Friday, July 31, 2015

Libchurchers Praise Planned Parenthood as “Doing God’s Work”

This is why there needs to be a Hell.

Those “church” leaders who blaspheme Jesus’ name to praise Planned Parenthood as they butcher babies will, if there is no heartfelt repentance, meet the same fate as those mainline German “Christians” who supported the Nazis as they slaughtered Jews.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

It Is Time to Say NO to the Destruction of History and Culture

This is adapted from the Facebook page for my novel, Pilot Point.

I have been a bit quiet lately.  But developments in recent weeks compel this writer and sometime historian to speak out about something.

Us Americans can disagree on a lot and still be American. But some advocacy lately crosses the line into what is both un-American and intolerable.

There is a group of people that have been calling for virtually erasing parts of our culture and history. Take the controversy over the Confederate flag. I actually agree that removing the flag from being flown at state capitols is a reasonable move. (Maybe you disagree with me on that, which I understand.) But removing it from being sold at Civil War battlegrounds? Vandalizing historic statues, including in the Denton Courthouse Square? Heck, removing it from the top of that beloved car, The General Lee?

Going beyond the battle flag, there has been a call to ban Gone With the Wind. I am not kidding. In a different vein, there have been protests against showing The Producers, one of the most brilliant comedies of the 20th Century.  And this from the same sort of people who have no problem taking your taxes to subsidize obscene performance “art” that I will not even dignify to mention.  (I would oppose banning even that “art”, too.  But subsidizing it?)

I could continue. Believe me, I could! But a gentleman named George Orwell warned us of those who would erase history and culture. Not to mention the warnings of history from the destruction of the Library of Alexandria to the totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century to the destruction today of antiquities by ISIS.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in freedom and free speech. I also believe in using our freedom and free speech to say NO to these New Totalitarians who would destroy culture and history. We best do that and soon.

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 translations.

• 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 activities.

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 process.

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 his home."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yet Another Obama Enormity (and this blog)

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 full-time job.

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 order.

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.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Statement from the International Catholic Congress of Anglicans

Fort Worth, July 13-17, 2015

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, and more.

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 relations.

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:

The International 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.

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.

 As 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.

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 LĂ©rins 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 them.

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.

Mutual synodality, 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).

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 increased.

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 Anglicans.

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.

ICCA Finish (and a shameless plug)

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 well.

More on the Congress in due time.

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.

Pilot Point is available at Amazon in both print and Kindle form.  Also feel free to like it on Facebook.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

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 succinctly.

The text may be found at VirtueOnline.

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. 

I’m glad he got to me before the vergers. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

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 Obergefell
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 Noll
Professor Emeritus, 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 abomination.

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" (Gen 1:27-28).

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 from prison,

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 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 Elizabethan Parliament.

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 this way:

• 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 polyamorous.

• 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 Matrimony
"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" (

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 this subject.

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 (, as well as recent two recent webinars by Gammon & Grange and The Christian Legal Society.

Restoring Church Discipline
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 their ministries.

Taking Back Holy Matrimony from the State
Matrimony is a public institution but not necessarily a state institution. The recent ACNA statement avers:

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.

After Obergefell, 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 unrepentant remarriage?

Forming a Pro-Marriage Movement
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 design.

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.