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Sergius & Bacchus Sml

Blessing Same-Gender Couples

Sergius & Bacchus

Yesterday, the Archbishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia released the interim report of the working group seeking structural arrangements to allow people who hold differing convictions about the blessing of same-sex relationships to remain within the church. In the report, the group has confused “same sex” and “same gender” (they are not the same thing). Since I am reflecting on their report, I use their terminology (including in the title) – but have a clarifying postscript about this at the end of the post.

Click here for the PDF of the report
The Archbishops’ covering letter

You will understand that this post is simply providing that information to readers of this site, and some very initial reflections. To be clear: this post is not a long-considered, formal response to the report. It is an opening reaction to a first reading of that text.

I hope people will generally approach the report positively in a spirit of appreciation. Both ends of the spectrum (“marriage needs to be open to same-sex couples” and “same-sex relationships are sinful”) will find their position is not confirmed. The group understands that the bulk of our church agrees we disagree and wants to stay together and work together, with this disagreement not breaking our fellowship.

That having been said, I think there are some significant issues with what is presented, not least that allowing for clergy in a committed same-sex union is not even mentioned.

The group has met its deadline goal of having the report available for discussion at upcoming diocesan synods. Many synod reps will also take this into account in their choice of delegates to General Synod Te Hinota Whanui.

There are six recommendations:

1) no alteration to the formularies of this Church
This recommendation fits with what has been passed at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW). It is the framework within which the group was working. We are dodging logical consequences of what we declare; we are letting pastoral compassion trump logic, even without acknowledging that we are doing this. Heterosexual divorcees have been the object of such inconsistent pastoral compassion for half a century in remarriage happening without formal complaint, even to the point of having a canon (a lower status, and simpler to change, than Church teaching expressed in the Formularies) allowing such remarriage contrary to teaching. Whether same-gender couples will avail themselves of such a pastoral option, or whether those at the “same-sex relationships are sinful” end of the spectrum will allow the complex process proposed by this report remains to be seen. [The report proposes once again changing the Constitution – this requires passing at GSTHW, consideration by all diocesan synods and hui amorangi, passing again at GSTHW, and a year in which there is no successful appeal. I suspect that, if it gets that far, an appeal would inevitably happen; and I think that an appeal has some chance of succeeding].

I understand that my submission (acknowledged in the report) goes beyond the brief of the group. It is simple, clean, honest, and being essentially followed in other Anglican provinces. I also understand that some regard such an approach as a bridge too far. But, I also wonder for how many the group’s report is a bridge too far.

2) enabling amorangi and dioceses to safeguard theological convictions within their episcopal units

3) amendment of the declarations of adherence and submission to the authority of GSTHW
This seems very straight forward. I gather some people balk at submitting to GSTHW when that body votes for things such people do not agree with [Such people do not appear to balk at not following some of the other things (eg in liturgical practice) that even the amended declarations would require of them – but that is another story].

4) allowing amorangi and diocesan bishops to authorise individual clergy within their ministry units to conduct services blessing same gender relationships
More on this below in the section “I told you so”. The group’s intention is to change the recently-changed clause in the Constitution this time to now restrict recently-expanded “authorised” services. There is no indication what is understood to happen in the years when the complex process of constitutional change is not yet completed. Meanwhile, clergy do not need to have services “authorised” – clergy are allowed to use services that are “authorised” or “allowed”. A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, or A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word provide frameworks allowing actions (such as blessing warships) other than services that are technically “authorised”.

5) providing immunity from complaint for bishops and clergy for exercising their discretion on whether or not to authorise or conduct services of same gender blessings
A question will be: would a bishop refuse to authorise any clergy whatsoever within his/her episcopal unit to conduct services blessing same gender relationships? In other words: will there be a diocese(s) or amorangi where a same-gender couple in a civil marriage cannot find an Anglican priest or place to have their relationship blessed?

6) recognising Orders of Consecrated Life to allow for those with clear theological convictions to have those convictions respected and protected.
Best understanding I have so far of this recommendation is that networks of ministry units can formalise their network so that within such a network these blessings will be understood as acceptable or unacceptable. This ‘structural arrangement’ appears to follow a model of Religious Orders where you can have, for example, a network of ‘Marist’ parishes. Some such networks might have only those from within their order preach, teach, and preside. Others might be more open.

Initially, I thought this quite a cumbersome structure (the formalising of a Christian Community, a constitution, approval by the House of Bishops, etc.), but I respect that the members of the working group have some combined wisdom on this.

I told you so

Over a year ago I predicted that the core of the group’s report was a new way forward because of the change to our constitution. I wrote:

To my mind, one of the most significant decisions made at the meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW2016) of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia was the alteration to our Constitution which put one of the final nails into the coffin of our common prayer. An obvious consequence is also that, with the failure to move forward, this is now a clear pathway for local authorisation to bless committed same-sex relationships.

I have, because of liturgical and theological principles, written repeatedly, lobbied, spoken, and voted against the alteration to our Constitution that has now come into effect. Now that it has come into effect, however, this allows for a far better way forward to bless committed same-sex couples than that proposed by the A Way Forward Report (the proposal before GSTHW2016 which did not proceed).

The constraints within which the A Way Forward group was working no longer apply. Until now, as I have indicated, authorising new services in addition to our formularies required the “twice round” process. That is no longer the case.

Click here to read further about this.


My first conclusion is that Recommendation (4) appears completely unnecessary.

With the group understanding that blessing a committed same-gender couple is not being in breach of the teachings of our Church, officiating at such a blessing does not appear to require the bishop’s authorisation as long as it fits within our formularies of A Form for Ordering the Eucharist, An Alternative Form for Ordering the Eucharist, or A Form for Ordering A Service of the Word . To be clear: if blessing a committed same-gender couple does not breach the teachings of our Church, then there is no reason for it to be done by an “authorised service” since it would already be allowed by our highly-flexible frameworks.

This conclusion of mine also bypasses the question I posed after Recommendation (5).

The report makes no mention of ordaining or licensing persons who are in committed same-gender relationship. I think this is a sore lack. Currently, people ordained or licensed are to be “chaste”. That has been understood as limiting sexual activity, for those licensed, to within (heterosexual only) marriage. If, during the years foreseen in attempting to make the report’s changes, this is not clarified to include blessed same-gender unions then a major point of these decades of energetic debating has still not been dealt with.

Finally, I reiterate, this having now occupied the church for about half a century, there currently are communities which happily bless committed same-gender couples, and bishops who happily ordain and license people in such relationships. It is high time that such practices be understood to be immune from our complaints procedures. The report indicates a willingness to move in the direction of formalising that.

Here is The Ven. Dr Peter Carrell’s helpful response.

Clarifying Postscript

In previous posts on this site, I have used the correct term: “same-sex couples”. In the report, the group has confused gender and sex (they are not the same). What they refer to as a “same gender” is actually “same sex”. Here is a helpful introduction to the distinctions.

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48 thoughts on “Blessing Same-Gender Couples”

  1. Hi Bosco
    I think between our two posts we have covered the positives in the report and recommendations and (you in particular) have raised questions for reflection. No doubt more to come from our Synods and we have till November to make further submissions.

    I am intrigued by your point re “same sex” v “same gender”. For years I used “same sex” and more recently I have come across folk saying “same gender” is more correct … oh well!

    1. Thanks, Peter. Yes – I really appreciate the way you approached it in your post, and think our posts dovetail and complement.

      In a “behind the scenes” conversation about sex and gender, a person in favour of marriage equality was astonished when I suggested that those who are not would not marry a same-sex couple where one identified as male and the other identified as female. Do you think I am wrong, and that those opposed to marriage equality would happily marry such a same-sex couple?


      1. Peter Carrell

        I don’t think you are wrong. That could mean that heterosexual marriage is a matter of both differentiation in gender and in sex!

        1. Are you suggesting, Peter, that people opposed to marriage equality would question the gender of couples and decline to marry a couple where one was biologically male and the other biologically female? Blessings.

  2. I’m intrigued by #6. It sounds so, well, Anglican as a response. Maybe it would written among charitable, sensible people.

    However: It’s one thing to have a Church that holds together amicably with both diocesan parishes & their liturgical variability vs. religious order parishes, like the Marist parishes you mention or the Dominicans among us RCs – and quite another to keep family unity between a parent Church that accepts same sex unions and a special prelature that doesn’t (or vice versa, whichever way it works out). It could be a situation ripe for someone to again take up the Donatist cause.

    1. Jay, I don’t think that it works to have such a cognative disonance in the theology of a church body such as an Anglican reginal or nation church, TEC, CoE or in this case ACANZ&P.

      Take another devisive issue upon which Anglicans are not in agreement, the ordination of women. Of recent, the CoE is one of the first Anglican bodies that has tried to have it both ways at once, folks who embrace the ordained ministry of women, unequaly yoked with folks for whom it is anathema. The CoE made a commitment to this mess with the passage of the legislation allowing the consecration of women to the episcopacy at General Synod. But then when the rubber hit the road it didn’t work. A priest was put forward to be the new bishop diocesan of a diocese with a lot of ordained women, who did not believe in the ordination of women. A great swell against him rose up from the people, both within the diocese and without. He eventually withdrew his name from consideration and a man was consecrated last month as bishop diocesan who has no issue with the ministry of women.

      The next bishop diocesan that will be appointed in the CoE is for the Diocese of London and as much as the two Archbishops groveled and scraped regarding the last fiasco and the commitment to the anti-women crowd, folks are already determined that the new Bishop of London, one of the most diverse dioceses in the CoE, better be someone who accepts the ministry of women.

  3. I am sorry to move the debate back a few posts but I really must pick up on the sex/gender issue as it has irritated me from the start.
    When we debate serious issues and take decisions that will affect people’s lives now and in the future, we need to be ultra-careful with our language.
    We must ensure that we say exactly what we mean. We must use “language like a scalpel”, as the lawyers say. In that way we signal to all concerned that we are dealing with a serious matter and wish to afford it due status.
    From the very first it was clear that those who were deliberating on the whole same-sex debate, on our behalf, at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui and elsewhere, could not get their terminology correct.
    The various reports, statements and even formal instructions to Working Groups and Commissions were composed using language that was, at best, casual and often simply wrong.
    I offer this one of many examples:
    In 2013 the General Synod Standing Committee asked for the appointment of a ‘Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions’ to answer the question “what is a theological rationale for a Christian approach to the blessing and marriage of people in permanent, faithful same-gender relationships given the implications thereof on the ordination of people in same-gender relationships?”
    If ,in the above quotation, the intention of GSTHW was to commission a group to consider theological matters in regard to same-sex relationships, then they didn’t do it. Instead, they commissioned a group to consider same-gender relationships: which makes no sense. They failed by dint of not understanding the language which they were using. Or, more significantly, not taking the trouble to ask for advice from those who do understand it.
    Sex and gender are not the same thing and, I for one, have no real idea what a same-gender relationship is.
    I wish blessing upon all who have the responsibilty to debate and advise on this issue, but do wish that they would be clear about what the issue is.

    1. You are quite correct, Peter. Sadly. And underlining the point I made at the start of my post and in my postscript. I actually do know an opposite-sex, same-gender couple. There has regularly been criticism that no LGBTI people have been on the committees and hence central to the formal processes of the church. Not feeling safe, and in many cases with jobs at stake, we have the confusion you explore. And the regular result of the previous commenter. Not to mention young people (exploring sexual ethics in the context of the third millennium rather than the second) finding church pretty irrelevant to their issues. Blessings.

      1. – I actually do know an opposite-sex, same-gender couple. –

        I think what you are saying with this is that this is a couple where one has the genitalia of a male and the other the genitalia of a female, however, they both identify as having the same gender, either both male or both female.

        I find that confusing. I think that the whole thing is confusing and perhaps it even differs from country to country how it is explained or defined.

        I don’t know a great number of transgender people, but the ones that I do know, would not define themselves that way. I think partly because that is sort of playing a game.

        “Hey, we identify as a gay male couple, but, because we were actually assigned at birth as male & female, we can have a church wedding because we are biologically an opposite-sex couple.”

        1. It is more complex, David, than you are suggesting. But it’s not appropriate that I go into the details except to say that there’s no game playing and, from my perspective at least, deep integrity. I also know a good number of transgender people. My primary point is that sex and gender are not identical – are you and I in agreement about that?

  4. Sigh, We are still only debating blessings, not even marriage. the band plays on as the church becomes more and more irrelevant.

    Thanks for your thoughtful commitment to this ongoing and seemingly endless discussion Bosco.

    I married my wife three years ago and just got on with it – not a church in sight, but many church goers celebrating with us.

    The recent Christchurch conversations I am sure are well meaning, but take us no further. I for one have given up, and slipped out the back door, probably with audible sighs of relief from those inside.

    1. Thanks, Rosemary. Who knows – maybe what you call the back door was really the front door – and you weren’t slipping out, but slipping in. Blessings.

      1. It was my understanding that before the myth that marriage was a sacrament, it actually and literally slipped in the back door of the church. This also from my noted professor of Liturgy & Worship, Dr Majorie Proctor Smith, an Episcopal laywoman, married to a Methodist Elder.

        Priests, usually one of the more educated in an area, sat on the back porch of the church to record official documents for folks, such as civil marriages, as a clerk or notary. Then folks started asking, “Hey, Padre, while we are here, couldn’t you offer us the Lord’s blessing on our civil marriage.” “Could we please do it inside the church?” 🙂

        1. Jesse Billett

          I am loathe to criticize a fellow liturgy “perfesser”, but I cannot allow this error to slip past. It is a myth of its own that is too often repeated.

          It is Paul who calls marriage a “sacramentum” (mysterion — Eph. 5:32), and in this he is followed by Augustine (De Bono coniugali), even if marriage was only formalized as one of seven sacraments by Peter Lombard. (Our reformers objected that it was not a “sacrament of the gospel”, conferring remission of sin; they also repudiated medieval canonical restrictions on degrees of affinity, in favour of less restrictive scriptural ones.) From the earliest times Christians were expected to have their bishop’s permission to marry (Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp, 5), and the Eucharist was celebrated in place of the pagan sacrifices that had customarily accompanied the marriage rite. The oldest surviving prayers for the Western nuptial mass are found in the seventh-century Verona sacramentary; the particular prayers themselves probably date from the fifth. That priests were, from the twelfth century, recognized as civil registrars of marriage (a shift reflecting the centralization and bureaucratization of civil society, away from a feudal organization) is irrelevant to the question of what the Church’s teaching and practice were. It is emphatically not the case that the church “blessing” arose as an afterthought to a civil ceremony. Reserving the “troth plighting” to the church door preserved the essentially contractual, universally human character of marriage: the Church has never believed that any other than the couple were the “ministers” of marriage, or that non-Christians cannot truly marry. It is still done this way in Roman Catholic “Extraordinary Form” weddings. The specifically Christian element, the Eucharist and blessing that followed, of course took place in the church. In the Middle Ages the clergy also blessed the marriage bed before the couple got into it.

          The debate in the Church today is in continuity with this history. What marriages among Christians will the clergy approve (“that their marriage may be for the Lord and not for passion,” Ign. to Pol. 5), and on what marriages will the Church bestow its solemn blessing? The answers to those questions have been rapidly evolving over the past century, particularly as the civil state and the Church have parted ways. (The two major twentieth-century changes in Anglicanism, both prima facie contrary to scripture, were the allowance of marriage of divorcees whose former spouses were still living and the allowance of marriage to a deceased sibling’s spouse.) But the questions have remained the same.

          1. Once again, Jesse, thanks – you provide us with a comment that could form a post in itself. I hope people interested in these things find your comment. If I had spotted it previously, I had at least forgotten that marrying a deceased sibling’s spouse has changed within Anglicanism. I even checked our NZ canon. None of the tables of kindred and affinity that I’ve quickly looked up forbid marrying one’s sibling’s spouse. So when was it changed (1949 seems a significant year in all this)? The Bible, of course, has two contradictory rulings: Deuteronomy 25:5; Leviticus 20:21 – the latter playing a significant role in sixteenth-century Anglican history. Blessings.

          2. Dr Proctor Smith was speaking of a time even earlier than you speak Jesse, the dangerous Roman time period of the earliest Church.

            My understanding of the Ephesians passage is that the deutero-Pauline writer of this letter pretending, for unknown reasons, to be Paul, was speaking directly of the mystery of the relationship of Christ and the church after having comparing it to the relationship of a man & a woman. The writer was not back-sprinkling fairy dust on the human relationship that the writer used as a resemblance to the spiritual relationship.

          3. Father Bosco, I don’t find the rulings contradictory in that the Deut 25:5 text is definitely referring to the wife of a deceased brother and the Lev 20:21 text appears to refer to the wife of a living brother.


          4. If Lev 20:21, David, referred to the wife of a living brother it would not require singling out as a special case – it would simply be covered by adultery. It was certainly not read in your manner in the to-Anglicans-significant case of Henry VIII. Blessings.

          5. Sorry, in my haste I read a translation that said “had sexual relations with his brother’s wife,” I now see other translations say “marries his brother’s wife.”

          6. Jesse Billett

            Forgive me, Bosco and David, for continuing the discussion a bit further.

            If your professor was speaking of the “Roman” (post-Constantinian?) period, David, then what she said (if your reporting is accurate) could not possibly be true. There could be no question of weddings “at the church door” at this date, nor did the clergy yet function as civil notaries. Weddings in this period, and long afterwards, were conducted as family events in people’s homes. As I already pointed out, the Eucharist was celebrated as the conspicuous replacement of the pagan sacrifices that would otherwise follow, not as a pious afterthought.

            In other words, I think you must have misremembered this particular lecture.

            I don’t mind if you doubt the Pauline authorship of Ephesians — though I myself wouldn’t be so dogmatic on the question. (I gather that NT scholars tend to fall into two camps: those who think Paul wrote Colossians but not Ephesians, and those who think he wrote Ephesians but not Colossians. There are adherents of both views.) The point is that it is part of the biblical canon. (Or are you one of those who discount the authority of any biblical text that might be pseudepigraphic?) And it provides an unimpeachable warrant for referring to marriage as, according to whatever definition you find convincing, a sacrament (sign) of the union between Christ and his Church.

            “Back sprinkled with fairy dust”? Worthy of Richard Dawkins! Next we’ll be referring to God as our “magic invisible friend”. 🙂

            Any serious reading of the passage in context would preclude the idea that the author was picking a merely human convention, almost at random, to illustrate a divine reality. Rather, the biblical teaching that spouses become, in reality, “one flesh” (Eph.5:28-31) is necessary for the metaphor to work at all. And the implication is that by virtue of this quality marriage can function as a sign — perhaps a uniquely pertinent sign — of the higher reality of Christ’s union with his Church. And for that matter, for Ephesians, the importance of the sign causes equally important ethical norms to attach to the relationship.

            That an institution is universal and immemorial among human beings is not evidence that it lacks a divine origin and significance. On the contrary, I would have thought that this would be precisely what one would expect for a divine institution. It is from God, after all, that “every family … is named” (Eph. 3:15). And I have never been able to see how adultery — as adultery, not as betrayal or harm or whatever else it entails — could be a distinct *sin* if marriage were not sacred, holy, in and of itself.

            (I wish it were unnecessary for me to point out that in nothing of what I have written have I expressed any opinion whatever about same-sex marriage. Not even any “dog whistles”. I simply cannot understand why some advocates of same-sex marriage in the Church chose to proceed by arguing that marriage lacks the spiritual significance attributed to it by scripture and tradition. Are there not same-sex couples who *want* their marriages to be considered sacramental?)

            On deceased siblings, Bosco, there were actually two moments in England: the 1907 “Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act” , and the 1921 “Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act”. Under the first, clergy could decline to solemnize the marriage of a widower to his late wife’s sister. I’m not sure about any “conscience clauses” in the second.

            There had been agitation and debate throughout the second half of the nineteenth century about whether a man should be allowed to marry his deceased wife’s sister (a marriage forbidden by the BCP’s Table of Kindred and Affinity). The parallel case (a widow marrying her deceased husband’s brother, equally forbidden by the Table of Kindred and Affinity) became a publicly debated question only rather later.

            Anyway, the change was explicitly against the Table of Kindred and Affinity that had been customarily printed in the Prayer Book since it was published by Archbishop Parker in 1563, and which was formally adopted in canon 99 of the Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604. The canon was only modified to allow the change in 1946. I think that the Table itself was revised in 1949, but I can’t find any definite reference to this apart from Charles Wohlers’s fantastic website.

            The justification for the change was that the prohibition of marriage to a deceased spouse’s sibling depended on John Calvin’s extrapolation from the explicitly forbidden relationships in Leviticus 18, an extrapolation that by the twentieth century seemed a bit strained. Luther, by contrast, had held that only those relationships explicitly mentioned in Leviticus 18 were forbidden. (Henry VIII, of course, believed that he was being punished with “sonlessness” for having married his brother’s widow. But for some reason he later agreed with Luther on this question.)

            I recall reading an interesting bit of correspondence between a mission priest in Labrador in the early twentieth century and his bishop. The priest wanted extraordinary permission to solemnize the marriage of a man to his brother’s widow. There was an urgent need: not only did the man threaten to leave the Anglican Church and join the Methodists (who weren’t so strict on this question) if he was not allowed to marry in the Church, but he had also already gotten the widow with child! The bishop replied sternly that he did not think that incestuous fornication resulting in pregnancy was a reason to relax the Church’s discipline on marriage!

          7. Thanks, Jesse! There are, as you know, also different understandings of marriage amongst those who advocate for heterosexual-only marriage. I guess that those who advocate for marriage equality are, as you indicate, similarly diverse. I have great respect for Tobias Haller and would be interested in his thoughts on these reflections.

            I’m assuming by “Charles Wohlers’s fantastic website” you mean this site (clickable link). I’ve only managed a quick look, but can you point to the previous Table of Kindred and Affinities with the prohibition of marriage to a deceased spouse’s sibling, please. I am now fascinated how that change would have gone through here in NZ. Our processes mention changes within the CofE that I’ve never really pursued an understanding of. This might be the time for me to do so.

            Are you saying that Henry VIII later changed his understanding of the validity of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon?


          8. Please forgive my insolence Jesse!

            “Back sprinkled with fairy dust” was this gay one’s frail attempt at levity.

            I also failed to realize how someone who bothers to so carefully craft such lengthy replies is so deeply invested in being seen to be correct.

            Yes, surely I misremembered. Damn Mexican brain. I can’t imagine that the Le Van Professor of Preaching and Worship at SMU, who completed her PhD at U Note Dame, dept of Theology, might have had a different understanding in 1984 than the assistant professor of the Divinity dept of Toronto Univ in 2016.

            It’s just that I have these cherished and delight-filled memories of my time at Perkins School of Theology and later Northwest Theological Union. I can’t resist sharing them. Rush over to the topic about clergy titles, I’m about to share another, perhaps just as faulty, about processions! Gadzooks!! 🙂

          9. I hope you two can continue playing nicely together here 🙂 From what I know of you both, I think we three would have an awesome time together, and I wouldn’t want either of you to reduce contribution here. Blessings.

          10. Jesse Billett

            “Deeply invested in being seen to be correct”… “our young friend”…!

            I dunno, Bosco. Among liturgists, impertinence of this kind is usually answered with a challenge to maniples at dawn! 🙂

          11. I’m afraid, Jesse, even though I belong to the group Every time you celebrate Mass without a maniple, God kills a kitten, you will have to BYOM (Bring Your Own Maniple). Might I confess to you that (a) I have never worn a maniple presiding at the Eucharist, (b) I don’t own a maniple, and (c) I don’t think there is one in our vestry/sacristy. This may be part of the reason why the group has had no activity for at least half a dozen years! Blessings.

          12. Father B, I was trying to get a point across to our younger friend. I don’t really have my boxers in a twist! 🙂

          13. I would also add that there is more than a little ambiguity in Ephesians as to what is being called “a mystery, a great one” — though widely and often held to be referring to marriage as an institution, it is equally possible to understand him as referring to the citation from Genesis; or to take him more simply at his word as offering a self-correction of his own ambiguity with, “But I’m speaking of Christ and of the Church.” That is, the “mystery” is that of the relationship between the one Christ and the many members, who find union in him. This is, canonically speaking, much the most likely reading, both in the context of the Epistle (to which I referred in the other note), and in Paul’s wider thought. I find it scarcely possible that Paul would in one place so extol and institution he elsewhere merely tolerates as “not sin”!

          14. Jesse Billett

            As requested, Bosco, here is the list of who may marry whom in the C of E:

            1563 Table of Kindred and Affinity:

            1949 Table of Kindred and Affinity:

            1986 Table of Kindred and Affinity:

            (Links and dates from here: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Variations.htm)

            On Henry VIII, I was merely going by the entry on the Table in ODCC. It struck me, also, as exceedingly odd! I have been able to turn up nothing on the point in Richard Rex’s “Henry VIII and the English Reformation.” But perhaps this is a reference to the tactful way that Henry’s sexual relationship with Anne Boleyn’s sister had to be explained away as not contrary to the Levitical prohibition, so that he could marry Anne — since Henry and the sister weren’t married but merely fornicating, and Leviticus said nothing about that! (Diarmaid Macculloch, “Thomas Cranmer: A Life”, pp. 85-86.)

        2. Interesting conversation. I find points on which to agree with both Jesse and Bosco here.

          On the “mystery” of Ephesians I have written elsewhere, in that I take the relationship to marriage perhaps a bit less strongly than Jesse presents it here. While I agree that this is not merely a casual reference for a symbol that falls into Paul’s hand, I think a close and canonical reading would see it as part of a larger complex of imagery whereby the main “mystery” of Ephesians — cited nearer to the beginning of the Epistle: that is, the concept of how “the many” become “one” in the overcoming of formerly disunited entities (Jew and Gentile principally) — is unpacked. Marriage is one, but not the only, earthly phenomenon which has a spiritual analogue. The creation of union out of division is a main theme in “Paul” and this finds echoes in Galatians and Colossians as well — it was, after all, a principal element in his ministry of bringing reconciliation to Jew and Gentile “in Christ.”

          For more on Ephesians, I commend the theological reflection section of the Episcopal Church’s Task Force on Marriage report to the General Convention.

          (beginning on page 13)

          If that link does not work, the report can be found in the Blue Book of collected reports, beginning on page 495.


          1. Thanks so much, Tobias! And that link works fine for me. Your thoughts, and the Task Force’s work (of which you were part) add, as I had hoped, further solidity to the thread. I had previously mentioned the work of the Task Force, but I don’t think I had the link on this site. Blessings.

  5. It is interesting, and I think helpful, that the discussion here has turned to the sacramental status of marriage.

    I suggest the church ought to return to the basics: If the relationship (be it other or same sex/gender) is “an efficacious sign of divine grace” then surely it can be blessed because God has already blessed it.

    I suspect that this is what most people are doing in coming to accept such relationships (albeit without the theology), ie seeing the love and commitment between the partners as something good, wholesome, and sacred.

    Whether one calls such relationships sacraments or sacramentals depends of where one chooses to draw the line between them (historical theology).

    The morality of any sexual relationship is a separate question.

    Bosco, does the Anglican Church have a teaching on homosexuality ? And if one wanted to find out what the Anglican teaching is on a particular matter, where would one look ?

    I do admire the care, love, and graciousness the Anglican bishops have put into trying to find a solution everyone can live with, and one that will contribute to the process of Ecclesia Catholica semper reformanda.

    Many Blessings

    1. Thanks, Chris. There is no clear Anglican teaching on Anglican teaching 🙂 I would suggest that there is a hard core with increasingly softer adherence the further we get from that core. I would suggest the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral lies at or close to that core:

      The Holy Scriptures, as containing all things necessary to salvation;
      The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds), as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
      The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;
      The historic episcopate, locally adapted.

      Within each province there will be ways of expressing teaching. Here in NZ, they are expressed in “formularies”. So one would look in the Bible, in our liturgies, etc.


    2. Chris, the conservative Anglicans, those who refer to themselves as Orthodox Anglicans, those who take an anti-homosexual, anti-marriage equality stance would point to Lambeth Conference 1998, Resolution 1.10 as the Anglican Communion’s stance/teaching on homosexuality;

      Resolution 1.10
      Human Sexuality

      This Conference:

      a. commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;

      b. in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;

      c. recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;

      d. while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

      e. cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;

      f. requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;

      g. notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.

      There is a very dark background as to how this resolution was brought to the floor of the Conference and passed, as well as all sorts of other things which occurred at the Conference regarding GLBTQ folks and the anti-LGBTQ crowd.

      There is also a very marked difference by individual Anglicans and Anglican Provinces regarding the authority of Lambeth Conference resolutions in the lives of individuals and provinces. Some that give it the level of respect of the teachings of a magisterium and others for whom it doesn’t mean jack squat.

      The primates & bishops who support Resolution 1.10 are the leaders of some of the most populated provinces in the Communion. They count the members of their provinces as having their same opinion and often remind everyone that the majority of Anglicans are of their same belief. The experience of many of us is that is not actually the case on the ground in those provinces. But I would still have to agree, that if you play a numbers game, there are likely more who agree with those primates & bishops, than who disagree.

      It is mostly provinces with a Western or progressive worldview which are wrestling with the issue of human sexuality, the other provinces have prince-bishops who suppress the subject at great cost to many members of their provinces.

      1. Thanks, David. In the province here, the Lambeth Conference has no direct authority and is not mentioned in our Constitution. For any decision made at a Lambeth Conference to be applied here, it needs to go through our usual provincial decision-making processes. Blessings.

      2. Thank you for that David.

        Like the Anglican doctrinal statements, our Catholic doctrinal statements are similarly of a rather low level of authority (not infallible, not taught by any ecumenical council, or by any papal encyclical). They cannot be traced to any teaching of Jesus and their scriptural basis is very weak. Given our support for the historical critical method, the teaching is more grounded in a theory of sexuality rather than in scripture or any clear divine revelation. It would be fair to say they are widely doubted by Catholics today, although views in place like Africa would be more traditional.

        In the USA, Catholics support same sex marriage even more than the population as a whole (67% vs 62%). http://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/

        We have no doctrine against blessing same sex couples or against couples participating in a state same sex marriage ceremony. We did have a prudential judgement against legalising same sex marriage but our local Bishops support legal recognition of such couples and we do recognise the genuine love in same sex relationships. Recognising the genuine love in relationships seems to be how we got to see marriage as a sacrament.

        Many Blessings

        1. I think, Chris, that you present a disproportionately optimistic view of formal RC approach to homosexuality and committed same-sex couples. Whilst you state “We have no doctrine against blessing same sex couples” – I would be very surprised if you could present examples of such actually happening. Formal decisions include language such as “Deep-seated homosexual tendencies, which are found in a number of men and women, are objectively disordered” – to the point of instructing a gay seminarian’s confessor to prevent such a person from being ordained even if clearly committed to celibacy: “If a candidate practises homosexuality or presents deep-seated homosexual tendencies, his spiritual director as well as his confessor have the duty to dissuade him in conscience from proceeding towards ordination.” Blessings.

        2. I think you are little harsh there Bosco.

          I know of examples; the “objectively disordered” language has been widely dropped as disastrously popularly misunderstood by those unfamiliar with the precise theological meaning of the term, even by very conservative Bishops; and the document does not prevent the ordination of gay priests (canon law requires that the terms “present” and “deep seated” be narrowly and strictly interpreted), see for example the NZ Catholic newspaper report on the document and the response from our seminary rector at the time.

          Many Blessings

          1. If the document does not prevent the ordination of gay priests, can you point, Chris, to any RC NZ priest who publicly declares “I am gay and celibate”? Blessings.

  6. I keep thinking about the mix-up between same-gender and same-sex, and I think they need to explicitly include both.
    If it was decided that only same-sex couples would be blessed, it could throw same-gender couples under the bus (and same vice-versa). A same-gender couple (eg a trans man and a cis man) could not have their marriage blessed, because they had different biological sexes. But it also seems very likely that the church would not marry them either.
    Maybe it needs to be all non-straight couples. I, as a nonbinary person, will probably never be allowed to marry in the church, regardless of the sex/gender of my partner. But if only same-gender and/or same-sex couples could have their marriage blessed, depending on the sex/gender of my partner, that possibly wouldn’t be an option either.
    I get that this probably seems a bit finicky, but I’m worried about who could accidentally be left out in the cold with this

  7. Surely, Bosco, Marriage as a ‘mystery’ may defy attempts to categorise and contain it to one, or another, tight description? For instance, even the Bible speaks of the ‘Marriage Feast of The Lamb, which has nothing to do with sex or gender.

  8. Cynthia Katsarelis

    Greetings! While the new ability to do blessings on loving couples is a step forward, the obvious problem is that LGBTQI people will have their relationships disparaged in some places and not others. It is a very unhealthy situation. David Allen’s analogy to CoE trying to have it both ways with women’s ordination is apt. At the level of the people impacted, it stills leaves a great deal of public rejection by parts of the church, and that hurts.

    For the record, I’m gay and got married to my partner of 25 years in my Episcopal parish in the US. My experience of being affirmed at home, but disparaged elsewhere is indeed hurtful. I’m grateful for my sanctuary. But I think you really have no idea how hurtful this all is.

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