Friday, March 7, 1997

TWO SEXES, ONE FLESH: Conclusion

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

CONCLUSION: The Unchangeable Glory of Marriage
Dearly beloved: 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. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
All over the world, men and women have entered and will enter into Holy Matrimony with words like these ringing in their ears. Millions of them will be Anglicans. But will these words of the classic Anglican Prayer Book, and more importantly the fundamental biblical principles they express, still be spoken in the Episcopal Church U.S.A.? I hope so, but I am not sure.

Those who would cavalierly revise the doctrine of marriage are reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty when he said, “There’s glory for you.”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”
“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

I side with Alice. Clever proposals and arguments that seek to change the “glory,” – that is, the essential character (1 Corinthians 15:41-42) – of Christian marriage may or may not pass Church conventions. What they cannot do, by a mere act of human will, is make marriage into something else, and the folly of any attempt will eventually be revealed.

Of marriage it may be said that there is nothing new under the sun. Many revisionist leaders have been enamored of the Collect used at ordinations that seems to them, I suppose, to identify newness with the will of God:

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
No doubt revisionists see the current proposals for same-sex rites as the old thing made new in the Church. I read the signs of the times quite differently. I believe that God is refining his Church and the institution of marriage by means of this present crisis. This refining must involve our repentance, which includes thinking more deeply about the true meaning of marriage. As a result of this repentance, God may teach us how to be better disciples and to value elements of Holy Matrimony that we have taken for granted or neglected. By rediscovering the riches of our heritage, we may even be able to speak, humbly and wisely, to our fellow citizens who are suffering from the breakdown of this divine institution.

Whatever the mysteries of God’s providence, one thing is certain: for this present age marriage is based on his plan for two sexes to become one flesh. The glory of two sexes, one flesh will not pass away until that day when the Father summons his blessed Church to the marriage supper of the Lamb.

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