The Rt Revd Peter Jensen
I did something really odd the other day. I looked up the dictionary definition of marriage, just to make sure that my understanding was not too off-line. I was relieved to find that it is called the legal union of a man with a woman for life. It is a public, lifelong and exclusive relationship. There is no hint in the dictionary that the word can extend to two men or two women in a public, lifelong and exclusive relationship.
Of course, dictionaries change to mirror the times, and governments do all sorts of things with words, but changing the definition of marriage would be as fatuous as declaring that Perth is Sydney or that the moon is made of ice cream. We would then need a new word to describe the reality that occurs when a man and a woman publicly promise each other to live in lifelong and exclusive relationship, ‘in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others so long as you both shall live’.
Whether we like it or not, a unique union occurs, based on the fact that one is a man and the other is a woman. No other arrangement is the same.
Our confusion about this does not arise merely from the ideological push of recent decades by some gay people for recognition and acceptance. It is true that this has been cleverly and powerfully managed. The result is that if anyone speaks in public about the moral issues raised by gay sex, they are instantly branded homophobic or fascist. No serious debate is allowed. Free speech on this matter comes at a personal cost that few are willing to pay any more. There are serious questions that we are not permitted to ask in public.
But the state of marriage in our community is not merely a gay issue. The extreme individualism of Western culture has encouraged men and women to seek multiple sexual partners, to engage in sex in early adolescence and to isolate marriage from family as well as relationship. We are so shy of the commitment that promises involve that we have lost the art of forming relationships that will lead to marriage. By exalting our desire to be our own selves, we have created a deep hunger for satisfying relationships, for actual love.
Living in families
If I understand the evidence correctly, this freedom we have granted ourselves is not good for us, for our children or for the community as a whole. We are far better off, generally speaking, living in families founded by a man and a woman who have made initial public promises of lifelong fidelity. It is the family so constituted that is the primary source for the love and care without which we cannot survive.
It is this family that best meets our relationship needs. It is this family that provides children with the experience of the interaction of human maleness and femaleness. It is the children of this family who we may expect will look after their aged, lonely and sick.
Of course not all families are like this and no family is perfect. It so happens that for all sorts of good reasons men and women do not begin or sustain families of this nature. But if we ask ourselves what is best for the community as a whole, what should public policy encourage most of all, it will be the family so constituted.
If this is so, what sort of men and women do we need to be? You do not have to be in pastoral ministry long to realize that the biblical teaching against adultery is profoundly right.
The awful consequences of unfaithfulness continue long after the sin is committed. What the Bible summons us to do – and our society has been for a long time based on this insight – is to discipline our sexual lives so that we relate properly to other people and do not
merely please ourselves.
Of course this involves self-sacrifice. But the benefits of channelling our sexual energies within marriage are huge for ourselves, for our families and for our communities. Indeed, a person who has not learned the path of sexual discipline will be a poor marriage partner.
Sexual discipline is as essential within marriage as it is outside: we are meant to love each other ‘in sickness and in health’, for example.
I may be right or wrong about all this, but it seems to me that we would be better off spending a lot more time and energy thinking about the moral meaning of marriage between a man and a woman than agitating on behalf of relationships that mimic, but can never replicate, it.
Peter Jensen is the Anglican
Archbishop of Sydney
This piece originally appeared
in The Australian 8 May 2008
From Sacramento, the state capital, Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, released the following statement on behalf of California’s Bishops and the California Catholic Conference, following the California Supreme Court’s decision declaring the state’s Defense of Marriage Act (Proposition 22) unconstitutional, thus allowing same-sex marriages to take place in California:
The California Catholic Conference of Bishops must express its disappointment in the California Supreme Court decision to declare Proposition 22 unconstitutional.
Proposition 22, which states, ‘Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid and recognized in California,’ was passed eight years ago by a vote of 61.2% to 38.8%. That statute reflected the wisdom of the voters of California in retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a biological reality and a societal good. Unfortunately, today, the Court saw fit to disregard the will of the majority of people of California.
Catholic teaching maintains that marriage is a faithful, exclusive and lifelong union between one man and one woman joined in an intimate partnership of life and love – a union instituted by God for the mutual fulfilment of the husband and wife as well as for the procreation and education of children.
Partnerships of committed same-sex individuals are already legal in California. Our state has also granted domestic partners spousal-type rights and responsibilities which facilitate their relationships with each other and any children they bring to the partnership. Every person involved in the family of domestic partners is a child of God and deserves respect in the eyes of the law and their community. However, those partnerships are not marriage – and can never be marriage – as it has been understood since the founding of the United States.
Today’s decision of California’s high court opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution under the guise of equal protection.
Although we strongly disagree with the ruling, we ask our Catholic people, as well as all the people of California, to continue to uphold the dignity of every person, to acknowledge individual rights and responsibilities, and to maintain support for the unique and irreplaceable role of traditional marriage as an institution which is fundamental to society.
The Anglican Church is the perfect vehicle for creating a new gay’ Christianity by virtue of the fact that it is the only church that accepts the logical contradiction of asserting both the sanctity of human life and the existence of a right to abortion.
Episcopal bishop Gene Robinson, whose ordination to the episcopate has precipitated the ongoing schism between traditionally Christian Anglicans and its ultra-liberal, secularized branches, is in London to talk about his vision for the homosexual future of the Anglican Church. He was visiting and promoting his cause in preparation for the upcoming Lambeth Conference in July.
He told an admiring audience in Putney, in southwest London, that Anglicanism is uniquely suited to the establishment of the contradiction of homosexual Christianity. ‘The Anglican tradition is uniquely capable of holding two seemingly contradictory ideas together. Its position on abortion, for example is that all human life is sacred. And, that no one has the right to tell a woman what to do with her body. Both are true,’ he said.
The logical principle of non-contradiction, a basic philosophical concept identified by Aristotle, is defined as the idea that two opposed things cannot both be true. Aristotle put it that, ‘One cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time.’ It is not possible, for example, for a person to both be in a room and not in a room at the same time. This principle is regarded by philosophers as one of the three first principles of rational thought, without which no assertion of any truth is possible.
Many Christian philosophers have noted that the moral chaos in western societies has stemmed from the twentieth century’s abandonment of this principle as the guiding force of politics and religion.
Seizing the Scriptures
Robinson is a long-time supporter of abortion. In 2005, he addressed Planned Parenthood’s fifth annual prayer breakfast in Washington. He said then that the only way to defend the pro-abortion mindset is to reach out religiously, saying, ‘Our defence against religious people has to be a religious defence… We must use people of faith to counter the faith-based arguments against us.’ He told Planned Parenthood, ‘We have to take back those Scriptures.’
He spoke of ‘the need to teach people about nuance, about holding things in tension, that this can be true and that can be true, and somewhere between is the right answer. It’s a very adult way of living, you know. What an unimaginative God it would be if God only put one meaning in any verse of Scripture.’
In his talk in London and in a later interview with the Spectator’s Theo Hobson, Robinson laid out the precepts of gay Christianity in which homosexuals, as an oppressed minority, are more capable of Christian charity than heterosexuals.
The newer teaching
To lend biblical credence to his assertions, Robinson cited a passage in John’s Gospel in which Jesus tells his disciples they were not ready for all of Christian teaching. Robinson asserts that the acceptance of homosexuality was part of the teaching that the Holy Spirit was to give the Church later.
He said that the growing acceptance of homosexuality in the churches ‘is all ultimately about patriarchy – the beginning of the end of it. The strength of the resistance tells us we’re on to something.’
His book, In the Eye of the Storm, reiterates the homosexual lobby movement’s doctrine that homosexuality is the equivalent of race or sex. He said it gives him a Tittle window into some of what it must be like to be a woman, or a person of colour, or a person in a wheelchair -and countless other categories the dominant culture has controlled, diminished and oppressed.’ This naturally leads to a greater capacity for ‘Christian empathy’.
‘Just as surely as Jesus called to his friend Lazarus to ‘Come out!’ of his tomb, Jesus called me to come out of my tomb of guilt and shame, to accept and love that part of me that he already
accepted and loved.’
The Exodus story, he said, is ‘one of the greatest coming-out stories in the history of the world’.
He admitted that it is possible for heterosexuals to sympathize with the oppressed, saying, ‘It’s not impossible, but it’s harder.’
This piece originally appeared
on 16 May 2008 in Lifesitenews
Sufficient legal grounds exist for presenting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for ecclesiastical trial on eleven counts of violating the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, according to a legal memorandum that has begun circulating among members of the House of Bishops.
A copy of the April 21 document seen by a reporter representing The Living Church states that Bishop Jefferts Schori demonstrated a ‘willful violation of the canons, an intention to repeat the violations, and a pattern of concealment and lack of candour’ in her handling of the cases of bishops Robert W. Duncan, John-David Schofield and William Cox, and that she ‘subverted’ the ‘fundamental polity’ of The Episcopal Church in the matter of the Diocese of San Joaquin.
Prepared by an attorney on behalf of a consortium of bishops and church leaders seeking legal counsel over the canonical implications of the Presiding Bishop’s recent actions, it is unclear whether a critical mass of support will form behind the report’s recommendations for any action to be taken, presumably as a violation of the Presiding Bishop’s ordination vows.
Title IV, Canon 3, Section 23a requires the consent of three bishops, or ten or more priests, deacons and communicants ‘of whom at least two shall be priests. One priest and not less than six lay persons shall be of the diocese of which the respondent is canonically resident.’
Victims of sexual misconduct and the Presiding Bishop also may bring charges before the Title IV [disciplinary] Review Committee. Title IV, Canon 3, Section 27 specifies that the Presiding Bishop appoints the five bishops to the Review Committee and the president of the House of Deputies appoints the two members of the clergy and two lay members. A spokeswoman said the Pre-
siding Bishop was unable to respond to the charges as she had not yet seen the memorandum.
The Revd Ephraim Radner, a member of the Anglican Covenant Design Group, said he found the matters addressed by the brief troubling. The lack of a common understanding of the church’s constitution and canons was ‘tearing apart our very episcopate and the credibility of our church’s ability to make formal decisions,’ he said.
The 7,000-word memorandum states it does not address issues of doctrine under Title 4, Canon 1, Section lc, but limits its review to the ‘recent actions she has taken against bishops Cox, Schofield and Duncan and the Diocese of San Joaquin.’
The paper argues the Presiding Bishop ‘failed to seek the inhibition of Bishop Cox as required by [Title IV, Canon 9].’ This failure was not a ‘technical issue that could be waived,’ but was an ‘important procedural protection that is integral’ to the use of the canon. Nor did she comply with the requirement that the bishop be given timely notice of the legal proceedings, as the Presiding Bishop withheld notice for seven months.
By not inhibiting Bishop Cox during the two-month period she gave him for denying the charges, the Presiding Bishop was also creating ‘new procedures’ for deposing bishops. The 60-day notice to deny the charges applies only to an ‘inhibited bishop,’ according to the memorandum. Bishop Jefferts Schori had made the same error in her treatment of Bishop Duncan, the document noted.
Bringing Bishop Cox before the House of Bishops without securing his inhibition first also violated Title IV, Canon 9, Section 2, the memorandum said, as ‘a bishop who has not been inhibited is not ‘liable to deposition under this canon.’
To suggest that the provision of Section 2 of the Canon: ‘Otherwise, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular, or special meeting of the House,’ was ‘nonsensical,’ the paper argued, for ‘if the ‘Otherwise’ sentence deals with uninhibited bishops such as Bishop Cox (and Duncan), there is no provision under which the Presiding Bishop is authorized to depose an inhibited bishop such as Bishop Schofield. No rule of legal interpretation permits such a nonsensical result.’
The Presiding Bishop’s deposition of Bishops Cox and Schofield was done without the ‘necessary consent’ of the House of Bishops. ‘The conclusion that the requisite consent was not given is irrefutable’ as the ‘plain meaning’ of the words of the canon, as well as voting procedures detailed in other parts of the Constitution and Canons do not permit the interpretation interposed by the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, the paper said.
Concerning the Diocese of San Joaquin, the Presiding Bishop’s announcement that she did not recognize the ‘duly elected’ diocesan standing committee violated Articles IV and II. 3 of the church’s constitution and repudiated her duties under [Title I, Canon 2, Section 4(a)(3)] which permits her only to ‘consult’ with the diocesan ecclesiastical authority in the event of an episcopal vacancy.
The appointment of ‘representatives and vicars’ to act in San Joaquin violated Article II. 3 of the church’s constitution, the document stated, while the convening of a special convention in San Joaquin and installation of Bishop Jerry Lamb as the provisional bishop violated Article II.3 and Title III, Canon 13.
‘The violations with respect to Bishops Cox and Duncan, although wilful and repeated, pertained primarily to individual bishops. The violations with respect to [San Joaquin] however, subvert the governance of an entire diocese and go to the heart of TEC’s polity as a ‘fellowship of duly constituted dioceses’ governed under Article II. 3 by bishops who are not under a metropolitan or archbishop,’ the legal memorandum concluded.
Little hope of appeal
The procedural difficulties in bringing this matter to adjudication were formidable, the paper argued, as the ‘ability of the complainants to hold accountable the Presiding Bishop or another bishop thus ends at the [Title IV] Review Committee.’
The authors of the legal memorandum were not optimistic the current legal and political environment within the church would be conducive for a conviction. The Title IV committee could issue a presentment, it could decline to issue a presentment and ‘produce a rationale that is persuasive to most objective observers,’ or it could ‘decline to issue a presentment on grounds that are not persuasive and serve only to discredit the Review Committee and the process as well as the respondent,’ it said.
This third outcome is ‘highly likely,’ the paper concluded, but it noted the effort
should nonetheless be made to hold the institution ‘accountable.’
This piece, by George Conger appeared in
The Living Church, 30 April 2008