesbian attorney who sued when she was dropped from a law firm search because she revealed her intention to “marry” another woman in a Jewish wedding service. The plaintiff won on the grounds that her First Amendment free exercise of religion right had been violated. She did not, however, claim to be legally married.
[32] Bishop Spong wants to be inclusive in this way, lumping together premarital, post-marital, and homosexual partnerships. See John Shelby Spong, Living in Sin: A Bishop Rethinks Sexuality (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1988) 177-218.
[33] Eskridge, Case for Same-Sex Marriage, 77-80, makes clear that any push for legal recognition of domestic partnerships is a “one-step-at-a-time” tactic toward full marriage status.
[34] In comparing heterosexual and homosexual marriage, I do so only hypothetically, because I am convinced that homosexual marriage cannot actually exist.
[35] A revised Canon I, Sections 18-19 could specify that “marriage and same-sex unions are to be considered of equal status before God, in the polity of this Church, and in the laws of the state; and the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of married couples and same-sex partners are to be equally respected and shall not be abridged.”
[36] The suggestion made in the recent Righter Court opinion that homosexual unions might be moral in the city and immoral in the country is an example of relativism at its most ridiculous. See In the Court for the Trial of a Bishop (May 15, 1996) [= “Righter Opinion”] 17.
[37] The radical Resolution C042 (Journal of the 71st General Convention [1994] 258-259) was approved by the Committee on Prayer Book and Liturgy minus the “immediate use” provision.
[38] The first edition of the “Illustration” rite (August 1994) was slightly edited on June 1, 1995. The “consultation” is working on a further edition to be published in early 1997. I shall refer to the latest edition available (1995).
[39] “Illustration,” 5.
[40] “Illustration,” 9. The 1994 version reads “wedding feast.”
[41] “Illustration,” 5.
[42] “Rethinking Marriage – Again: Liturgical and Pastoral Considerations regarding the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions” [unpublished paper].
[43] This division has already happened in the area of “inclusive language” for God. Some churches and clergy scrupulously edit liturgical texts to expunge masculine language for God; others refuse on principle to use or participate in inclusive language services.
[44] I have commended the “national consultation” in one respect: their honesty in identifying the Resolution with same-sex marriage. At the same time, I condemn their lawlessness in defending the recent use of local same-sex rites in defiance of the General Convention. I also dispute their claim (“Illustration,” 22) that “it is our Anglican tradition to approach such questions by working together on the creation, not of confessional or doctrinal statements, but of liturgical rites.” The present proliferation of local same-sex liturgies does not conform to the Anglican tradition but rather to the liberationist politics of co-opting deliberation by preemptive action, followed by a call for “dialogue.”
[45] Cf. “Illustration,” 22. C. S. Lewis called this way of dismissing opponents “Bulverism.” See his essay, “‘Bulverism’: Or, the Foundation of 20th Century Thought,” God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970) 271-277.
[46] Witness, for instance, Charles Bennison, “Rethinking Marriage,” 9-10, on ordinary Episcopalians on the “cultural right”:
[They] tend to hold to traditional orthodoxy as long as they remain in rural areas, but when they move to the city that turns to fundamentalism. Cultural right people hold dear a “folk” theology, are highly biblical, and are more gather-oriented than goal-oriented. They tend to be liberal on politico-economic issues, and conservative on such socio-moral issues as abortion, school prayer, and, yes, gay and lesbian marriage. What counts to them is family, home, neighborhood, community, faith, and flag. The recipients of inadequate education and training for a rapidly-changing global economy, they are falling down the socio-economic ladder. Even if they had time to do so, they are not about to dismantle the hierarchy of moral values in which they still can rise and be envied.
[47] Instincts and taboos have a legitimate place in moral thought as a first stage of knowledge (Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, i.4). It is a particular prejudice of the Enlightenment to replace “common sense” prejudices with the ideology of cultural elites. While instincts and taboos function by means of collective prejudice and sometimes have led to witch-hunts and pogroms, ideology in the twentieth century, by its pseudo-scientific use of reason and technology, has proved itself an even more dangerous instrument of persecution. Cf. Roger Scruton, “Sexual Morality and the Liberal Consensus,” in The Philosopher on Dover Beach (London: St. Martin’s Press, 1990) 261-272.

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