Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bishops Bless Blasphemy; Curmudgeon's Cup Runneth Over

One hundred and twenty-nine of the bishops in the Episcopal Church (USA) House of Bishops voted yesterday to embrace blasphemy as a "trial rite" for same-sex marriages in the Church. The blasphemy begins in the rite at the point where the celebrant says to the congregation (see p. 98 of these materials; my bold emphasis added):
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.
As I wrote in an earlier post, critiquing the rite when it was first proposed, the bold language evinces a category mistake of the worst sort, by equating the union of two people of the same gender to the holy union between Christ and His Church. (How can they be equated? In the former, which of the two men -- or two women -- signifies Christ, and which the Church?)

The bishops approved three other rites for trial use, as well, but they are just as blasphemous in invoking the blessing of the triune God on the union/marriage of a same-sex pair. It was God Himself who defined marriage as between a male and a female in Genesis 2:24, and thus to invoke the name of that same God in blessing (or celebrating) a pairing that is not one that he made provision for in Holy Scripture is a blasphemy on His name.

The Archbishop of Canterbury registered the following strenuous objection to the action of the House of Bishops:
While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.
The Resolution that adopts the rites (which now goes to the House of Deputies for what is likely to be an even more enthusiastic endorsement) contains an "opt-out" clause to excuse any clergy in the Church from performing any of the adopted rites, so the good news is that those who will stumble over blaspheming Christ, the Church and the triune God will not be forced to do so.

But the bad news is that, for the reasons explained in this earlier post, the Episcopal Church (USA) will have to make the performance of same-sex marriage rites mandatory upon the request of a same-gender couple, in order to be able to retain its tax-exempt status under the Internal Revenue Code. So the opt-out clause will have to be removed from the Canons at the next General Convention.

Your Curmudgeon will from this day forth no longer call himself an Episcopalian, or be a member of an organization (it is not a church) that endorses liturgies of blasphemy. I have changed the header describing this blog to read:
Curmudgeonly comments documenting an unsuccessful attempt to remain in the  Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Communion at the same time---with some leavening for good measure.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Trouble Ahead for U.S. Churches?

The Supreme Court is an anomaly. It is neither "Supreme" (since it can overrule itself at any time, and also be overruled by statute or constitutional amendment) nor -- after yesterday's decision -- a court. Here is how Justice Scalia described it in his dissent to the same-sex marriage decision (Obergefell v. Hodges) -- it consists of
... nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School. Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count). Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination.
Yesterday, two Catholic and three Jewish Justices -- two Californians and three New Yorkers, four of them graduates of Harvard and one a graduate of Yale -- purported to discover a constitutional "right" to marriage. This maneuver preempted the various State legislatures who had been dealing with the question, and now makes it impossible for any legislature (Congress included) to change, modify or eliminate the "right", as it is a federal constitutional one. Unless and until the Supreme Court reverses its own decision, or until three-quarters of the States pass an amendment, it will stay as is.

The problem is that with this decision, the not-Supreme-and-not-a-court has set the stage for a monumental conflict between two constitutional rights: the right to exercise one's religion under the First Amendment, and the right to marry (which soon will have to be extended to polygamy and polyandry, since there are no limiting principles to the new "right" just discovered). And the worst part is that the only umpires for this impending conflict will be: you guessed it -- unelected lawyers in black robes.

What may come as news to some is that the United States has been there before -- and the results were not pretty.

Start with a church's tax-exempt status: it can be removed for teaching and holding principles that are contrary to federal law, as happened in the 1983 case of Bob Jones University v. United States, in which the Supreme Court upheld the IRS' refusal to continue the religious university's tax exemption because it forbade -- on sincerely held religious grounds -- interracial dating between its students. (Previously it had refused to admit blacks at all, but changed its policy in 1975 and adopted the ban on dating and marriage between races.)

The same reasoning used in Bob Jones can be used to deny a tax exemption to any church or religious institution that refuses to perform same-sex marriages. "[E]ntitlement to tax exemption depends on meeting certain common-law standards of charity - namely, that an institution seeking tax-exempt status must serve a public purpose and not be contrary to established public policy." (Bob Jones, 461 U.S. 574, at 586; emphasis added.) The italicized language is broad enough to be adapted to the "public policy" as now established in federal constitutional law by the five Harvard-Yale lawyers in their black robes -- as the United States Solicitor General admitted in oral argument.

This is also why ordained clergy in ECUSA will be deluding themselves if they think that the "opt-out" clause that keeps them from being mandated to perform same-sex marriages is going to last beyond the next General Convention. By then, the Church will have to make it mandatory for all clergy to perform same-sex marriages if it wishes to retain its tax-exempt status.

And that is still not the end of it. As my British barrister colleague Neil Addison, writing in his Religious Law Blog (linked at the right, under "Juricannon"), reminds us, the unfettered power of the U.S. government can even extend to seizing and forfeiting the property of churches that advocate religious principles that violate federal law:
In the 19th Century when the Mormon Church practiced polygamy the US Congress passed a series of increasingly draconian anti-Mormon acts culminating in the 1887 Edmunds-Tucker Act which dissolved the Mormon Church and directed the confiscation by the federal government of all church properties. The legality and constitutionality of this act was endorsed by the US Supreme Court in Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v. United States, 136 U.S. 1 (1890). on the basis that the beliefs and practices of the Mormon Church were incompatible with US Law.

Could the same thing happen to Religious Organisations which disagree with same-sex marriage ? The legal precedents are there and certainly on the part of same-sex marriage advocates the will is there to attack and if possible destroy religion, in particular Christianity. Religions in the US are therefore facing a dangerous future where their freedom is far from guaranteed.
I agree with my colleague. There are absolutely no signs that the LGBT faction will be moderate in asserting the primacy of their newly-discovered constitutional right -- and the weak "assurance" given in Justice Kennedy's majority opinion provides no solace at all that those in black robes will protect anyone in the exercise of their religion.

In the words said at the opening of every session in the ornate courtroom at 1 First Street:

God save the United States and this honorable court.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Scratch One Revisionist Blog

From a story in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (H/T: D.Virtue):
The Allegheny County district attorney's office has charged an Indiana, Pa., man with stealing more than $100,000 from the bank account of a 91-year-old resident of a Mt. Lebanon nursing home.

Lionel Deimel, 68, surrendered to authorities Tuesday and faces charges of theft, receiving stolen property and misapplication of entrusted property.

The victim, who resides in the skilled nursing care unit at Asbury Heights, executed a financial power of attorney document with Mr. Deimel in 2009, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Deimel was described as her friend.

He was supposed to pay her room and board and medical expenses but instead wrote 72 checks to himself for a total of nearly $104,000, investigators determined. He also ran up more than $17,600 in purchases on the victim's credit card. Investigators got involved after the victim's account at Asbury Heights fell into arrears.

According to the complaint, Mr. Deimel admitted using the money for his own benefit. He was released on bond to await a June 25 preliminary hearing before District Judge Blaise Larotonda in Mt. Lebanon.
Until today, as part of the philosophy of this blog to link to a full panorama of views, I carried a link at the right to Mr. Deimel's blog, where he described himself as "a computer scientist, writer, and Episcopal Church activist with concerns for truth, beauty, and justice." Though at this point he has only been charged, not convicted, his own admissions to police that he took the money for his own use, and that he was in "financial difficulties," are reasons enough for me to purge the link.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Is This a Prophet? His Message Deserves to Be Heard

In putting up this post, I realize I am asking a lot of my regular readers. Nevertheless, the message below is so important that I am moved not to censor the messenger -- I believe truly, after listening to it, that his message comes from God.

Jonathan Cahn is a controversial figure today among evangelicals and traditional Christians alike. Born and raised as a Jew, he discovered Christ the Messiah and dedicated his life to Him. Currently he is the pastor at the Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel in Wayne, New Jersey, and there are countless sermons of his available for watching on YouTube. He has authored two controversial books, which are of the essence of prophecy: if they are correct in what they say about America, then America should soon know it. And if they are invented, time will provide the unfailing test.

By reproducing this particular address by Rabbi Cahn, I do not thereby take a position in the current controversy over what he has written in his two books. It is enough for me that in it, he delivers a monumental warning to America about the path on which she now finds herself, and which is detailed in many posts on this blog.

That warning is the prophetic truth that lies in Rabbi Cahn's message, as delivered below. Listen carefully -- he speaks to all Americans, though he uses the occasion of addressing our nation's legislators in their original chambers in the basement of Capitol Hill, on April 29 of this year  -- and then I say, let him who has ears to hear, hear:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

(BREAKING) +Iker and Diocese Win All Saints FW Case

News has just been received that Bishop Iker and his Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth are the victors in the separately-tried lawsuit to determine the ownership of the grounds and property of All Saints, Fort Worth.< br/> < br/> Judge John Chupp of the Tarrant County District Court had severed off the All Saints case, because its facts were more dependent on documents and circumstances that were not shared with all the other parishes in dispute. As I wrote in an earlier post:
My understanding is that Bishop Iker's diocesan corporation does hold title to the two parcels of real property on which the church and the main accessory buildings of All Saints are situated. However, the parish in the intervening years acquired several parcels of nearby property to make more room. Of these, three are held simply in the name of the parish itself, while one (used for a curate's home) was acquired in the name of the parish corporation, despite the provisions of Canon 31 linked above. (The church also uses another parcel about 7 miles away for "All Saints School." The school is run as a separate corporation, and its ownership of the property is not at issue in the lawsuit.)
The case ended up being resolved on a motion for summary judgment, instead of being tried to a jury. (Both sides filed motions, which meant that they agreed there were no disputed facts to be tried.) Bishop Iker's motion and supporting papers are here; the opposition papers do not appear to be online, and the reply papers are here. At the hearing on the motion held today before Judge Chupp, he granted judgment to Bishop Iker and his Diocese.

The judgment, given in accordance with "neutral principles" as required by the Texas Supreme Court, means that Bishop Iker's Diocese is the owner of the actual church property and the old rectory (now the accessory buildings). His Diocese relinquished claim to the parcels which All Saints had purchased in its own name, notwithstanding the canons. So the rump diocese ends up with "two curate houses, a youth house, and a vacant lot." And it will still operate its school as before, since that property was never the subject of any lawsuit.

More details will follow as soon as they are available.

Some Good Sense from an Unexpected Source

Kudos to Bishops Benhase of Georgia and McConnell of Pittsburgh for their article, "A More Excellent Way," and kudos to The Living Church for publishing it as a lead essay in their most recent edition. It is rare (in this Curmudgeon's recent experience, that is) to see two Episcopal bishops who are not members of Communion Partners speak with such clarity about the crisis that is unfolding as the General Convention at Salt Lake City draws near.

Their topic is the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage and of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music -- specifically, Resolutions 2015-A036 and 2015-A054, whose theological and canonical fallacies I discussed in this post (Part I), this post (Part II), and in this post (Part III). In addition, they take on the SCLM's proposed Resolution 2015-A066, which I have been reserving for later comment, but which might as well be discussed now.

They begin with a rather surprising observation (as ones who have not exactly been distant from the events to which they refer):
St. Paul chastised the church in Corinth for failing to live in peace and concord as Christ’s body. The Corinthians had hauled one another before Caesar’s courts (1 Cor. 6:1-8) and split into warring factions (1 Cor. 1:10-17). For too much of the past generation, we have been like the Corinthians. Our Lord, however, has shown us a “more excellent way,” and we are called to take it up afresh (1 Cor. 12:31). In what follows, we provide a few suggestions for how we might embody this way at General Convention.
In taking up the report of the Task Force, they first observe that the group generated their report without any input from, or dialogue with, the Church's Anglican and ecumenical partners -- which was a mandate in the original resolution creating the Task Force. They also note, as did I, that the proposed revisions to Canons I.18.2 and I.18.3 will in effect divorce canonical marriage from marriage ("Holy Matrimony") under the BCP:
Resolution A036 proposes that all clergy will henceforth conform to “these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage,” rather than to “the laws of this Church governing Holy Matrimony.” The manifest problem that this revision seeks to get around is that the Episcopal Church will continue to have contrary laws governing Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, a constitutional document. There are constitutional provisions for revising the prayer book. Perhaps that is the conversation we really need to have, but it is hard to see how a canon that directs clergy to disobey the prayer book might help that discussion.
[UPDATE 06/10/2015: One of the Task Force members who authored Resolution 2015-A036 is the Rev. Tobias Haller, who has been conducting a spirited defense of his proposals at his blog, In a Godward Direction. He takes issue with Bishops Benhase and McConnell in a new post:
... Far from "directing clergy to disobey" the BCP, the canon change addresses the current situation, in which we have clergy, operating under "generous pastoral provision," solemnizing same-sex marriages in those states in which the civil law permits, in violation of the current canon, and, if you accept the logic of Benhase and McConnell, in conflict with the BCP as well. It is true that the canon change will do nothing to change the BCP -- or to authorize any other liturgy, for that matter -- but it will remove the problem of clergy being in violation of the canons. And it is only the canon we are proposing to change.

So if the bishops are interested in "good order" as they say, this is a step they should applaud. It introduces no new conflict with the BCP -- that conflict is already there, if you accept their logic -- but it does remove the canonical dissonance, which is actionable under Title IV, in spite of the wink and nod of "generous pastoral provision." That no one is going to take clergy to ecclesiastical court, in those dioceses in which the bishop has permitted use of provisional rites for solemnizing same-sex marriages, is a nice promise, but from a canonist's perspective it is disorderly. We desire good order rather than ambiguity.

For there is no need for such ambiguity. The canon change will not alter the BCP, or the status of the BCP, but it will remove a conscientious burden for those clergy, and some bishops.
Unfortunately, both sides of this debate are correct. The bishops are right that performing the rites now "authorized" by diocesans in their own jurisdictions violates not just the current canons, but also the rubrics of the BCP, as I pointed out in this earlier post. And Father Haller is correct that his proposed amendment will remove the canonical violations -- but they will do nothing to stop the violations of the rubrics. Clergy may face disciplinary charges under Title IV for violating BCP rubrics, just as much as for violating canons -- see Canon IV. 4.1 (b) quoted in my earlier post.

By fixing the canons, but not the BCP, Resolution A036 simply moves the conflict elsewhere, and maintains the current disorder -- it does not, as Father Heller says, promote "good order." The proper solution would be to respect the primacy of the BCP in our canonical system, and to commence changing it, if that is what the Church wants. That process would take a minimum of four years, but at least it would ensure that the dialogues between different groups and factions could take place in the interim, rather than not at all, as is the case now.

Then the canons could be changed to conform to the revised BCP. And during the whole process, the "interim use" of "provisional rites" would not be allowed, insofar as those rites would be contrary to any rubrics in the BCP.

And that would be the way to maintain "good order" in the Church. Whether the LGBT forces behind the immediacy of the current proposals will indeed be patient enough to allow good order to prevail at GC 2015 is an open question.]

Next, their article takes up the rites proposed by the SCLM, and adds a new wrinkle to the language in that Resolution (A-054). Previous trial rites "authorized" by General Convention (and there is a good constitutional question as to whether General Convention had any authority to do so) had made their use "subject to the permission of the diocesan bishop." But the new Resolution purports to authorize the rites independently of the diocesan bishop, and to make their use throughout the Church possible "under the direction of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority" (italics added). In other words, the diocesan may not, under this language, completely withhold his permission for the rites: this is a subtle change which many bishops will see as an infringement upon the prerogatives they enjoy within their own dioceses.

The article also takes up proposed Resolution 2015-A066, a constitutional amendment to authorize (finally) what General Convention has unconstitutionally been doing for years and years, namely, the authorizing of experimental rites on its own, with no intent that they eventual replacements for the rites in the BCP. The points the bishops make are valid, and it is high time that General Convention stopped passing resolutions first and considering their validity only much later, if ever.

The whole article, in other words, is well worth a careful read -- especially by those who will be the ones to vote on the resolutions in question.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

(Unintended) Comic Relief

After the intensity of the last half-dozen or so posts, variety demands a bit of relief. Fortunately, the liberal left has unwittingly supplied a beaut. In the video below, the intent was to make God look like a vengeful, capricious woman; but the unwitting message is far deeper -- while still presented humorously. Take a look:

IKE INTERVIEWS GOD from Eli Shapiro on Vimeo.

As you see, the short has won all kinds of plaudits, being a low-budget film shot while the author was still in school. And it is indeed cleverly staged, and well acted.

But the underlying message? The liberals have missed it completely, of course, because it squares entirely with their worldview. The message this video so well conveys was expressed in this way by C.S. Lewis, in chapter 9 of the Great Divorce:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' And those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'”
He added:
“All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Making a Mishmash of Marriage (Part III)

In Part I of this series, I showed that the attempt by General Convention in 2012 to authorize, sub rosa, same-sex marriages without bothering first to change the canons or the Book of Common Prayer led to widespread disciplinary violations by clergy in those States that recognized those unions.

In Part II, I outlined the inadequacies of two current proposals to cure the canonical dilemma: Resolutions 2015-A036 and 2015-A054. Taken together as offered, they would eliminate the traditional equation of marriage to Holy Matrimony as celebrated in the BCP, and render the concept of "marriage" virtually meaningless -- the proposed rites for same-gender marriage run the gamut from invoking blessings, to becoming "bound to one another", to being "married according to the laws of the State of X.", to being "wed to one another," to being "ever hereafter United in Matrimony" [sic]. Nothing could better indicate the inability of this generation to perceive its roots than this smorgasbord of two-person hookups offered to all and sundry.

This is what comes of acting first and thinking later. "We can, and should, do same-sex marriages NOW -- let's worry about justifying it down the road." (This impetus appears to have been behind the unquestioning adaptation [see below] of the BCP liturgy for Holy Matrimony to same-gender marriages. According to the Supplemental Materials of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, "a number of respondents expressed frustration or confusion that the [original draft] liturgy appeared to be a 'separate but equal' rite, which therefore was not equivalent to marriage" (p. 5 at the link; italics added).

The fundamental problem of adapting traditional Christian marriage ("Holy Matrimony") to same-sex unions is that the theology of the former turns into blasphemy when the rite is carried over, holus-bolus, to the latter. Begin with St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians:
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:24-33 ESV)
"This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church."

Correct -- and when one is talking of a relationship between two men, or between two women, there is no longer any profound mystery in St. Paul's sense, and no parallel at all to the relationship between Christ and the church. (Which one of the two represents Christ, and which the church? If one cannot say, due to an insistence upon full equality, then the analogy is void of meaning; if one claims to be the "husband" or the "wife", then where is the assumed equality, since both are male, or both are female? And whence comes the authority to say which is "submissive", in any one circumstance? The scheme breaks down under a total dependency upon individual human frailty and fallibility in any given union -- which bears no relation to that between Christ and his church. God made Christ the husband of his church; there could be no other possibility.)

For these reasons, it is neither true, nor faithful to Paul, to use these words of the current BCP rite of Holy Matrimony in connection with the celebration of a same-sex union:
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
But the proposed rite "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (2)" (pp. 97-106 at the link) does use those words, with a change (my emphasis added) that renders the whole ceremony blasphemous:
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.
It is significant, is it not, that the same-sex rite first eliminates "the bond and covenant of marriage ... established by God in creation"? (Because that covenant was unarguably established between a man and a woman.)

Next, the rite as changed stresses only the relationship of "mutual fidelity", and says nothing about the relation of submission, or the proper role of the male and the female in a Christian family. But Paul makes it clear that just as "the church submits to Christ," so shall a wife submit to her husband (because he must be loving, and so loving can do nothing to harm her), and that just as Christ loved his church, so shall a husband love his wife (so that their union may fulfill God's will for them). Paul was not talking about equality; nor was he talking about the way a man can relate sexually to another man, or a woman to another woman. To liken such relationships to "the mystery of the union between Christ and his church" is to utter blasphemy on both Christ and his church.

It is also appalling that such blasphemy could seriously, and in all earnestness, be proposed to the bishops and the deputies at General Convention 2015 for their ratification and approval for use by the Church as a whole. The debate on Resolution 2015-A036 alone should be very informative on how far the church has sunk into the quagmire described in 2 Peter 2:1-3:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
It should be noted that another proposed resolution before General Convention would accomplish much the same thing as 2015-A036 and 2015-A054 together, namely, Resolution 2015-C026, proposed (to my shame) by my own Diocese of Northern California. It does this by making changes to the current marriage rite in the BCP -- without going through the constitutional formalities of changing the BCP itself! It provides in part:
Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church authorize the use of “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” and “An Order for Marriage” from The Book of Common Prayer 1979, and “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” from Liturgical Resources I, for all marriages legal in the civil jurisdiction in which the liturgy takes place. In civil jurisdictions with same-sex marriage, the language “man and woman” and “husband and wife” and other such gender-specific language shall be equally applicable to two persons of the same sex, and may thus be modified whenever necessary for the purposes of the Canon “Of the Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” (Canon I.18) and “The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” “The Blessing of a Civil Marriage” and “An Order for Marriage” in the Book of Common Prayer 1979 ...
Because this Resolution is being referred to the same committee that will take up the other two Resolutions, and because that committee already has before it the draft of complete same-sex alternative rites based on the ones in the BCP, I do not expect this measure to pass as written, so its unconstitutional method of changing the language of the BCP will hopefully not become an issue. But it should be noted that in proposing the changes it does, Resolution 2015-C026 promotes blasphemy every bit as much as does Resolution A054.

What hope is there for the Episcopal Church if any of these Resolutions passes its General Convention? At that point, the Church will be on record as promoting and encouraging its ordained clergy to speak blasphemously of the relationship between Christ and his church every time they perform a same-sex marriage. And so at that point, the Church will most definitely no longer be a church, let alone a part of the "one true, catholic and apostolic church" instituted by our Lord. Instead, it will be at war with our Lord's church.

The consequences for ECUSA will be the loss of still more dioceses, and the loss of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of its parishioners. Those staying will not perceive any such exodus as a loss, but only as an opportunity to band together in their blasphemy still more closely.

The other possibility is that there will be such a revolt in the clergy and informed laity that a Special Convention will have to be called just to repeal the profane measures. But do not tie your hopes to that wagon -- the very fact that these blasphemous resolutions could be proposed with a straight face shows how far gone is ECUSA  already.

(I am aware that the proposed changes include a provision that any member of the clergy may decline to officiate at such a ceremony. Such assurances never last, and in accordance with Neuhaus' law, "Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed" -- i.e., there will shortly no longer be a choice.)

If the Resolutions pass and stay, the long-term damage done to the institution of the family will be incalculable. St. Paul's formulas for a Christian marriage will be thoroughly undermined, with no ordered structure taking their place -- instead, as mentioned, there will just be a smorgasbord of commitments to various degrees, and future children will be the ones who suffer from the loss of certainty and permanence. (For all the emphasis on "commitment to a lifelong relationship" as the essence of same-sex marriages -- indeed, the very characteristic that is said to qualify them for equality with traditional marriage -- the Church's unfortunate poster boy is the now twice-divorced V. Gene Robinson.)

By undermining the orthodoxy of traditional marriage, by emphasizing the ability of couples to make cafeteria choices of how the Church (and, presumably, God) will bless and solemnize their relationships, the Church will knock out the very props that hold up the traditional family, by treating them as no more important than any other commitment that can be imagined between two people.

And in undermining the family, the Church will complete its own undermining, because it is the family that enables the very existence and support of the Church itself. As the percentage of families in a congregation drops, so does its ability to provide continuity from one generation to the next. And once it loses the ties that bind it to previous generations, the Church itself will no longer have reason to exist. (Remember that religio, the source for our "religion," means "I bind again.")

Thus the Episcopal Church 2015 is at a watershed, and the way it handles marriage will define its own future. It cannot remain true to St. Paul's mystery of the marriage covenant while riding the bandwagon for same-sex blessings and marriages: the two are fundamentally and unalterably incompatible.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Making a Mishmash of Marriage (Part II)

In Part I of this post, I showed how every member of the Episcopal clergy who celebrates, officiates at and solemnizes in any State, as a Church "marriage", any civil union between two persons of the same gender thereby commits a violation of the Church's canons on marriage, and is consequently liable to disciplinary proceedings under Title IV of the 2012 Church Canons.

Now let us take a look at the Resolution 2015-A036 which the Church's Task Force on the Study of Marriage has proposed to resolve this dilemma. The first thing it does is rewrite Canon I.18.1 to substitute the plain word "marriage" for the liturgical (BCP) term "Holy Matrimony":

Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That Canon I.18 is hereby amended to read as follows: 
CANON 18: Of the Solemnization of Holy MatrimonyCanon 18: Of the Celebration and Blessing of MarriageSec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage Holy Matrimony. Members of the Clergy may solemnize a marriage using any of the liturgical forms authorized by this Church.
The replaced words, "Holy Matrimony", had a well-defined status under the Book of Common Prayer, where we may read in time-honored language (on p. 423):
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.  The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people.
Thus, for purposes of the BCP, "marriage" means "Holy Matrimony," and vice versa. As far as the BCP (and Canon I.18 up to this point) are concerned, there is no other kind.

But by dropping the words "Holy Matrimony" out of the Canon, while leaving them in the BCP, the first thing this proposed change would do is create a gulf between the Church's established liturgy and its canons. "Marriage" would now become an undefined, open-ended term in the Canons; and the Canons would no longer have anything to say about "Holy Matrimony" as such. Without the aid of the Canons, the BCP already requires (p. 422) that a marriage between a man and a woman needs at least two witnesses, that at least one of the parties must be baptized, and that the marriage in all respects conform to both the laws of the State and of the Church.

Moreover, the proposed change would undermine the liturgical authority of the BCP. Instead of the ceremony's taking the form prescribed in the BCP, it now may take any form "authorized by this Church." In tandem with the Task Force, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music has drafted no less than four alternative ceremonies for the blessing or the solemnization of a marriage, and has proposed adoption of Resolution 2015-A054 in order to have General Convention authorize them for churchwide use.

The four proposed ceremonies are the following:

1. "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant" (pp. 77-86 of the document at this link). This rite is evidently for use in those States which have not yet legalized same-sex marriage, and for use by those couples who are content with having their "lifelong covenant" blessed by the Church, rather than solemnized in it. The Presider explains, in these words, the purpose of the ceremony to those gathered to witness it:
Dear friends in Christ, or Dearly beloved, in the name of God and the Church we have come together today with N.N. and N.N. to witness the vows they make, committing themselves to one another. Forsaking all others, they will bind themselves to one another in a covenant of mutual fidelity and steadfast love, remaining true to one another in heart, body, and mind, as long as they both shall live. Such a lifelong commitment is not to be entered into lightly or thoughtlessly, but responsibly and with reverence. Let us pray, then, that God will give them the strength to remain steadfast in what they vow this day. Let us also pray for the generosity to support them in the commitment they undertake, and for the wisdom to see God at work in their life together. [There follows an alternative invocation for couples who have previously made their commitment to each other.]
The vows to be exchanged also include two versions: one invokes the "grace of God ... the love of Christ ... [and] the Spirit's help"; the other omits those words entirely. After the exchange of vows, the Presider then says (with my bold emphasis added):
Now that N. and N. have exchanged vows of love and fidelity in the presence of God and the Church, I now pronounce that they are bound to one another as long as they both shall live. Amen.
The word "marriage" appears nowhere in the liturgy of the service, or in its rubrics. Let us call this ceremony, therefore, the "Marriage-Lite Rite."  Next in order, we have

2. "The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage" (pp. 87-96 at the link). This ceremony, as indicated in the Presider's invocation, is "to witness the vows [the two partners] make [or reaffirm], committing themselves to one another in marriage according to the laws of the state [or civil jurisdiction] of X." In other words, they are to be married, and married by a minister in a church building (if they wish), but at their election it will remain only a civil marriage, and not one solemnized in a ceremony of Holy Matrimony. The partners are given the same alternate choices of vows to make as are in the Marriage-Lite Rite (#1 above), and the Presider then pronounces as follows (with my bold emphasis, again):
Now that N. and N. have exchanged vows of love and fidelity in the presence of God and the Church, I pronounce that they are married according to the laws of the state [or civil jurisdiction] of X. and bound to one another as long as they both shall live. Amen.
Since this ceremony accomplishes only a civil (and not a Church-solemnized) marriage, let us call it the "Civil Marriage Rite." Next, we have

3. "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage (2)" (pp. 97-106 at the link). The reason for the "(2)" in the title is that this ceremony has been adapted from the rite of the same name and title in the 1979 BCP, pp. 423-32; it is thus intended to be the full equivalent of Holy Matrimony, as far as General Convention is concerned. And indeed, the invocation says it straight out:
Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of N. and N. in Holy Matrimony. The joining of two people in a life of mutual fidelity signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and so it is worthy of being honored among all people.

The union of two people in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the gift of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.
Into this holy union N.N. and N.N. now come to be joined.
[On equating this "holy union" with the "union between Christ and his Church," see below.]

Thus this ceremony is for those same-sex couples who want a full-fledged Church-sanctioned "marriage," and who live in a State that officially allows such "marriages." [I cannot yield to those who may resent the the quotation marks -- there is no other means for me to preserve the distinction between heterosexual marriage and same-gender "marriage", which is the entire basis for this post.]

But how did they modify the traditional vows? Ah, I'm glad you asked -- take a look at them:
N., will you have this woman /man /person to be your wife /husband /spouse; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her /him, comfort her /him, honor and keep her /him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her /him as long as you both shall live?

In the Name of God, I, N., take you, N., to be my wife /husband /spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
It was, thus, no difficulty that impersonal words like "spouse" and "person" couldn't fix. (Yet one has to wonder how the words would have to be changed to accommodate those of a transgender persuasion who refuse to be constrained by a masculine-feminine duality.) The Presider then pronounces as follows (my bold emphasis):
Now that N. and N. have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I pronounce that they are wed to one another, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder. Amen.
He does not pronounce them "husband and wife", but that they are "wed to one another." So let us call this the "Wedding Rite." As in the BCP, there is an optional rite for "the Blessing of a Civil Marriage," and an alternative "Order for Marriage" that parallels that on pp. 435-36 of the BCP. The only difference is that the vows are changed as indicated above, with an optional vow that uses the traditional cadence: "... till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."

 Finally, there is

4. "The Form of Solemnization of Matrimony" (pp. 106-08 at the link), which is a gender-neutral adaptation of the ceremony found in the 1928 BCP. The Presider declares the intention "to join together N.N. and N.N. in holy matrimony; which is an honorable estate, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church ..."  [Yes, you read that right: the joining of two people of the same gender in "holy matrimony" is to be seen by those performing it as "signifying the mystical union" that St. Paul describes in Ephesians chapter 5. The same blasphemous language is used in the "Wedding Rite" (see above). I will have more to say about this in my next post.]

The vows are the "plight thee my troth" version described for the Wedding Rite above. However, as with that rite, the phrase "husband and wife" has to go. The final pronouncement is as follows (emphasis added):
FORASMUCH as N. and N. have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and have declared the same [by giving and receiving Rings, and] by joining hands; I pronounce that they are now and ever hereafter United in Matrimony; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
What to call this theological parody? It shall have to be the "Mystical Union Rite."

As one can see, Resolution 2015-A054 offers up a veritable smorgasbord of marriage services for all and sundry. If you are an atheist, the Episcopal Church (USA) is ready to meet you and marry you with its "Civil Marriage Rite"; if it is illegal to marry in your State, the Episcopal Church (USA) will still meet you and bless your union with its "Marriage-Lite Rite"; and if you want the full trappings for your same-sex ceremony, well, ECUSA offers it in modern ("Wedding Rite") and traditional ("Mystical Union") versions, according to your taste.

But the consequence is necessarily the dilution of Christian marriage into a virtually meaningless smear. The message that ECUSA is conveying with its cafeteria-style offerings is that it does not really stand behind any one of them; they all must be equally valid, liturgically speaking, and so "you pays yer money and you takes yer choice." Whether you are really married is between God and you; it is not for the Church to say.

Resolutions A036 and A054, as noted, work in tandem to accomplish this goal. The one would be meaningless without the other -- indeed, until A054 goes into formal effect and its marriage rites are authorized by diocesan bishops in their respective jurisdictions, the canonical violations described in the first Part of this post will continue unabated and unpunished.

In the next Part of this post, we will take a longer view of the Church's abandonment of traditional marriage, and the consequences of that abandonment for two Western institutions of paramount importance: the family, and the "one, true, catholic and apostolic church" itself. 

[Read Part III at this link.]

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Making a Mishmash of Marriage (Part I)

As the date for the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) in Salt Lake City draws near, the deputies are being asked to adopt measures of expediency in order to bail out clergy from the predicament into which previous General Conventions have placed them.

No attention is given to the longer-term picture. There is nothing to see but a short-term "fix" that (a) emasculates the Book of Common Prayer; (b) reverses the normal order for liturgical change; and (c) makes a mishmash of the concept of "marriage" within the Episcopal Church (USA).

Here is the predicament, in a nutshell. For years, the Episcopal Church (USA) has had no lawful means of recognizing -- let alone of blessing or solemnizing -- same-sex unions between its members. (It still does not, but try telling that to the revisionists at GC 2015.)

Until such unions began to receive civil recognition under various State laws and court decisions (mostly the latter, since majorities for the former were hard to find), ECUSA could do nothing (other than open its clerical orders to such couples, who by the traditional definition of the BCP (p. 422) were still living in sin).

Now it is 2015, and by hook or by crook the majority of States have been brought to recognize same-sex unions, and to call them "marriages." And by the end of this month, there will in all likelihood be a resounding 5-4 "mandate" from the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court -- who must be the most learned of all in such matters -- that requires the approval of such "marriages" in all 50 States, via an unpersuasive eisegesis of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Revisionist ECUSA clergy in those States who are in the vanguard pushed General Convention to authorize them to make an appropriate "pastoral response" to same-sex couples within their jurisdiction who avail themselves of the change in the civil law.

And General Convention, with no thought either to its inherent authority or to the future of the Church, hastened to oblige. At the same gathering at which it ratified the election of same-sex partnered (and now divorced) V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, it adopted the following language in Resolution 2003-C051:
That we commit ourselves, and call our church, in the spirit of Resolution A104 of the 70th General Convention (1991), to continued prayer, study, and discernment on the pastoral care for gay and lesbian persons, to include the compilation and development by a special commission organized and appointed by the Presiding Bishop, of resources to facilitate as wide a conversation of discernment as possible throughout the church.
 In 2006, General Convention went on record as opposing any federal or state constitutional amendment "that prohibits same-sex civil marriage or civil unions." In 2009, in the process of affirming its wish to remain a constituent part of the Anglican Communion, General Convention  resolved (D025) that "through our own listening," its members have "come to recognize that the baptized membership of The Episcopal Church includes same-sex couples living in lifelong committed relationships 'characterized by fidelity, monogamy, mutual affection and respect, careful, honest communication and the holy love which enables those in such relationships to see in each other the image of God' (2000-D039)" ...

In 2012, General Convention took the decisive steps that landed all of ECUSA's clergy in their current predicament. First, it created a Task Force on the Study of Marriage, and directed it to consult with "the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons and The Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to address the pastoral need for priests to officiate at a civil marriage of a same-sex couple in states that authorize such...".

Then, as part of the same process, it adopted Resolution 2012-A049, which purported to authorize, for "provisional use ... under the direction and subject to the permission of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority", a rite for the "Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant".

Note that the "rite" in question was not yet for the outright celebration and solemnizing, before the altar of an Episcopal church, of a civil union between two persons of the same sex. But then immediately followed this weasel-worded paragraph of Resolution 2012-A049 (my emphasis added):
That bishops, particularly those in dioceses within civil jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships are legal, may provide generous pastoral response to meet the needs of members of this Church ...
In typical Revisionist fashion, this was placing (and jumping on) the cart before the horse. The "horse" needed to draw the cart was an outright change in the Church's authorized liturgy to celebrate and solemnize same-sex unions before its altars. But by purporting to extend to diocesan bishops the "authority" to "provide generous pastoral response" to same-sex couples, General Convention deliberately left it open for those revisionist bishops to read this language as allowing them to authorize rites for their clergy's  performance of same-sex marriages -- without regard to the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.

And that is just what happened following General Convention 2012: in diocese after diocese, the announcements followed that the ecclesiastical authority had ["carefully," "thoughtfully," "after much prayer and consideration" -- insert self-flattering words of choice here] come to the conclusion that he or she could authorize the performance of same-sex marriages by licensed clergy of the Church. In no time at all, numerous such ceremonies had taken place in consecrated buildings across the country -- many even performed by the diocesan.

Meanwhile, the Church's Canons were growing restless, because they had been stretched beyond all sense or meaning. After all the Resolutions by General Convention detailed above, Canon I.18.1 of the Church still reads as follows (with my emphasis again added):
Sec. 1. Every Member of the Clergy of this Church shall conform to the laws of the State governing the creation of the civil status of marriage, and also to the laws of this Church governing the solemnization of Holy Matrimony.
The "laws of this Church" certainly include its Constitution and Canons. And so it is noteworthy that Canon I.18.2 still reads today as follows (with my emphasis, again):
Sec. 2. Before solemnizing a marriage the Member of the Clergy shall have ascertained: ... (b) That both parties understand that Holy Matrimony is a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.
It would be impossible, and even ludicrous, for any clergy in ECUSA to claim that, in the process of solemnizing a same-sex union as "allowed" by their bishop, they had not violated the provisions of Canon I.18.2, as well as the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer (which define "Christian marriage" as "a solemn and public covenant between a man and a woman in the presence of God"). The provisions of Title IV, as revised by GC 2012, state in Canon IV.3.1:
Sec. 1. A Member of the Clergy shall be subject to proceedings under this Title for:
(a) knowingly violating or attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese...
Not only that, but Canon IV.4.1 adds:
Sec. 1. In exercising his or her ministry, a Member of the Clergy shall:
 ... (b) conform to the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer...
Now you should see the dilemma in which the revisionist clergy find themselves. In jumping the gun in 2012 to rush into church-sanctioned same-sex marriages (as a matter of "generous pastoral response" to a tiny minority of parishioners), they did not have the patience first to change either the Canons or the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. (The latter would have required action by two successive General Conventions, or a minimum of four years.)

As a consequence, every single bishop and every single priest in ECUSA who has presided over the solemnization of a same-sex marriage up to now -- whether using a rite "authorized by the diocesan" or not -- is liable to discipline under Title IV of the Church Canons. Need I bother declaring the odds of such proceedings ever taking place? No matter -- the Canons have still been, and still are, knowingly violated and so, disrespected -- by the very persons charged with conforming to them.  

And now comes the Task Force with its "proposal" to amend Canon I.18, as embodied in proposed Resolution 2015-A036. In my next post, I will show how their proposal continues to make a mockery of the Canons and of the Book of Common Prayer. In the process, it manages to create a thorough mishmash of "Christian marriage" in the Episcopal Church (USA). All in all, that is quite a feat!

[To be continued -- see Part II at this link.]