Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Do not be surprised if we witness the full flowering of the ECUSA Marriage Canon of 1973 and its Marriage Service of 1979 at Columbus Ohio in June '06

The Revd Dr Peter Toon

There are clear connections between the doctrinal innovations pursued and then passed by the Episcopal Church’s General Convention every three years, from 1973 to 2003. And, concerning sexuality, I have to say with regret that the “orthodox” party has not admitted sufficiently clearly and humbly that there is a most clear connection between “same-sex relations blessed by the church” and the new doctrine of marriage adopted by the ECUSA immediately after the sexual revolution of the 1960s. In 1973 the ECUSA changed its doctrine of marriage by changing its canon law and then set forth this new understanding of matrimony in its marriage service within its official Prayer Book of 1979. In brief, the purpose of marriage was said to be in the mutual relation of the man and woman and the procreation of children was presented as optional and not a requirement of the Lord. In other words, the received teaching of the Church of man and woman united as one flesh for procreation and nurturing a family was made optional, as was the understanding that marriage is for life, “until death do us part.”

Thus the ECUSA has been the sphere since the 1970s in which there has been the blessing of many couples involved in serial monogamy and also of couples who in marrying, though of childbearing age, did not intend to have children (but yet intended to have a sexual relation relying on artificial birth control and for personal enjoyment and fulfillment).

This novel situation is taken for granted in the ECUSA where now whether or not one is divorced and remarried is not a question asked if one is standing for church office or seeking ordination. And there is little or no difference apparently between the liberal progressives and the conservatives on this matter.

In this context of human rights and therapeutic descriptions of human life, the activist homosexual groups in the ECUSA have been pointing out for a long time just how far the ECUSA has moved from the historic moral and canon law position of the traditional Anglican Way, and just how much the plain teaching of Scripture has been set aside or interpreted to make it speak a modern rights doctrine.

Now in 2006 and in one stroke both the agenda of the homosexual groups and the erroneous doctrine of the 1973 Canon and the 1979 marriage service (see its preface) have come together in a resolution from the diocese of Newark to be debated (most probably) at the General Convention in mid-June.

This resolution, as reported by David Virtue (http://www.virtueonline.org/) simply requests that the marriage service of the 1979 book be used for same sex couples (where civil law permits) and that within it man/woman or husband/wife be simply changed to two persons. For example,

"We, A.B. and C.D., desiring to receive the blessing of Holy Matrimony in the Church, do solemnly declare that we hold marriage to be a lifelong union of [husband and wife deleted]) two persons as it is set forth in the Book of Common Prayer.

"We believe that the union of [husband and wife deleted] two persons, 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."

And the resolution will be: "Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, That this 75th General Convention authorizes use of the rites for Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage and The Blessing of a Civil Marriage in 'the Book of Common Prayer (1979)' for same-sex couples in those civil jurisdictions that permit same-sex marriage, and further authorizes modification of gender references in the rites to accommodate such marriages."

Dr Crew, a prominent Episcopalian and a leader of the homosexual lobby, of Newark explained: "This does not constitute a revision of the Prayer Book but would instead be simply an adaptation. It would be similar to the allowance of the use of feminine terms in the rite for the Ordering of Deacons in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Women were ordained to the diaconate beginning in 1968 despite the language of the 1928 text which was exclusively male (both in the rite itself and in the rubrics and preface), which language was not modified until the authorization of the current Book of Common Prayer in 1979."

In my booklet, Episcopal Innovations 1960-2004 (2006, from http://www.anglicanmarketplace.com/ or from 1-800-727-1928), I sought to show how that major changes were made in the religion of the Protestant Episcopal Church beginning in the 1960s, and that the results of them were not always immediately obvious. This proposed use of the marriage service for same-sex couples after minimal modification is a powerful reminder of just how far the Episcopal Church changed the doctrine of marriage from Holy Matrimony to Marriage-as-you-like-it in the 1970s, when therapy and human rights blazed the trail for innovation.

Those who actively oppose the present homosexual agenda of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada need, I suggest, most carefully to ask themselves whether they need to put their whole energy into the restoration of Christian marriage, as its purposes under God are set forth with such clarity in the Preface to the Marriage Service in both the 1662 English and the 1962 Canadian editions of the classic Book of Common Prayer. Those who claim to be orthodox cannot honestly oppose the homosexual agenda if their own doctrine of marriage owes more to (a) the sexual revolution, the availability of artificial birth control and the modern therapeutic sense of self-gratification and self-fulfillment in sexual relations, than to (b) the New Testament, the moral theology of the Church and the service of matrimony in the classic editions of The Book of Common Prayer.

In fact the best way to oppose the innovatory sexual agenda of the LesBiGay lobby in the ECUSA is not in the first place writing and speaking against that Lobby and its teachings; but, recovering and renewing Christian marriage, Holy Matrimony, in the Anglican Way in the West, especially in the USA and Canada. To do the latter will please God and make the angels rejoice but it will be a thousand times harder than opposing the sexual revolution from the LesBiGay agenda.

May 23, 2006 Ember Day

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