Monday, June 15, 2009

Interchangeable Units I Hath Made Thee

Orthodox folks have been warning that same-sex blessings are not a stand-alone product. They are part of a package deal, of a set of theological assumptions that come as tied products as they say in antitrust law.

General Synod 2007 passed 3 resolutions which invited 2 different church bodies to lay out the theological rationale both for and against same-sex blessings and marriage.

The Primate's Theological Commission was asked to:
to consult with dioceses and parishes and to report in advance of General Synod 2010 on
the theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine; and
Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

Since GS 2007 I had imagined this report-in-preparation as a ticking time bomb. Its publication would reveal the full theological assumptions behind the worldviews that would clash at GS 2010, inevitably expressed through a majority and minority report incorporating the theology of Anglican liberalism and orthodoxy respectively. The PTC's response, the Galilee Report turned out to be a damp squib which I will discuss some other time.

Hedging their bets, the supporters of same-sex marriage posed another question as well. They asked the Council of General Synod, the GS's bureaucracy in between our triennial conventions, to consider a revision of the marriage canon "including theological rationale to allow marriage of all legally qualified persons". (Where the article before the word "theological" went I do not know; my guess is that the movers couldn't decide whether they wanted to say "a theological rationale", "the theological rationale", or "any theological rationale"). The CoGS passed the buck down to the Faith, Worship and Ministry committee, which in due time produced the Rothesay Report. I haven't discussed the Rothesay Report yet, because it heavily cites some of the papers produced by the members of the PTC which until sometime in the last week, hadn't been published.

Now they have been.

The Rothesay Report is refreshingly clear about what the acceptance of same-sex marriage involves:
A theological rationale for same-sex marriage needs to re-envision two concepts which have generally been associated with marriage, but which do not translate in a straightforward way to same-sex couples. One is gender complementarity - the significance (in Christian theology at least) of the human reality of being ‘male and female’.

Got that? Same-sex marriage will not be, as SSBs are now often presented, a mere pastoral measure, designed to grant some Christian encouragement to two persons who have taken what they see as the best means to deal with a disordered condition. It will imply and require a "reenvisioning" of the very idea that God created men and women to complement each other in intimate relationships even aside from the fact that their bodies seem well engineered for the purpose of reproduction.

So, why? Well because "In a culture where male and female may take on any and all social roles gender complementarity no longer has any meaning apart from the purely physical distinction." Because Danica Patrick can drive race cars and Sonia Sotomayor will be a SCOTUS judge we must conclude that men and women were not created for each other.

The report in this area heavily relies on Paul Jennings' PTC paper "Same-Sex Blessings: A Systematic-Theological Rationale." Jennings takes the same line, reinterpreting Ephesians 5 to produce a "vision of marriage as a community liberated from patriarchal structures
leav[ing] room for differently patterned heterosexual as well as same-sex relationships." (para 21).

The tenor of the Rothesay report like many such documents can be appreciated by observing the strategic placement of radical and post-modern terms throughout the text. We are told (para 19) that the "biblical version of the redeemed community abolishes such social constructions (emphasis added) citing Gal. 3:18, which has nothing to do with the issue as far as I can tell. Patriarchy, hierarchy, liberationism, social construction. Do the people in ACoC realize they signed up for a major in Women's Studies?

If any of the handful of orthodox folks in the AcoC choose to defend the idea of gender complementarity, they might start by reading this essay by "evangelical feminist" Mary Stewart van Leeuwen, one woman who would have done well to keep her maiden name.