Canadian Anglicans and Same-Sex Marriage: Why Can’t They Agree?

The Anglican Church of Canada, historically one of the two major Protestant Christian denominations in this country, last week came within a very few votesof accepting nationally the full validity of same-sex marriage (SSM). According to their tradition, the Anglican representatives voted in three bodies: laypeople, clergy, and bishops, with a two-thirds majority required in all three groups required to change such a basic tenet. The majority requirement was met in the first two houses, but it failed by several votes in the third.

Thus, following a decision made in 2016, localities can continue to choose to bless same-sex marriages, but the national church as such continues to demur.

On an issue as basic as marriage, however, one has to wonder: What’s going on? Why haven’t decades of study and conversation and controversy—extending even to the secular courts of the country—settled this matter firmly in the minds of people who, one might assume, read the same Scriptures, believe the same basic doctrines, and desire the same goods?

Here are some suggestions as to why this process has been so long, so difficult, and so unlikely to resolve anytime soon into a happy consensus.

• Because the issue is binary. Ironically enough, with all the talk of gender fluidity, multiple sexualities, and the like, the fundamental issue is stark: Either heterosexual marriage is the one and only norm, or it isn’t. Either there is something importantly wrong with same-sex attraction or it’s perfectly all right.

There is no middle ground for those who seek unity through compromise. So the struggle grinds on, with progress coming only as each individual involved undergoes a significant alteration of view.

• Because the issue is important. There are lots of other issues for the Anglican Church of Canada to deal with, of course, and it deals with many. But this issue matters and in several respects. It matters because of the mistreatment of people of different sexualities and gender identities that has gone on under the influence of Christianity in Canada— mistreatment that is acknowledged and regretted on both sides of the controversy.

It matters because Canadian society has undergone a rapid conversion, in just one generation, from finding alternative sexualities repellent to embracing sexual diversity as an expression of human freedom. Institutions and individuals who do not embrace that diversity are increasingly seen as mere bigots, and the Anglican Church of Canada understandably doesn’t want to be viewed that way by the country it desires to serve.

And it matters because so much of the Christian Scripture emphasizes the importance of marriage—as the fundamental institution of human society and as the paradigm of God’s relationship to Israel and Jesus Christ’s relationship to the Church. To support a quite different view of marriage means to support a significant re-thinking of much of the Bible’s revelation of God and God’s will for the world, a re-thinking that is squarely at odds with much of Anglicanism’s tradition.

• Because the theological arguments often talk past each other. Unlike the arguments on behalf of the ordination of women the best of which rely in large part on careful reinterpretation of key New Testament texts and new paradigms for integrating all of the Bible’s material on gender, the arguments for SSM have produced little in the way of significant new findings to justify alternative theological interpretations.

John Boswell’s work of several decades ago tried to redefine key terms in the New Testament to argue that consensual adult same-sex relationships were never actually forbidden: just exploitative ones. But his work was quickly debunked, and no new information of that order has emerged.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Should Street Preachers Be Arrested?

Contextrecently reportedon Toronto street preacher David Lynn, who continues to await charges following his arrest last June for disturbing the peace. He had taken a megaphone to the Church-Wellesley area of his city, a centre of LGBTQ+ identity, and loudly proclaimed his allegiance to Jesus.

What else he proclaimed isn’t evident in the media record, so far as I can determine. But whatever he said was sufficiently provocative as to arouse an agitated crowd and finally prompt the police to arrest him. So without offering any opinion on Mr. Lynn’s situation, let’s leave him to the eventualities of the Ontario court system for now (the charges have been put off until August 7) and consider more generally what is at stake.

Freedom of speech and freedom of religion clearly obtain here. Canadians historically have prized both freedoms and they, like other basic freedoms, cannot be abrogated without sufficient cause.

Public preaching also has a long history in the Christian church, whether one considers the preaching (and loud bands) of the Salvation Army in the slums of London, George Whitefield and John Wesley in the previous century scandalizing their proper Anglican peers by preaching to poor folk at their country crossroads, wandering missionaries bringing their message to villages throughout the world, or the apostles themselves proclaiming their message in ancient Judea and Galilee.

Those preachers, however, were often arrested for disturbing the peace. The apostles themselves sometimes preached explicitly against other people’s religions, thus cutting into the profitable trade in expensive idols fostered by local chambers of commerce. In their very first public sermon (Acts 2), they told their fellow Jews in Jerusalem that the recently crucified Jesus of Nazareth was, in fact, their long-promised Messiah—to the great discomfiture of the authorities who had thought they had finally gotten rid of the Jesus threat.

 So there is in fact a considerable tradition of Christians preaching publicly and then paying the predictable price for, indeed, disturbing the peace.

What about nowadays in our Canadian cities, however? Several considerations should be borne in mind by those pondering the ethics of street preaching.

First, in a society blessed with the printing press, television, and the Internet, it’s hard to make a case for public preaching on the ground that Canadians otherwise won’t hear the gospel. That case could be made at other places and times, but hardly so today.

Second, a Christian can intentionally disturb the peace only in the service of the greater good of helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells Christians to live peaceably with their neighbours (Romans 12:18), to be people who actually make (more) peace, rather than lessen whatever peace obtains (Matthew 5:9).

The point of public preaching isn’t merely to sound off, as if the preacher scores points with God for bravely annoying his neighbours with Christian propaganda. No, the point of public preaching is the same point of all Christian activity: to please God and to help the neighbour.

So if one’s style of preaching—loud and confrontational—or content of preaching—denunciation of people’s sins—can be predicted merely to arouse fury, then such preaching meets the condemnation of Jesus himself (Matthew 7:6). The Christian is not supposed to hurl the gospel at the world like a stone, but he or she is to offer it as a gift in the loving hope that at least some will receive it with gratitude.

[For the rest, please click HERE.]

Beauty on Broadway

Fair spouse and I recently returned from a trip to New York City to enjoy our middle son performing at a Theater District cabaret. (We couldn’t get him to be quiet at home and now we have to pay a hundred bucks each for the privilege of listening to him, etc.)

We also had time to tour a little, and we were struck again by the superabundance of beauty that blesses that little corner of the world. Central Park—from its thick northern wildness to its meticulous southern cultivation. The High Line—abandoned railway track turned into a sweet green space literally above the urban fray. The Met and the Frick and MOMA and the rest of New York’s astounding homes for astounding art.

The beauty is everywhere. Look up and around! Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building (I’m still deciding about the Whitney)—fabulous edifices above fabulous stores offering fabulous clothes and jewelry and foods. Even the outwardly humdrum Garment District is beauty-full, where my life partner insists we go for her to procure, like a trader of old, fine fabrics unavailable in our benighted homeland.

We happened to visit New York this year at the end of Pride Month. And the climax of World Pride celebrations was held this year, yes, in New York City, on Times Square. Lucky us: our hotel was just off Times Square, selected to be close to where our son was to perform.

Well, there was beauty on display in Times Square, too. Pride has apparently become a generic “license to display,” whatever your sexual and gender affirmations, and there were beautiful bodies on display. Everywhere one looked, and everywhere one tried to look away, too.

That not being our scene, we took refuge in attending a couple of shows. And in one of them I saw beauty of an entirely different order, beauty that literally moved me to tears. I’m not kidding: I got weepy from about the fifth minute and I went through a pocketful of Kleenex over the next hour. What dissolved this Gibraltar of a man into a tiny, salty puddle?

[For the rest, please click HERE.]