Friday, June 02, 2006

Marriage and Ordination Liturgies – are they connected?

A discussion starter from Peter Toon

The Anglican Way, the religion of Reformed Catholicism, teaches that there are two Sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord in the Gospel (Baptism & the Lord’s Supper), and then five commonly called Sacraments (see Articles of Religion XXV), which do not have any visible sign ordained of God (as do the two Gospel Sacraments).

So Marriage and Ordination are related in that they are commonly called, but are not in a strict sense, Sacraments. In fact Marriage is not unique to Christianity for, as we all know, it is an institution and order that belongs to the realm of Creation and Providence, and very much to the Old Testament. The Church of God accepts this fact about marriage and then blesses the man and woman who enter into this permanent one-flesh union. That is, the couple marry each other in the presence of witnesses and then the priest blesses their union in the Name of the Holy Trinity.

Ordination is at first sight not specifically related to any order of creation for it is a unique provision of the exalted Lord Jesus Christ for the care of his Church. Those who are called by God, chosen by the church and then ordained as deacon, priest and bishop are placed in positions of authority and pastoral care in Christ’s Church, and the bishop, the senior Minister, is known as “Father in God.”

Where the basic doctrine underlying these two “Sacraments” is in common is in the basic and necessary acceptance God’s revelation concerning the principles of order within his Creation.

The Marriage Service assumes that “God made Man in his own image: in the image of God he created him; male and female made he them” (Genesis 1:27) That is, humankind is composed of men and women equal in dignity; and the man is first in order and the woman is second in order (not inferior but second in order). So there is, to anticipate the New Testament explication of this, a gracious and generous headship given to the man in the relation of man and woman in holy matrimony and in the home. This is assumed in those passages in the New Testament where the woman is instructed by the apostle to be submissive and to be obedient to her husband (who of course is expected to treat with the utmost loving care) – see 1 Peter 3:1-6 & Ephesians 5:21-33. Thus in the classic marriage service of the Anglican Way found in the Book of Common Prayer (1662) the woman promises to obey her husband, even as he promises to care and love her. (Regrettably, because of firstly Latitudinarian influences and then human rights influences, this holy commitment belonging to God’s ordering of creation has been removed from Anglican services of marriage in modern times and egalitarian principles introduced.)

Likewise the Services for the making of Deacons, ordaining of Priests and Consecrating of Bishops assume that “God made Man in his own image:… male and female made he them” and that there is given to man in the relation to woman a headship to be exercised graciously and generously. If the text of the Ordinal, bound with the Book of Common Prayer (1662) is carefully read, it assumes in all three services that God has given to the man, the responsibility of care for his wife and family and that he must discharge these duties in gracious and generous love as an example to the flock and for God’s glory. And in the case of the Bishop and Priest, there is specifically given to the man the pastoral care and authority over the congregation of Christ’s flock. In the case of the Deacon this is also given but in a limited way for he may be authorized to preach and teach the Word of God, which is to exercise authority in the congregation. (Regrettably because of Latitudinarian and then human rights influences, this doctrine of headship based in the created order and extended by Christ the Lord into his Church, has been set aside by many modern Anglicans in their doctrine of the Sacred Ministry and in their Liturgies for the same.)

The ECUSA 1979 Prayer Book sets aside God’s order for Creation and Christ’s order for his Church as part of its appropriation of the feminist and human rights revolution. Thus there is no headship in the marriage service and there is no commitment therein to the doctrine that the one-flesh union implies and requires procreation in persons of reproductive possibility. And the new Ordinal was written to allow women to be ordained to all three orders of the Ministry and at the same time to remove the implications of the doctrine of male headship in creation and new covenant from the new Ministry for the ECUSA.

It is amazing to me that those who claim to be biblically based and submitted to the Sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Christ seem to be able to use either the Marriage Service or the Ordinal of the 1979 Book without, as it were, the blinking of an eye. Of course, what is in the 1979 Book is inextricably related to the revisions of canon law which began in 1970 concerning making deaconesses into deacons, continued in 1973 with a totally new canon on marriage (making Christian marriage biblically and historically understood to be one option), continued in 1976 with the admission of women into the Ministerial Priesthood, and has continued to the present day with innovatory rules which set aside God’s order in creation and the new covenant.

June 2 2006

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