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Augustine, Scripture, marriage, and other conversations

The Episcopal Church’s conversation on marriage continues to develop. First of all, I want to pass along the link to a new essay on Fully Alive’s website, in which I reply to the essays of the ATR’s respondents: Daniel Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Scott MacDougall, and Kathryn Tanner. Although I express my thanks to the respondents in the essay, allow me to express here as well: it is good that we are here, reasoning together in charity, even if our approaches are quite different and our words sometimes sharp.

It’s important to note that each response was a bit different, but they all addressed Augustine and Ephesians 5. Joslyn-Siemiatkoski also offers a contemporary “application” of two of Augustine’s three goods of marriage, MacDougall brings up the issue of eschatology, and Tanner charged us with importing suffering into salvation.

Serious stuff. Read my response here for the full details, though here is my conclusion:

In summary, it seems clear to me that all three ought to note and reckon with the larger witness of Scripture and tradition, rather than trying to pin us down on a single biblical verse or Church Father. I have noted that Joslyn-Siemiatkoski could perhaps explain further why he feels that Augustine’s model of marriage is no longer applicable, as well as how he thinks proles may be sheared off of fides and sacramentum in a fully Augustinian account. I have questioned whether MacDougall paid much attention to our argument about the Augustinian tradition, when some of his own comments about the tradition and Augustine affirm what we have said. Moreover, he might pay closer attention to the full context of Ephesians 5, supply some actual content in his argument about eschatology, and reckon with a fuller set of resources for discerning contemporary practice. I have challenged Tanner’s misreading of our argument about the character of suffering in marriage, and I have sketched out the Scriptural and traditional foundations for understanding how the relationship of Christ and the Church is generative, in a manner similar (but not identical) to the generative relationship of a man and a woman. What remains now is to see whether our respondents will continue the dialogue. For my part and that of the other authors in Fully Alive, we will continue our work of slowly addressing the various topics we have outlined for ourselves, and we will take into account the issues that our three respondents have raised as well. So far as it lies with us, we cannot lack energy or motivation at this time. Past, present, and future generations deserve our best. We thus pray to the Lord for inspiration, drive, and focus, for ourselves and for those joining us in holy conversation.

I’ve been promising to link to some other material, which is starting to come in hot and fast, as more and more people engage with the work of the task force and our responses.

An Odd Work of Grace

The first set of material that I would like to point out comes from An Odd Work of Grace: a bishop’s blog. The blog belongs to Matt Gunter, Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac. Over the past two weeks, he’s written four posts, with a fifth on the way, in a series called How I Came to Change my Mind on Same-sex Unions. Here are the posts, as they currently stand:

Part 1: Obstacles

Part 2: Negative Testimony

Part 3: Positive Testimony

Part 4: Some Thoughts on Interpreting Scripture

“Part 5: Why I am Disinclined to Vote for Revising the Marriage Canon”

I’ll update the list and provide further notices as Bp. Gunter continues writing. I think Covenant readers will appreciate the relatively fulsome explanations he provides. They will also appreciate his acknowledgment that the Episcopal Church hasn’t always been particularly clear on just what it thinks it’s approving, as it has discussed the blessing of same-sex unions. Finally, he mentions that he’s seen “little evidence of actual conversation” on this topic.

I think that Bp. Gunter also describes the position of many: being open to the possibility of approving same-sex unions, while also being unconvinced by the arguments offered for doing so. I’ll leave the posts to speak for themselves for now. If there’s time, perhaps I or someone else will write a direct engagement.

Claiming the Blessing

I first saw the announcement for this material over at Episcopal Café. I have to admit that the title made me laugh a little; anyone familiar with “prosperity” teaching in global Pentecostalism will know why.

In essence, Claiming the Blessing 2015: A Case for Marriage is a study guide commending the recent task force report and the proposals of the Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music, but presenting all of them in a more accessible way. Primary features?

  • Bright colors, along with lots of nice photos of wedding rings, Prayer Books, smiling couples, and (Episcopal?) priests or bishops officiating at some kind of liturgy for blessing same-sex couples
  • “A Case for Marriage”
  • Brief, coherent summaries of the task force essays
  • A glowing Q/A section from a task force member (Susan Russell)
  • A legislative timeline, presenting some of the major decisions of TEC that are favorable to the LGBT community or to approving same-sex marriage
  • A new essay in support of gay marriage by the Rev. Michael Hopkins, “Recognizable Holiness: One Part History, Two Parts Theology.”

Despite my wry tone (especially regarding #1), I have a feeling that this document deserves engagement. For example, I’d be curious to know whether its presentation of the legislative timeline is not tendentious. Also, the final essay asserts that theology is at the forefront of progressive attitude in TEC:

Let us be very clear: advocates for equality in the Episcopal Church are not simply riding a secular wave into the 2015 General Convention asking for change in the marriage canons on a whim.

I pray this is so! Let’s take this claim on board for a while. Presumably, it’s starting to become obvious to many that progressives will in fact have the option of “riding a secular wave,” if the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage. So I’m glad to see that Claiming the Blessing is committed to engaging the matter theologically. It’s needed.

There are other discussions out there right now. I will try to link to them, as I have the time to read through them and pass them along.

The featured image was uploaded to Flickr by firemedic58. It is licensed under Creative Commons.


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