Anglican Church Suspends American Episcopalian Church over Gay Marriage

Canterbury CathedralEven though both England and the US have legalized gay marriage, and even though the archbishop of Canterbury approves gay marriage, the Anglican communion as a whole does not — and it has suspended the American Episcopalian Church over the issue.

The Religion News Service reports,

In July, the Episcopal Church voted to allow its clergy to perform same-sex marriages, a move not taken by the majority of churches in the Anglican Communion.

“Given the seriousness of these matters we formally acknowledge this distance by requiring that for a period of three years The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies … ,” a statement issued by the Anglican Communion reads. “They will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

“The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union,” the statement also notes. “The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching.”

The Anglican Communion consists of 44 member churches from around the world, representing about 85 million Christians.

This leads to this reflection by a gay American Episcopalian who has chosen celibacy based on his reading of scripture. He quotes the gay Roman Catholic writer Eve Tushnet —

We [celibate gay Christians] offer witness that friendship, “chosen family,” intentional community life, and service to those in need are forms of real and sacrificial love which can shape a life as decisively as marriage and parenthood — if we let them. We offer hope that one day our churches and our communities will honor devoted friendship, extended family such as godparents, and lives of service. These are forms of love the Christian churches once honored publicly as part of the structure of society. Instead of maintaining this honor, we narrowed the public, “adult” forms of love down to the nuclear family and eventually the postnuclear family. I hope that by exploring our vocations, celibate gay Christians can suggest that there is more than one way to make a life filled with love. This witness will, of course, be relevant not only to our small subgroup, but to all Christians, regardless of sexual orientation or beliefs about sexuality.

Think about it. It’s surely very difficult for a gay member of the Churches of Christ to remain abstinent or celibate — in a communion that considers this good and necessary behavior. Imagine how much more difficult it would be in a communion that sees no point in avoiding gay sexual activity (in a monogamous relationship).

On the other hand, I wonder whether the Churches of Christ make living as celibate even more difficult than in many other denominations by treating gay sex as a forbidden subject and treating all gay people as presumed sexually active? By dealing with gay marriage as a political issue rather than personal struggle? I mean, how many gay men or women who choose to be celibate for Christ would feel free, in a Church of Christ Bible class, to discuss their sexuality?

Returning to the quoted paragraph above, how many of us are willing to make an effort to invite celibate gay Christians into our family activities (like a godparent, except, of course, we don’t do godparents in the Church of Christ — but we do sometimes adopt beloved non-family members as unofficial “uncles” or “aunts” to our children) and small groups and social circles? I mean, if they are to be denied a spouse, should we not look for ways to meet their need for companionship and friendship?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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5 Responses to Anglican Church Suspends American Episcopalian Church over Gay Marriage

  1. Buckeye chuck says:

    I am very grateful for this post as it addresses my questions from several previous posts on this subject. I hope this thought process becomes a topic of discussion in churches where there are certainly gay celibate Christians who desperately need the love, support and friendship of their church family in their Christian walk.

  2. David W. says:

    As someone who was raised Anglican in the UK, and now spits his time between the Church of Christ and the Anglican Church in North America (the more conservative Anglicans who split from the Episcopalians specifically over the issue of Gay marriage), I watched this meeting with great interest.

    You point about how we need to support and interact with our gay brothers and sisters who seek a chaste and holy lifestyle in spite of their attractions is well taken. In my own CoC congregation we have several members who are open about their sexuality but are also open about living a holy lifestyle.

    We actually need to broaden the conversation though without minimizing the difficulty faced by those with same-sex attractions. It is not only the homosexual who are called to chastity, many heterosexuals are also called to live that way and I’m not convinced we do much to help them either. In a very Protestant reaction against the celibate priesthood and practice in the Religious orders Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) we seem to have placed marriage not simply as one of a number of possible callings for Christians, but too often it is viewed as the only legitimate calling for Christians. (How many CoC’s hire unmarried preachers?)

    For many Christians throughout history living outside the world of marriage and sexual relationships has been the norm, it is only since the Reformation that we have forgotten that. Once upon a time chastity enjoyed great value from the highest to the lowest in society. For example, Pulcharia, the sister of the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II (reigned 402-450), while acting as regent for her infant brother, took a vow of perpetual virginity. When Theodosius died and a power vacuum developed, she married Theodosius’ successor Marcian with the specific understanding that she would net be expected to break her vow. In marrying Marcian she gave him legitimacy as emperor.

  3. Dwight says:

    To be celibate is suppress sexual activity, but was basically sex towards a woman and vice versa since sex with another man was homosexuality and condemned in the scriptures. Pulcharia despite her Christianity and virginity, was rather ruthless in keeping control of the empire and in dealing with those she didn’t like.
    I would gather many would hire unmarried preachers, but most get married and then start preaching, so the pool is rather shallow. Admittedly most want what they perceive to be a family man.

  4. Buckeye chuck says:

    Dwight, your definition of “celibacy” is based on opinion. The distinction you make does not come from Scripture. I believe you have missed the entire point of this discussion. Nowhere does the Scripture condemn same sex attraction without acting on that attraction any differently than opposite sex attraction is not condemned without acting on that desire outside of Biblically-defined marriage?

  5. Gary says:

    For most of my life I invested myself intentionally in non-sexual friendships with other Christian men in order to suppress my homosexual orientation. Many good things came out of those friendships but they were useless when it came to coping with or suppressing my homosexual desires. God has created us as sexual beings and nothing else can compensate for a sexual relationship with a suitable or appropriate life companion or spouse. A few people are gifted for and called to lives of celibacy and singleness but it is significant that no one in all of Scripture was ever commanded to live a celibate life.

    Where the Episcopal Church is now on homosexuality is where the entire Anglican communion will be as this century progresses. As for progressive Churches of Christ it will not be possible over the next generation to accept women preachers and no fault divorce and remarriage and maintain a conservative stance on committed homosexual relationships. The cognitive dissonance from such an arbitrary drawing of the fellowship line will either lead progressive Churches of Christ to accept gay marriage by the middle of this century or it will result in the practical disappearance of progressive Churches of Christ.

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