At our recent Christchurch diocesan synod, as well as (famously) deciding to reinstate the Cathedral in the Square, we discussed the interim report from the Motion 29 Working Group which suggests a structure within our Church which would “safeguard both theological convictions concerning the blessing of same gender relationships”.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the defining feature of Anglicanism now is debating same-sex relationships!
A strong line of the response in our synod was that because there is no change to Church teaching, it would open a cleft between teaching and practice. This has been forcefully expressed in the Media Release of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans New Zealand:
In short, under the report, only the practice of blessing is allowable, not the teaching about the blessedness of the union between two people of the same gender. This problem is brought about by the choice to leave the definition of a marriage in the formularies undisturbed…
Title G, Canon XIV currently ensures that any services performed in Anglican churches must be consistent with the Constitution and Formularies of our church. The proposed change allows services to occur that are acknowledged to be inconsistent with our Constitution and Formularies. This is an admission that whilst the Constitution and Formularies have not been changed, they are simply being avoided for the purposes of this issue. A Canon is being amended in such a way so as to avoid the operation of a fundamental provision of the Constitution. We question whether this is legally possible. And even if it is, is it right to do so, is there integrity in it?
What fascinates me is how this expresses so clearly and strongly the point I made in my Open Letter to Anglican Leaders – Is Marriage After Divorce Possible? In that letter I argue that we have done precisely that impossible cleaving of practice from teaching for the majority – heterosexuals. But we are unwilling to follow this same approach and logic with the minority – homosexuals.
Our church’s doctrine of marriage holds it to be between a man and a woman, life-long, and monogamous. Our Canon of Marriage, however, allows us to act as if marriage is not life-long by marrying people who are divorced.
What is further fascinating is that those who hold to the FCANZ argument, in response to blessing committed same-sex couples, abandon their own logic when it comes to heterosexuals and marriage being life-long.
I find that, in response to heterosexuals, they no longer refer to the Church’s teaching but argue, instead, from the Bible. Arguing from the Bible, of course, is perfectly fine – but it also needs to be seen as doing something differently. Church teaching may be drawn from the Bible and be shot through with Biblical referencing, but Church teaching also provides a lens through which the Bible is interpreted.
[Incidentally, a response to a Bible-only pro-remarriage-after-divorce argument may be found here]