Friday, June 27, 2008

Bishop Chane on Gay Marriage

Bishop John Bryson Chane, Bishop of the Diocese of Washington, had this comment in the Guardian yesterday:

Conservative Christians say opening marriage to gay couples would undermine an immutable institution founded on divine revelation. Archbishop Henry Orombi, the primate of the Church of Uganda, calls it blasphemy. But, theologically, support for same-sex marriage is not a dramatic break with tradition, but a recognition that the church's understanding of marriage has changed dramatically over 2,000 years.

Christians have always argued about marriage. Jesus criticised the Mosaic law on divorce, saying "What God has joined together let no man separate", but even that dictum appears in different versions in the Gospels, and was modified in the letters of Peter and Paul. Christians had to square the ecstatic sensuality of the Song of Songs with Paul's teaching that marriage was a fallen estate, useful primarily in saving those who could not be celibate from fornication.

This tension is indicative of the church's long struggle to reconcile the notion that sexuality is a gift from God with its deep suspicion of the pleasure of sex. As the historian Stephanie Coontz points out, the church did not bless marriages until the third century, or define marriage as a sacrament until 1215. The church embraced many of the assumptions of the patriarchal culture, in which women and marriageable children were assets to be controlled and exploited to the advantage of the man who headed their household.

The theology of marriage was heavily influenced by economic and legal considerations; it emphasised procreation, and spoke only secondarily of the "mutual consolation of the spouses". In the 19th and 20th centuries, however, the relationship of the spouses assumed new importance, as the church came to understand that marriage was a profoundly spiritual relationship in which partners experienced, through mutual affection and self-sacrifice, the unconditional love of God.

The Episcopal Church's 1979 Book of Common Prayer puts it this way: "We believe that the union of husband and wife, in heart, body and mind, is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord."

Our evolving understanding of what marriage is leads, of necessity, to a re-examination of who it is for. Most Christian denominations no longer teach that all sex acts must be open to the possibility of procreation (hence, contraception is permitted). Nor do they hold that infertility precludes marriage. The church has deepened its understanding of the way in which faithful couples experience and embody the love of the creator for creation. In so doing, it has put itself in a position to consider whether same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

Opponents of gay marriage may raise other objections - that it is unsuitable, for instance, to raise children with two mothers or two fathers. I believe these arguments are easily refuted, but they are arguments about effective social policy, not sound theology. Christians who want to deny others the blessings they claim for themselves should not assume they speak for the Almighty.



Read it all here.

8 comments:

Gary said...

But the Bishop does speak for God? He denies Scripture, and then claims that he knows what God wants. Uh huh.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I know it's tough for some to read real words written by real men and stop simply listening to the mindless/superstitious sputtering of a couple of African Bishops who actually PERSECUTE LGBT Christians instead of minister to them.

Bishop Chane is brilliant.

Thanks for focusing on him and his ongoing campaign of decency and inclusive love at The Body of Christ.

Julie+ said...

Thanks for pointing to the article, but please get his name right -- it's Chane (with a N), not Chase.

Michael said...

Gary,
I hope you follow all old testament commandments. Exodus 35:2 commands you to put to death anyone who works on the sabbath.

Your version of Christianity needs the barrel of a gun to fulfill God's word.

Or, do you just blow that one off and deny scripture?

Chuck Blanchard said...

Julie+:

Thanks to you and Peter Carey for pointing out my error. It is now fixed! I attriute this to late night blogging.

Sorry

Gary said...

michael,

I don't even have to refer to the Old Testment to find out that God condemns homosexuals. I would reference some New Testament scriptures for your consideration, but I already know you won't consider them.

If you had even half a brain you would know that it is YOU who is denying Scripture.

Michael said...

Gary,
You did not answer the question. I can guess why.

I will ask it again.
Do you deny Scripture and fail to kill people who work on the sabbath?

This is a question that fundamentalist Christians simply refuse to answer. It opens a gaping hole in their theology and they and you are afraid to even consider the question.

I am a homosexual. God made me this way. I am also married to a woman I love who has been my wife for over 40 years.

Fundamentalist Christians seem to have a hard time with the terms love and sex. Most Christians suffer under the illusion that love and sex are somehow connected. They are not. Sex is simply a primal instinct built into our dna. Love is best defined by studying the life of Jesus.

Gary said...

michael,

You certainly have a lot of problems. Not only are you Biblically illiterate, but you're a pervert as well.