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Marriage Canon Changes at GC2015 Could Seal Fate of Anglican Communion

Marriage Canon Changes at GC2015 Could Seal Fate of Anglican Communion


By David W. Virtue DD
June 17, 2015

If Episcopal delegates to General Convention pass two marriage resolutions in Salt Lake City later this month, it could seal the fate of any hope that the Anglican Communion can hold together, a Covenant notwithstanding. The worst fears of GAFCON Primates and Global South archbishops will have been realized -- the Episcopal Church will never repent of its sexual innovations thus sealing forever the unity of the Anglican Communion as an attainable goal.

It is over. Never again will an Archbishop of Canterbury be able to call a meeting of his fellow primates; at least a third will be no shows. Ditto for a Lambeth Conference. Rowan Williams sowed to the wind and Justin Welby has reaped the whirlwind.

It is both ironic and sad that once staunch and loyal opposition defenders of The Episcopal Church like theologians Ephraim Radner and Philip Turner with the Anglican Communion Institute now admit that the ecclesiastical jackboots (with pink Swastikas) knocking on their door are the new (Episcopal) totalitarians. "Alas, it appears that the season of our being driven out has begun. As individuals, our standing matters little. But a church that is in the grip of invective and political attempts to be rid of its articulate critics matters a great deal, at least in its loss of integrity," the two theologians recently wrote. You can read in full what they had to say here: http://tinyurl.com/ohnocsu

Decisive acts to change the marriage canons, for which there will be little or just nominal opposition, could seal the fate of the remaining handful of orthodox bishops and the direction of the Anglican Communion.

Recently, two episcopal bishops (they were not Communion Partner bishops) shone a brief sliver of light into the dark (sex)cesses of the Episcopal swamp over the marriage canons like two mafia dons in jail for life just discovering the Sixth Commandment for the first time.

And so it came to pass that both Bishop Scott Benhase (Georgia) -- a bishop who, by the way, said TREC, a plan to grow the church, was little more than "magical thinking" resulting in further guilt, blaming, and resentments -- and Bishop Dorsey McConnell, (Pittsburgh) whose undeniable evangelical conversion never included a strong Biblical sexual ethic and allows his priests to use a rite for same sex coupling, now believe that the Episcopal Church will sabotage itself if the marriage canons are revised to allow sodomite unions to be formally blessed at GC2015.

In an article titled "A More Excellent Way" (a verse taken from St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians 12: 31 where in the context of miraculous healings and speaking in tongues, the Apostle implored the Corinthians to desire the greater gifts), the two bishops now believe that "good order" in Salt Lake City means taking a step back from the abyss just in case TEC mistakenly plunges over the cliff into certain ecclesiastical oblivion.

For three years now two committees -- the Task Force on the Study of Marriage and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) with (Resolution A054) and the Revision of Marriage canons (A036) -- have wrestled with the issue till the mats have flowed with ecclesiastical blood. They have attempted to square the circle over acts that have no biblical, ecclesiastical, theological, or historical base.

Under the revision of marriage canon (Resolution A036), the two bishops argue that there are serious and substantive theological, biblical, ecumenical, and Anglican Communion issues that warn against revising canons I.18.2 and I.18.3, which describe marriage as we have received it from Scripture and tradition. Really.

Another Resolution (2012-A050) said that any work done on revising the canons should be done in conversation "with our ecumenical and Anglican Communion partners." The two bishops say this was never done. Well, of course not. Why in the world would you ask any African, South American, or Asian primate to go along with this if you know the answer is no before you even begin. Does anyone think that Archbishops Nicholas Okoh (Nigeria) or Eliud Wabukala (Kenya) would welcome such revisions with open arms? Of course not. So the answer is, don't ask them. There now that settles that. It's a wonder that Mr. Philip Groves, the infamous "Listening Process" facilitator, wasn't asked to hawk it around the globe; he is the perfect front for TEC. They pay his salary.

The bishops complained that three years wasn't long enough for "careful listening." Really. Write it up after a week of "generous listening" discussion and then send it as a pdf file to every province and archbishop and give them a week to get back to you. Nothing takes three years, not even a tax extension.

If the Church should consider committed same-sex relationships blessed by God, should it do so as a part of the practice of Christian marriage that we have not yet recognized, or rather as an analogous yet distinct good that we have not yet named? The answer is NO on both counts. Same-sex relationships have never been countenanced by God and General Convention won't change God's mind for Him. He (unlike TEC bishops) is impervious to the demands of Katharine Jefferts Schori, General Convention resolutions, and any committee set up to make the impossible possible. For starters, marriage demands consummation and that is impossible for two men or two women. If, for example, a heterosexual marriage is not consummated, one can rightly ask for an annulment, because no sexual intercourse has taken place. In homoeroticism there can never be consummation.

Resolution A036 proposes that all clergy will henceforth conform to "these canons concerning the solemnization of marriage," rather than to "the laws of this Church governing Holy Matrimony," say the bishops.

Allow me to untangle this. It means that this revisionist attempt to square the circle would mean going around the canons and laws governing Holy Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, a constitutional document that supports it, and accepting something uncanonical and making it the law of the church and directly forcing clergy to disobey the prayer book!

"The authorization of same-sex marriage and blessing rites (Resolution A054) and Amendment to Article X (Resolution A066) proposed by SCLM means the Constitution would now allow the General Convention to authorize alternative forms of worship only for trial use as a proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer, but a number of liturgical forms in Enriching Our Worship and Liturgical Resources 1 have already been purportedly authorized even though these were not designated for trial use as a proposed revision of the BCP," say the bishops.

To resolve this difficulty, the SCLM proposes to create "a clear, constitutional basis for experimental liturgical reforms" that are not intended as trial runs for prayer-book revision. The SCLM suggests we add to Article X that a majority vote by orders at one meeting of General Convention will suffice to "Provide for use of other forms for the renewal and enrichment of the common worship of this Church for such periods of time and upon such terms and conditions as the General Convention may provide."

In Resolution A054, the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) proposes that "the 78th General Convention authorize for use" the rite for the blessing of a same-sex union in the revised and expanded 2015 version of Liturgical Resources 1: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing. It further proposes that the Convention authorize from the same document three forms for marriage that may include same-sex couples, "under the direction of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority." Notably absent is language from the 2012 resolution concerning same-sex blessings, namely, that such are to be permitted "subject to the permission of the diocesan bishop."

So two questions of "good order" arise from the resolution, say the bishops. First, what is the canonical status of these rites? Second, what is the appropriate role of the diocesan bishop in regard to them?

Let us be clear, "good order" doesn't mean no to same sex behavior or even canonical change. What the bishops are arguing for is basically procedural in nature, not outright refusal.

It is clear that the 78th General Convention is not constitutionally empowered to authorize such rites as those proposed in Resolution A054, which offer alternatives to existing BCP marriage rites rather than supplemental services, the two bishops opine.

The bishops argue that performing these rites now "authorized" by diocesans in their own jurisdictions violates not just the current canons, but also the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer.

They concluded their statement by saying, "We do well to consider carefully the constitutional authority of our proposed actions this summer, particularly the chaos that would ensue by pitting the canons against the prayer book (as in A036), by putting bishops in conflict with liturgies over which they are the intended chief officer (as in A054), and by accepting without challenge the conclusion of the Commission on Constitution and Canons that what General Convention approves, reason must obey."

It is unlikely they will succeed however, the overwhelming mind of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies is entropic on sexuality issues and the Global South knows it. The two bishops have entered into a game with no winning hand. A full house always beats two of a kind. Even a brief appearance by Archbishop Justin Welby (if invited) is unlikely to change anything, Rowan Williams found that out when he attended the Anaheim General Convention in 2009; the pansexual steamroller continued on its way unhindered.

The 2012 Global South Primates meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, issued a communique condemning the Episcopal Church for decisions made at the 77th General Convention to authorize a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions. They wrote at that time: "This action confirms our disappointment that The Episcopal Church has no regard for the concerns and convictions of the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide."

And they still don't. Nothing has changed, the TEC steamroller of pansexual fulfillment continues unabated moving forward crushing all before it, in step with a culture in equally steep moral decline regrettably aided by a president who seems more concerned with establishing a special envoy for sodomy and the rights of LGBT persons than any real concern for the persecution of Middle East Christians. Global South Anglican leaders will watch with dismay as The Episcopal Church continues its gadarene slide, oblivious to the dangers and damage it is causing the whole Communion and the inescapable corner the Archbishop of Canterbury has been placed in.


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