If the Episcopal Church accepts at its General Convention in August 2003 the practice of blessing same-sex couples (where each of whom claims a sexual orientation to the same sex only) in “a faithful relationship or partnership”, what will this imply in terms of “the development of doctrine” by the ECUSA?
I make various suggestions but do not supply a complete statement:
- That the church believes that some human beings though biologically of a specific sex (male or female) are so constituted that they do not have a normal internal ordering towards the opposite sex but rather an orientation towards the same sex. And that their sexual organs and their expressive natures are at odds with each other.
- That two such persons therefore have the right within the friendship and “faithful partnership” of being such a couple, to perform acts of a specifically sexual nature on a regular basis as appropriate and right, and expressive of mutuality and love.
- That the virtue of chastity does not apply and is not demanded in this case of two persons of the same biological sex in a “faithful relationship”
- That the fact that two persons are “FAITHFUL” to each other gives to their relationship a kind of divine approval making it “special” in the order of things and conformable to God’s law.
- The purpose of such a union is the most complete form of self-expression and self-development possible for each of the two.
- For all practical purposes such a couple is to be regarded as a “married couple” who can adopt children or if lesbian one can bear a child (the sperm supplied by a donor). Further, that they are to be given rights in terms of healthcare, inheritance and so on.
- Such couples are to have the same rights in terms of “divorce and remarriage” as their heterosexual colleagues.
- That the church’s teaching and practice on human relations and rights should follow that of enlightened western culture and secular laws. Thus in this regard it is the culture that is “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”.
- That such persons in this form of partnership be entitled to full membership of the church and thus potential & possible candidates for all offices, lay and ordained of the same.
- For any to oppose these rights and privileges is to be prejudiced and to destroy the unity of the Body of Christ.
- That active, occasional homosexual contacts outside a faithful relationship are to be regarded as a kind of fornication and thus seen as the same kind of sin as committed by heterosexual persons in extra-marital sexual experience.
- That the Bible has been interpreted in a new and significant way so that it now allows that which it was previously thought to forbid. And that this new form of hermeneutics has dramatic implications for other areas of Christian worship, doctrine & discipline - as time will quickly make clear.
- That the use of the orthodox dogma/doctrine of the Holy Trinity in terms of explicating what it means for man to be made in the image and after the likeness of God and to be a relational creature has to be abandoned, and replaced by a doctrine of God which allows for this innovation of same-sex partnerships.
- That the received doctrine of holy matrimony (as laid out in say the BCP Marriage Service 1662) has been abandoned as the norm and that it has become one option amongst others and thus can make no special claim on church members. Further, the important duty and privilege to procreate is no longer part of the nature and vocation of marriage.
- That in principle the ECUSA can now decide at will to change any other received doctrine or form/shape of worship and manner/type of discipline.
The Revd Dr Peter Toon July 8th 2003