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The Anglican Church of Canada and Same-Sex Marriage

The Anglican Church of Canada and Same-Sex Marriage

By Jonathan Widell
VOL Special Correspondent
June 25, 2019

Why is it so hard to have a conversation with the advocates for same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada? Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass has the answer. The following excerpt is the key:

"When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all."

In other words, when Humpty Dumpty uses the word marriage, it means just what he chooses it to mean. The question is not about the meaning. The question is which is to be master -- that's all.

It would be pointless to call this postmodernism. Through the Looking Glass was published in 1871. Nobody had even heard about modernism, let alone post-modernism, in 1871. Then again, postmodernism means what postmodernists choose it to mean.

At least Carroll was an Anglican, so he is not to be taken lightly in this discussion. Since words mean what we choose them to mean, we might call him the Anglican prophet. As a matter of fact, he was an Anglican deacon.

There is a limit to this. The words man and woman tend to have fixed meanings in many people's minds. To avoid confusion (whatever that means), the marriage canon that refers to man and woman (and husband and wife) has to be changed. And, indeed, this is the crux of the Motion for Second Reading of Amendment to Canon XXI (On Marriage in the Church) to be voted on in the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada in July:

Make the following consequential amendments to Canon XXI: a. in paragraph 2 of the Preface, delete the words "of the union of man and woman in"; b. in paragraph 4 of the Preface, substitute the words "the parties to the marriage" for the "husband and wife"; c. in section 16 a) of the Regulations, substitute "the parties to the marriage" for "a man and a woman"; d. in section 17 b) of the Regulations, substitute "the parties to the marriage" for "husband and wife".

As we know, there has been tremendous laxity with regard to the old wording in different parts of the Anglican Church of Canada. What is then the point of bringing the motion to the General Synod? Is the point not to show who the master is? Of course, nothing is expressed in such stark terms. Instead of "master", there is a strong tendency to talk about "equality", especially "marriage equality". Same difference. What this means is LGBT hegemony. Only, "marriage equality" sounds nicer and more loving. Consequently, opposing "marriage equality" sounds loveless and insensitive.

And after the General Synod has done its job, it is the bishop's job to be the master but only up to a point. The motion put forward even accepts a sort of self-limitation of its own power. The motion adds that "A minister may only solemnize a marriage between persons of the same sex if authorized by the diocesan bishop." However, if that really meant anything, we might ask again what the point is in bringing this motion to the General Synod. The Bishop is the boss anyway. Should they be grateful to the General Synod they can do their job from now on? Who is the master? That is the question.

The more we think about this, the more difficult it is to avoid the impression that any victory for the activists is a so-called Pyrrhic victory. In other words, the movement is starting to shoot itself in the foot. For starters, can we speak of same-sex marriage at a time when what matters is not sex but gender? What does the word "same" mean anyway? Is the union of two men a same-sex marriage when one of them identifies as a woman? Or should we speak of a "same-sex opposite-gender marriage", just to keep this interesting and complicated? The only unmovable part in these permutations seems to be the word "marriage", which is beginning to look quite ironic (which in turn may be exactly the point).

No matter how absurd and hypothetical any scenario may appear, somebody is sure to have put it into practice somewhere. Indeed, the situation of a "same-sex but opposite-gender marriage" arose when the pastor of Atlanta's Little Rock Missionary Church Of God William Terry Longstroke II told the congregation a couple of years ago that his husband Mrs. Donte Terry was pregnant. Since Longstroke is gay, Mrs. Donte Terry must be a man although she is referred to as Mrs. and s/he got pregnant. Do not laugh this off. Do not minimize it. The absurdities you may think are only in your head are already materializing. In fact, the announcement in Atlanta shocked Fred Johnson, a long time member of Rock Missionary Church of God, so that he dropped down unconscious. He had to be taken to hospital for immediate medical attention.

The absurdities get even more extreme when we discuss "love", which is another buzzword that is supposed to function as an anchor in the quagmire of infinite number of meanings. Anyone who has had anything to do with modern churches knows that "love" is used justify exactly what any given lobby wants. Let William Terry Longstroke II and his husband Mrs. Donte Terry be reminders of that. No matter what you want, talk about love and you will get it.

We may be able to make a little more sense of the situation if we realize how we got here in the first place. The current confusion has its roots in the theology of Peter Abelard, who was influential in the early 12th century. Abelard was the forefather of Social Gospel, which emphasizes softness and kindness and love at the expense of Jesus' substitutionary death. The core of Abelard's theology was that Jesus gave us a moral example both in his death and in his life, while downplaying its sacrificial aspect. In fact, Abelard was opposed to the substitutionary atonement advocated by his contemporary, Anselm of Canterbury, because it described God the Father as stern and vengeful. Abelard is mostly remembered for his adulterous affair with Heloise, which has become the stuff of a legend. He really practiced what he preached and preached what he practiced.

It is impossible to overstate Abelard's influence on today's theology, especially on the Social Gospel, which dominates the theological scene today: the Gospel is about love and nothing else and our mission is to better the lot of those who are marginalized in any way. If you follow Anglican theological discussion today, there is nothing else anyone really talks about, with the possible exception of climate change.

The Bible inevitably flies out the window along with common sense. As the church has become fixated with love, it is forbidden even to refer to Romans 3:10, where the Apostle Paul says that "through the law we become conscious of our sin". As things now stand in the churches, not only is it not okay to talk about the law but it is not even okay to make people conscious of their sin as Paul would have wished. Talking about sin makes people feel bad and making them feel bad is loveless. In the end, the only sin is to talk about sin. That is also why the old Book of Common Prayer is frowned upon the in the Anglican Church of Canada today: it is penitential. In other words, it is sinful to use the old Book of Common Prayer because it talks about sin.

Amidst this monomania with love, it may appear inappropriate to ask if the LGBT community even wants same-sex marriage. Listening to the LGBT activists you might think that this is not even a serious question. However, this is more answers to this than one might expect. The truth is that even in the LGBT community many regard marriage as too "heteronormative" and do not want it, which speaks to the deeper divide between those who do not want "respectability" and those who do. What same-sex marriage may bring about is to make a tiny fraction within sexual minorities think about the church and Jesus in more positive terms. Everybody knows full well the only thing that is really going to change is the church.

Perhaps the people we should pity most are those who call themselves progressives. What is so progressive about shoehorning LGBT community into an institution that even many in the community itself call too heteronormative? The real tragedy here is not the marriage institution, which will survive, but the delusion under which the self-styled "progressives" labour: thinking of themselves as progressive, anti-capitalist and what not, they are playing into the hands of capitalism, which masquerades as progressivism. It does not care what you call it: all it wants is more customers and where else to find them than among the LGBT community and strong and independent women? Krista Burton identified the obsession capitalism has with the LGBT community in the New York Times a couple of years ago. Similarly, French columnist Éric Zemmour talks about the way feminists and the LGBT community serve capitalist interests without their even being aware of it in his column for the French daily Le Figaro. In his recent column of June 21 in Le Figaro, his target was the FIFA Women's World Cup 2019, which he called capitalism masquerading as social progressivism. The same goes for same-sex marriage.

The only thing that is progressive about changing the Marriage Canon is that it is only one step in a long series of steps that amount to a strategy. The ultimate goal of that strategy is not clear to anyone. The only thing we know for sure is that the series of steps will not end until the church is gone. In the best-case scenario, the future looks bright in the same sense as Richard Longley sees the conversion of churches into condos in Toronto as a positive development. In the worst-case scenario, the change, which everybody is talking about all the time, is to the Anglican Church of Canada what the talk about regime change was to Libya and Iraq.

At a minimum, one should not be surprised that the LGBT movement makes no sense. The spirit of postmodernism was admirably captured in the title of the 1984 concert film featuring a live performance by Talking Heads. It was called Stop Making Sense. One can only reply by quoting Proverbs 9:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Jonathan Widell is a freelance Anglican writer living in Montreal, Canada

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