5/10/2005

Where the Odds Are, There Will the Vultures Gather.

Well, the game’s in play in the Episcopal Church and action is in the challenges to the ownership of property. Were there bookies attending to such matters odds could be taken on the outcome of this or that local congregational battle to claim ownership of church, furnishings and funds, thereby denying that they are held in trust for the Diocese, or in turn for the Episcopal Church.

It also appears there are attempts being made in some dioceses to disengage from the canons of the Episcopal Church concerning property ownership. This, of course, raises yet another problem, one that has to do with diocesan withdrawal from the Episcopal Church, selective allegiance to or enforcement of the canons as they exist, and questions about whether or not a diocese can secede from the union of dioceses that is the Episcopal Church. Book making on these efforts is considerably more complicated.

It remains of course to question when, if ever, the Episcopal Church, by way of Executive Council, its agents, etc., or the office of the Presiding Bishop, will bring any of this to a head by challenging the continued viability of a Diocese that contravenes the clear intent of the canons. If a diocese by its own canonical changes disassociates itself from the National Church and its canons when it feels the Episcopal Church has operated contrary to Anglican values, or when it wishes to hold its property as a Diocesan or parochial entity, that diocese needs to be confronted with the reality that it has abandoned the faith and trust put in it by the Episcopal Church itself, and those persons who have done so are no longer the representative of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese question.

Thomas Bushnell’s excellent article, “What would +Rowan do?is a good read on the future of the struggle between the realignment crowd and the Episcopal Church. In particular he spells out with great clarity why the realignment crowd is going to work hard to find ways to take property with them. The last sentences of his article says it succinctly: “This means that all their noise is not an attempt to achieve some other (essentially impossible) result, but rather an attempt to simply carry away as many toys as they can in the end. It is up to the rest of us, who don’t intend any leaving, to decide how many toys we are willing to let them steal.” Another interesting blog concerning the issues of ownership of property is A Voice in the Fundamentalist Wilderness , lots of good commentary.

The Moderator of the Network has already indicated in a Living Church article that his view of the future includes law suits: “It’ll be very interesting time. I mean, we don’t want to go to court, but it’s quite clear the Episcopal Church is always ready to go to court, and this time I think they might not be so willing to go to court, because we think there’s every reason they’lllose.”

It is reported that in the Diocese of Albany, a resolution is being proposed that states,

“RESOLVED, that the Canons of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany be amended by adding the following Canon, to be numbered 7.5:

Property of any kind, either real or personal, held by the Trustees of the
Episcopal Diocese of
Albany, or any Parish of the Diocese, or any corporation
established by the Diocese, or any corporation established by a Parish of the
Diocese shall be subject to no trust or claim from any body or entity outside of
this Diocese, and all trusts or claims asserted by The Episcopal Church in
the
United States of America on such property are expressly denied.”

This of course runs counter to Canon 7 section 4 and 5 which read,

Sec. 4: All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.

Sec. 5

The several Dioceses may, at their election, further confirm the trust declared under the foregoing Section 4 by appropriate action, but no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.”

Well, there it is: The resolution pending in the Diocese of Albany is raised in contradistinction to the canons of the Episcopal Church, denying the applicability of Canon 7 section 4 & 5.

Beyond the clear violation of Canon 7, the proposed resolution in the Diocese of Albany has made me think of another issue: The ultimate counter to Canon 7:4-5 is congregational. It is the argument that the congregation has control of its property. That may serve the realignment crowd in some short term way, but would any reconstituted pure North American “orthodox” church put up with a radically congregational approach to property, trust funds, etc? I don’t think so!

What the realignment crowd wants is for us to think that Canon 7:4-5 ought not inhibit congregations trying to take (as Thomas suggests) all the toys, a wildly congregational approach. At the same time the realignment crowd wants to say it is upholding Anglican Communion sensibilities that we are not a congregational church at all, and that decisions about our life, faith and common practice are not local, congregational or even national in context.

Well, good friends, you can’t eat the cake and have it too. Either the congregational rights to property are affirmed, in which case you are supporting a congregational polity, or the Canon stands, in which case property is held in trust for the Episcopal Church.

The desire to BOTH back local congregations taking their property and funds out of the Episcopal Church, and to maintain that Anglican Communion parishes do not operate outside a larger church frame, leads to an untenable position, one which is as deranged as is the whole effort to try to take the place of the Episcopal Church by claiming that it has ceased to be the “real” Episcopal Church.

This whole thing is an insult to the faithfulness of Episcopalians. If there are those who cannot agree, fine. We must learn to let go of them, bid them fair forward and move on ourselves. But if they intend to take property and funds on the basis of congregational “fairness” or diocesan disavowal of the decisions of the Episcopal Church in General Convention assembled, we ought to call it what it is: dissembling and two-faced.

Selah!

42 comments:

  1. Joan R. Gundersen11/5/05 12:47 AM

    Given that Fort Worth and Pittsburgh have ALREADY amended their diocesan canons with language that negates not only the Dennis Canon, but ALL actions of General Convention and ALL parts of the Episcopasl Church Constitution and Canons, and that San Joaquin has passed a similar resolution and will complete the process at its next convention, Albany's resolution appears mild but also clearer. The Network Nullifiers need to be called to task before this nullification disease spreads further.

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  2. The more and longer I read of this, the more I am convinced that it is not about faithfulness, theology, Anglican values, or any of the other smokescreen terms the Network is using to justify its position.

    It is about raw, naked power grabs. It is about impatience on the part of those whose ambition is unfettered by ECUSA's recognition of their mediocrity. They haven't carried a majority in the church by persuading those who disagree with them to accept their position, so they will simply take what they want, by any means they want.

    And they have the audacity to claim that they are being harrassed and persecuted. The more moderate and sane voices in the church, although committed to peaceable discussion, do need to speak out against this disingenuous hiding behind the claim of vicimization.

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  3. Mark, would you be willing to co-sponsor an amendment to the Canons linking "unqualified accession" to the same with voice and vote in the House of Deputies? It seems to me wholly unfair of folks to expect full representation in a body whose decisions they then feel free explicitly to countermand.

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  4. Wow. These folks just keep taking more rope. It seems to me that bishops who lead their diocese in passing canons contrary to our Episcopal Church Constitution and Canons are open to presentiment and removal as having broken with this Church?

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  5. My question is, aren't there steps that can be taken to stop this? My understanding of our particular polity is limited, so someone please feel free to correct me. But it seems that much of our polity is similar to that of American government. And so the analogy would be to a state deciding to pass a law that clearly contradicted a law passed by the federal government. Obviously the federal law would be upheld. The question is, in this context, what can be done to make sure that local dioceses and congregations are made to strike out laws that break with ECUSA's constitution? Is there some sort of ecclesiastical judiciary that can be used to strike these new canons down?

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  6. My question is, aren't there steps that can be taken to stop this? My understanding of our particular polity is limited, so someone please feel free to correct me. But it seems that much of our polity is similar to that of American government. And so the analogy would be to a state deciding to pass a law that clearly contradicted a law passed by the federal government. Obviously the federal law would be upheld. The question is, in this context, what can be done to make sure that local dioceses and congregations are made to strike out laws that break with ECUSA's constitution? Is there some sort of ecclesiastical judiciary that can be used to strike these new canons down?

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  7. Since this blog is so consumed with issues of power, perhaps we should discuss where the power in the Episcopal Church (or any church, especially in the US) resides. It resides with the laity.

    The laity built, paid for, and maintain the churches you say belong to the national churches. The laity support both Bishop Duncan and Bishop Robinson. They likely support these new diocesan canons that negate the Dennis Canon. (I understand canons to be enacted by diocesan conventions, not bishops, and I'm curious about how the church will file a presentment against a whole diocese.) If the laity withdraw their support -- money, participation -- all these canons, parishes, holy orders, committees, etc., don't mean a blasted thing.

    You can go to court and take the property from these dissenting parishes. You may very well win. But what you will win will be a string of empty churches across eleven dioceses (and others besides). You won't win the people that way. The people in those dioceses largely agree with their leadership; that's why they follow them.

    Empty churches have their value, of course. You won't fill them again -- not the way this church is shrinking. Maintaining them would be a tremendous financial drain. But you can always sell them to those rapidly-growing evangelical and pentecostal sects. Since you didn't pay for them, every penny after lawyers' fees will be profit. Of perhaps you can turn them into historical monuments, as are so many former Episcopal churches across the Midwest. But I don't believe the Episcopal Church exists as a real-estate business.

    Canons might win you property, but they won't win people -- not hearts. And if the people are convinced that your use of these canons is unjust (and a good case can be made for it, I think), then these actions will be quite costly. You will lose much in you victory. You will lose the respect of the common person.

    I realize that many of you hold these people in disdain, and would be glad to be rid of them. But try to remember that the vast majority of Christians agree with them -- even in this country. (Actually, most evangelicals would be shocked to learn that conservative Episcopalians allow practicing homosexuals to receive the Lord's Supper.) The voting public has also demonstrated again and again that they do not favor homosexual weddings and same-sex unions. That's doesn't mean they're right, and you're wrong. But you won't persuade them otherwise by exertions of power, enforcing canons, and lawsuits. And since the laity don't have to show up at church, don't have to participate, and don't have to contribute financially, ultimately the power of persuasion is the only real power the church has.

    RB

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  8. All do respect, a great deal of difficulty within the Episcopal Church today, both from the so-called "right" and "left", comes from the kind of semi-congregationalism that you're describing. Not that the laity aren't of an infinite importance. I am glad that the laity of this church are involved in its decision making, glad that Anglicanism gives the laity a role in determining its own fate. Nevertheless, we are the Episcopal Church, and not the Congregationalist Church, for a reason. The Body of Christ only works in diversity, but it cannot work in democracy. There is an understanding of authority in the Church that involves the episcopacy, the canons of the Church, the larger Church Catholic. Americans don't like to acknowledge this because we like to think that each of us is the center of our own self-propelled universe.

    Personally, I'm not attached to property. If some church wants to break off and enjoy the fruits of schism, I say more power to them. I am not their judge. What makes me want to scream is the idea that some of these churches are attempting to pass themselves off as the "authentic" Episcopal Church, and taking a secular legal road to do it. Hence my question about ecclesiastical courts, church jurisdictions. At some point somebody's got to be held accountable for their actions.

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  9. I'd remind "anonymous" that the polity of the ECUSA has a valuable role in protecting us at times from the tyranny of the majority. Not the majority of Episcopalians, who have made their mind known at General Convention, mind you. I'm referring to the examples he/she made of "evangelical and pentecostal sects" and such.

    Our polity provides checks and balances against the excesses of both rigid hierarchy (ala the Roman church) and the rampant congregationalism of the Southern Baptists and their kin...

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  10. Whether the church government is episcopal, presbyterian, or congregational, it governs only by the consent of the governed. The power resides with the laity. The church doesn't have police, armies, or weapons to force its decisions. There is absolutely nothing stopping the laity from walking away tomorrow. I reiterate that the power of persuasion is the only power the church has.

    Also, I don't think the conservative Episcopalians feel very protected from the "tyranny of the majority." In fact, this is a huge part of the issue.

    Truthfully, I see plenty of fault in both sides in this conflict. Perhaps it's inevitable: a clash of two different sets of values, each side judging each other from its own perspective, acting according to its own set of values without regard for the other set, believing it to be false, each believing their opponents to be "evil" (which, of course, is hardly the case). Maybe understanding and reconciliation is impossible; perhaps schism and lawsuits are the only answers.

    But shouldn't the attempt at reconciliation and compromise at least be made? If for no other reason, so we don't look like hypocrites when we call on the world toward reconciliation and peace?

    RB

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  11. Excuse me - but has anyone here stopped to think of the root cause of our problem? The problem is that ECUSA has decided there are multiple truths or in the words of the PB "pluriform truths." They believe the actions of General Convention can change the authority of Scripture. We are by constitution, Anglican. ECUSA has made its decisions in total contradiction to the majority of the Anglican world. Many within ECUSA actually doubt the divinity of Christ. Doubt me? Then you, my friend, are sadly misinformed. We already have clergy who doubt that Christ was actually on the cross, died on the cross, rose from the dead or is the only begotten son of God. This does not even count those among our "leadership" who are not willing to state that Jesus is the only way to the Father. Sorry folks, this is not Christianity. It does not represent a member of a body whose foundation is Scripture. It does not represent the majority of the laity. As to the commenter who stated actions of ECUSA represented the majority of those at convention - you are correct. And what a shame it took going this far down the wayward path to finally heat up the seats enough to get the laity awake and on their feet. How many of you went to your Diocesan convention this year? How many volunteered to be a delegate - unlike past years? Did you notice how hotly contested the seats for GC were - unlike previous years? We are awake now, we will remain awake and we will continue to fight for the faith once delivered to the saints - not the one that was recently whispered in Gene Robinson's or Frank Griswold's ear or appeared in Joseph Smith's hat.

    Why do we stay? We stay because although diminished in numbers in the US, the Anglican Church has numbers. ECUSA actions make headlines and if ECUSA caves in to secular thinking, it will be harder and harder for the other mainline denominations not to do the same. And as a friend said, "Whoever thought the greatest field for evangelism within the US would be within our own church!" There are many, many good people left in ECUSA who are not scripturally based (never a priority for ECUSA, was it?). What did Jesus say, “What father gives a stone to a child who asks for a fish?” And please do not misunderstand – all are welcome, all are invited. All are invited to hear the Gospel message (uncensored and uncut) and invited to walk in the transforming love and grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
    No, my friends, it is time. Time to choose. Is Scripture your foundation or the latest cut and paste reference guide?

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  12. But it is just plain dishonest to think there is no Scriptural basis for ECUSA's actions. Start with two conservative premises: (1)Christ is risen in the flesh; (2)In the world to come, members of the Church will be risen in the flesh. And(3)-(5) have strong scriptural support:(3)In the world to come, a new, real, reciprocal relation, R, will hold between Christ and each member of the Church; (4)Marriage here below is to be modeled after R; (5)R holds between Christ, a male, and other males; (6)Given that marriage here below is to be modeled after R (4), and in R, male is joined to male, it follows male may be joined to male in marriage here below. Deny (6), and you either deny the reality of the resurrection, or else cut the meaning of Christian marriage loose from the relation of Christ to the Church.
    Note the corollary: a disposition to deny marriage between males here below is, in a male Christian, a disposition to deny Christ, as one would be disposed to deny entering into R. In that sense, there is ample biblical warrant for concluding theological conservatives denying gay marriage are anti-Christ.

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  13. Todd –

    You really need Scriptural references if you wish to assert an opinion based on Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture does God join two males (or two females) and call it blessed,good or one. Could we start with the words of Christ, in Matthew 19:4?
    And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning "made them male and female,' 5and said, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."

    I personally would love to find a Scriptural basis for homosexuality (but I have found none) as it is not easy when faced with loved ones and friends who think you hateful and mean. I had to face the same choice with friends in hetero and bi relationships outside of marriage, both single and married. I had to come to the realization that I would rather have a friend in eternity than for this brief moment on earth - if choosing were required. I hope they feel the same about me and put me on the right path when I stray as I am just another miserable sinner in need of redemption.

    I agree that we are now afforded a personal relationship with Christ through the gift of the Holy Spirit but how are we to discern the Spirit if not through Scriptures? How can God contradict Himself? Without Scripture how are we to separate the whisperings of the world -- not to mention those of the enemy who loves to imitate -- from those of the Holy Spirit? If your basis is that you do not believe the Bible to be the inspired word of God, so be it – that is your right. But as an Anglican and Episcopalian, our foundation is Scriptural which is recognized and held as the inspired Word of God. As I said previously, all are invited, all are welcome, all are embraced – to hear the Gospel of Our Lord and Savior. I do accept Scripture as the inspired Word of God and know that my thoughts are not His thoughts – and I cannot attain to them.

    Forgive my ignorance – but does "R" signify Relationship in your response?

    YSIC,
    Jackie

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  14. Hey, guess what, Jackie? The fastest-growing segment of the population today is the "unchurched." Everybody's already leaving in droves, so you probably won't have to work very hard or for very much longer to get rid the rest of us.

    Everybody in Europe is already gone and the United States won't be far behind. I know I think about leaving the Church every single day; you've certainly inspired to lean a little further in that direction.

    And BTW: Gene Robinson has been a faithful servant of the Church for over 30 years. I really don't think it's very accurate to describe his lifelong and obviously deep faith (he was called to the priesthood, after all!) as something "recently whispered in his ear."

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  15. Dear BLS - I have not worked to "get rid" of anyone. If actually believing the tenents of the faith we proclaim and on which ECUSA was founded is a crime, color me guilty. I guess the question I would ask you - are you disputing the interpretation of Scripture or do you dispute the authority of Scripture?
    You misquote me with "recently whispered in his ear." Please re-read my earlier comment. Gene Robinson has stated that a homosexual lifestyle is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and that the Holy Spirit "is doing a new thing." My comment was directed at his statement which has been picked up by many of the "leaders" in the church. I ask you - How does one discern the guidance (whisperings) of the Holy Spirit if the Bible is not a reliable resource?
    As for your statement, Robinson was "called" to the priesthood - I don't know the man. I would pray he took his vows as a result of a call and not as a career choice.
    This being said - why are you offended by reasonable people in reasonable conversation. If you dispute my words, say so and give a reasoned response. Personal attack honors no one.

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  16. Whether or not Gene Robinson was called to be a priest, he became one when the hands were placed on his head. The same is true of his status as bishop. If you're looking for an absolute in the history of the Church, there's one that's inescapable. Ordination is an objective reality, not a functional one. Whether or not we choose as a church to allow Bishop Robinson to exercise his ministry freely, he is a bishop.

    Jackie, I won't argue homosexuality with you directly because I don't think it would get us anywhere. But I will take up the larger question you ask, as to the inspiration of scripture. You point out the authority that it holds in our common life as Anglican Christians and I would second that. Scripture is both authoritative and inspired. But I would add that a catholic ethos requires discernment of scripture as a whole, not just in segments, by the Church rather than just in individual study. I'd also add that the authority we accept from the revelation in scripture is generated by the One who inspired it. We worship God, not the book. This is the one area where I found what was written in the Windsor Report to be exceptionally on target. Scripture interpreted is our guiding principle because it comes from God. As does the gift of spiritual discipline, obedience, and unity within the Church where we operate as a body.

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  17. Ah, you have found a point upon which we can agree. I too believe one should take Scripture in its totality. The best way to interpret Scripture is in light of other Scripture. If you are willing to truly look at Scripture as a whole, in whatever context you like, including considering then current events, etc., you will have to agree that it does not support homosexuality and in fact sees it as contrary to God's laws. There are many things contrary to God's laws that we violate and it is through seeking forgiveness and true repentance that we find our place in God's hand. It is when, through our humanness, we seek to call blessed what God did not that we run into trouble. I do not argue Robinson's sexuality - that is between him and God, just as I must answer for my choices in life. I do, however, argue that the authority of Scripture is indisputable. And accusing those who actually believe Scripture to be the inspired Word of God of making it an idol is becoming a tired cliche'. Your words do not change the fact that calling righteous what God has called sin – is unbearable, unthinkable and if upheld within ECUSA, the reason ECUSA will no longer be Anglican.
    As for the validity of Robinson’s vows, that remains to be seen. He thankfully is not my priest.

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  18. Taking scripture in its totality, and primarily interpreting scripture against scripture is a very nice idea, but far from adequate. Not all passages in scripture are equally authoritative or binding--a point made by NT Wright (who is behind most of the Windsor Report's stuff on scripture) in his new book "Scripture and the Authority of God."

    Wright, however, doesn't go far enough, or indicate how we decide which sciptures are binding and which have fallen (or should fall) by the wayside. My thought is that before we say any passage of scripture is authoritative, we have to look at how it has been used throughout the church's history. Where, and how often, does it (or its parallels) appear in the lectionary--and has that changed over time? What reflections has the passage in question produced in the form of sermons, devotional literature, hymnody over the course of Christian history?

    This kind of examination will make it obvious that the church has held certain teachings/scriptures as more authoritative and central to its life, because they have a prominent place in public worship. If certain passages do not have this kind of backing, then we have to ask the following questions:

    1) Why have they received relatively little attention?

    2) What is the motivation/justification for changing their relative importance at this point in history?

    3) Who stands to benefit from making such a change?

    4) Who stands to be harmed by making such a change?

    5) Do the benefits justify the harm?

    I'm not convinced that the claims made for the passages on homosexuality stand up to this kind of scrutiny. Something besides sexuality is at issue here, and it's far past time we dig a little deeper and figure out what it is, and deal with that.

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  19. As for the validity of Robinson’s vows, that remains to be seen.

    This is where I see the greatest danger, in our continued slide towards a notion of sacraments that is nothing but functional. Gene Robinson is a bishop. He was ordained a bishop and therefore he is one. This is an objective reality. You could no more say that he wasn't a bishop than could you say that he was an aardvark. There is no subjectivity to impart here. You can disagree with the act of making him a bishop if you like. You can argue that he should not be allowed to perform his episcopal functions. But he is a bishop. Calling that into question opens us up to calling all sorts of things into question, like the real presence in the Eucharist, or the power of Baptism.

    The best way to interpret Scripture is in light of other Scripture.

    Yes, albeit also through the lense of tradition and reason.

    If you are willing to truly look at Scripture as a whole, in whatever context you like, including considering then current events, etc., you will have to agree that it does not support homosexuality and in fact sees it as contrary to God's laws.

    I wouldn't have to agree with that at all. In fact, I believe the opposite holds true. The modern Church's attitude towards homosexuality as a sinful state is a rather recent innovation in the history of biblical interpretation, and it's based mostly on proof texting with a small number of poorly exegeted passages. Whereas an understanding of creation and covenant relationships that pervades the entirety of scripture would easilly include committed, covenant gay and lesbian relationships as they exist in the world today.

    But there I go doing exactly what I said I wouldn't, which is debating homosexuality itself. Oy. So easy to be drawn into that...

    Let me just say, speaking again to the larger point, that it is not in the absence of an understanding of scripture as inspired and authoritative that the current movement of ECUSA operates, at least from where I sit as one deeply committed to upholding the values and principles of holy scripture.

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  20. Jackie,
    Every time the Bible says that Christ will be joined with the Church in the world to come, e.g. in the figure of the MArriage Supper of the Lamb, the Bible implies that male will be joined to male. The Church is its members, and its members include males, no? You need to think more about what you read. Insofar as this union of the Church to Christ is what Christians strive for here below, how could it fail to be good?

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  21. Jackie, when you get into discussions on the internet, it helps to differentiate between "personal attack" (for example, the many insulting things you've said here about Gene Robinson) and "having your ideas challenged" (e.g., my questioning the accuracy of your description of Gene Robinson's faith as something he recently made up - and also my demonstrating that Christianity is losing membership, despite what the "orthodox" claim).

    And I'll make that point again: the churches in Europe are empty, in spite of the fact that Europe was the highly-conservative John Paul II's backyard. Millions upoon millions of people left Christianity on his watch. Why? Because many people would prefer an honest, searching faith than one based, as J-Tron notes, "mostly on proof texting with a small number of poorly exegeted passages."

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  22. (It's also quite insulting, BTW, and thus perhaps could be considered a "personal attack," when somebody states that millions of faithful Episcopalians need to be "evangelized" by the "true believers" in the Church, and that we see the Bible as a "cut-and-paste" reference book.

    Perhaps you aren't aware of it, but the only two official pieces of doctrine in ECUSA are the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds. If you can point out the passages that condemn homosexuality in those two documents, by all means please go ahead.)

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  23. (One more point, Jackie: statistics show that conservative Christians divorce at a higher rate than does the general population. So I don't think you have to worry about Gene Robinson's effect on "secular thinking," as opposed to "Biblical imperative"; conservative Christians are already busy disobeying Christ himself - who, after all, explicitly forbade divorce. And while we're at it: how come there's no Federal Anti-Divorce Amendment in the works, one has to wonder?

    The state that has the lowest divorce rate, in fact, is, ironically, Massachusetts - where gay marriage is legal. Hmm.)

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  24. Quite a few comments to catch up on here while I was out working....
    First - to the issue of doctrine - It is my understanding that when used in reference to the Church, one should fall back on the archaic definition which means - a teaching. So to say that the only two pieces of doctrine of the church are the Creeds….. (well, that may be accurate based on current ECUSA actions). Can we agree that the Prayer Book is an "official" book of the church? If you turn to page 845 there is a host of items, one of which is found on 851 that states the Creeds set forth our "BASIC" belief.

    I have not attacked Gene Robinson personally. There is a difference in judging the man and his actions. He had the power to stop the Church from heading off this cliff but he refused. He took his ordination vows knowing that Scripture is clearly against homosexuality (he said so on 60 Minutes) but he refused to renounce the practice or repent. If we then turn to the governing documents of the church, you will find the statement that General Convention cannot do anything contrary to God's Word written. There is even a provision that if that does occur all actions at that General Convention are null and void.
    So, let's move on to God's Word. We can start with Matthew 19 as discussed in an earlier comment and move right on to Romans 1. Only a clearly distorted reading of these Scriptures does not clearly state God's intent for the joining of humankind. Then page 860 of the prayer book defines the sacrament of marriage as between one man and one woman. I would further refer you to the works of Robert Gagnon on the issue of homosexuality and the Bible. He thoroughly investigates every aspect of this issue from secular to biblical.
    As to the issue of construing the fact that Christ will be joined with the Church to represent God approving of same sex unions - Are we so desperate in our desires that we can put this connotation to it? My husband is joined to my sons but that does not mean he has sex with them.
    On the issue of the looking at the readings of the church to see what verses are currently in "vogue" with the church - danger, danger. Remember this movement has not occurred overnight. Are you implying that because a verse does not make it into the Cycle it is no longer valid? We must also remember what started this discussion – breaking of the faith with the remainder of the Anglican World. As Anglicans we are obliged to not do anything that would tear the fabric of the Communion such as changing the interpretation of Scripture without consent of the governing bodies.
    Divorce – is a tragic problem in our world. Many people believe that the churches change on its stance towards divorce was the beginning of the current crisis. I happen to agree. However, let’s look at divorce honestly. It is a sin. No two ways about it. In John 8 the woman caught in the act of adultery was forgiven by Jesus with the commandment “go, and do not sin again.” If we truly repent of our sin and turn, we are forgiven.
    We are commanded to go and make disciples of the nations. Why would we neglect our brother and sisters when we believe their belief (or lack thereof) could jeopardize their salvation? My reference to cut and paste – why is that an insult to those who have clearly stated that there are sections of the Bible that are just not applicable or as Wendy questioned by the prominence the Church places on the reading. Do I need to remind you of the Bishop who stated, “The Church wrote the stupid book and it can rewrite it.” I do not object to a challenge to my opinions. Why would I opine on a clearly non-conservative blog if challenge was a threat? I do, however, feel you should be willing to back up opinions with Scripture when it affects the survival of the Anglican Church in America.
    Finally, it is a shame that this issue has focused on homosexuality. It is no more or less than any other sin listed in the bible. Although, I do wonder how those with a Pro-homosexuality stance will side when the issue of Bi-sexuality and polygamy arises (it’s just around the corner). The question is truly the authority of the Bible – as a whole. It is either reliable or it is not. Today we question an issue of sexuality – and waiting in the wings is the debate on the Divinity of Christ or the necessity of Christ. Lord have mercy on us – for only He can save us.

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  25. Matthew 22 is the Scripture I go by, Jackie:

    "37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

    Seems fairly straightforward to me.

    Oh, well. Better luck next time, I guess. As the saying goes: Christianity is a great religion. Maybe somebody will try it sometime....

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  26. Dear BLS - Why are the two Scriptures mutally exclusive? What about the one that says, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments?" I do not consider anything in God's Word unloving - hard to understand inour humanness sometimes - but never unloving. I don't know where you are in your spiritual walk but I will pray for your walk to be ever closer to our Lord and Savior.

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  27. Jackie,
    Your atempt at a refutatioon by analogy fails: the union between your husband and his sons, say "paternity," is never said in the Bible to be modeled after the union between Christ and the Church, but the union between you and your husband in the Bible is to be modeled after the union of Christ and the Church.
    Do you believe Christ was resureccted as a male? Do you believe males from the Church will be resurrected as males, and will stand in a new, reciprocal relation with Christ? And do you believe Paul when he says marriage here below is to be modeled on that relation in the world to come? Surely the orthodox answer "Yes" to all three of these questions; but then, as the male Christ is joined to a male from the Church in a relation after which marriage here below is to be modeled, how can you deny marriage between males? Where is the verse in the Bible that says "Men may not marry"? There is no such verse; "Men and women are must be permitted to marry," which follows from Gen, does not imply "Men are forbidden to marry." Contemporary "conservatives" are too much infected with the world and its traditional revulsion against gay marriage--Christ's way is not the way of the world, and it is time for the Church, starting with ECUSA, to come out of the world and embrace the unchanging will of God.

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  28. I hope if you have a Theological education that you can get your money back. Have you read your bible lately? Christ's Relationship to the Church as Bridegroom and the Church as "Bride" is symbolic of "oneness". Systematic Theology 101 (an indication of the Trinity - we will be made one (the church that is... with the gift of the H.S.) As Christ reveals in JOHN 17:13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in hemselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong
    to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to the world, just as I
    do not belong to the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And
    for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in TRUTH. 20"I
    ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 THAT THEY MAY ALL BE ONE. As you, Father, ARE IN ME AND I IN YOU, MAY THE ALSO BE IN US, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. MARRIAGE is indicative of Becoming ONE!!!! Hello....

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  29. The unity of (1) the Word with he Father is different from the unity of (2) Christ's human nature--his body and soul--with the Word that assumed that nature, and unities (1) and (2) each differ from (3) the unity to obtain in the world to come between Christ and the Church, while (3) differs from (4) the unity that obtains now between Christ and the Church in the world here below. Your proof-text exercise carelessly runs these different unities together, as if there were no distinction. Sort out the elements of your mush into something like a coherent argument.
    All my argument in favor of gay marriage needs to succeed is (A) that there will be a new relation, R, in the world to come between Christ, a male, and each member of the Church, at least one of whom will be male,and (B) that marriage here below is to be modeled after R. The strength of my argument is that many conservatives already hold (A) and (B).

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  30. The church is the Bride and Christ is the Bridegroom.

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  31. Hostility to homosexual marriage is the way of most in the AC, most non-Christians today, and most people, perhaps, throughout history: but that is not enough to imply such hostility is God's will--"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways" (Deut.Isa) We must remain open, however difficult and distasteful, to being corrected in our traditions, no matter how popular and dear, by God: if it is His will there be gay marriage, so be it. But I am convinced a very strong conservative case can be made from the Bible for gay marriage (see above).
    The Anglican Communion Network's theological charter (I.4)makes the mistake of saying "the work of the Holy Spirit in particular, is accomplished not through drawing us to new truths, but by binding us more fully to Scripture's remembered word"--a huge error. The permissibility of gay marriage is a "new truth" the Holy Spirit draws us to, and this truth IS grounded in Scripture, but NOT as we "remember" it. What is received is received in the mode of the receiver--we have an unreliable "memory" for Scripture, one that should always be open to challenge and reproof, for as we are imperfect, so the traditions embodying our memory of Scripture are imperfect. Thus, the Living Word may draw us to truths new to us, truths going beyond our "memory," contrary to the ACN. And, contrary to the ACN, it is our duty to remain malleable to the Holy Spirit as it renders us fitter vessels to receive His eternal truth: "Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, 'What are you making'?" (Deut. Isa) Fidelity to the Living Christ, the fidelity of His Bride, demands no less.

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  32. My problems with the 'R' argument are these:

    1. It uses the scriptural analogy backwards. To say that a husband should love his wife as Christ loves the church argues from the divine R to the human R; to assert (as the analogy in question does) that Christ loves the church as a husband his wife goes in the opposite direction and potentially (in this case, actually) introduces introduces elements and ramifications foreign to the original analogy. Then you have to take the now-flawed conclusions back in the direction of divine R to human R to say that the divine R interprets or explains how human R can include homosexual unions. But any further conclusions are skewed by the foreign elements introduced earlier. This is bad logic, or at least it's good logic but it starts with bad premises, that is, a misuse of the biblical image of eschatological marriage.

    2. It's not viable from any one text, such that you can't point to a text of scripture and say that it uses the image of eschatological marriage to expand our ideas of human marriage R. The wedding feast of the Lamb could be argued as moving from human marriage R to divine relationship R, but you run into text-critical problems: those texts from Revelation don't seem to be meant to teach us anything about human marriage R, especially as the bride in question is the New Jerusalem, not the Church (at least not explicitly). This text is not meant to teach us anything about human marriage R and definitely not to expand that concept beyond cultural norms of the time. Paul's use of the image to describe the church focuses on purity; the church will be presented spotless and pure as a [virgin] bride. Both these texts use contemporary concepts of marriage to explain the eschatological R between Christ and the Church/New Jerusalem, but it's a stretch to make them go in the other direction and especially to make them re-interpret human marriage R.

    3. I'm not sure a theologically conservative Christian need accept that marriage on earth is modeled on an eschatological marriage of Christ. You first have to ask whether there will actually be a heavenly marriage. From the texts above it's not necessary to posit one: they could just be using an analogy. But even given a heavenly marriage, what exactly will that entail? We know very little about what precisely that would mean, and I think we can go no further than the poster above who said it has to do with some kind of unity. Clearly it's not the same as Christ's unity within the Trinity. It's probably more like the unity expressed by the image of Head and Body in Paul (which, incedentally, would have been a better choice to support homosexual unions as it avoids the analogy problems above). Nowhere in the scripture is sexual unity used to explain the eschatological relation R between Christ and the church, and if you think so you have to take it so far as to say everyone will be GLBT in heaven, and this is just absurd. Jesus spent time trying to explain to the Pharisees that such sex-based relations are incoherent in the eschaton: whatever unity we will have, it will not look like human marriage R or human sexuality R, except 'darkly as through a glass' if you will; it will be a new, Heavenly unity, as much beyond our ideas of sex and marriage as God is beyond the idea of humanity.

    Second, in order to define marriage, I know of not one or very few theologically conservative Christians who point to the escatological R: it's so much easier just to point, as Paul does, to the love of Christ exemplified in His redeeming work on the cross. Husbands are to love their lives as Christ loves the church "and gave Himself for her". The overlap between Christ's unity with the church and human marriage R here has only to do with self-less giving, at least explicitly. I personally think the analogy was meant to cover more ground, but whatever we do with it beyond what Paul does can't be as authoritative. Anyway the foundational texts for Christian marriage are in Genesis, the gospels, and Paul; not Revelation. To argue that this reinterpretation of the eschatological marriage pulls conservatives in a direction they don't want to go rests upon the mistaken assumption that they have any investment in or commitment to the earlier premise whatsoever (that the escatological marriage of Christ defines Chritian marriage on earth), and this is just not the case.

    4. The core of the argument seems to be that Christ's marriage-like union with a collective group of mixed gender human beings necessitates a marriage-like union between Christ, a male, and other Christian males. We've already seen that the marriage-like union is problematic. If you take that out you get something more consistant with the Head/Body unity, and we see that the relation implied there is organizational (Christ is the head of the visible church), hierarchical (Christ rules, is Lord over each member individually), and soteriological (Christ has a saving relation to each individual member and to the whole). All of these unities and relations are accountable to other texts as well in that we have multiple texts to show us how Christ is Head, how He rules, and how He saves. There are no texts that expound on a supposed sexual unity.

    5. That there are multiple kinds of unity with God is evident, I think, to us all. Just because there is one kind of unity between Christ, a male, and other Christian males doesn't mean that all unities apply. For example, I am made one with Christ in the Eucharist, but this doesn't mean I'm having sex with Him. I am one with my Christian brothers at church, but it's definitely not the same unity I have with my wife. We have to be clear about what kind of unity is operative in which relation R. The relation of unity between Christ and church is not the same unity as sexual unity in marriage. Therefore it's inaccurate to say that Christ is unifed as if having sex with each one of us, although it is accurate to say that He is unified with us as Head to Body.

    6. So, given that there are different kinds of unity with Christ, to make the 'R' argument work you have to argue that all theological unities are interchangeable, but you've already argued, in opposition to the poster who emphasized unity, that they aren't. If they aren't interchangeable, and there are no texts that actually talk about a sexual unity between Christ and church/individual, and there are texts that specifically forbid such interpretations (Jesus vs. the pharisees, Paul's emphasis on self-giving), and the marriage analogy is nowhere used as this arguement proposes to use it, I just don't think the 'R' argument holds up.

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  33. The scotist beat me to the publish button.

    Ok, ok, let me get this straight: gay marriage is a new truth of the Spirit that is in scripture but not as we have come to interpret it. That might work, if it weren't for the influence of Sacred Tradition. We've had two thousand years of Spirit-led Chritians interpreting the Scripture, and you're telling me that all of a sudden the Spirit pulls a switcheroo? What has been fine for us for 2 millennia is now dangerous? The Spirit was plenty counter-cultural in the 1st century, even when homosexuality was not. Paul's condemnation of homosexuality in Romans is itself counter cultural, because Greco-Roman culture had little problem with homosexuality. It was all over the place. That's why the early church emphasized sexual continence to an extreme: if you read other first century works, the NT apocrypha, the early Fathers, you see that the surrounding culture had few sexual mores. Christianity was hated because it did have mores. Just like today, it got in the way of people doing whatever they wanted to do. Homosexuality is not a new thing and this is not the first time in Western history that it's been acceptable to a dominant culture. This is, however, the first time that we're aware of that advocates have tried to co-opt Christian marriage, simply because Christianity has always been so dead-set against homosexuality.

    All this to say that no, this isn't the first time the Spirit has had the chance to deal with main-streamed homosexuality; and given that, the apostolic, Spirit-led tradition of both hermeneutics and ethics is authoritative and counts as the Spirit's voice. Given that, it makes no sense that the Spirit would change on us all of a sudden (unless you've Mormon sypmathies).

    And why is it that conservatives have to be open to 'distateful' correction but liberals don't? This whole thing happened because liberals discarded 'distateful' traditional theology and came up with a new one? Why exhort us to be disciplined but not the liberals? Shouldn't we all be disciplined to stay in the apostolic teaching and fellowship, ala our Baptismal Covenant? This is what it means to be Catholic.

    How can we say we're an apostolic church if we think the apostles and the church throughout history have had an unreliable memory of scripture? Let's be clear about what's going on: one group wants to stay with scripture as the church has always 'remembered' it. This memory is the apostolic teaching and fellowship. The other groups wants to cut itself loose from the apostolic memory and do a new thing. Fine with me. But don't call yourself part of the apostolic church. Liberals can teach whatever they like, but there are boundaries to what is Chritian and what isn't: these boundaries are also the apostolic memory. If liberals want to go beyond that, they're welcome to, but this may mean separation from the apostolic church.

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  34. Thorpus, thank you for your extended and incisive comments. I'll respond briefly section by section, in hope of convincing you:
    To (1): I mean to make the eschatological relation, R, the measure for marriage here below--i.e. the husband should love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph. 5:21-33 is the critical passage). Paul's text makes Christ's love for the Church normative for marriage: earthly marriage ought to be modeled after R. The fact R can and will hold between males is the interesting fact I want to use in my argument to reach conclusions about earthly marriage: the direction of my argument is makes the eschatological relation, R, always the rule and measure.

    To (2): The passages from Revelation you allude to fill in what R will be like. Here we look through a glass darkly: R might involve contemplation, feasting, or who knows what. But R does not have to involve sex--that is not required for my argument. You also say no one text uses the esch. relation to expand our ideas of earthly marriage--but that is false; Eph. 5:21-33 does just that. I am merely following Paul's inspired lead.

    To (3): Of course there is no marriage in heaven; strictly speaking, R is not marriage. That is why I call R merely "R" rather than "heavenly marriage" or some such; the phrase "marriage supper of the Lamb" is not meant to be taken strictly.
    Marriage is a relation here below that imitates and aims at R, and so falls short of R. Thus, there are some features of marriage that obtain merely because it falls short of R: I would say sex is such a feature. Hence, we need not depict R as involving sex--at least, my argument does not imply R is sexual. Again, I think R will be asexual: the satisfaction sex aims at, but does not permanently achieve, is achieved permanently without sex in R. In metaphysical-talk, the satisfaction of R eminently contains the satisfaction of sex. You won't miss sex while standing in R with Christ.
    Assuming theological conservatives start from biblical theology, and Paul licenses modeling marriage after R, prima facie, the theological conservative is stuck with my premises. Woe to him/her!

    To (4): R can be organizational, hierarchical, and soteriological, as you suggest, and still model marriage here below. Marriage here below might have to imitate those features in some fashion--but on the face of it, that is not a problem.

    To (5): Here you draw out absurdities from supposing I am committed to R being sexual; I admit that would be absurd, but emphasize R is not, and does not have to be, sexual.
    Just b/c marriage is sexual does not mean that R is sexual--that gets the line of inference, which is supposed to run from R to earthly marriage, backwards. Thus, earthly marriage can be sexual without R being sexual.

    To (6): Here you summarize your argument. I trust I have replied to your most pressing concerns above, and thank you again for your comments.

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  35. I do not think gay marriage has ever been the norm or acceptable in the West; anyhow, the dominant culture and the world are certianly lined up against it now.

    But the main point is: the truth that gay marriage is permitted is eternal; it is new only in relation to us. Although church tradition contains sacred truths, not everything in that tradition is sacred. Christian tradition has been wrong for centuries before, e.g. about slavery, female ordination, usury, etc. and it is similarly wrong about gay marriage. The apostolic church is obligated to worship God in truth, and must remain receptive to learning it has been mistaken; that is what is wrong with sentiments like that in the ACN theological charter I.4. God infinitely exceeds our capacity to comprehend Him; He is the Creator, who is always able to say "Do not remember the former things or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" (Isa. 43:18-19). The Church, from the Apostles to our day, consists of poor sinners and mere humans--we should not be surprised, much less offended, at finding we have been wrong about God's will.

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  36. "The Anglican Scotist said in "QUOTES"... (and my RESPONSE)
    "The unity of (1) the Word with he Father is different from the unity of (2) Christ's human nature--his body and soul--with the Word that assumed that nature, and unities (1) and (2) each differ from (3) the unity to obtain in the world to come between Christ and the Church, while (3) differs from (4) the unity that obtains now between Christ and the Church in the world here below. Your proof-text exercise carelessly runs these different unities together, as if there were no distinction. Sort out the elements of your mush into something like a coherent argument."

    If you want to flaunt Degrees around as to who can assemble a coherent argument, Let's! I do not prooftext - you certainly have a problem understanding Christian Theology and what prooftexting is, shall Iquote the entire Bible to you so that it is not considered prooftexting?. I was taught and led in Spiritual direction by the current PB's Canon of Theology, The Rev. Canon Jim Griffiss (may God Rest His Soul). Your Theology TOTALLY DISCREDITS THE TRINTY: Let me refer you to John again (evidently you don't understand this Gospel - THE BOOK OF SIGNS - FOR YOU WHO DON'T GET IT!): In the beginning was the WORD , and the WORD was with God and the WORD was GOD! Additionally, your arguments disaggree with what was done at Nicea - and so forth! Why don't you just start your own religion - you want to rewrite and re-interpret all of Church History and contemporary scholarism. If you want to adopt "She Who is.." as your banner then claim it as such - I will then credit all you have said to a BAD interpretation of Feminist Theology - and I am sure E. Johnson would have something to say about that. But since TRUTH doesn't matter, why bother?

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  37. Amen! I agree, accusing Conservatives of prooftexting is calling the kettle black. Liberals Twist scripture. Nowhere does it say that "Homosexuality is correct" in scripture. In fact, the evidence is to the contrary. If this WORD OF GOD is to be discarded, then I say by all means - throw out your bible and start your own church. But do not dare to call yoursleves CHRISTIANS. I can perceive that the Spirit tells me anything I want, as long as it is what my humanity/flesh wants it to say. Learn discernment. Perhaps a view of the Gifts of the Spirit are in order. A simple layperson

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  38. Dear Anon,

    Good for you, studying under Griffiss: I think his work, "The Anglican Vision," is a brilliant intro to the theology of the ECUSA, and his core argument is both sound and consistent with what I say here.
    Anyhow, it is one thing to proof-text, claiming that a cited text or texts alone prove a point, and another to offer an argument. It is one thing to proclaim under the inspiration of the Spirit, and another to argue in steps for a conclusion. I offer a valid six- step argument for gay marriage above; if you think it is unsound, you go ahead and make your case.
    I lament the fact tnat the AAC/ACN are bent on schism for demonstrably false reasons (this is what my argument aims to show--their principal reasons are false), and that they have succeeded in infecting so much of the Anglican Communion and even the ECUSA with their bad theology.

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  39. Dear A.S. : I concede the debate, but since you are bent on making points and drawing conclusions, I have two. 1) You obviously have mastered the gift of 'arguing" without listening. Your points are repetitive. 2) Your comprehension of Christian Theology (which you omit in all your "arguments") is non-exsistent. Conclusion: You like to argue what is your personal revealed truth and you would not have "sustained" the Theolgy portion of your GOE's.

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  40. Dear Anon,

    Don't go away mad--I want to convince you. At the risk of repeating myself, let's review (the argument is brief):
    1. Christ is risen in the flesh, as a male.
    2. Members of the Church, including males, willbe risen in the flesh.
    3. In the Eschaton, a real, reciprocal relation, R, will hold between Christ and each (saved) member of the Church.
    4. Marriage here below is to be modeled after R.
    5. R holds between males.
    6. Thus, marriage here below can hold between males.
    Premises 1-5 are all Biblical,and have been available to Christians of all stripes for almost 2000 yr.s, but nobody had thought to line them up just so, and infer (6), that gay marriage is permissible--O horribile dictu!
    Anyhow, feel free to bring in your fancy theology and all: presuming validity, which premise is false?

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  41. Todd,

    Looking again at Chalcedon and III Constantinople, I have one question, though I think you're reasoning is similar to where I come from.

    The Person of Christ who is Divine--the Son, has a divine and a human nature. Human nature, or being includes not just males, but all that is human, all that is us that can take us in a godward direction (Resurrection relating). As St. Ireneaus put it, "What is not assumed, cannot be saved."

    Otherwise women cannot be saved (or are saved through men in some theologies (Augustine, Aquinas)), but I would suggest that this does not give due consideration for the imago dei in women. Clearly women I know have imaged G-d quite better than some men.

    Your approach does nothing for lesbian women relating as "R", and I've known some wonderful examples of such.

    I think your focus on "R" is the underlying point. That our relationships are to be grounded in Resurrection relating by the Spirit who works in us. Our human nature completed is a nature that moves us in a godward and human ward direction of loving G-d with all our heart and others as ourselves.

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  42. Christopher,

    Thanks for your comment. For what it's worth, I believe you are absolutely right to bring up the Councils and the point "Human nature...includes not just males, but all that is human" and capable of being brought toward God, including being a woman.

    I concede my argument does nothing for lesbian couples--that is a problem.

    Maybe the reasoning can be generalized; I assume that the Word could have been incarnate as a woman. I think a female incarnation is within the range of God's omnipotence. If so, the eschatological union, R, would hold between a female Christ and females. Assuming that what is morally permissible is consistent with such possibilities, a lesbian marriage here below would be permitted.

    Todd

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.