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Feb 26, 2005



In essence, liberals must make a theological case for the above. This has not happened, as far as I can tell.


Perhaps ++Griswold can ask the Bishop of South Africa - and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu - for help.

South Africa also has a dreadful history of colonialism, "greed, envy and violence," and many problems currently, and yet has written anti-discrimination laws into their constitution.

And the Diocese itself has been supportive. So there's something else involved, wouldn't you say?


John, that is perhaps the best argument I have heard regarding same sex relationships. However, it misses the mark that I believe will be set. I expect that the Primates will want an argument based on Scripture and Tradition and Reason. While you have human reasoning (and not bad reasoning), you have forgotten specific citations from Scripture (not proof texting, but a case showing that Scripture supports your argument).

Where I think your argument falls is its lack of consideration for natural law. To be blunt, the pieces don't fit in male to male or female to female sexaul relationships. Using our bodies in ways they were not designed to be used is a form of idolatry (as is all sin).

My own "moral calculus" on homosexual sex runs as follows:

1. There is little, if any, choice in being homosexual. Some people have indicated that they made a choice and some indicate that they made no choice. We don't know the cause, but we know the effects - some people find themselves attracted to members of the same sex.

2. Scripture and Tradition tell us that God's design for sexual expression is inside a male-female marriage (one man, one woman, for life).

3. Homosexual sex, in any form, falls outside this design.

4. This particular sin (missing the mark) is not especially serious. It is one of the "lesser" sins, if you will.

5. Many Homosexual people desire to live in stable life long relationships. Society should support this.

6. However, the Church cannot bless the relationship. The Church cannot bless sinful acts - even when the alternative is a greater sin.

7. Since the Church cannot bless the relationship, men or women who are involved in homosexual relationships should not be ordained.

I hope this helps the dialogue


John Wilkins

Phil, although I would come to different conclusions than Aquinas, I think the method of natural law could be very useful to a liberal. What is true is that we'll be jettisoning the part of the tradition regarding homosexuality by positing it in conflict with the part of the tradition we think is crucial to God's life. My underlying assumption here is that there has never been a unified tradition on much of anything except for the words of institution and the trinity [via the creeds].

The crux of your argument restates the slot a slot b view. I think this is especially relevant to those who want to have children. If sex is about procreation, then you're perfectly correct. I'm saying that sex is not about procreation, but the joys of socialization, play, and communication.

For the sake of space, I did not include biblical citations, but I would probably take a good amount of time looking at the variety of sexual expressions [say, Lot's daughters, Hagar, Solomon, David] and asking what scripture is trying to communicate. I submit to you, scripture is saying a lot more than "men are men, and women are women, and thank God for that."

Thank you for your praise, Phil, I appreciate it.


John Wilkins

And, in fairness, your comments are much more coherent and attentive to the church culture distinction than many of the orthodox. We still disagree with what constitutes a sin, sexually [I think that sin, in sex, is about abusing property and encouraging greed, status and envy].

Gay will begin composing rites of their own, and with the power of God, invoke God's presence, calling upon Christ. I don't think the church is essential to this, for individuals can easily bless relationships. It is possible, for example, that I may bless a relationship as an individual, but not as a priest in the church, relying upon God to do the work that He chooses.


Using our bodies in ways they were not designed to be used is a form of idolatry (as is all sin).

Here's what Desmond Tutu says about that, in fact:

He also regrets the dominant view among his church colleagues. "Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical, the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act - the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reason have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?" Mr Tutu asks.

Is "touching, embracing, and kissing" part of the "design"? Is a kiss between two men who love each other somehow radically different than a kiss between a man and a woman who do?

Why? Is the "genital act" all there is in sexual realtions? Isn't it the mind and heart that make the difference between a pure genital act of reproduction and a loving and "unitive" sexual encounter? Are minds and hearts gender-differentiated in some important way? Could you tell the difference between a male heart and a female one, or a male brain and a female one? How?


IOW, is everything right up to the "genital act" legitimate, and everything thereafter illegitimate, because of the "tab a, slot b" construction"?

What makes human being human? Their genitals, or their souls?


On another thread here I wrote that the problem in this discussion is that people who aren't gay are describing homosexuality from their perspective. And of course it seems wrong to them, and unnatural - because it is unnatural to them.

For gay people, it's the most natural thing in the world, because we fall in love with members of our own gender. It's really very simple. We're not defective heterosexuals afflicted with uncontrollable lustful desires; we're people whose affections happen to be for our own gender. And this is the way to read Romans I, BTW: straight people should not have gay sex because for them it is (usually) "idolatry." It's (usually) about lust alone. In fact, this is exactly what Romans I says, almost word for word.

Likewise, gay people should not have heterosexual sex, because love does not (usually) reside there for us.

Other people really need to begin listening to what we say about the subject, if any headway on this is to be made.


I'm not sure how many minds you'll change, but this posting is a welcome start. You'll find that rather than desiring the expulsion of the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion, many "conservatives" simply want their views to be met with the sort of charity you can more easily find among high school debate teams than among some liberal Anglican clergy. (See H. E. Baber's latest posting on the Enlightenment Project to see how maddening ECUSA condescension can be. And she's a professed unrepentant liberal!)

"A coherent liberal view might argue, for example, that sex is firs a form of communication or play, and secondly a form of procreation.

The problem with arguing that sex is a form of communication is that you have to establish that communication is primary. It seems to be the case, however, that in both human and animal sexuality, sex is first of all there for procreation while communication is there in order to enhance the procreation; not the other way around.

"The protection and management of property in marriage is in the state's greater interest. The state protects marriage because it is a very efficient form of social welfare: when one person gets sick, the other can't simply leave thereby burdening the state. Cultures generally have an interest in marriage because it promotes order and productivity, and diminishes sexual rivalry."

It's true that society has an interest in marriage. Recognizing this leads one to the obvious conclusion that marriage is not an individual act. It has consequences beyond one's own desires and affections. The state has therefore both an interest in and right to define marriage. Generally the state's interest in marriage takes the form of treating marriage as a contract. Gay relationships are suspectible to this contractual treatment, but the parties in the contract differ considerably from the parties in straight relationships.

To understand the point of the last statement, keep in mind that the state views the parties in a marriage or a contract abstractly; not as this man and this woman, but as male, female and minor child. These parties, both de jure and de faction, occupy differing social, legal, moral, economic stations. The marriage contract recognizes and protects the differing interests of each party. Therefore the contract of gay marriage, which subsists "between" a single party (male and male or female and female) differs in kind from the contract of straight marriage, which subsists among male, female, and child. In the same way that there's a difference between contract fors a buyer and a seller and for a lessee and leasor, there's a difference between the marriage contracts of a straight and gay couple. In a sense the interests of the parties determine the nature of the contract. The interests of same sex couples are patently different from those of straight couples. Two men splitting up isn't the same as man and woman splitting up. The social and economic consequences are much different in each case. So there's sufficient divergence in the interests of men and women to make straight marriage distinct from gay marriage. To call both gay unions and straight marriages "marriage" undermines the integrity of each contract.


The interests of same sex couples are patently different from those of straight couples. Two men splitting up isn't the same as man and woman splitting up.

Uh, no.

Not at all.

THe interests of a straight couple and a gay couple can be and often are completely identical. Households, job security, taxes, taking care of each other. Mowing the lawn. And don't forget the children (I have two stepchildren), so add in the PTA, the soccer team, and making sure we get homework done. And save for college.

My many married straight friends share the same issues that we do.

My childless straight-couple friends have very similiar concerns to my childless gay-couple friends. They are spared worrying about the teenagers being out late, and can be more concerned with where they are vacationing.

Contractually, our concerns are identical, and civil law should recognize that.

I think this is another example of how Non-homosexuals really cannot visualize gays as anything but The Other, and have to make wild assertions to make sure they maintain that distinction. Most of this comes back to this total preoccupation that its only about SEX. It's not, any more than a healthy straight marriage is only about sex. You people really should get over that.

As I posted on another thread on this site, think of being left handed. Occasionally inconvenient bu really only superficially different from the RH majority ((and I think I read there are 25 negative remarks about lefties in the Bible). in actual fact, it's really no big deal. Though for many generations people viewed LH with suspicion and tried to "cure" left handedness.

John wilkins

WTB, I think what is missing from the conservative critique is how we got to where we are. The Episcopal Church chose to respond in a particularly pastoral way, defining itself against self-consciously conservative denominations, especially catholicism on one side and conservative fundamentalism on the other. It started with birth control.

But why is it that our culture has become [in a lukewarm way] a place where in some areas, gay people are liberated? I have my opinion - separation of pleasure and procreation; the ability of individuals to have sex lives unapproved by the government; the freedom of women to choose sexual partners more deliberately; the use of sex in commerce. The episcopal church decided not to resist medical technology, cultural affluence, or the mechanics of capitalism. Now, I have problems with these elements, like many conservatives.

It seems that conservatives think that people are simply sinning more. They blame hollywood or the welfare state, even though conservative families enjoy watching desperate housewives and the poor are often those who desire the most strict of households [those who live in chaos often want the most order].

Most gay people can live fairly comfortably outside the church. They'll form their own churches, take a few pages from the BCP, and have blessings and ministers and all that. These days, they can just leave a church that won't listen to them. But I'm proud to be in a church where most of the clergy have chosen to listen, and have said that this is an issue not worth being divided over.

Youre comment regarding communication merits a more complicated response. The reason I say sex is experienced as communication is because it seems the best way to consider sex within the frame work of a religious, cultural, liturgical framework. The church typically doesn't get involved in sorts of sex that married couples have - we don't know if a man married to a woman is fantasizing about another man; nor do we make claims about things like non procreative sex within marriage [I won't get more explicit].

Now we know that the most important cultural consequence of sex is children - which requires an immense amount of social resources to protect and raise. But sex cannot be reduced to this. And I find the conservative tendency to genitalize the issue highly reductionistic and an inaccurate description of what actually goes on in the context of sexual relationships. Some women find, for example, a man who does the dishes highly arousing; for men it is a woman who is one her knees worshipping him.

It is because children are serious I think that we should bless gay families. We are fortunate to be in an age where there are couples willing to adopt unwanted children; and we should accept the blessings these new families can be.


Not to mention that nobody asks heterosexuals when they marry if they plan to have kids. Many don't.

And actually, almost all of the gay couples I know have kids.


(And even those who don't have kids often take on other responsibilities: elderly parents, siblings with developmental disabilities, etc. This has been true for a long time, in fact.

Yet we've had very few protections for our families until very, very recently.)


You'll find that rather than desiring the expulsion of the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion, many "conservatives" simply want their views to be met with the sort of charity you can more easily find among high school debate teams than among some liberal Anglican clergy.

One more thing, WTB: I have never seen angier, and more hurtful and disdainful, things said than I've seen on "conservative" weblogs since this all began.

I can't even read them any more, and I like to know what conservatives think; I even hold many views in common with them.

This is the most completely depressing episode I've ever seen, anywhere, in fact. It's been utterly horrible.

David Huff

As usual, bls nails it in a clear, concise manner. Some of the more extreme "conservatives" do go on about feeling persecuted (tho' many equate "being disagreed with" as persecuation). But I've never seen such hurtful and harshly abusive language as I have in their weblogs and other communications (all of David "Virtue's" site comes to mind, as does Kendall Harmon's comments section). There's no other conclusion I can come to other than the one that people like me are actively hated by these people.

I also share quite a few viewpoints that would make me an "orthodox" Episcopalian in the traditional sense. However, I simply have no desire whatsoever to be identified with the more rabid AAC/Network supporters...


I have said here before that I have been saddened by the tone that has been on display in some of the conservative weblogs. Virtue has his agenda but I do think that Kendall Harmon does a good job of controlling things on his site--John's opinion is always welcomed there. But David Huff--it works both ways. I like to read Fr. Jake to keep up with those I disagree with and I am often deeply offended by what I read there about the conservative position and those (like myself)who hold it. It cuts both ways.


I, too, enjoyed your essay. It is the best beginning of a rationale for same-sex marriage I've seen. (And believe me, I've looked!)

My question is this: Wouldn't it be prudent to watch what happens in some other country, like the Netherlands or Belgium, where same-sex marriage is already happening, to just see what the effects on culture might be, for a decade or so? Wouldn't this be the wise thing to do?

Given the unforseen effects (good and bad) of various things that have already come to pass, say no-fault divorce, the sexual liberation, etc., shouldn't we tread a little more carefully in our social changes? What do you think?


Dave Trowbridge

Jennifer wrote:

"Given the unforseen effects (good and bad) of various things that have already come to pass, say no-fault divorce, the sexual liberation, etc., shouldn't we tread a little more carefully in our social changes?"

Jennifer, while that is a perfectly valid way of approaching a political problem, it's problematic in the religious sphere, so I do not think it a particularly useful approach to the Anglican Communion's problem. At the heart of our disagreement is not the possible social effects of same-sex marriage, but our understanding of the radical equality we are called to in Christ, as opposed to what the World demands. The kind of temporising prudence you call for, while appropriate in the political sphere, is not, I think, in line with the urgency of the Gospel. Certainly, the parameters by which it judges success utterly rule out exactly what Jesus told us to expect as the effect of God's kingdom erupting into the world: division and strife.

Now, myself, I tend to see this uproar as part of the struggle of Walter Wink's "Domination System" against coming of the kingdom: the struggle of the "world" (as in "the world, the flesh, and the devil") against the Church's message of inclusion, which undermines the levers of powers.

But I also realize that some see it very differently, as a defense of what is right and true. I pray that our Communion will be able, as it has in the past, work through the strife to preserve our inclusiveness.

John Wilkins

Jennifer, Thank you for your praise.

I tend to see the changes you mention as consequences of a materialistic culture. I would have severe disincentives for parents to divorce who had children.

If anything, I think that offering legal status to gay marriage would actually shore marriage up by bringing them into the institution. It is for this same reason some gay activists will have nothing to do with marriage [it intrinsically limits sexual freedom].

I would pass state laws prohibiting advertising to minors and allow communities to prohibit sexually explicit advertising. On the issue of the first amendment, I'm a bit more conservative [except for political speech, where I think anything goes except outright sedition and violence].

I guess, Jennifer, my own view is that sexual liberation happened as a consequence of medical technology, not due to a massive social movement. I do agree with the conservative critique that sexual liberation has caused great confusion in our society, especially as men still control the game.

But in general, I'm all for slow changes rather than rapid ones. Yet, I don't think gay marriage is a radical change. It is an attempt to integrate sexual liberation with worthwhile social institutions.

You mention the dutch model. I actually have dutch cousins who are generally very conservative. Their attitude is pragmatic however - better marriage than promiscuity. Because of their social cohesion they have fewer divorces and abortions percentage wise, even though both are easy and legal there. We might want to ask why that is.

John, we think alike on many things!

From what I've read, the Dutch have a very open, tolerant society, yet they themselves haven't traditionally participated in its excesses. Therefore, they don't have as many problems in many areas as many other countries.

However, I've read that they have fewer divorces, because they have fewer marriages to begin with. Their rising out-of-wedlock birthrate would seem to confirm this. And obviously, the breakup of a cohabiting couple wouldn't come up on the nation's statistics radar, because there's no official action (no papers filed). I don't know what to make of this yet. It's obvious we could learn a bit from them because of their lower drug addiction rates, abortions, etc.

Dave Trowbridge - "the urgency of the Gospel." Does this phrase mean you think same-sex marriage is long overdue? Or does it mean something else to you?



Don't forget, though, that "marriage" is really a separate issue. Anglicans, along with all Protestants that I can think of, view City Hall marriages as equivalent to Church weddings.

This is why the argument about "sex outside marriage" is becoming more and more absurd. It means that gay couples from Massachusetts, Canada, and the Netherlands are not sinners, while all other are. Theology by geography.

In addition, the reason there's an entire body of "common law" marriage law, is because it was, well, common at one time in the British Isles. It's not so common today, which is one reason this argument is happening, in fact.

But the real issue isn't marriage; it's sex.

Joel Thomas

I sent e-mails to several massively obese orthodox Anglicans who insist that homosexuality is a choice that can be controlled. I invited them to respond as what efforts they had made to shed their weight and as to why they should remain clergy when they are clearly gluttonous. Most didn't respond to me, but the ones that did wrpte that I was being mean, or that their weight was a complex problem or that I was prooftexting the Bible. My point was simply that it would seem tremendously easier to shed excess weight than to change one's sexual orientation.


Joel makes a very good point - too often we ignore the log in our own eye becasue we're obsessed with the fleck in someone else's. Kendall Harmon, coincidentally, is an example of a man who could lose a few pounds (more than a few, really).

Proverbs 23:19-21 says "Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way. 20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh: 21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags".

And I'm not picking on Kendall - I shouldn't be wailing about Robinson either, because I have my own demons (bi polar disorder).

So let's take this to its logical conclusion - no one can say anything critical of anyone else because we all sin. The guy who killed his kid? I can't criticize him because I yelled the other night when I bumped my head.

Obviously the latter exmple we all find absurd, but at what point is it OK to criticize others? It's a gray area out there to sy the least....

Joel Thomas

The distinction between judging and discerning isn't always easy.

Clearly, if we have to be without sin ourselves in order to morally discern any issue, then no one would be able to hold anyone accountable for anything.

So, I will not claim that substantially obese Anglican clergy who oppose gay ordination have no right to invoke Scripture in support of their views. Nevertheless, I find that many use a fairly self-righteous tone in their condemnation of homosexuality.

William Willimon wrote that he thought greed might be a more apt reason than homosexuality to exclude people from ordination.


I guess there might be one other differentiator. For those who eat a lot (as distinguished from those who are naturally heavy), they still probably consider their occasional greedy adventures as something they probably shouldn't have done.

For those who engage in same-sex sex, they may or may not consider that as something they shouldn't have done.

So one has (even if half-hearted) a repentant attidude and willingness to refrain, while the other often does not. I'm not being nasty here, just making a point about a difference in mindset. Personally, I think gluttony DOES demonstrate a lack of self control, which is meant to be one of the fruits of the Spirit.

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