Monday, January 16, 2006

Prelude to Treating Lambeth 1998, 1.10

I am having a really hard time seeing what the fuss from the Anglican right over 1.10 is about; they seem again to be victims of a wish-fulfilling mirage.

It nowhere proclaims that blessing gay unions, ordaining gay bishops, or even gay marriage, is incompatible with Scripture; "incompatible" is much too strong for the language present in '98 (see (d) below). The text refers to "homosexual practice" without defining it, presumably referring to certain kinds of sexual activity. But there is no inconsistency between blessing gay unions and 1.10.d, as being in a gay union does not require the sexual activity--the two may be correlated, but they are not necessarily together.

More importantly, before getting to 1.10.d, in 1.10.b, the resolution employs the prefix-clause "in view of the teaching of Scripture." Scripture is said--mirabile dictu indeed--to have a single teaching. No doubt it is rather involved, but "in view of it" or on their interpretation of it, it implies the only alternative to heterosexual marriage is abstinence. Thus, 1.10.b sets up the "incompatible" of 1.10.d.

But note, there is no ruling in 1.10 that its interpretation exclusively or exhaustively, much less infallibly, proclaims the teaching of Scripture. Such a meta-point is nowhere made, implying other interpretations are consistent with 1.10.b. I.e one could say "in another view of Scripture..." without contradicting the text of 1.10.b.

1.10.e merely says that the AC "cannot advise" what ECUSA did at GC2003. Nowhere does 1.10 prohibit what ECUSA did. At most, ECUSA acted against the advice of the AC.

Here is the relevant text:

Resolution I.10 Human Sexuality
This Conference:
(a)
commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
(b)
in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
(c)
recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
(d)
while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;
(e)
cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
(f)
requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
(g)
notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process. Note: The resolutions referred to in subsection (g) of this resolution are set out in the
appendix to this document.

6 Comments:

At 2:12 PM, Blogger *Christopher said...

I will make just one point on this rather logical/legal take that fails to meet the realities of hearts, flesh and blood, and is therefore not fully reasonable. Until we begin thinking about and speaking of heterosexual marriages as not requiring sexual activity (only correlated), those who are not homosexual need to refrain from doing so with regard to same-sex unions because it continues with a subtle "we know best for you" way of thinking which is not in reality dealing with the majority of same sex unions in which sex does have a place, and therefore sets up a false image or an ideal for us that colludes with those who would insist that our having sex is sinful. This comes across as deeply paternalistic even when it is not meant so, as I know you do not so mean.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

I confess--my post indulges the evil double standard of Lambeth 98. I did not mean to hold gay couples to a special standard that straight couples are exempt from.

I believe that the rite should be fully "marriage" not mere "union," and the sacrament licenses and even encourages sex between those bound by it, period.

Still--despite my poor phrasing--you see that the right-wing use of Lambeth '98 is incoherent on its own terms (as I bet Williams realizes). That is, it is not strong and precise enough to do the work it is cited by conservatives to do.

I want to ask them if this is how they read Scripture too. When it obviously does not say what they want it to say (e.g. Where is gay marriage prohibited, exactly?) they make stuff up to suit their desires.

 
At 12:06 AM, Blogger Contarini said...

This makes no sense. You yourself admit that what you want is the full approval of sexual relations within gay unions. That is what Lambeth 10 clearly condemns. That is what conservatives explicitly oppose. Your position appears disingenuous.

If we were talking about a blessing of gay unions that did not imply a blessing of sexual intercourse, I for one would be open to that (even if it was understood that due to the weakness of the flesh the people being blessed were likely to express their love for each other in sexual terms--this wouldn't be too far from the attitude the Church has taken toward heterosexual marriage at some periods in its history; indeed it's identical with the attitude of St. Augustine toward sexual intercourse not intended for procreation). But you describe this as an "evil double standard." You know that's not what you mean by "gay unions." And we (conservatives) know that's not what you mean by "gay unions." So what's the point of pretending otherwise?

 
At 10:10 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

OK--let me spell this out a bit more. The matter is not what one would be "open to" or not, as if the issue is to be decided on psychological proclivities--I presume the moral quality of gay unions and marriages is independent of our individual perspectives. If being in a gay union does not require intercourse for its validity--that is not simply up to us, but follows from the nature of the union itself.

Marriage, under a traditional understanding of the sacrament, requires intercourse for its validity--so if a virgin couple is "married" but the man is struck down on the steps leaving the church, there is no genuine marriage. Gay marriage, being a species of marriage, would likewise require consummation in intercourse for its validity.

One point of drawing a distinction between gay unions and gay marriage is that a union strictly speaking does not require intercourse to be valid.

The church is currently unsure whether gay sex is permitted in any context--much less that of a sacrament.

If the church were to institute a marriage rite for gays, it would be obliging them to intercourse--a dangerous thing for the church to do if it is unsure whether it would be thereby "obliging" them to sin.

A way around this problem, at least until the church gains a more solid understanding, is to stick with unions for gays--a rite that does not oblige those who enter into it to have sex.

You wish to know: would a union permit sex? The church can--in principle--suspend judgement on that question, recommend its traditional understanding with the proviso that the tradition is being rethought, and commend the question to the consciences of those who enter such unions.

In this way, the church could adopt a principled, nuanced, and honest position--honest given the turmoil and uncertainty it suffers. Such a position would be unstable, in transition--but so what? It would get us through the present.

Lambeth 1.10 is simply a ham-fisted attempt to prohibit Anglican churches from permitting gay sex--but the text simply does not prohibit gay unions, since unions do not oblige those entering to intercourse.

I do not think 1.10's framers intended the loophole, but that just shows the poverty of their "traditional" understanding of marriage--the Anglican right wing seems to have no idea what it is really doing.

Personally, I believe even gay marriage--requiring intercourse--is permitted, and that permission follows from the nature of marriage. The church is far from adopting my understanding; what appears to me to be an evil double standard (gay unions in which sex is suspect rather than marriages where it is permitted) is for the church the least harmful way forward.

 
At 1:28 AM, Anonymous J.C. Fisher said...

I think the requirement for "intercourse" in heterosexual marriage is an abomination.

Marriage is about (public) commitment to live-long love between the married couple. It's for the couple to define that love.

 
At 6:00 PM, Blogger Tobias said...

AS, I think you are correct in thinking that many interpret the Scripture in much the same way the interpret (and cite) other sources of authority. Some of them are past masters of the "quotation out of context" -- witness the recent misrepresentation (in CEN) of a quote from Rowan Williams as a "response" to an event that hadn't yet happened: the announcement of the California nominees.

The phenomenon of "florilegium" compilation is not at all unusual -- and +Rowan provides a fertile field for such bouquets -- ignoring his more balanced comments to make it look as though he is a big fan of the ACN point of view.

 

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