INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2002 Integrity/Toronto.
The hard-copy version of this newsletter carries the ISSN 0843-574X
Integrity/Toronto Box 873 Stn F Toronto ON Canada M4Y 2N9
A GREAT AND PUBLIC MYSTERY
The Theology of Marriage
by the Rev Dr Stephen Reynolds.
PLEASE JOIN US IN PRAYER
THE RIGHT STUFF FOR 2002
Integrity/Toronto's Annual General Meeting
A DECADE LATER
Ten years after the Rev Jim Ferry's trial in Bishop's Court
by the Rev Canon Bill Morrison
By the Rev Dr Stephen Reynolds
Marriage is a mystery. Just ask anybody who has ever been married, or who has ever engaged in marriage counselling. They know that marriage can often feel like a very great mystery indeed. A mystery in the sense of a whodunnit - and in the marital mystery, as in any cracking good murder mystery, the question to be solved is not only whodunnit but also howdunnit. Answering that question has been the dominant, almost the exclusive concern of Christian literature about matrimony. It is like reading the final chapter of an Agatha Christie novel, where the Hercule Poirots of canon law explain the conditions necessary for a marriage to be valid and the Miss Marples of pastoral counselling explain how a marriage can be made to "work".
But I am here to talk about the theology of marriage; and when theology faces a mystery, it sees a rather different sort of puzzle than canon law or pastoral counselling sees, and investigates a rather different sort of question. Not whodunnit, nor even howdunnit, but whydunnit. That is to say, the theological investigation of a mystery has to do with meaning and significance in the context of, and by reference to, the revelation of God in Christ. A "theology of marriage," then, will consider matrimony in relation to the creative economy and saving purpose of the three-personed God.
As it happens, the theological investigation of marriage as a mystery traditionally has taken its warrant from Ephesians 5.21-32. There, Paul (or one of his disciples) exhorts husbands and wives to be subject to one another, and then invokes the relationship between Christ and the church as the rule and example that married couples should follow. He says:
Husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church.
Matrimony is "a great mystery". The howdunnit tradition of canon law and pastoral counselling has admitted as much; but here, as elsewhere in the letters of Paul, the word "mystery" does not have the sense of a puzzle to be solved. A mystery is a truth about God's dealings with humanity which was once secret or hidden but is now public knowledge in the Church. Both dimensions - once secret, now revealed - need to be kept in mind. A mystery is a public secret, a truth hiding out in the open, right in front of our noses. Thus marriage is "a great mystery" in the sense that it always represented the Son of God's relationship with the holy people of God, though its meaning was hidden or secret until Christ appeared and disclosed the secret. So marriage - in particular, marriage as blessed in and by the Church - somehow represents, symbolizes, signifies, or, yes, even "sacraments" the public secret of the Son of God's relationship with the community of the faithful.
This Pauline viewpoint informs a statement made in the Exhortation which opens "The Form of the Solemnization of Matrimony" in The Book of Common Prayer. After declaring the reason for the assembly, "to join together this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony," the Exhortation sets forth the nature of matrimony - it "is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man's innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church." This brief statement comprehends the two thematic cornerstones of Christian theology as a whole. For it grounds "this holy estate" in the divine economy of creation and, drawing on Ephesians 5.32, refers it to the saving mystery of Christ. I do not think we will find a more genuinely theological statement of what marriage means.
For comparison's sake, it is worth taking a look at the Exhortation which introduces both forms of "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" in The Book of Alternative Services. It describes the significance of marriage in these terms: "Marriage is a gift of God and a means of his grace, in which man and woman become one flesh. It is God's purpose that, as husband and wife give themselves to each other in love, they shall grow together and be united in that love, as Christ is united with his Church." In contrast with the Prayer Book Exhortation, this BAS formula is far less compressed; indeed, it is positively unbuttoned. But it touches the same bases. It refers to the economy of creation when it says that in matrimony "man and woman become one flesh". This is an allusion to Genesis 2.24, the conclusion of the second creation narrative. Having recounted how God formed the woman out of the man, the author states: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh." This is the very verse quoted in Ephesians 5.31. Like the Prayer Book, the BAS Exhortation also alludes to Ephesians 5.32 when it says that the matrimonial partners should be united in love "as Christ is united with his Church." So the Prayer Book and the BAS pack the same theological meaning with respect to marriage: it is a mystery of the creative economy and saving purpose of God.
In Ephesians 5, the "great mystery" that the author applied to "Christ and the church" is the precept which seals the second creation story, after God creates woman and unites her with Adam: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." It is clear that the reason for quoting it lies in the second clause, "and the two will become one flesh." The argument in Ephesians 5 is undoubtedly sexist, for it takes the husband as the cynosure and norm of marriage - it is he who should love his wife as he does his own body, and who therefore loves himself in loving his wife. In this respect, the author may be missing the point of the text he was citing. In Genesis 2.24, it is the two that "become one flesh". The text does not say that wife becomes part of the husband, by being folded or assimilated (so to speak) into his life without remainder. Rather, the text suggests that the man and the woman mutually constitute "one flesh" and together form "one body". The author's sexism at this point probably reflected contemporary norms; but it also served his theological purpose. For Ephesians - and indeed Pauline literature in general - cannot concede that the relationship between Christ and the church is a union of equals. Christ always has the initiative; it is Christ who makes us members of his body, not we who make him a member of our bodies. But even as we acknowledge that truth, it is worth remembering that, by quoting Genesis 2.24, Ephesians is recognising its authority. Which is to say, Genesis 2.24 is the rule by which the union - yes, the marriage - of Christ and the Church is to be understood, even as marriage is now to be understood in light of "the union that is betwixt Christ and his Church". And Genesis 2.24 implies mutuality of the married partners in being "one flesh," not the subjugation of one partner to the other. Just so, the initiative of Christ is not for the purpose of keeping us in subjugation, but for the purpose of enabling our dignity as "participants of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1.4). Anglicans might reflexively wince at the notion, but the great tradition of Christian spirituality still bears witness that Christ is as much our lover as our Lord; and if the analogy with marriage, on the basis of Genesis 2.24, has any authority, it means that we have become one flesh with Christ the lover, as much as servants of Christ the Lord or siblings of Christ the Son of God.
The statement, "and the two will become one flesh," can cause problems and even be a rock of offence. Oddly enough, in my own experience as a parish priest, it has usually been the groom who gagged on this statement, not the bride. On inquiring why, the answer I have most frequently received has to do with issues of personal independence and even, on occasion, with what may be called the metaphysics of individuality - how can I still be me if I exist in somebody else and somebody else exists in me? This same objection also happens to work when we talk about the baptised as members of the body of Christ - the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and His Church. There are moments when dogma comes in handy; and this objection is one of them. I do not say that I have always responded to the offended grooms by quoting the dogmatic decree about the person of Christ promulgated at the council of Chalcedon in the year 451, but it has informed the answers that I have tried to make. The conciliar decree asserts that Jesus Christ is one person in two natures, truly divine and fully human, "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation. The difference between the natures is in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the qualities of each nature are preserved." What holds true of the hypostatic (or personal) union that is Christ also holds true of "the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church". Our individuality does not get absorbed into Christ's life; on the contrary, our individuality as human beings is more truly established because it is united with the life of Christ. It is perhaps this one truth which finally distinguishes classical Christianity from all other forms of religion - that our humanity is neither perpetually alien from God nor absorbed back into God, but is united with God and participates in God's three-personed life precisely as human being. And if that is the case with the mystery of salvation, it is also the case with that mystery of marriage, insofar as it signifies union of Christ and the Church.
In the case of the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and the Church, which is based upon the hypostatic union that is the person of Jesus Christ, the Christian tradition says that the divine Word participates in our humanity so that we human beings might participate in his divinity. Marriage is a mystery and signifies this greater mystery insofar as the mutual participation of the partners in one another's life is what constitutes the marital union. But then we may ask what that union is for, what is the purpose of the mutual participation. Here the Anglican tradition, in common with the wider tradition of western Christendom, has given a fairly consistent answer - though the priorities within this answer have shifted. The Marriage Exhortation in the English Prayer Book from 1549 through 1662 sternly noted that marriage is "not to be enterprised, nor taken in hand," except "reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God; duly considering the causes for which Matrimony was ordained." And those "causes," or reasons, are three in number:
Each of these three "causes" has a foundation in the Scriptures. The first, regarding "the procreation of children," is derived from the divine mandate to the first humans, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth" (Gen. 1.28). The second, regarding marriage as "a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication," takes its cue from Paul's concession that "it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion" (1 Cor. 7.9). The third cause, regarding "the mutual society, help, and comfort" that husband and wife each "ought to have of the other," draws its warrant from the creation of Eve to be Adam's "helper as his partner" (Gen. 2.18-24). If the scriptural warrant for the second cause ("for a remedy against sin") is obvious, the warrants for the other two are less so. This suggests that the exhortation is drawing on another source, in which the reasons for matrimony and their scriptural justifications had already been worked out. As it happens, this source is Augustine of Hippo's treatise De bono conjugali ("On the Goodness of Marriage"). Augustine identified three "goods" which justified marriage: offspring, mutual faithfulness of husband and wife, and "the sacrament". (By "the sacrament". he meant the union's indissolubility; human marriage, as a sign of the union between Christ and the baptized, could not be dissolved any more than the mystical union could be). He also argued that matrimony was for the taming of lust unto continence; but he associated this point with the larger good of mutual faithfulness. But Augustine himself was not consistent in the priority of these three reasons. In his mature commentary on the book of Genesis (De Genesi ad litteram IX.7.12) Augustine refers his readers to his earlier treatise on marriage, but gives the three goods in different order, viz. mutual faithfulness, offspring, and "the sacrament". And in fact, that is the very order in which Augustine actually discusses the reasons in The Goodness of Marriage itself. For he starts the work by saying that the mutual friendship of the two spouses is a sufficient reason for marriage. The procreation of children he considered to be "the one and only worthy fruit of sexual intercourse, not of the union of man and woman" (De bono conjugali 1). The list of "causes" for matrimony in the 1662 exhortation may have replaced indissolubility of marriage with "a remedy against sin," but it is undoubtedly Augustinian in perspective and in detail. The Marriage Exhortation in our own Prayer Book of 1962 remains planted in the Augustinian perspective, but dropped the rather sour second "cause," that matrimony was meant to be "a remedy against sin," and introduced a new cause, which it placed first: "Matrimony was ordained for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman"; then followed the procreation of children, and finally, still third, "the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity". By contrast, the Exhortation in the BAS rite places almost all its emphasis on the third of these three reasons: "The union of man and woman in heart, body, and mind is intended for their mutual comfort and help, that they may know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of love". The procreation and nurture of children is subjoined in brackets to this note. We have come full circle to where Augustine started his own treatise on marriage - the mutual friendship of the partners is the sufficient reason for marriage.
If marriage is a matter of friendship, it almost goes without saying that it must be a special kind of friendship. For it is more than an association; it is a union. In the usual course of human relations, friends remain two distinct, even separate lives; according to the Scriptures and the teaching of the Church, married partners become "one flesh," that is, one life. It is tempting to say that sexual intercourse is what makes the difference between the friendship of association and the friendship of marriage. But though the Church certainly blesses the sexual intercourse of the partners, it does so as only one dimension of the union as a whole - and it is the whole union, in all its dimensions, that the Church blesses in the name of God. This is where we may need to return to the image of the mystical union between Christ and the Church and consider it as a model for marriage, even as marriage served as the model for the image of the mystical union. We may still sing (if we must), "O what a friend we have in Jesus" - so long as we realize that Jesus is not just a pal; he is a partner. His friendship is that of union, not of association; and though there is no sexuality involved in this union, yet he and the community of the faithful, the Church, "become one flesh" in the mutual participation of one life together. Augustine spoke of "the fullness of Christ" being he the Head and we his members, together. There is now no other Christ; the person of Jesus alone, without his body the Church, is Jesus impaired - just as the Church alone, without Jesus, ceases to be the Church. So it is with marriage: it is the bonding of two partners in a single life, with the faithfulness of each to that one life lived together and in common. Whatever other qualifications we might choose to make - whatever other qualifications we might choose not to make, - this remains the foundation of the great mystery that is marriage.
There is, of course, one qualification in particular which gays and lesbians have challenged the Church to cease making - and that is, the qualification which insists that marriage is exclusively the union of a man and a woman, and that the Church either cannot or will not bless the union of same-sex couples. Sacramental theology, to which the specifically doctrinal issues of marriage have been relegated, conventionally appeals to canon law at this point; and canon law itself has traditionally appealed to the principles of natural law. Now, natural law works on the basic premise that the created order of nature is the work of God and therefore manifests a goodness (specifically the goodness of order) from which moral principles can be derived. Thus, if X is the case in the natural order, Y must be true in the moral order. Since Peg M fits into Hole W - and since this fit is the normal way of producing other little M's and W's - it follows that this is the only sort of pairing that God intended in nature, and therefore the sole sort of pairing allowable in morality. The major premise is undeniable; so (up to a point) is the minor. But the conclusion is adventitious: it reverses the priority of the premises and makes propagation of the race the divinely ordained reason for intercourse, and thus the sole justification for marriage. Quite apart from recent developments in genetic science, such an argument flies in the face of the tradition flowing out of Augustine, and makes nonsense of the mystical union of Christ with the faithful. As we have already seen, Augustine taught that "the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one [partner] ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity" is a sufficient, even a definitive, reason for marriage - and that the procreation of children is a secondary good, the absence of which as a possibility is not an impediment to the union of partners. I will admit that this reading of his argument may cause Augustine heartburn in heaven; in his time (the late fourth and early fifth centuries) he was a pain in the neck, even an outrageous pain in the neck, to a lot of conventionally-minded people, but there are only so many battles that one person can conceive of taking on. Or perhaps not: being in heaven, Augustine now knows better. For two women, or two men, may give one another "the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity," as surely as a man and a woman may do; and in Augustine's account of marriage, mutuality is what matters, not the gender and sexuality of the partners.
Finally, there is the christo-theological issue. This is where matters become complicated - not in an intellectual sense so much as in an imaginative sense. For example, twenty-five years ago, some opponents of the ordination of women to the priesthood latched on to the convention of English usage which talked about "the Church" as if it were a "she". (This usage was a reminiscence of Latin, in which the word for "church," ecclesia, was indeed of the feminine gender.) Ah! said these opponents, if Christ is male who marries the Church as his bride, and if women are allowed to stand in the place of Christ, would not this make the Church to be a lesbian? This was an example of letting an accident of linguistic gender mud-wrestle a theological image into disrepute. But the image, muddied though it was by such crude rhetorical man-handling, endures; and it endures precisely so far as Augustine's argument for partnership as a sufficient reason for marriage continues to govern the image. For then Christ is understood to be the faithful lover and partner of his body the Church - the whole Church, males and females, together, without respect to any cultural-linguistic stereotypes, whether of gender or of sexual orientation. The image of "the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church" takes it cue from the story of creation, where the other is not created in the first place to bear children but to be "a helper as a partner". If that is the case, the sex of the partners is not the issue; it is "the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity". And where that is possible, the image of the mystical union betwixt Christ and his Church may serve as grounds for helping the Church to imagine the possibility of blessing the union of man and man and woman and woman as well as that of man and woman.
This article is based on a talk he gave at the Church of the Redeemer, as part of their regular Sunday-morning adult Christian Education programme. This is the full text of his address, a shorter version (abbreviated for space reasons) appeared in the paper edition of Integrator.
Integrity/Toronto is a worshipping community. Once a month, we gather around Christ's table. We gather strength for the journey here, from the worship and from each other.
It would, of course, be wonderful to see all of our members (and others) join us at the table. However, we realise that's not possible. Our members are in all ten provinces, and overseas. Those within travelling distance can't always make it either. But if you can join us in prayer on the third Monday of the month, wherever you are, our community will be the stronger for it, and we will all be blessed. Join the great cloud of witnesses.
Integrity/Toronto's Annual General Meeting was held in January, after a Eucharist celebrated by our chaplain, Lillian Porter. There was a lot of good stuff in 2001 to look back on - General Synod, Toronto Synod, a great presence in the Pride Parade, six issues of Integrator (with a mailing list now pushing 700), our annual retreat, and of course, monthly times together to worship and to socialise.
AGMs are time to look ahead, too. This year, for the first time since 1990, we will not have a synod to attend (Toronto synods having become biennial). This will give us more time and resources to work on other fronts.
One of the things we talked about was reaching out to the many lesbigays in the Anglican church who perhaps don't know about us - or what we're doing. One of the things we'd like to develop is a list of parishes that are "fertile soil", places where Integrity's message might be well heard. We'd like to start sending out information - posters, pamphlets, invitations to special services, and the like - on perhaps a quarterly basis. Now we have some idea of the parishes (and clergy) who should be on that list; but there may well be other parishes that we don't realise would welcome regular information on Integrity. If you can think of such a parish - probably your own, but maybe one on the other side of town - or a priest (maybe yourself) who would welcome Integrity information, please nominate them. Chris Ambidge, our Co-Convener, is anxious to hear from you, email < email@example.com >. Please help us spread the good word.
Of course, AGMs are also the time of elections, and our executive has grown. Continuing members of the executive Bonnie Crawford-Bewley, Chris Ambidge, Penelope Holeton and Brian MacIntyre have been joined by new member Aleda Franz and returning member John Gartshore. Lillian Porter continues as our chapter chaplain. Welcome, and thanks to all.
By the Rev Canon Bill Morrison
It seems hard to believe, but it has been 10 years since the bishop's court trial of Jim Ferry. The trial began 3 February 1992.
Until the year before, the Rev Jim Ferry was the rector of St. Philip's Church in Unionville. Jim is a gay man, and had a partner. He was not out to his parish, or to the church authorities in general. A few people in his parish discovered his sexual orientation and tried to blackmail him into resigning. The blackmail threat was, "We will tell the bishop".
Jim pre-empted this threat by telling the Bishop himself. Two weeks later, he was asked to either give up his primary relationship, or to resign. When he refused to do either, he was fired, and outed to his parish. It did not take long before the media got hold of the story and the entire matter became very public indeed.
As a result, the Anglican Church's attitude towards gay and lesbian people, and most specifically lesbigay clergy, was very much to the fore at diocesan Synod in Toronto that year, which was also, coincidentally, the first year Integrity/Toronto had a display at diocesan Synod.
Bishop Finlay took the matter to a bishop's court, a very rarely used procedure. Jim was tried on several charges; and was found guilty of failing to obey the direction of his Bishop by refusing to end the relationship with his partner.
That was 10 years ago. In the early 1990's, and indeed for many years before that, clergy who ran afoul of the ecclesiastical authorities, particularly in sexual matters, usually resigned quietly under pressure, and the matter was hushed up. Jim Ferry refused to believe that his sexual orientation, or his taking a partner, were in any way wrong or sinful. He refused to go quietly.
The consequences for Jim Ferry were enormous. He lost his career, vocation, and (in the event) his partner. Although he was not defrocked, and remains a priest, his license was removed. His personal and private life was spattered all over the Canadian news media. Today, he makes his living outside church. His license was restored in a limited way a few years ago, and he remains active at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto.
The consequences for the Anglican Church of Canada have also been significant. Because of Jim Ferry and the way his dilemma was handled, our church in 2002 is a very different place than it was in 1992. All General Synods since then -- and many diocesan ones as well -- have grappled with the questions arising from sexual orientation and the presence in the church of gay and lesbian lay people and clergy. I believe that there has been a sea change in the attitudes of people in the pews, and indeed in the clergy, over the past decade. Lesbigays are very much closer to full membership in the Anglican Church of Canada now than they were a decade ago. It was Jim Ferry -- his outing, dismissal, and the manner in which he was put on trial -- that put all that on the front burner. That has been his legacy, and for that the church is in his debt.
Until lesbian and gay Anglicans-lay people and clergy alike-are able to live in committed relationships recognised by the church, Integrity will have work to do. Until clergy across the country -- including Jim Ferry -- do not have their licenses suspended for living according to their sexual orientation, Integrity will have work to do. But much work has been done, and a lot of it would not have happened without the events of 1991-92, Jim Ferry's stand, and the draconian way in which it was handled.
The story of Jim Ferry was chronicled in Integrator at the time. Archived copies of Integrator covering the original story are available on the Queer Resources Directory at: