A Texan conservative Anglican -- yes, a square peg -- ponders both churchly and worldly things and enjoys his new church.
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Canon Arthur Middleton’s Address to ICCA
Last week I mentioned
Canon Arthur Middleton’s address to the International Catholic Congress of
Anglicans.The Canon was unable to
attend so Bishop Keith Ackerman read it to the Congress.It clearly had quite an impression on
Bishop Ackerman and on the Congress.Virtue Online has the whole text.Do go read it all.Kevin
Kallsen has the video.The bullet
points and conclusion follow:
Let the resolution of the Congress be in the
restoration of the Anglican Mind
• To pursue the Anglican
Way by upholding Canon A5 which states that the doctrine of the Anglican
Communion is grounded in the Holy Scripture a divine inheritance and conveying
life through its Sacraments--this as against the innovations of the liberals
reflected in the pervasive humanism and apostasy in the Church and sometimes
supported by politicians and the judges who use Equality Law to discriminate
against orthodox Christians and persecute them.
• To assert the
authoritative doctrinal character of our Anglican formularies as against the
liberalism so often evident in the deliberations of the Synods.
• To recall Anglicans to
the revival of neglected truth and 'principles of action which had been in the
minds of our predecessors of the seventeenth century.' As the Oxford Fathers urged
'Stir up the gift of God that is in you.'
• To uphold and elucidate
the doctrines of the Catholic Faith as Anglicans have received them and to work
for the expression of such doctrine by the avoidance of the dumbing down effect
of the language of 'political-correctness' in liturgy and biblical
• To resist today's new
insidious Erastianism, the interference of the Government in the affairs of the
Church, whereby a government can dictate to the Church what its doctrine and
morality should be as a result of various types of discriminatory law.
• To work for the unity
in truth and holiness of all Christians and as Anglicans to bring our own
characteristic contribution as our fathers have taught us, according to the
Apostolic Doctrine and Polity of our Church.
• To bring recognition to
the reality that the way of salvation is the partaking of the Body and Blood of
our sacrificed Redeemer by means of the holy Sacrament of the Eucharist and.
that the security for the due application of this is the Apostolic Commission.
We cannot and do not accept therefore the innovation of women priests and women
bishops since sacraments are from God and we cannot tamper with them. The
sacraments must never be humanly manipulated on the basis of the politico-sociological
arguments of the times and so-called 'human rights'.
• To be on our watch for
all opportunities of inculcating a due sense of this inestimable privilege; to
provide and circulate information, to familiarize the imaginations of people
with the idea; to attempt to revive among Churchmen the practice of daily
common prayer and the more frequent participation in the Eucharist.
In the spirit of John
Henry Newman, the aim is not the seeking of our own well-being, or originality,
or some new invention for the Church. Let our prayer be that God will give us
sound judgement, patient thought, discrimination, a comprehensive mind, and
abstinence from all private fancies and caprices and personal tastes. Let us
seek only the standards of saintliness and service as the measure of our
Let the secret for us lie
in those words of Our Lord's High Priestly prayer, ' For their sakes I
consecrate myself,' so uniting his humanity with God in the way of holiness
that he may capture the reality of that life within the Blessed Trinity and be
inspirated by the divine life he lives with Christ in the Holy Spirit. For it
is only as we make our home in Him, as he made his home in the Father that we
will be able to do anything.
There is the ultimate
secret of power; the one sure way of doing good in our generation. We cannot
anticipate or analyse the power of a pure and holy life; but there can be no
doubt about its reality, and there seems no limit to its range. We can only
know in part the laws and forces of the spiritual world; and it may be that
every soul that is purified and given up to God and to His work releases or
awakens energies of which we have no suspicion - energies viewless as the wind;
but we can be sure of the result, and we may have glimpses sometimes of the
Surely, there is no power
in the world so unerring or so irrepressible as the power of personal holiness.
All else at times goes wrong, blunders, loses proportion, falls disastrously
short of its aim, grows stiff or one-sided, or out of date - 'whether there be
prophesies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, it shall vanish away'; but nothing mars or misleads the
influence that issues from a pure and humble and unselfish character.
A man's gifts may lack
opportunity, his efforts may be misunderstood and resisted; but the spiritual
power of a consecrated will need no opportunity, and can enter where the doors
are shut. By no fault of a man's own, his gifts may suggest to some the thoughts
of criticism, comparison, competition; his self-consecration can do no harm in
this way. Of gifts, some are best for long distances, some for objects close at
hand or in direct contact; but personal holiness, determining, refining,
characterising everything that a man says or does, will tell alike on those he
may not know even by name, and on those who see him in the constant intimacy of
I have not said much
about the enormities of Our Dear Leader of late. But that is not for any lack
of said enormities.Lately, it is
feeling like 2009 all over again with Obama throwing outrageous initiative
after outrageous initiative out there to the point that it is hard to keep up
with it all . . . except this time, with Obama never having to face another
election, the initiatives are even more outrageous.
For example, amidst the
Iran deal, Obama infuriating a federal judge on immigration, his shameless
blaming of the IRS targeting scandal on Congress, etc., the Obama Regime is
creating a huge race-oriented database with the intent of forcing “neighborhood
diversity” - which translates to changing your neighborhood and lowering your property
value with government-mandated low-income housing.
Obama has always had an
obsession with race and with raw government power, and now that neither
elections nor spineless Republicans can or will hold him accountable, he is aiming
those obsessions even at neighborhoods.
Trust me that I could
rant further on this.But now my
more alert and hard-to-please readers may say, “Thanks, Mark.But this is not exactly new news.This post is hardly value-added.And, to be frank, there are better
places to go for politics.”And
they have a point, which leads me to the following.
During the break-out
session on media during last week’s International Catholic Congress of
Anglicans, David Virtue advised that it is best to do few things well in
blogging.Otherwise, you spread
yourself too thin and lose the interest and patience of your readers.
I thought about
that.There are some blogs that
can do a lot of things well, such as Ace of Spades.But most cannot, and I admit I probably have lost readers
over being unfocused.Not to
mention that keeping up with the enormities of Obama and friends really is a
Again, part of the reason
for my increasing the scope of this blog since 2008 was to warn of what I
(correctly for the most part) saw coming in the Obama Administration.I felt a responsibility to do my part
to warn, and I do not apologize for that.
But now I am considering
making this blog more focused.My
philosophy has been “It’s my blog, and I’ll rant if I want to” (with apologies
to Lesley Gore), and I still will retain the Right to Rant.But nonetheless more focus may be in
What may become the foci
of this blog you ask?Anglican
matters, of course. Liturgy as
always.I may do more on church
history.I expect I may reduce my
political posts while still focusing on Freedom of Religion.
But I am mainly just
thinking about all this now.We
shall see how God and events lead.Stay tuned.
Anglican Congress: Ray Sutton’s Closing Sermon and Divisions
Kevin Kallsen has posted
more videos from the International Catholic Congress of Anglicans last week.
Bishop Ray Sutton’s
sermon during the closing Solemn Mass stands out.
His call to focus on and
preach the cross as a remedy for divisions among catholic Anglicans was
timely.He also noted that those
who separate themselves from other catholic Christians usually fail in their
quest for church purity, and then die out, even if they do have exemplary
influence for a time.He cited the
Puritans (particularly the Separatists who fled to America) and the Non-Jurors
as examples. Another bad fruit of
separatism is the tendency to “unchurch” others.
His warning about
separatism was a needful counter-point (although I do not know if that is what
Bp. Sutton intended) to an earlier sermon at the Congress from Mark Haverland,
Archbishop of the Anglican Catholic Church. I have been very hesitant to mention it. Another attendee remarked to me that the
less attention given to it the better, and I can hardly disagree.But I think it fair to say it
emphasized differences among us a bit much and not in a particularly winsome
and inviting way.
I am glad to say Bishop
Sutton’s sermon was far more representative of this Congress.But both Haverland and he agree and are
correct on one thing – dealing with the divisions among catholic Anglicans will
require work and focus.
Three hundred and fifty
clergy and laity from around the world met at the Hilton in Fort Worth, Texas,
on July 13-17, 2015, to attend the first International Catholic Congress for
Anglicans (ICCA), entitled One Church, One Faith, One Lord.
Primarily sponsored by
Forward in Faith North America, and based on the Anglo-Catholic Congresses of
the first half of the 20th Century, the Fort Worth event aimed to recall
traditional Anglicans to a renewed sense of the catholic nature of the Church
and her mission.
“We look back to the
previous Catholic Congresses not with nostalgia, but with a resolve to live out
the implications of their prayers, with gratitude for their vision,” stated
Forward in Faith North America’s President, Bishop Keith Ackerman.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali,
former Bishop of Rochester, and Congress Co-Patron with Ackerman, expressed
hope that the Congress would give Catholic Anglicans a greater voice in
orthodox Anglican gatherings, and send out a positive message about the Church:
“This Congress is a
splendid opportunity not only for their (Catholic Anglicans) voice to be heard
but for a message to be sent out about the nature and calling of the of
Christ’s Church and of the Anglican place in it.”
The international scope
of the Congress was reflected in its speakers, who included Bishop Keith
Ackerman, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, Archbishop Valentino Mokiwa, of
Tanzania, Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo, of Myanmar, Bishop John Hind,
retired Bishop of Chichester, and Bishop Ray Sutton, of the Reformed Episcopal
Church’s Diocese of Mid-America.
Keynote addresses were
given on a wide range of subjects, such as, “Frank Weston and the Foundations
for Revival,” the “Theology of the Real Presence,” “The Nature of the Church:
Apostolic, Conciliar and Concrete,” and, “The Necessity of Unity in Truth for
the Church’s Mission.”
Breakout sessions focused
on marriage, pro-life ministry, the challenge of Islam, catholic devotional
societies, theological education, icons, SOMA missionary work, church planting,
Daily worship, consisting
of Morning Prayer, Choral Evensong and the Mass, took place at St. Andrew’s, in
downtown Fort Worth. Preachers included, Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican
Church in North America (ACNA), retired ACNA Archbishop, Robert Duncan,
Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church, the Bishop of
Northern Malawi, Fanuel Magangani, Bishop Paul Hewett of the Diocese of the
Holy Cross, and Bishop Chad Jones of the Anglican Province of America.
While the mood of the
Congress was upbeat and positive, participants were aware of the challenges
they faced in recalling Anglicanism to catholic Faith and Order. In the words
of Fr. Stephen Keeble, of St. George’s, Headstone, U.K.:
“We’re gathered at a time
of crisis and because of a crisis. We stand for the Faith and Order of the
undivided Church, yet we have a proliferation of jurisdictions. The overriding
purpose, the imperative of our meeting, is to address our ecclesial deficit.”
Keeble continued, “In
doing so, and when we’re done, would to God that Betjeman’s words might be
extended to this Anglo-Catholic Congress: ‘Those were the waking days, when
Faith was taught and fanned to a golden age.”
This sentiment was echoed
by Congress organizers, who hope that a broad coalition of orthodox,
catholic-minded Anglicans will emerge from the event.
“What we’ve seen at this
Congress are bishops, priests and people from multiple jurisdictions beginning
to work together towards a common, catholic vision of the church,” said Bishop
Keith Ackerman, “My prayer is that Forward in Faith North America will be part
of an emerging orthodox coalition that reclaims our catholicity as part of
God’s Holy Church.”
Forward in Faith North
America, and its partners from the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans
are committed to this vision of a renewed Anglican Church that is authentically
One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.
Bishop Keith Ackerman
announced his retirement as President of Forward in Faith North America at the
Congress on Wednesday, July 15. He is succeeded by Fr. Larry Bausch, Rector of
Holy Trinity, Ocean Beach (ACNA). Ackerman will continue serving Forward in
Faith North America, with the title Ambassador for Foreign and Ecumenical
STATEMENT OF THE
INTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC CONGRESS OF ANGLICANS
Dear Brothers and Sisters
of the Anglican Family, the Global South, the Global Anglican Future Conference
(GAFCON) movement, and all the faithful seeking a conciliar Church:
Catholic Congress of Anglicans, held July 13-17, 2015, at St. Andrew’s parish
of the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, of the Anglican Church in North America,
gathered to reaffirm a catholic and conciliar doctrine of the Church. The Great
Commission of our Lord directs the Church to make faithful disciples, calling
them out of the nations of the world to be holy to the Lord. This statement
seeks to sketch out the way forward in fulfilling our Lord’s call to make
faithful disciples in the context of a properly conciliar church.
SALVATION, CRISIS, AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
The Greek word for
church, ekklesia, identifies these disciples corporately as “the called
One.” The Gospel of our Lord therefore identifies this one holy people, the
Church, as integral to salvation for all, so that the Church Fathers and the
Reformers of the 16th century, echo the great African Bishop, Saint Cyprian,
who said: “outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation,” and, “no
one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as mother.” God calls
out a people, rescuing them from sin and death, assuring them that they will
participate in Christ’s reign, the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is impossible to
know the Lord, who calls out of darkness and into His marvelous light, without
being joined to His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. Through
preaching, the sacraments, catechesis, and spiritual formation, worshiping in
Spirit and in truth, the Church is able to make disciples by being faithful to
the Apostles’ teaching, the breaking of bread, the prayers, and the fellowship.
the body has no life apart from the head, so the Church has no life apart from
Christ, whose Spirit is the Lord and Giver of life. However, churches and the
culture in the West are in crisis. Secularism pervades both. In many places,
Islam seeks to replace the Church and radical Islam persecutes her. Unprincipled
egalitarianism eviscerates language, liturgy, life, faith, and orders of a
divided Christendom. A culture of death is evident in abortion and euthanasia,
and a tragic and unnecessary sexual confusion shapes the paradigms of young and
old. What does the Church say? Where does she stand, and with whom? A deficient
and aberrant ecclesiology is not simply a result of the present crisis in
Church and culture, but is rather a primary cause for the current crisis, and
deserves the attention of all catholic Christians.
A HOLY SYNOD AND A CONCILIAR CHURCH
For the Church (the
ekklesia) to act, she must know who she is: what is she called out to be?
The Church is called into synodality—to come together, to worship, to live in
communion with the Holy Trinity, and to mirror the life of the Holy Trinity.
This implies the conciliarity of the whole people of God, responsive to the
Blessed Trinity, and participating in God’s “heavenly synod” as the Church
Catholic gathered around God’s authoritative Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic
Tradition. In this, she is to be the Church on earth as she is in heaven.
Perhaps the clearest example of this is the First Ecumenical Council (A.D.
325). The Bishops encircle the emperor’s throne with the copy of God’s Holy
Word on it, seeking the mind of Christ, searching the Scriptures daily by the
power of the Holy Spirit. This perfectly expresses both the authority of the
Word of God written and the authority of the Church.
As the “called out ones,”
the Church consists of parts and individuals, made into a whole. This is the
meaning of the Greek word “catholic” (kata holon “according to the
whole”). It speaks of wholeness and integrity. The people of God are to live,
be, and function as the whole Church Catholic of all ages in true worship,
living out the Gospel in apostolic doctrine and communion.
Continuity with the whole
Church of heaven and earth for all ages (by the expression of the Incarnation
of Jesus Christ in worship, witness, belief, and behavior) marks and identifies
this conciliar life in synodality. For Anglicans, this continuity is expressed
in the common confession of the Catholic Creeds and Ecumenical Councils at
which they were formed and clarified.
St. Vincent of Lérins describes this in the true,
Christ-centered, biblical, confessing, and conciliar sense when he says that
the Church upholds “what has been believed by all, everywhere, and at all
times.” This is the essence of kata holon, “according to the whole.”
When the Church is healthy she is able to come together in the Great Tradition
of Eucharistic-centered worship around God’s heavenly throne that touches
earth. As the Church is at holy rest in God’s presence in worship, it becomes a
holy people following the unchangeable teachings of Scripture as understood by
the Church of all ages and as bearing on the urgent issues facing the world
today. Worship as communion with the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
of all ages then erupts into the world with one voice, bearing witness to the
Good News of Jesus Christ’s glorious Gospel.
However, when the Church
drifts from historic faith, order, and morals, the opposite is true. Indeed, is
this not what has happened in the Anglican Communion? There is an inability
even to gather the historic Lambeth Conference due to this brokenness.
Sinfulness has impeded the ability to convene in Holy Synod. The time has come
for faithful Anglicans to reclaim the apostolic and Scriptural catholicity,
conciliarity, and will, and to come together as a globally obedient witness in
Holy Synod, where bishops, clergy, religious and laity can meet together to
consult and decide important matters, with each exercising the role proper to
In a Conciliar Church,
bishops hold a place of primacy as servants of the servants of God in succession
from the Apostles, who were consecrated by Christ Himself to lead the Church
into the Truth of the Holy Scriptures by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Where
the bishop is, there is the Church,” and “wherever the bishop shall appear,
there let the multitude also be” (Saint Ignatius). At the Council of Jerusalem
(Acts 15) the Apostles, in consultation with the presbyters and through prayer
in the power of the Holy Spirit, resolve a great doctrinal and practical
problem through synodal action. The whole Church, clergy and laity, decide how
the decision is to be communicated to churches and Christians around the world.
Thus bishops, clergy, and laity all participate in the Church’s synodality,
which is effected through the gifts and work of all.
however, does not allow the Church “to ordain any thing that is contrary to
God’s Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it
be repugnant to another” (Articles of Religion, XX). The ancient Church Fathers
and Councils considered apostolic and biblical order, faith, and morals by
definition to be unchangeable. Thus, when the people of God gather in synod,
they do so in order to receive, discern and follow “the Faith once for all
delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), in communion with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such Councils find the mind of Christ that has been and always will be. The
realized goal of conciliarity is that the Church speak in true, orthodox unity
to the world with the mind of Christ. As Jesus prayed just before entering the
Garden of Gethsemane, this oneness that He has with the Father, and seeks to
have with His Church, brings true belief, obedience, mission, and spiritual
awakening to the world (John 17).
A CATHOLIC CONGRESS FOR AN ANGLICAN
Thus, the International
Catholic Congress of Anglicans met to address and to model a global, realigned,
and fully orthodox doctrine of the Church. This Congress is committed to walk
in conciliarity with all Christians who embrace the Catholic Faith—and who
allow the Faith to embrace them. A conciliar model of the Church is essential
to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. The ancient sees of Rome,
Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, and the faithful in
communion with them, along with Anglicans, Lutherans, and various expressions
of Protestantism, each have God-given charisms to be given and received by
all—uniting them in ultimate synodality for the discipleship of all the nations
of the world to Jesus.
Only an Apostolic and
conciliar Church can properly allow for such giving and receiving of gifts for
the people of God and for the salvation of the world. Indeed, no one part of
the Church can stand firm against the world, the flesh and the devil without
the other parts. Because of her core ecclesial difficulties, the Church
has insufficiently addressed other causes of further demise both within culture
and the Church. There are assaults from without such as virile secularism,
militant Islamic persecution, sexual confusion, and the redefinition of
matrimony from God’s created order upheld by Christ as a lifelong sacramental
union between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6; Mark
10:6-9). From within there are departures from a Biblical, Catholic faith and
order, heresy, liturgical chaos, and failure to call for repentance from sin.
These subsidiary crises,
allowed to proliferate through ecclesial lapses, have further fragmented
Anglicans globally. Some of the faithful have hoped for the best in the church
homes of their youth, others have formed the “Continuing Churches,” or have
maintained the Faith in particular jurisdictions. Primates, bishops, clergy,
and laity in each of these have struggled valiantly to maintain the historic
Church, but the fragmentation continued, and distance between the faithful
God has, however, been
moving among Anglicans in an extraordinary way; recent years have seen
significant realignment emanating, for example, from GAFCON and the Global
South. Yet only with a healthy conciliar ecclesiology will there be movement
toward one another in true unity. This Congress recognizes that a proper
doctrine of the Church is critical, requiring the attention of all faithful
Now therefore, to fulfill
the Great Commission—and to realize further ecumenical relationships within the
one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church—true unity must surpass mere
federations and coalitions. This International Congress invites all Anglicans
throughout the world (a) to a reexamination of the doctrine of the Church and
(b) to a further consideration of areas of continuing ecclesial contention, for
instance, the ordination of women, deemed by some to be a first order issue.
This is necessary so that there may be a revival of Catholic Faith and Order,
and a return to a biblical, credal, and conciliar fidelity. Only through honest
discussion, ongoing prayer, and ultimate agreement will faithful Anglicans
discern fully what God is doing in the great realignment taking place globally.
This International Congress prays also that in God’s good providence there will
be a truly Ecumenical Council of the whole Church to address contentious issues
facing Christians and churches and to strengthen the faith of the Church.
I am now resting after
the International Catholic Congress of Anglicans.All those Solemn services and dodging the vergers wore me out!
In all seriousness, the
Congress ended well this morning.First was said Morning Prayer with Bishop Nazir-Ali completing his
excellent teaching from Colossians.His comments on the relationship between the church and culture were
particularly timely.If they
become readily available, I will be sure to post them.
Then a very good
statement from the Congress was approved by enthusiastic acclamation.I expect to be able to post it soon.
The Congress ended with
an excellent Solemn Mass.Bishop
Keith Ackerman celebrated.Bishop
Ray Sutton preached.That either
had the energy to do much of anything was amazing given how hard both worked
this week.Yet they finished very
More on the Congress in
Traffic to this blog has
increased this week.I have no
idea why. ;)So this may be a good
time to remind charitable readers that I have no tip jar.But I do have a novel out, Pilot Point, that has both a strong
Texan and a strong Anglican flavor.If you would like to show your appreciation by buying a copy or two, I
would appreciate that in turn.
What This International Catholic Congress of Anglicans is About
No, ICCA really is not
about vestments.Nor have there
been secret thurifer workshops that I am aware of, although I have seen some
impressive 360s during processions so maybe they are practicing on the sly.So what is this Congress about?
I do not presume to
summarize the purpose and direction of this International Catholic Congress of
Anglicans myself, at least not yet.But there have been two addresses that do summarize the direction of this
conference well, both helpfully posted on YouTube by Kevin Kallsen.
Yesterday was Edith
Humphrey’s address on conciliarity.“Conciliar” has been much said at this conference.In fact the official theme is “Restoring
the Conciliar Church and Her Mission.” But, to be honest, I’ve had trouble getting my arms around
the concept.In fact, a student
asked me what "conciliar" means, and I doubt my answer was either cogent or very helpful.
Then came Humphrey’s
address, which sets forth a conciliar view of the church very clearly and
This morning was an
address by Bishop Keith Ackerman, most of which was reading a paper by Canon Arthur
Middleton.Bishop Ackerman said he
had an address at the ready, but put it aside to let Middleton in effect speak
to us.It was a very good summary
of where Anglicanism is today and some of the problems with that.
And, particularly in the
bullet points towards the end of the address, I think we have heard a sneak
preview of the statement to be issued towards the end of this Congress.If so, it will be a good one indeed.
Should I come across the
text online, I shall post it.
By the way, Bishop
Ackerman after reading my initial post at the conference found me out and
hunted me down . . . and has exhibited an excellent and gracious sense of humor
as I expected he would.
Stephen Noll at ICCA: Holy Matrimony After Obergefell
A highlight so
far of this International Catholic Congress of Anglicans (And let no one
misinterpret my affectionate humor this week – this is an excellent and
edifying conference.) has been Stephen Noll’s excellent talk on marriage after
the Obergefell decision and how we Anglicans, along with other Christians,
should proceed now.
His talk covered so much
ground, yet in a succinct manner, that I dare not try to excerpt it.Instead, with the gracious permission
of VirtueOnline, I repost it in full.
Holy Matrimony: After
A Presentation to the
"One Church, One Faith, One Lord" International Catholic Congress of
Anglicans in Ft. Worth, Texas
July 13-17, 2015
By The Rev. Prof. Stephen
Trinity School for Ministry
Chairman, Task Force on
Marriage, Family, and the Single Life, Anglican Church in North America
One gratuitous cut in the
recent actions by The Episcopal Church was the deletion of the title
"Solemnization of Holy Matrimony" from the revised canon on marriage
and its replacement with "Celebration and Blessing of Marriage." Such
a cut is fitting, I suppose, since what the new Episcopal rites are celebrating
is neither holy nor is it matrimony. One cannot solemnize that which is
repugnant to the explicit teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ and the conciliar
wisdom of His Church through the centuries.
Jesus and Holy Matrimony
Holy Matrimony is the
unique teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pharisees came up to him
and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any
cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from
the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave
his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become
one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has
joined together, let not man separate." They said to him, "Why then
did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?"
He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to
divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (Matt 19:3-8)
The Pharisees' question
was a legitimate one, even if offered in bad faith. The Law of Moses
constituted a political covenant, in which sinful men and women sought recourse
from unhappy and harmful marriages. All societies in history, even Christian
ones, have made some provision for divorce and subsequent remarriage.
But Jesus' reply goes
behind the Law: "from the beginning it was not so." He then goes back
to the foundational texts in Genesis: "God created man male and
female" (Gen 1:27) and "the two become one flesh (Gen 2:24)."
Let's look at these two texts in reverse order.
The author of Genesis
(let's call him Moses) concludes the tale of "Adam in Search of a
Wife" thus: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother
and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). This
sentence is normative for the institution of marriage, let's call it matrimony.
Matrimony is political in that when a man and woman wed, they form a new
family, a new building block of society. Matrimony is generational, in that
this new family derives from its forebears and generates heirs. It becomes a
link in the "begats" of human history. Matrimony is sexual and
procreative: it is the "cleaving" of the opposite sex partners
that results in a new creature, a son or daughter. It is in this way that the
woman "helps" the man's "loneliness" by becoming the mother
of all living. Hence it is fitting that "matrimony" honors the
mother. On the other hand, sexual activity without the possibility of
procreativity -- and this is clearly the case with homosexuality -- is an
Up to this point, I
suspect the Pharisees agreed with Jesus, but Jesus doesn't stop there. He takes
them one step back to the real beginning in Genesis 1:
So God created man in his
own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,
and God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and
fill the earth and subdue it"
The climax of the six-day
creation is God's deliberate creating and blessing of man in his own image,
that image being dual and complementary, male and female. Jesus sees in this
prior creation and blessing something that goes beyond the political,
generational and sexual foundation of matrimony. That something has to do with
the unique Person and action of God. St. Paul refers to that something as the
"mystery that is between Christ and the Church" (Eph 5:32), and I
believe Jesus intended to ground monogamy in the relational unity of the
Godhead, the Holy Trinity.
God creates and God
blesses, from which Jesus concludes: "What God has joined together, let
not man put asunder." It is God's special presence that makes Christian
matrimony holy and makes the marital bond unbreakable. This truth may not have
been obvious to first-century Jews, who permitted divorce and even polygamy,
but after the coming and teaching of Jesus Christ, the Church taught that holy
matrimony is the lifelong bond between one man and one woman.
The encounter of Jesus
and the Pharisees repeated itself in the patristic period. Roman law and morals
affirmed monogamy and the patriarchal family as "natural"; however
pagans were lax with regard to divorce and (male) promiscuity. St. Augustine
reflected the classic position, for the Western Church at least, in his
identification of three "goods" of marriage:
• procreating the family (proles)
-- Augustine linked the obvious natural good of begetting and raising children
with the tempering of promiscuity which accompanies family life;
• maintaining faithful
conjugal love (fides) -- Augustine speaks of the natural companionship
of the two sexes, even after childbearing years.
• forming a sacred bond (sacramentum)
-- holy matrimony creates a new covenant relationship between the partners with
God and in that sense grace perfects nature. In his beautiful wedding sermon
describes the movement from betrothal to espousal in this way:
As God today adds his
"Yes" to your "Yes," as he confirms your will with his
will, and as he allows you, and approves of, your triumph and rejoicing and
pride, he makes you at the same time instruments of his will and purpose both
for yourselves and for others. In his unfathomable condescension God does add
his "Yes" to yours; but by doing so, he creates out of your love
something quite new -- the holy estate of matrimony.
While the Reformers
objected to some of the medieval developments of marriage, including its
inclusion in the seven-sacrament system, they accepted Augustine's typology of
goods, as is clear in the Marriage Preface in the Book of Common Prayer.
Strange as it may sound, the Prayer Book statement about "avoidance of
fornication" is an affirmation of the sacredness of marriage for those who
remain sinners redeemed by grace (simul justus et peccator).
The other main change at
the Reformation was the shifting of many marital matters from the clergy and
church courts to the magistrate. This change is not as drastic as it may seem
since the Reformers looked to a "godly prince" or a national church
that would affirm and support the Christian understanding of marriage. In some
cases, the state was actually more conservative than the church. Cranmer's
liberal revision of the divorce canons was ultimately rejected by the
The Ethic of Intimacy and
the Obergefell Decision
The description of
matrimony as I have sketched it here has been the historic understanding of
Western society. That description now has a competitor, which I call "the
ethic of intimacy." The English sociologist Anthony Giddens (The
Transformation of Intimacy, 1992) defines the ethic of sexual intimacy in
• Sexuality in its modern
usage does not mean "two sexes" (the Latin root of "sex"
means "to cut in two") but rather plastic sexuality.
"Plastic sexuality is severed from its age-old integration with
reproduction, kinship and the generations."
• Plastic sexuality
makes possible confluent love, the opening of one person to another for
the purpose of self-realization and self-enhancement. Confluent love is often
expressed in terms of spirituality and justified in terms of human rights.
• Whereas romantic love
fastens on one "special person," confluent love is realized in
one or more special relationships and hence may be monogamous or
• The special
relationship has no external supports and must continually be negotiated in
a rolling contract. Lest intimacy slide into codependency, each partner
in such a relationship must be willing to grow or break apart at any point.
• Traditional marriage
has no special claim on intimacy and in fact is often an instrument of codependency
to be overcome.
In Justice Kennedy's
majority opinion in Obergefell, the Supreme Court has, in effect,
enthroned the ethic of intimacy as the law of the land. This observation is
counterintuitive since Kennedy employs the trope of "marriage as a
fundamental right" to, in effect, outlaw marriage. The social commentator
Russ Douthat notes this irony in his analysis:
Kennedy's opinion ... is
relentlessly upbeat about how "new insights have strengthened, not
weakened" marriage, bringing "new dimensions of freedom" to
society. But the central "new dimension of freedom" being claimed by
straight America is a freedom from marriage -- from the institution as
traditionally understood, and from wedlock and family, period.
The normalization of
homosexuality and same-sex marriage is not the root cause of the revolt against
marriage in the West today but merely a symptom. The ethic of intimacy has
infiltrated the whole of its culture and institutions. Simply look at a
"PG-13"-rated movie or TV sitcom. Note that a popular U.S.
ex-President is a notorious womanizer. Note the prevalence of the "hook-up
culture" among Western university students, the proliferation of
"no-fault divorces" and the disappearance of marriage as a norm in
Europe and among the poor in America where 70% of inner-city families are headed
by a single woman.
Note, finally, that the
progressive churches in the West are piling on, invoking the blessing of God on
the ethic of intimacy. The logic of The Episcopal Church's "Task Force on
the Study of Marriage," which recommended the canonical redefinition of
marriage, fits hand in glove with Kennedy's argument in Obergefell.
Defending and Restoring
Holy Matrimony after Obergefell
For those of us who
believe that holy matrimony is instituted by God and is not revisable by man,
the Psalmist's question arises: "if the foundations are destroyed, what
can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3). This is a difficult and pressing
question for church bodies and for individual clergy and laity. It is early in
the post-Obergefell era, but let me make some provisional suggestions.
Bearing Witness to Holy
"You will receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in
Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts
1:8). It is the Church's duty to bear witness to God's natural and spiritual
purposes in marriage. It is also important for those in the Anglican tradition
to make clear, in light of teaching and practice to the contrary, that we stand
in the authentic tradition of the historic church. For this reason, the
Anglican Church in North America has recently issued a statement which includes
"Bearing Witness to Holy Matrimony" (http://anglicanchurch.net/?/main/page/1060).
It is also the church's
duty to teach disciples to observe all that Jesus commands (Matt 28:18). It is
a sad fact that Western churches have frequently failed to teach and practice
our Lord's standard of Holy Matrimony. We must redouble efforts to catechize on
I might add that it will
be important for churches at all levels to make clear in their foundational
documents their doctrine of marriage, as this will give evidence of their
religious freedom under the U.S. Constitution. Please look carefully at "Seven
Things All Churches Should Have in Their Bylaws" from the Alliance
Defending Freedom (http://www.speakupmovement.org/Church/Content/userfiles/Resources/church_seven_bylaws.pdf),
as well as recent two recent webinars by Gammon & Grange and The Christian
The issue of admitting
same-sex married couples to the sacraments has recently arisen and will
continue to do so. In my opinion, we must recover and apply -- discreetly but
firmly - the disciplinary rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, translating
"notorious evil-liver" in terms of the person whose manner of life is
publicly contrary to the gospel of Christ. Such church discipline cannot be
directed only at same-sex couples. There are many cohabiting couples and
unrepentant divorcees who worship in our churches and present themselves for
marriage and the sacraments.
Once again, let me add
that there is a practical need for churches to establish formal membership and
disciplinary policies and procedures. Discipline begins with the clergy, and
clearly the churches will need to have adequate canons in place to deal with
any clergy who violate Christian principles either in their manner of life or
Taking Back Holy
Matrimony from the State
Matrimony is a public
institution but not necessarily a state institution. The recent ACNA statement
Marriage is established
by God for the procreation and raising of children and for the good of society.
For this reason, governments have an interest in marriage and have delegated
authority from God to protect and regulate it. But no court, no legislature and
no local magistrate has the authority to redefine marriage and to impose this
definition on their citizens.
the question that faces us is: since the state has redefined marriage, what are
we to do? One immediate question has arisen concerning the clergy: should they
continue to officiate on behalf of the state, or should they encourage couples
to obtain a civil marriage and then come to church for Holy Matrimony? And if
clergy become conscientious objectors to state marriage, why not the couples
seeking to be married?
Equally challenging will
be the matter of divorce and remarriage. Since the state has abandoned any
pretense of maintaining the marital bond, is it not incumbent on the church to
adjudicate -- again pastorally but firmly -- cases of willful divorce and
Forming a Pro-Marriage
In recent days, many
commentators have drawn parallels between Roe v. Wade and Obergefell
as judicial fiats that both reflected and sought to influence social trends in
the USA. On the one hand, the parallels between the two decisions are sobering:
42 years on, Roe v. Wade still stands, and millions of abortions are
still performed. On the other hand, the pro-life response to Roe has
maintained a steady witness and has influenced public opinion in directions
that are reducing the practice of abortion, though incrementally.
It will be necessary for
a pro-marriage movement to form in response to Obergefell. It will have
its own internal challenges and continuing attack from the progressive Left. It
will have to formulate its fundamental focus, which I think will probably
center around the issue of procreative sex and the right of every child to have
a father and mother. I hope that it can join forces with the pro-life movement,
since the issues of marriage, conception and birth are interconnected in God's
Finally, let me comment
on the conciliar nature of this response. Leading up to the Obergefell
decision, there were a number of joint statements from a wide spectrum of
Christian churches and leaders and others such as Orthodox Jews and Muslims
(see the last section of the ACNA Bearing Witness statement). There is also a
broad pro-marriage consensus in the Global South as is witnessed by recent
statements of Anglican leaders. If this consensus can work together, pray
together, and repent together, I would hope that, with God's help, our churches
and society might turn back to a saner and better understanding and practice of
marriage as it was intended by God "from the beginning."
I wish I could repost the
instructive question and answer afterward as well.It addressed the legal situation in Canada and
Australia.If I happen to come
across it, I will append it to this post.