Tuesday, June 30, 2015

July 30 - Blogging GC'15

Marriage Resolutions 

Yesterday the House of Deputies passed Resolution A037, to continue, expand, and make more representative the Task Force on the Study of Marriage.

This action concurred with the earlier adoption by the House of Bishops, which passed A037 from the marriage committee unamended.

So that first part of the three-part bundle of marriage resolutions is accomplished.

The other two parts have come from the House of Bishops to the marriage committee and this morning were approved for submission to the House of Deputies.

The House of Bishops passed slightly amended versions of Resolutions A036 and A054:
  • A036 -- to amend the marriage canon, I.18, to make it gender-neutral, and 
  • A054 -- to extend approval of the GC'12 same-sex unions blessing liturgy and to approve for "trial use" the same-sex marriage liturgies, toward Prayer Book revision. 
The amendment to A036 was simply a clarification of language.

There were two amendments to A054 in the House of Bishops: (i) dropping from trial use the same-sex marriage liturgy based on the 1928 BCP, and (ii) specifying the provision for the authorization and oversight of diocesan bishops in the use of the two marriage liturgies approved for trial use.

Those two liturgies are a marriage rite based on the language approved at GC'12 for the blessings rite, but adding a section for marriage, and a marriage rite based on the 1979 BCP marriage rite. Both would be gender-neutral, so either could be used with proper authorizations by different-sex and same-sex couples equally.

The specification added by the House of Bishops concerning episcopal authority reads as follows:

"Bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority or, where appropriate, ecclesiastical supervision will make provision for all couples asking to be married in this Church to have access to these liturgies. Trial use is only available under the direction and with the permission of the Diocesan Bishop...."

This means that diocesan bishops have the prerogative whether to authorize trial use of the liturgies, whether for different-sex or same-sex couples, and if they do not authorize this use, they must "make provision" for the liturgies to be available for use by couples.

For instance, "provision" (in the quote above) could be made by allowing a couple and their priest go to a contiguous diocese where the diocesan bishop authorizes their use. This model of "provision" is currently being used by Bishop Ed Little in the Diocese of Northern Indiana for the blessings rite approved at GC'12.

A special order of business, with special rules for debate, is being worked out today for action by the House of Deputies on A036 and A054. The latest information I have is that this debate will begin tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 11:00 a.m. (Mountain Time).


UPDATE: The special order for debate will begin at 11:30 rather than 11:00 a.m. (Mountain Time).

UPDATE #2:  Because the resolutions on structure were not translated into Spanish for this afternoon's discussion, after over an hour into our proceeding, discussion of them was postponed until translation could be completed. I am now informed that the marriage resolutions scheduled for 11:30 a.m. will be considered in the afternoon. 


How might this turn out?

The House of Deputies concurred with the House of Bishops on A037 yesterday, after two unsuccessful attempts to amend A037, by voice vote with a resounding majority. So I have every expectation that A036 and A054 will also pass, but we are likely to be called upon to vote by Orders -- a move designed to make passage more difficult.

For a resolution to be approved by a deputation, 50% + 1 must approve it. In a vote by Orders, that means that BOTH 3 of 4 clergy deputies AND 3 of 4 lay deputies must support the resolution.

The voice vote yesterday on A037 suggested that opposition on that one at least was confined to three or four pockets of deputies at various points in our large meeting hall. If that is any indication, we should be able to pass A036 and A054 in the morning session tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

If you want moment by moment progress, I suggest you follow @DeputyNews on Twitter, which is how I followed the floor debate in the House of Bishops yesterday on A036 and A054, though I was on the floor of the House of Deputies at the time.

House of Deputies Photos

Here are some images related to voting in the House of Deputies and also of three of our DSO deputies who have addressed the House:

The voting device with the ID card inserted

Electronic vote results are displayed this way to the House of Deputies.
Debby Stokes (DSO Deputation Chair) was elected by a landslide!

Debby Stokes

Laura Gentner

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn

Here is what the House of Deputies (about 815 people) looks like.

From the side:

From the back:

Please continue to pray for this great (large) Episcopal Church sausage-making factory!

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 29 - Blogging GC'15

A sign, not a measure

It took me more than a day to quit hurting over the election of our next Presiding Bishop.

Maybe because I'm one of those egghead professor types, I often need to put things into words before my emotions can listen to reason. On my run up Canyon Creek Road this morning, it finally came to me.

A vote tally is usually a measure of voter preference, based on their assessment of the quality or shared values of the nominees or candidates. But the House of Bishops elected the Rt. Rev. Michael Curry on the first ballot, and by a striking, actually astonishing margin. Here is how the vote was represented to the House of Deputies:

Click on the photo for an enlarged image.

That took me by surprise. I had not expected such a unity among the bishops, let alone that early in the process -- especially given all the positive responses to Bishop Breidenthal's video introductions and his answers to questions during the lead up to the election.

It still hurts a little, a cut that has begun to heal. But several fellow deputies have told me, on elevators, in corridors, when they find out I'm from Southern Ohio, that they really like my bishop. And I'm assured the bishops feel the same way.

This vote was not a measure. It was a sign.

It was a sign of unity in opposition to racism in The Episcopal Church and in the United States and beyond. It was a sign that Bishop Curry is very highly regarded as one who can represent our Church to other Churches and other faiths and to the larger world, to help bring the good news of Christ -- God-with-us in breathing flesh and bone -- to hurting people and a troubled world.

Perhaps especially in our current moment, we need that. And the bishops knew it. And they said it straight out.

I embrace that sign and celebrate it. I see a way to rejoicing. And I am excited about what lies just ahead.

 See more reflections here: Center Aisle Issue #6.


The House of Bishops began late yesterday afternoon discussing the proposed changes to the marriage canon (A036) and the proposed trial liturgies (A054) but had to postpone further consideration until today. 

The House of Deputies will consider today the proposed extension of the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (A037), along with its expansion to include a wider spectrum of understandings in our Church.

Panel on Defining Marriage

Last night Bishop Breidenthal and five others were part of a very interesting panel discussion on marriage. The event was sponsored by The Living Church (see also this post-panel reflection). The Living Church is a well known news and opinion magazine representing the more conservative voices in The Episcopal Church.

These were the questions put to the panelists (as best I could remember them when writing  notes):
  1. What is marriage?
  2. Is marriage a human institution or a divine gift?
  3. Are children a [mere] addendum to marriage or part of its very purpose?
  4. What is the social purpose of marriage?
  5. What is happening with sexual morality today, given the relatively high rates of [non-committed] pre-marital sex and [committed] non-marital cohabitation?
  6. What happens next to marriage, given social and church changes afoot -- Do we see marriage as part of the final perfection of creation?
Some panelists shared personal stories, and the discussion was especially collegial. It was another witness to the breadth of understandings of marriage in our Church, as well as to the special gifts Bishop Breidenthal and others offer to our conversations.

It was also a happy reminder about how cordially we can discuss our disagreements, within The Episcopal Church. We can celebrate the lives and witness of those with whom we do not agree.

Up Canyon Creek Road

I turn up onto Canyon Creek Road, gates keeping cars down in the neighborhood. I join the runners, and the walkers with their dogs. Cattle dogs in the dessert, lapdogs on leash, shepherds watching their leaders for the next sign. Cyclists pass us all, climbing up and swishing down. The paved road is faded, cracked, speckled by dulled white gravel points in gray tar. Ochre grooves in the speckled gray, red clay smudged by tires into pavement. Green leafy bushes and trees line the road along the creek. Bare canyon ridges surround us. Smell the dry air. Hear the creek. Roly polies move across the road, delicate armor over eyelash legs, solitary, but so many, a hoard scattered, alone. And cottonwood down lines the edge where a hummingbird comes to have a look. At me? At lavender and yellow flower blossoms on the weeds? At a swarm of tiny red ants on dropped candy? And the creek gulps and sloshes around rocks. And cuts a canyon from ages unto ages.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June 28 - GC'15 Blogging

Last night the special legislative committee on marriage completed the initial phase of our work. The only remaining work we may need to do will arise in case either the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies amends any of the three resolutions we have sent forward.

Those resolutions follow the outline I mentioned yesterday in points 1-3.

Here is one way some survive the tedium of legislative debate in the House of Deputies:

The virtual Binder (vBinder) with all proposed legislation and other information is at her right, on and charging, and something to help maintain sanity is before her.

Here is what the final hearing of my committee looked like on Friday night from the second row of the podium:

The committee on marriage was seated at the front. In front of me on the platform are [left to right] Jack Tull (Florida), Bishop Anne Hodges-Copple (North Carolina), the Rev. Tobias Haller, BSG (New York), and Bishop Tom Ely (Vermont).

Thank you for keeping all of us here in your prayers.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 27 - Blogging GC'15

On a my morning runs I am listening to Bruce Cockburn's all-instrumental (acoustic guitar) album "Speechless," up on Canyon Creek Road from the bottom land where Salt Lake City lies. It is helping me focus and center.

The work of the Committee #20 on Marriage is going very well. We are nearly finished. Here are the accomplished and/or likely results:

1. We have sent to the House of Bishops a revised Resolution A037 which would authorize an extension of the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage. The group would retain some members and grow a bit, to 15, with a membership more representative of the spectrum of theological and cultural understandings of marriage present in our Church. It has passed in the House of Bishops and will come before the House of Deputies soon.

2. The committee completed work on Resolution A036 this morning. It proposes changes in the marriage canon, Canon I.18, that would remove gender-specific language so that it is not inconsistent with same-sex marriage. This resolution will go to the House of Bishops immediately.

Resolutions A036 and A037 came from the Task Force on the Study of Marriage, of which the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, the Very Rev. Gail Greenwell, was a member.

3. The committee will meet again after dinner tonight to continue perfecting Resolution A054. This is the same-sex blessing and marriage liturgies resolution, from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. It appears very likely at this point that we will approve and forward to the House of Bishops a proposal to continue the use of the blessings liturgy approved at GC'12. We also seem likely to propose for "trial use" three liturgies for same-sex marriage: (i) one following the language used in the GC'12 blessings liturgy but including marriage as well, (ii) one following the 1979 BCP liturgy but gender-neutral, (iii) one following the 1928 BCP marriage liturgy but gender-neutral.

"Trial use" means that we would be using these liturgies as possible substitutes for the current rites in the BCP, so the idea is that they would be approved as part of a process of revising the 1979 BCP.

The effect of adoptions by General Convention of such a version of A054 would be that The Episcopal Church would have fully shared rites of marriage used by different-sex and same-sex couples equally.

The substance of all the other resolutions that were assigned to our committee will have been dealt with by these three resolutions.

I'm sure you are aware that today (at this writing, in a few minutes) the House of Bishops will elect their next Presiding Bishop. No one knows how long that will take. We will know results only after they are finished. Then the House of Deputies has to confirm the choice for it to be final. We here in the DSO presence at GC'15 are all praying for the Breidenthals and for our Church.

UPDATE: The Rt. Rev. Michael Curry (North Carolina) was elected by the House of Bishops to be the next Presiding Bishop, and the election was confirmed by the House of Deputies.

Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26 - Blogging GC'15

I am occupied by the work of my legislative committee (#20 on Marriage), and I'm skipping things to do it, and I'm afraid I did not devote enough time to blogging this morning before other people's day, and meetings, began.

So I thought I would simply mention that this is the publication during General Conventions that I consistently read, every issue: Center Aisle.

I don't agree with everything they print, but for me this publication is a reliable way to sound out whether I am confident about my own positions on the issues before Convention. Often I agree, and when I don't, I know important concerns I need to be able to answer.

As you will see if you follow the link, it is published through the Diocese of Virginia.

During my 7:30 a.m. committee meeting this morning, we received word of the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling upholding the right to marry for all people in all 50 of the United States. We paused, had a moving moment of prayer and reflection, and adjourned to consider the implications for our lives in our Church at this historic moment.

We have another full day of legislative sessions and committee hearings and meetings ahead.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 25 - Blogging GC'15

Early yesterday, we had in a joint session opening presentations by the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, and then the two Houses divided for their orientations.

Staying with the idea that the three items likely to attract most attention at GC'15 are (1) the election of the next Presiding Bishop (Bishop Breidenthal being one of the four nominees), (2) the response of Convention to the proposals of TREC (the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church), and (3) the actions of Convention relating to the theology and practice of marriage in The Episcopal Church (TEC) -- I'd say that the main event yesterday was the introductions of the nominees for PB and the Q&A in a joint session of the Houses of Bishops and Deputies.

All four nominees get medals for holding up so well under that pressure. Wow. Each had an opening video introduction of themselves, made an opening statement, answered an initial question about their vision for The Episcopal Church tailored to them individually based on their earlier responses to the nominating committee, and responded to 8 more questions drawn from a fishbowl on the spot. Then each had an opportunity to come back to anything they wanted to expand upon or that they'd left out, and each made a closing statement.

By the end of that three hour process, I think many in the audience were exhausted. Kudos to the four nominees.

May I just say that I am very proud of our bishop. If we get to keep Bishop Breidenthal, it will be a wonderful thing for us. If we lose him, it will be a wonderful thing for The Episcopal Church.

Legislative committees met twice yesterday. My committee on marriage met at 7:00 a.m. to discuss what each of us members hoped we would accomplish in our work -- so this was the first point when we all began to be open with each other about how we approach the questions we are considering. At 7:00 p.m. we had a hearing on four resolutions (A037, C007, C009, and D026). We heard testimony from 18 deputies, alternates, and visitors, almost all of whom were eloquent and passionate in urging us to move The Episcopal Church toward marriage equality as soon as possible. The hearing lasted until about 7:50 p.m., when everyone who had signed up had spoken, and the committee took a brief break.

In the discussion that followed that hearing, we began to consider how to deal with A037, which recommends study of the report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage and calls for extension of its work and expansion of its membership.

Today we have our first legislative session of GC'15 at 8:00 a.m. and Opening Eucharist at 9:30 a.m. Legislative committees meet twice and, at their third meeting, have more time for hearings on resolutions with which they are working. My committee will hear testimony on resolutions dealing with proposed changes to our marriage canon.

Finally, if you are on Twitter and want updates, you might consider following @ladyb14 (Laura Gentner, DSO lay deputy), @scottagunn (Scott Gunn, DSO clergy deputy), @diosohio (the DSO Twitter-feed), @DeputyNews (from the President of the House of Deputies), and #gc78 which tweeting deputies, bishops, guests, and interested folk are using.

UPDATE:  If you're not getting emails from our DSO media-hub, you can find the website here:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

June 24 - Blogging GC'15

Yesterday about 1000 people, deputies and bishops, plus official visitors and attendees on top of that, registered for GC’15. Deputies and bishops received their “credentials” (name tag & voting card) and their iPad containing the “vBinder” or virtual – not this year actual – gigantic notebook with all the paper documents produced before and during GC.

Also, the first meetings of legislative committees were held, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Committee #20 on Marriage, June 23, with 8-10 on my side not pictured

In Committee #20 on Marriage we did ice-breaker activities aimed at helping warm us to each other as people rather than positions-on-the-issues, and we heard an introductory presentation on the work of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (TFSM).

Today the two Houses will have opening presentations from the Presidents of the two Houses, and the nominees for the next Presiding Bishop will be presented. Our Diocese of Southern Ohio (DSO) deputation, along with the deputations of the other three nominees, will then receive a special orientation on what happens if our bishop is the one elected.

Legislative committees meet again tonight, 7:00-9:00 p.m., when some will be holding their first public hearings.

Here are three things I'm thinking about this morning, all somewhat tentative, before the Marriage committee begins substantive discussions and hearings, all of which would need to be spelled out more fully:

One of the things proposed (in slightly different ways is several resolutions) is a change in our marriage canon (Canon I.18) so that gender-specific language ("a man and a woman" or "husband and wife") is changed to, or interpreted to function as, gender-neutral language ("two people" or "the couple"). In some dioceses where same-sex marriage or civil union or domestic partnership is legal, the approved rite for blessing same-sex unions is already being used in performing same-sex marriages, etc. This follows and conforms to actions taken at GC'12 but it also violates or seems to violate our marriage canon and the letter and/or spirit of our BCP marriage rite. Some observe, in response to concerns about this, that changes in our canons have often followed changes in our practices, rather than vice versa, so canon change now would not really introduce innovation but would follow the precedent for canon change to follow actual practice.  But if canon change follows change of practice, rather than vice versa, then that seems to mean that the [written, public] rules are not the [real] rules. What then are the rules? How can we trust each other if this is not clear? The rules should function as the parameters within which we can be open to each other and can rely on each other. When the rules are not the rules, and when the majority control what the [real] rules are, how is the minority or anyone to know the parameters? It can be easy to think that there are no [real] rules but only uses of power by the dominant over the smaller and weaker.

Because of the way the human brain evolved (see triune brain theory), we all have a default reaction when we feel genuinely threatened. The oldest part of the brain is sometimes referred to as the reptilian complex, which mammals share with reptiles. When threatened, we go into Security mode, and we use almost any means necessary for self-preservation. We can be steeled against this default mode so that we can override it, but the safest way to avoid Security mode is to be able to trust each other so that we don't feel threatened. Nonetheless, when we go into Security mode, we can get defensive, aggressive, and/or violent (psychologically and/or physically). Battle lines form. Hearts stiffen. Minds close. 

In my opinion, the best course through these discussions of marriage would be to find ways in which we acknowledge the merits of other approaches to the issues; no one comes out without making concessions; everyone contributes some of their understanding to our final resolution. As I commented in the previous post (June 20), I think the votes are there for approving same-sex marriage and "marriage equality." So here are, in my opinion, two large ways in which progressives can (and need to) learn from traditionalists (stated far too briefly here), on

(1) the importance of children and the nurture of children in families for the benefit and well being of our congregations and of the larger society; we could or should see the nurture of children as normative (normal and to be expected), so that not participating in the nurture of children, our own or children we have adopted, entails needing to commit some comparable investment in the common good (incidentally, Charlotte and I are being reminded about the sacrifices parents make by the baby on the other side of the doors dividing our hotel room from the adjacent room, who cries at various points through the night but who is quickly cared for and stops crying after he or she has woken parents and us), and

(2) the remedy for sinfulness in the practice of holy union; sinfulness comes in two main forms (perhaps among others): the "me first" form, and the "us first" form. Marriage is a practice that can transform us from "me first" to "you first" and "us first." Eucharistic community is a practice that can transform us from "us first" to concern for others, beyond our ethnic or sub-cultural group like one's local denominational church. 

One way forward, then, would be to acknowledge the importance of the nurture of children and the importance of marriage as a remedy for human sinfulness, drawing on two special strong points in traditionalist perspectives on marriage.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

June 20 - Blogging GC'15

First I offer a preface that introduces the upcoming 78th General Convention (GC’15) of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and that provides links for learning about and following it online. Then in the bulk of this blog post I offer my hunches on whether, and if so how, this Convention will approve same-sex marriage. In my personal opinion – at this point, having no insider knowledge – it is not a slam-dunk. Still, anyone making odds would have to predict we will do it. If we don’t, I would wager it will be because the House of Bishops decides not to concur with the House of Deputies in doing it now, based on its sense, as it evolves over the next several days in their House, of how we should care for our loyal minority, not to mention how we should position ourselves relative to the many more socially conservative parts of the Anglican Communion and non-Anglican Christian churches.

In my opinion, there are strong arguments on both sides, which I attempt to outline briefly below. In some important respects, the tension is between (a) giving full standing in TEC to a historically oppressed and mistreated LGBT minority, which has now gained the clear legislative majority in recent General Conventions and in the larger culture, especially among young adults and youth, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, (b) providing a bit more time to adjust for those Episcopalians who believe same-sex marriage would be a fundamental departure from biblical teaching and the long tradition in the Church, but who have remained loyal to TEC when many of their like-minded [former] Episcopalians have abandoned ship. It is a difficult call if you’re not already sworn to one side or the other. Bishops face this choice in a special way, because the job of bishops is not only to provide for the care of all of us but also to guide their dioceses to a greater unity in witness to the love of Christ for a broken world.

Warning: This initial blog post is a good bit more tedious than my other GC'15 blog posts will be. 

* * *


The 78th General Convention (GC’15) begins early next week. Charlotte and I depart for Salt Lake City on Monday morning (June 22). Legislative committees hold their first public meetings on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. (June 23, Mountain Time, which is 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time). Most or all legislative committees have already been meeting by conference call and via email, beginning April 1 in the case of my committee, which is Committee #20 on Marriage. Please pray for all of us.

Some resources:

The Media Hub for the 78th General Convention:
The outline schedule for GC’15:
Homepage for the 78th General Convention:
Legislative committee list:
Bishop Breidenthal’s overview at a recent forum at St Timothy’s, Cincinnati (25 min., available in HD):

Many would agree that the three most watched actions of GC’15 will be (1) the election of the next Presiding Bishop (Bishop Breidenthal being one of the four nominees), (2) the response of Convention to the proposals of TREC (the Task Force for Reimagining the Episcopal Church), and (3) the actions of Convention relating to the theology and practice of marriage in The Episcopal Church (TEC).

On the nominees for Presiding Bishop, see:
and for videos of the four nominees, see:

The TREC proposals are here:
And the omnibus page for all reports to GC’15 is here:

I write this post, prior to the beginning of GC'15, primarily to outline what I see as the basic questions that will be considered by the legislative committee on marriage. That committee will then present to the relevant Houses of Convention (House of Deputies, House of Bishops), for consideration and action, its best recommendations.

* * *

MARRIAGE: Backstory (recent only)

The Episcopal Church (TEC) has been moving toward our current discussions of same-sex marriage for decades.

Some Episcopalians believe that marriage was established in creation by God as a union between one man and one woman, and they have a strong argument based on biblical texts and a solid and very long history of interpretations of, and theological reflections based on, those texts as warrant for their belief.

Other Episcopalians read the same texts differently. They believe that things have changed and that it is now possible to recognize (perhaps unjust not to recognize) that some same-sex couples are blessed by God. Such same-sex couples offer sufficient evidence that their love for and support of each other are wholesome and exemplary signs of God’s love for and support of humans. Episcopalians who see things this way may say this has always been so, or they may say that the Holy Spirit is showing us something new.

I would have to oversimplify a lot if I suggested that there are two and only two positions on same-sex marriage. The two groups I described are each internally diverse, and there are sub-groups within each group, but I’ll not go into all that now.

Three recent General Conventions may be highlighted as providing our immediate context.

In 2003, the 74th General Convention confirmed the election of the then Rev. Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop IX of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire. Bishop Robinson would become the first openly partnered gay bishop in TEC, and this was well known at the time GC’03 confirmed his election.

In 2009, the 76th General Convention (Resolution C056) charged the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to collect and develop theological and liturgical resources relating to the blessing of same-sex unions and to consult about these issues widely within TEC and the Anglican Communion, and it directed the SCLM to report to GC’12.

In 2012, the 77th General Convention (Resolution A049) commended the SCLM resources for study and authorized for provisional use a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions, and (in Resolution A050) it directed appointment of a Task Force for the Study of Marriage (TFSM) which was to collect and develop resources, to consult widely, and to report to GC’15.

So the special committee on marriage at GC’15 will consider reports both from the SCLM and from the TFSM.

SCLM report (including Resolution A054 on pp. 4-5):
SCLM Liturgical Resources:

TFSM report (including Resolutions A036 & A037 on pp. 4-8):
I have commented on the TFSM report here:

Committee #20 on Marriage will also consider several resolutions submitted by dioceses, bishops, and/or deputies.

* * *

MARRIAGE: Summary of Two Principal Issues

For convenience, so that we have a single, answerable question, I will approach this as follows: What would have to happen at GC’15 for same-sex marriage to receive approval? That is, what motions or resolutions would have to pass to move from the current, provisional use of a rite for blessing same-sex unions to endorsement of a rite for same-sex marriage?

Simplifying, in my opinion, there are two broad questions before us. The first is the theological question whether TEC should at least in principle endorse same-sex marriage and not only same-sex unions. The second is whether same-sex marriage could actually be approved by GC’15 without violating the Constitution and/or Canons of TEC.

* * *

The Theological Question:

On the theological question, I cannot here adequately address the merits of either side (“yes” or “no” to same-sex marriage). But I can say that, in my opinion, there are at least two ways to look at this. On one way, TEC has already approved same-sex marriage by approving the blessing of same-sex unions.

The principal Book of Common Prayer (BCP) marriage rite (pp. 423-432) divides the moment when civil marriage takes place (pp. 427-428) from the moment when the blessing of the union takes place (pp. 430-431). These are distinct moments in the rite in which distinct functions are performed.

On this first way of thinking, when the 77th General Convention (GC’12) approved for study and use “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant” contained in “Liturgical Resources I: I Will Bless You and You Will Be a Blessing,” it approved for provisional use a rite which for all intents and purposes means that God blesses some same-sex unions such that they are bona fide marriages from a Christian religious point of view even if they could not legally speaking be valid marriages in all states and jurisdictions. The section of the BCP marriage rite in which civil marriage takes place had to be omitted from the blessings liturgy approved in 2012 because in the U.S. the states control legal marriage; however, because of the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the states cannot control church blessings. So GC’12 approved a rite which offers blessing and, in effect, according to this way of thinking, therefore approved the theological idea if not the legal reality of same-sex marriage.

Resolution 2015 A054 from the SCLM proposes liturgies that add the civil function (legal marriage) to the ecclesial function (blessing) so that, in states or jurisdictions where same-sex marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership is allowed, and at the discretion of bishops exercising ecclesiastical authority, TEC may offer, in a combined rite for same-sex couples, both marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership, and blessing, in rites that can be used by both same-sex and different-sex couples. Hence, "marriage equality."

If this is correct, then adoption of resolution A054 would not represent a change in our theology of marriage except in a nominal sense, because what is proposed is not substantially different theologically from what was already approved at GC’12.

It could certainly feel like a significant difference, but that feeling would – according to this way of thinking – be based on a misunderstanding of the distinction between the civil and ecclesial functions of our current BCP marriage rite and of the rites proposed for use in the third Resolved of A054.

On an alternative way of thinking, however, the BCP marriage rite is a single sacramental act, even if the part where civil marriage is pronounced is in a distinct section of the liturgy from the part where God’s blessing of the couple is pronounced by the church. From this point of view, what was approved in GC’12 was at most partial and preliminary.

The sacrament cannot be divided in the way suggested by the analysis above. So GC’12 did not approve same-sex marriage but only a measure of pastoral accommodation for LGBT Episcopalians who seek the church’s recognition of their lifelong, monogamous, self-giving unions.

Therefore, on this second way of thinking, to approve A054 at GC’15 would constitute a substantial and fundamental break with church tradition and the biblical witness about God’s design for marriage.

To put the question as one of liturgical theology, then, the crucial issue is whether the BCP marriage rite is a single sacramental act or a sacramental blessing added onto, and following, a civil marriage. One way to address this question would be this:

If the ministers of TEC were to cease altogether performing the function of civil marriage, as some have proposed, no longer seeking authorization by the various states or jurisdictions to perform legal marriage as part of our church ceremonies, would we retain the vows made by the couple (BCP pp. 427-428), after which the Celebrant pronounces the couple married, or would we omit them?

If we would retain the vows, then we must regard the blessing alone, without the vows, as an incomplete part of a Christian marriage ritual, and that would suggest that A054 may indeed propose something substantially different theologically. To adopt it, on this interpretation, would be the real break from a traditional theology of marriage.

* * *

The Constitutional Question:

The Living Church (June 28 issue) has published an article by Bishops Benhase (Diocese of Georgia) and McConnell (Diocese of Pittsburg) in which they argue that resolution A054 is out of bounds constitutionally.

If I understand their argument, they believe that Article X of the Constitution of TEC does not allow authorization by a single General Convention of rites which would function as a matter of fact as substitutes for or additions to BCP rites, unless they are authorized for trial use in preparation for Prayer Book revision – even when those rites are only to be used with approval of the local bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority. With respect to the BCP, both “alteration thereof and addition thereto” (Article X, para. 1) are forbidden except as part of Prayer Book revision, or in a process that requires approval by two consecutive General Conventions.

Their interpretation seems accurate to me, though I am neither a lawyer nor a canon lawyer.

Here is the TEC Constitution and Canons; see p. 9 for Article X, which is p. 17 of the .pdf file:

Resolution A054 (see the third Resolved) proposes that GC’15 authorize some rites (found at the SCLM Liturgical Resources link, pp. 76-108) that would in fact function as alternatives to the BCP marriage rite (pp. 423-432), though they would be authorized only “under the direction of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority” (third Resolved).

One piece of evidence that Bishops Benhase and McConnell are correct in interpreting Article X as they do is the following: one response to their argument has been that the canonical changes proposed by the Task Force for the Study of Marriage (TFSM) would clear up the conflict we currently have rather than creating a new conflict. In this response from a TFSM member, the Rev. Tobias Haller, BSG, states that we already approve liturgies out of compliance with a strict reading of Article X, such as the blessings liturgy approved by GC’12 when used in states that allow same-sex marriage. He has also pointed out that we have authorized additions to the BCP in the Enriching Our Worship series.

This response, as I understand it, is that conflict with Article X already exists, and since we haven’t been overly scrupulous before about such a conflict, we would have to make an arbitrary distinction to be so scrupulous now. In fact, as has been remarked lately, we have often revised our canons only after our practice has already changed.

It is not hard to imagine the following response: We should not compound our errors, especially on a matter of such great importance and one so central to the divisions with TEC, especially at this fragile moment.

In my understanding there seem to be two ways out of this predicament, both of which would avoid the conflict Bishops Benhase and McConnell raise. One is that we could approve the same-sex marriage liturgies mentioned in the third Resolved of A054 for “trial use” in preparation for Prayer Book revision.

The other is that we could use the rites mentioned in the third Resolved of A054 as common forms that may be employed when using “An Order for Marriage” (BCP 435-436), which is obviously already in the BCP. To do that we would have to change the marriage canon (I.18, see Constitution and Canons pp. 59-60, linked above) so that the gender-specific language of “a man and a woman” and of “husband and wife” would be changed or simply reinterpreted to allow same-sex marriage. This would also require approval in each case of the bishop exercising ecclesiastical authority.

We would then read the explicit references to “the man and the woman” in the rubrics and in #2 and #4 of that “Order for Marriage” in a way that would allow same-sex marriage. Bishops have authority in their own dioceses to permit “such order as may be permitted by the Rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer or by the Canons of the General Convention for the use of special forms of worship.” At this writing, several proposed resolutions could be tailored to fit this bill, including A036, C020, C024, C026, and D026, which can be found using the search function on this webpage.

Thus, on my current understanding, in order to move from provisional use of a rite for the blessing of same-sex unions approved in 2012 to same-sex marriage and “marriage equality,” GC’15 will need both to pass a canon change that changes current gender-specific language or makes it useable as gender-neutral language and also either to authorize “trial use” of the rites proposed in A054 or to authorize the rites mentioned in A054 as proposed common forms to be used under the existing “An Order for Marriage” in the BCP, with the gender-specific language suitably modified so that bishops can authorize their use as “special forms of worship.”

In either of these two ways, even if Article X of the Constitution is a hurdle to approving same-sex marriage at GC’15, I believe it could be cleared in a way that is above board and within our existing rules.

* * *


As I mentioned at the beginning, my hunch is that the votes are there for approving same-sex marriage at GC’15. But that does not mean we will do it. Both Houses would have to concur on the same actions with the same wording. And as I suggested, the bishops may not concur. Because even if the great majority of them along with the great majority of deputies agree that TEC should offer same-sex marriage – as a matter of sound theology given our current discernment about these issues – some acknowledge that, as a matter of pastoral care for the loyal minority within TEC, more time should be taken.

I want to be clear that I support same-sex marriage and will vote for it in Committee #20 on Marriage, as well as in the House of Deputies, if the right opportunities rise up through the legislative process. I say that because I need to be accountable to those according to whom my views on these matters are terribly in error.

I feel deeply, I should add nonetheless, as a person who in all outward appearances is nearly as privileged as any among us (white, male, professional, married, decently well off even if not wealthy, etc.) – I feel deeply that I am not in a position to make a grand gesture. I cannot propose to sacrifice the interests of one minority on behalf of another, let alone on behalf of the majority. I’m not in any recognizable way in either minority. That opportunity for grand gestures is reserved for those who are under-privileged and/or oppressed, in whatever minority they find themselves.

That said, neither am I in the position in which bishops must perform their duties as chief shepherds of the dioceses of The Episcopal Church. As I stated at the beginning, the job of bishops is not only to provide for the care of all of us but also to guide their dioceses to a greater unity in witness to the love of Christ for a broken world.

* * *

Other Resources:

The Rev. Canon Scott Gunn, a member of the Diocese of Southern Ohio deputation, has posted thoughtful responses to all the resolutions formally submitted by standing commissions and task forces to GC’15, and I commend his analyses to you, including this one on the resolutions relating to same-sex marriage:

Also see:
Anglican Theological Review Fully Alive collection:
The Rev. Tobias Haller, BSG, response to Fully Alive:
The Rev. Dr. Craig Uffman, essay from the Diocese of Rochester:
Episcopal Café overview:

And for another twist, see:
A066 from SCLM on amending Constitution, Article X

For an announcement of a panel in which Bishop Breidenthal will participate, see:
The Living Church panel on defining marriage

Friday, June 5, 2015

"Suffer the little children" Part III

This is the third of three posts in a series. (Part I)

In Part II, I focused on a mistake in the argument of Essay 1 in the report of the Task Force on the Study of Marriage (esp. pp. 21-27). I also made brief comments about pp. 37-38 and pp. 40-42. The mistake is supposing that there is only one alternative to a Kantian understanding of Christian marriage, namely, a utilitarian understanding. Another and better alternative is the one on which much catholic moral theology has been based for centuries: an Aristotelian understanding of human flourishing. This perspective was ignored by the authors of Essay 1, which presents the framework for understanding marriage offered in the Task Force report as a whole.

In this Part III, the format is something like a commentary, with a substantive introduction and then a discussion of a few points in Essays 4, 7, and 5 of the Task Force report. I also offer at the end a brief reflection on the real disagreement between traditionalists and a progressive but not liberal individualist account of marriage equality (ME but not ME2, from Part I).

* * *

The authors of Essay 3, “A History of Christian Marriage,” begin with the following observation:

The history of Christian marriage is as complex and diverse as the history of Christianity, with the meaning of the word “marriage” having changed and morphed as the generations of faithful Christians have sought to define for themselves the nature of a holy life lived out in the midst of daily life. In the same way, in varied contexts, societal and cultural understandings of marriage have interfaced and shaped our understandings of Christian marriage over the course of the last two millennia. (p. 45)

The Task Force does a good job in several parts of its report pointing out how past social and cultural contexts have shaped then current understandings of and regulations governing Christian marriage. The report is not, however, equally self-conscious. In the framing of its theological and biblical perspective, and in its recommendations for changes in the marriage canon, it does not notice how some features of our current social and cultural context in the U.S. have influenced the report.

I attempt in this Part III to describe the extent to which the Task Force report is committed to the liberal individualism of what has been referred as WEIRD culture – Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (see Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010, The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences 33:61-83).

In this Part III, especially in the five-section introduction, the canvas is large and the brushstrokes are broad. I am attempting something a bit more ambitious here, and this is somewhat long for a blog post. I am grateful you would read even part of this. I attempt here to set out a way of seeing things which is quite different from that adopted by the Task Force. The principal focus is the same as before: the proposal to eliminate the statement of purposes of marriage from the marriage canon and the Declaration of Intent.

* * *

Introduction, in five sections:

Let’s look at things from the perspective adopted by the Task Force. If we consider marriage from the point of view of a couple only, and note that we are currently talking specifically about amending our marriage canon to include same-sex marriage, it makes sense to eliminate a statement of purposes of marriage. The vows cover the important commitments that each of the two persons make to each other, and there is no call to refer to procreation in marriages of same-sex couples, which is not an issue, except in cases where the couple will choose to involve a third person as a donor and/or surrogate.

Still, should we consider and understand marriage from the point of view of the couple only? No, we shouldn’t.

Human social groups like congregations and communities, dioceses and states or nations, fare best when they attend to maintaining group cohesiveness and to replenishing group membership. Making the nurture of children a high group priority is an important part of this. Pulling back from that priority in favor of greater individual independence would be unfortunate for vulnerable and needy children and for Christian communities.

The thesis of this introduction is that there are better and worse ways to sustain the cohesiveness and thus effectiveness of groups of various sizes. The better ways involve fostering group loyalty and responsibility and also respect for the authority of officials that lead group cooperation.

Research has shown (see Haidt, 2012, The Righteous Mind, for a review) that, while political conservatives tend to value loyalty to the larger group (like the nation) and respect for authority within the group, political liberals and libertarians are suspicious of them as antithetical to their liberty. They tend to find group loyalty and respect for group authorities at odds with their strong impulse to resist oppression. But this leads them to act as if they assume that the larger community – the Church or nation – will always be there to support them, without their loyalty and respect. So they spend a great deal of their energy looking for and resisting oppression and relatively little fostering larger group cohesiveness and sustaining membership.

Conservatives, by contrast, tend to be concerned about free-riders, whom they see as cheaters, people who are benefiting without contributing or contributing enough, and they are angered by the disloyalty and disrespect they sense among liberals and/or libertarians.

* * *

I share here something I wrote in March, 2011. I sent it to the members of my small group following the Consultation in Atlanta, which was part of the Blessings Project, developing what became “I will bless you and you will be a blessing.” This is my attempt, in a voice other than my own, to express a traditionalist perspective on the move within The Episcopal Church (TEC) toward same-sex marriage:

We are each born a single new thread in a woven fabric, inheriting our place in a tradition that has been refined over hundreds of years, thousands even. The tradition has survived so long because it affirms relationships of mutual support and love in a specific way.

I was born to parents who had become one family, completing each other by their union, to which I was added by my birth. My siblings were added later, and I became a brother as well as a child, as an essential part of who I grew up to be. In a way, my parents had always known or at least hoped I would be born, even before they met each other. I too grew up knowing or hoping I would have children, as I have had, marrying (thanks be to God) as I had always assumed I would. I of course chose whom to marry, but not whether. My wife and I chose when to have children, but not whether.  I didn't of course know all the steps in the dance before the next piece of music began, but I always assumed that to dance was my destiny. It is who I am, who each of us is ideally. It is what keeps our tradition, and the people of God, thriving.

This way of ordering things socially and morally means we inherit roles, whether we would necessarily choose them or not. We have less choice than we might like, but if we all perform the roles we inherit, we are all much better off than if each of us does our own thing. In fact, we *are* these roles: husband or wife, father or mother, daughter or son, sister or brother. And we are born to be them.

For we are none of us our own, nor are we complete in ourselves. We are who we are by being part of the fabric, first of the nuclear and extended family of our childhood, then of the nuclear and extended family of our children. When one loses a spouse, a sibling, or a child, one loses a precious part of oneself. The loss can be devastating. It may take months, years, to get your bearings again, to deal with the hole in your heart. Even if you remarry after the death of a spouse, or have another child after loosing one, you are never quite yourself again, the way you were. This shows our incompleteness apart from each other.

To move away from the nuclear and extended family as the fundamental unit -- replacing families with "households" of individuals -- is to abandon the mutual support and love families entail. Of course not every family is perfect or even healthy, but that does not mean that the standard, the ideal, should be changed to conform to our brokenness.  If we understand the person as a chooser, a free agent in society and morality, if we accept "no fault" divorce and remarriage as normal, if we condone same-sex unions as on an equal footing with the traditional norm for families...then we suppose that each of us is fundamentally a consumer. Some of us desire this type of car, others that type. Some of us want this sort of companion, others that sort. Some like chocolate, some strawberry. Some of us would really rather not have children, or not be formally married, but would rather cohabit. If it is all a world of consuming what we desire and can afford, we are morally adrift, following our own desires rather than God's purposes for us.  With each new desire and act of consumption, we move on as we please.

I am being asked by my Church not simply to accept others' choices but to condone a startlingly different understanding of myself. It is an understanding on which, as a consumer, I have freely chosen one of a number of acceptable options. My "partner" happens to be my wife. I happen to have chosen to have children. I have chosen to stay married to the same person through better and worse, thick and thin. But I had other options.

No. I learned as a child and have always known the form of mutual support and love that would sustain me. It is not perfect, but it is the inheritance of millennia of experience in our tradition. It does not maximize my choices, but it assures me and everyone a place. It does not give me everything I want, but it guides me to want what will complete me as a child of God. It does not guarantee everything will go as planned, but it makes clear the rules and the consequences.

The change I see occurring in my Church feels worse in a way than losing a sibling or child or spouse. It feels like losing the whole world. I'm forced to choose between the fabric, of which I am one thread, and my Church, which has always been the fabric of my very being. It feels like being unraveled or torn from the weaving of God. I feel a deep and profound despair. I don't want to be angry, but the only other emotions I feel are loss and violation.  

No one has assured me that this is how they see things. So I may have missed or misstated important features of the lived perspectives of real people in The Episcopal Church. But this at least was my attempt in March, 2011.

I offer this description as a model of one perspective that motivates sustaining group cohesiveness and replenishing group membership. The individual members of the group feel deeply their relationship and commitments to the larger group. All other things being equal, such a group has a better chance of surviving and flourishing than if the orienting perspective of the group is that each is on her or his own, free to form small-scale partnerships to be sure, but with no overriding inherited commitments to the group as a whole. Get married if you want, or not. Have children if you want, or not. It’s all up to you.

* * *

What follows in this section is a very different sort of account, one based in an evolutionary perspective on human nature. The voice of the previous section might find the following account deeply problematic. Nonetheless, it provides a complement.

What is required to sustain large human social groups? Think of cities and nations. Or think of multi-congregation religions spanning much of a continent or even large parts of the globe, which for instance might cooperate in disaster relief for people in a distant part of the world, or organize a coordination of services in their own neighborhoods for children growing up in poverty.

The answer about what is required lies in the fact that we are not only selfish. We are also groupish (see Haidt, 2012).

Our groupishness, so-called, refers to inner promptings that lead us to make certain demands of each other, without which even small cohesive human social groups would not be possible. On a strictly evolutionary (and non-Christian) account of morality, morality is the demands we make of each other and of ourselves that are required for sustaining cohesive groups for the sake of cooperation for mutual survival. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Don’t murder. Etc. It’s all about maintaining group cohesiveness for the sake of cooperation for survival – according to an evolutionary account.

In human evolution, especially during the radical climate shifts of the Late Pleistocene, there were periods when food was plentiful but then extremely scarce, then plentiful, then scarce. During such times, the individuals in the groups that didn’t cooperate well didn’t make it. So over centuries, millennia, groups containing significant numbers of individuals that were prompted to make these demands of each other and of themselves survived, and this type of individual became more and more prominent in our species. Selfishness was maladaptive and lost ground. We eventually became hyper-social, capable of enormous but still relatively stable social groups.

Some evolutionary theorists add to this account of morality the idea that we have a hair-trigger tendency to see agency behind things that happen to us, rather than to see coincidence and luck, good or bad. For instance, that storm is because the gods are angry; the bushes are rustling because there is a predator there; the drought is a punishment; the bountiful food supply is a reward. They see this tendency giving rise to early human practices of honoring and serving unseen lawgivers and/or enforcers. These practices received more and more elaborate cultural expressions up into recorded history, when written scriptures began to tell the stories. As a result, according to an evolutionary (and non-Christian) account, you get the whole show – morality plus, and reinforced by, theology. Honor the god of your particular family or village or tribe. Don’t make idols of other gods. Observe holy days. Don’t lie. Don’t steal. Etc.

Of course not everyone believes in human evolution. Not everyone believes morality can be accounted for as an evolved feature of humans. And/or not everyone accepts evolutionary accounts of the functions of religion. Evolutionary accounts can tell us only so much, and some of it is pretty one-sided.

But the irony is that a scientific, evolutionary account of morality is in some important respects more in sync with conservative and/or traditionalist understandings than with liberal and/or progressive ones.

Why should Christians pay attention to evolutionary accounts of morality and religion? Because they offer insights about how to sustain the large-scale, multi-level organizations that make respecting the dignity of every human being possible in practice – not only with our lips but in our lives.

* * *

How does this relate to sustaining our churches and our Church?

According to a widely known though now somewhat dated sociology of congregations, there are four basic types of congregation, categorized by size. These sizes are referred to as family size (<50 people), pastoral size (50-150 people), program size (150-350 people), and resource (or corporate) size (>350 people).

The social dynamics of these four types of congregation are roughly parallel, in part, to the four types of social organization observed by some anthropologists and paleoanthropologists: the band (25-50 people), the tribe (100s), the chiefdom (1000s), and the state (100,000s and up). The chiefdom is in one respect more like a diocese, and the state more like The Episcopal Church (TEC).

The key thing is that, for social groups of much larger than about 150 people (the Dunbar number), in which most relationships cannot be or at least are not primarily face-to-face, the larger group can maintain cooperation only by being a group of groups. This is true of program and resource size congregations, and also of chiefdoms and states. For instance, the congregations of some program and resource size parishes consist of three different groups: Rite I, 8 o’clock folk, “contemporary” service folk, and/or “traditional” Rite II service folk. Any one of these sub-groups may itself actually consist of sub-groups, if the larger sub-group is around or much over 150 people.

How do we hold large congregations and even small dioceses together, let alone The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion?

If you could simply assume personal loyalty to one’s congregation and something like brand loyalty to The Episcopal Church, it would be much easier. Perhaps people wear the logo of their congregation on t-shirts or polos, cardigans or sweatshirts, and they may have Episcopal shields on their cars. They may wear the seal of their diocese at Diocesan Convention or General Convention. This is one way we display group loyalty that is felt independently of the displays. (Think also of the logos for college and professional sports teams, or bumper stickers for political candidates or various causes, etc.)

By the same token, it would be much easier to hold together large church organizations like one’s diocese or The Episcopal Church if we could just assume respect for the authority of your Bishop and/or the Presiding Bishop.

But imagine trying to sustain group cohesiveness without either of these two things. Imagine there is no group loyalty within, let alone beyond, face-to-face relationships, whether real or virtual (electronically mediated), and neither is there respect for the authority of congregational leaders, let alone respect beyond regular face-to-face interaction with those organizing the activities or life of your diocese.

It might be possible on occasion to coordinate large-scale efforts, when interests and commitments happen to coincide, say, for disaster relief in a poor country or in a refugee crisis in a war zone. But this kind of large-scale cooperation would be the exception, not the rule. You couldn’t count on it, because it depends on a coincidence of independent commitments and interests, not on a shared sense of responsibility or values.

Furthermore, how can we count on replenishing the memberships for our congregations, dioceses, and The Episcopal Church? We don’t need every family in our congregations having babies – but if none do, and if we don’t make a priority of welcoming and supporting families with young children, our congregations and dioceses eventually age themselves out of existence, no matter how vibrant they are before the blossoms drop and the leaves turn and begin to fall. Surely our experience has taught us by now that when we don’t make children a priority, their families usually find places that do.

What’s needed is a common understanding among group members that they have duties to their groups, and not only or primarily rights, and that they occupy inherited (not only chosen) roles in their groups which must be performed if the group is to succeed in providing cooperative mutual support.

* * *

What’s needed, that is, is something like the perspective offered in italics in the second section of this introduction. Not exactly that perspective, perhaps. But something more like it than the one articulated in the Task Force report.

Almost twenty years ago, Rick Shweder and his colleagues (1997) described three different types of morality found in cultures across the world (see Shweder, Much, Mahapatra, & Park, 1997, The "big three" of morality (Autonomy, Community, Divinity) and the "big three" explanations of suffering, in A. Brandt & P. Rozin (Eds.) Morality and Health, New York: Routledge).
  • The ethic of Autonomy is focused on individuals and their rights. It presupposes that humans are fundamentally independent, though they can enter into some kinds of agreements that establish duties to perform their contracts.
  • The ethic of Community is focused on social groups and the duties individuals have to them. It presupposes that humans are fundamentally interdependent, though relationships have to be nurtured and tended and sometimes go bad.
  • The ethic of Divinity is focused on the relations maintained between humans and divinities and on regulations governing human purity and pollution. It presupposes that humans are fundamentally dependent on God or the gods and that special steps are required to pursue elevation and avoid degradation.

Some societies in some cultures focus predominantly on one or the other of these three ethics. Some blend them in different proportions.

Note: I wrote a summary of the three ethics a few years ago, presenting them as strands in the moral discourse of the U.S. and the West more generally. I emphasized how early childhood experiences could lend themselves to any of the ethics; if you would like to explore this idea of the three ethics more fully, please see this link.

The public discourse in the U.S. and the West more generally is WEIRD, focused almost exclusively on the ethic of Autonomy. The private home lives and the religious lives of many – and the public political discourse of many political conservatives – are nonetheless often based in the ethics of Community and/or Divinity. The Hindu temple town in India where Shweder’s early work was based is focused on the ethic of Divinity, with heaping measures of Community.

In what follows I will focus on the contrast between the ethics of Autonomy and Community. We Christians integrate the ethic of Divinity with another or a blend of the other ethics, and that is not necessarily a point of difference. I will focus on the contrast between Autonomy and Community as the principal point of difference.

The focus on group loyalty and respect for the authority of group officials discussed in the previous section is at home most in the ethic of Community. But the perspective on marriage articulated in some of the essays in the Task Force report is primarily based in the ethic of Autonomy, including the theological framework in Essay 1 that relies on Kant.

The basic proposal in the essays is that individuals may choose to marry or not, to raise children or not, with no preference for any option from the point of view of the Church. Calling this choice a “vocation” and this social and/or legal contract a “covenant” puts an attractive veneer over the liberal individualism at the base of this perspective, but the fundamental idea is still that individuals are independent and free to choose their own paths, engaging others only so long as they give informed consent – with no pre-existing obligations except those one has chosen to accept either implicitly or explicitly.

If this were not the case, we could expect to see the suggestion that a couple's "vocation" with respect to children would be tested somehow in Christian community. The pre-marital counseling might be an appropriate setting.

Normally, vocations are not chosen but discerned, as coming from outside oneself, whether one welcomes them or not. There is no sense in the Task Force report that individuals might need to have their choices or vocations reviewed by the church or their religious community. Individuals are free to enter whatever agreements they think best, though the person doing the pre-marital counseling might try to help the couple clarify their values and hopes.

An alternative and opposed perspective is that the family is fundamental, a constituent of the body of Christ, which is a constituent of the larger humanity which Christ calls us to join with him. Of course celibacy and/or singleness is a good and fitting role for some and can allow a very great devotion to the good of hurting and vulnerable people. It can also allow a greater devotion to study of the scriptures and to prayer. I know some single people and some gay and straight couples who are without children who fit this description, whose freedom for devotion to goods other than the nurture of children is exercised in their lives and is an example to others.

That devotion to the good of others and/or to study and prayer cannot be offered as fully by those who have to devote themselves to a great extent to caring for their own children and families. But the assumption is that being called to celibacy or singleness and/or childlessness is a special vocation. It is not the default. The choice to marry and/or nurture children, on this perspective however, is the default. It is the assumed vocation. It is assumed as part of our understanding of God’s purposes for human community.

In the essays in the Task Force report, and in the recommendations it presents, we see the following:
  • The statement of purposes of marriage within the context of the Church is eliminated, and the vows of each individual to the other are emphasized.  
  • Inter-religious marriages and marriages with nonbelievers are countenanced to such an extent that the understanding of Christian marriage is evacuated so that such marriages are in no way distinct within an official church rite from marriages between Christian couples.
In this way, the argument of the Task Force report as a whole gives expression to the broader social and political climate of WEIRD culture. Christian marriage is adapted to the social and legal understandings articulated in public discourse in the U.S., focused almost exclusively on the ethic of Autonomy and, in Essay 1 of the Task Force report, which establishes the theological framework for the whole report, on Kant’s Enlightenment moral philosophy.

So just as historically earlier ideas of marriage are observed in the report to conform to cultural norms dominant at the time, so the idea of marriage presented in the current report conforms to the broader secular culture today. The ideal of Ubuntu – I am because we are – is nowhere in sight, except perhaps as an attractive veneer.

Here ends the Introduction.

* * *

In light of the argument of the preceding introduction, it is possible to see the liberal individualism of the Task Force report standing out in higher relief. I will focus on some parts of Essays 4, 7, & 5, having focused on Essays 1 & 2 in Part II.

The authors of Essay 4 describe anthropological accounts of rites of passage, including marriage, given by Arnold van Gennep (1960) and expanded and modified by Victor Turner (1969/1995). They discuss this anthropological work in order to show something important about marriage, namely, the three phases we see in the process of separating from unmarried life, the transitional time, and the adjustments that follow the marriage rite when new roles and a new life are begun.

The authors of Essay 4 helpfully draw our attention to the importance of the transitional time known as betrothal, when the two people have promised themselves to each other but have not yet formally begun married life. But in their description, they miss an important opportunity to observe the function of rites of passage in traditional cultures.

The authors of Essay 4 begin well (on p. 64) in the following, though the account veers off course (on p. 65):

Van Gennep asserted that…rites of passage served core sociological, cultural, psychological, and political purposes within a society. They help keep society intact. They serve the needs of not only the individual but, just as important, they serve the greater good by making ways forward that mediate against chaos, confusion, and anomie within particular communities during specific moments of transition and change...

Victor Turner built on the work of van Gennep…Turner paid particular attention to the period of transition leading up to the rite that finalized the change of status of the person or the community. What he witnessed in his anthropological research was a kind of liminality that was particularly at work in this transition time. Individuals during this period were “betwixt and between,” neither fish nor fowl. This period of liminality often both allowed for and required a kind of suspension of former rules and categories in relations to the person in transition. Because of this, there was a sense of graced time which created an experience which Turner described as “communitas.”

Note: The Latin word “limen” (s.), “limina” (pl.), may be translated “threshold.” A liminal space is between being in one place and being in another; it is in-between places, and in an important way in Turner’s analysis it is a nowhere.

Communitas is about more than just everyday communal relationships. It is a shared ethos and experiential context that allows for greater freedom, greater intimacy, and higher levels of care and bonding than might normally be part of the fabric of everyday life in society. During periods of communitas, trust is built. Relationships are forged, and bonds of affection are created. This period of communitas, this liminal period in the life of an individual, created a kind of elasticity of identity that encourages and allows for greater adaptivity, creativity, and spontaneity...

Turner’s studies of this period of liminality led him to believe that its significance to the change of status process was so central that he renamed van Gennep’s three stages of rites of passage as the pre-liminal, the liminal, and the post-liminal stages. He also revised van Gennep’s work (and the work of others who were exploring ritual) to assert that while at times rituals become the vehicles for societal stabilization and support of the status quo, at other times they become the means to overturn the status quo and create greater systemic change in the society. (pp. 64-65)

The authors state that in liminality “there was a sense of graced time.” It “allows for greater freedom, greater intimacy, and higher levels of care and bonding than might normally be part of the fabric of everyday life in society.”

But this seems to betray a misunderstanding of liminality and communitas. At least the authors put the emphasis in the wrong place. They focus on the freedom and possibilities of affiliation created in the in-between. But in doing so they fail to note how rites of passage in traditional societies move individuals from a time of being someone, through a time of being no one, without role or status, to a time of being a new someone, with a new role and status. That is, the authors of Essay 4 fail to see that in traditional societies a liminal phase is peculiar because of the way one is without identity, a no one, in such a phase.

Identities and duties in traditional societies are based on social roles; they are not aspects of individuals independently of their roles. An unmarried child or young adult has certain duties in their family and society, but a married person has a different identity and different duties in their family and society. That’s why you need a rite of passage, with a marked transitional phase, so that the individuals and their families and community can adjust to the significant changes being brought about.

Turner (1969/1995) describes liminality as follows:

The attributes of liminality or of liminal personae (“threshold people”) are necessarily ambiguous, since this condition and these persons elude or slip through the network of classifications that normally locate states and positions in cultural space. Liminal entities are neither here nor there; they are betwixt and between the positions assigned and arrayed by law, custom, convention, and ceremonial…Thus, liminality is frequently likened to death, to being in the womb, to invisibility, to darkness, to bisexuality, to the wilderness, and to an eclipse of the sun or moon…Their behavior is normally passive or humble; they must obey their instructors implicitly, and accept arbitrary punishment without complaint. It is as though they are being reduced or ground down to a uniform condition to be fashioned anew and endowed with additional powers to enable them to cope with their new station in life. Among themselves, neophytes tend to develop an intense comradeship and egalitarianism. Secular distinctions of rank and status disappear or are homogenized. (Turner, 1969/1995, p. 96)

Yes, there is opportunity for affiliation not normally available, between those similarly being “ground down,” but this may not on reflection seem like much of a “graced time.” Turner continues:

It is as though there are here two major “models” for human interrelatedness, juxtaposed and alternating. The first is of society as a structured, differentiated, and often hierarchical system of politico-legal-economic positions with many types of evaluation, separating men in terms of “more” or “less.” The second, which emerges recognizably in the liminal period, is of a society as an unstructured or rudimentarily structured and relatively undifferentiated comitatus, community, or even communion of equal individuals who submit together to the general authority of the ritual elders. (Turner, 1969/1995, p. 96)

Here Turner sets out his general thesis that societies embody tensions between structure and anti-structure, with the liminal, transitional phase of rites of passage, and accompanying communitas, being a period of anti-structure. He continues:

From all this I infer that, for individuals and groups, social life is a type of dialectical process that involves successive experiences of high and low, communitas and structure, homogeneity and differentiation, equality and inequality. The passage from lower to higher status is through a limbo of statuslessness…Furthermore, since any concrete tribal society is made up of multiple personae, groups, and categories, each of which has its own developmental style, at a given moment many incumbencies of fixed positions coexist with many passages between positions. In other words, each individual’s life experience contains alternating exposure to structure and communitas, and to states and transitions. (Turner, 1969/1995, p. 97)

After noting that some religions tend to regard this earthly life as itself a long transition and that some religious orders adopt the attitudes and behavioral characteristics of liminal entities (p. 107), Turner offers the following observation:

In modern Western society, the values of communitas are strikingly present in the literature and behavior of what came to be known as the “beat generation,” who were succeeded by the “hippies,” who, in turn, have a junior division known as the “teeny-boppers.” These are the “cool” members of adolescent and young-adult categories – which do not have the advantages of national rites de passage – who “opt out” of the status-bound social order and acquire the stigmata of the lowly, dressing like “bums,” itinerant in their habits, “folk” in their musical tastes, and menial in the casual employment they undertake. They stress personal relationships rather than social obligations, and regard sexuality as a polymorphic instrument of immediate communitas rather than as the basis for an enduring structured social tie. (Turner, 1969/1995, pp. 112-113)

The period of liminality and communitas is a time or phase of anti-structure which in traditional societies is transitional. It is not, according to Turner, as the authors of Essay 4 suggest, primarily a period of personal freedom, including freedom even to undermine the status quo – unless individuals are independent and fundamental, as they are in WEIRD cultures but not in traditional societies.

This misunderstanding of liminality and communitas is part of the larger assumption of liberal individualism in the Task Force report. It reveals a blindness to or ignoring of the collectivism of most traditional societies, articulated in the ethic of Community. The ethic of Autonomy is what you get if you reject structure and embrace anti-structure as normative – but then find yourself needing some rules for how people are supposed to treat one another in the absence of the structures provided by everyone having roles within established and inherited social systems.

And that misunderstanding and blindness, I suggest, are part of a failure to see the statement of purposes of marriage in the Book of Common Prayer and our marriage canon for what they are: teachings about how marriage serves a larger good than the good of the couple.

The authors of Essay 4 add a reflection from Ronald Grimes (2000):

The ritual studies scholar Ronald Grimes has written about the ways in which contemporary society has compromised the fabric of North American and other westernized rites of passage to a degree that is potentially detrimental. The movement out of singlehood into marriage requires comprehensive transformations for the individuals involved and the families of which they are a part. Virtually every aspect of one’s life is changed through the act of marrying; economic, political, legal, emotional, psychological, social, and spiritual changes are expected of those who marry. In a different period in history, couples took months or even years to make these changes. (p. 66)

And that seems to be clearly on the right track. But then the authors state the following:

In the 20th century, in large part in response to changing patterns of marriage and divorce in contemporary North American society, the Church added a canonical requirement for premarital counseling prior to marriage in an Episcopal rite administered by an ordained Episcopal minister. This premarital counseling requirement set up and made use of a period of liminality in which the couple could explore the depth of change that marriage would bring to their individual and shared lives. Effective premarital counseling is meant to foster the development of “communitas.” (p. 67)

Here again we see the misunderstanding or misplaced emphasis. In modern societies, there is no genuinely liminal period, because there is no period in which the members of the couple are no ones, “ground down,” betwixt and between fundamental identities and so having none – because in modern societies, individuals are thought to have personal identities independently of their social roles and statuses, independently of their societies. What the required pre-marital counseling provides is good, and it may well be a conscious attempt to simulate something like the liminal phase of traditional rites of passage, but it is quite partial, taking so little of a couple’s daily lives during the month or so of the counseling, so it is at best a glimpse of liminality, with only a mere peek at communitas.

Near the conclusion of Essay 4, the authors state the following:

When marrying couples have prepared themselves for marriage; have worked with families and friends to create new bonds of relationship; have already publicly lived into vows of mutual support and fidelity; have expressed to those around them the commitment they are making to a lifelong union that will not be undone by prosperity or adversity, then these couples have made their rituals into subversive acts – prophetic acts that challenge the values of the society around them and call that society to a richer, fuller, more robust way of living human life. (p. 68)

But is that sort of marriage subversive? Is doing something right, in a context in which it’s come too often to be done wrong, disruptive? We should say, rather, that it is restorative, redeeming. It shows and calls the larger society to what God intends.

* * *

Essay 7 discusses the current state of marriage in the culture or cultures of The Episcopal Church. There is much here too that is valuable, but again it would be nice to have seen some things pointed out that were not. Early in Essay 7, the authors give the following statistics:

For example, by age 25, 44 percent of women have given birth, while only 38 percent have married. Overall, 48 percent of first births were to unmarried partners. (p. 90)

This emphasizes the finding reported in Essay 7 that many more people today, across socioeconomic categories, are delaying marriage without delaying living together; however, the economically less well off and less educated are not thereby delaying child-birth. The authors of Essay 7 next, starting off well, frame their account of the current state of marriage in the following way:

Why should we care? [Because m]arriage is not merely a private matter; it is also a complex social institution. Stable marriages better the chances for stable families, generally ensuring greater prosperity for individuals and families as a whole. Marriage contributes to the stability of neighborhoods and school systems, and helps families and individuals weather difficult economic times…

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer emphasizes that marriage is both a private matter for the couple and a public covenant. The underlying assumption in our prayer book is that the very private love of the couple entering into marriage has public and sacramental value to the community as a whole – they are to “make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that [their] unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair” (“The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage,” 429). (p. 90)

I would have been glad to see the authors go one step further in the second of these paragraphs, adding the one main point I have been emphasizing in these three parts of “Suffer the little children”: marriage is not only a private matter and a public covenant, but it is also crucial for the public good, especially because it is an excellent and/or the best context for the nurture of children. It is understandable that the authors do not take this extra step, since the Task Force recommends removing the bearing and nurture of children from the marriage canon and perhaps eventually altogether from the conversation.

Still, in one of the bullet points in their executive summary, followed by two sentences three paragraphs later, the authors seem to agree:

Delayed marriage, especially among less-educated adults, has significant economic impact especially for children in households with unmarried partners or with single parents...Data are clear that unmarried couples break up more frequently, often leaving young mothers to be responsible for raising their children alone. This contributes to, or begins a cycle of, poverty that can exist for generations. (p. 88)

No one, of course, wants children to have to grow up in economically distressed, parent-absent households. What is needed to decrease the rate at which this happens?

These matters are very complex, and I cannot hope to do them justice without going on much longer than I already have – so I will confine myself to a few observations and hunches. I do not worry so much about the accuracy of the coverage of the data in Essay 7, which is insightful and a must read for those of us in The Episcopal Church who think about these issues. I do worry a bit about the authors’ focus and placement of emphasis. I’d like to see them note explicitly some things they pass over.

Here are four thoughts: 

(1.) Economic pressures affect marriage and child-bearing patterns, for instance, from shifting jobs availability as many blue collar jobs have been removed, and as college-educated job seekers are expected to move to new locations early in their careers, often more than once. Also, cultural pressures affect marriage and child-bearing patterns, for instance, culturally supported, strong extended family and/or clan networks, which are associated with lower divorce rates, among Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian-Americans, and American Indians as observed in Essay 7 (pp. 94-96). Pressures and restrictions, of course, whether economic or cultural, can limit individual freedoms and choices. Ideally, we’d like to ease economic pressures that discourage marriage and the nurture of children within stable marriages. But would we be willing to increase cultural pressures that urge marriage instead of cohabitation and the nurture of children within stable marriages? I have tried to articulate my concern in these three parts of “Suffer the little children” that the recommendation of the Task Force to amend our marriage canon moves in the wrong direction. It decreases cultural pressure where it should be increased.

(2.) Political liberals tend to want to ease economic pressures, even when this doesn’t encourage good long-range decision-making. They want to reduce suffering first and foremost. Political conservatives and libertarians tend not to mind keeping these economic pressures high, if they promote good decision-making. Let people suffer the economic consequences of their bad choices. They’ll correct themselves that way. On the other hand, political conservatives tend to want to keep cultural pressures high too, to promote good choices. Political liberals and libertarians tend to want to reduce these pressures in order to maximize individual liberty. If I am right that the move to eliminate the statement of purposes of marriage amounts to an effort to ease up on the cultural pressure supporting the nurture of children, the proposal fits fairly straightforwardly with the usual tendencies of political liberals and libertarians but not of political conservatives. It fits with liberal individualism and the ethic of Autonomy, not with the ethic of Community and of traditional societies.

(3.) Marriage is hard work sometimes, regardless of how well suited the couple are for each other. Child-bearing and the nurture of children are also hard work, especially for women, increasingly for men. In the relative absence, then, of cultural pressures supporting marriage and the nurture of children, people need a well developed ability to delay gratification for the sake of long-range goals. Staying married through bad times as well as good, and devoting substantial personal resources to the nurture of children, including material resources, time and energy, and lost opportunities, require the ability to delay gratification for the sake of long-range goals. The capacities to plan for the long-range and to delay gratification have to be nurtured beginning early in childhood. Some components of these abilities are innate as part of one’s temperament, but some are the product of early experiences and habituation. Another crucial ingredient of healthy development is good, positive adult role models in early childhood. Furthermore, not long after children begin school, their peers begin to have as much or more influence on children’s development as do their families. The deck almost seems stacked against stable marriages and healthy practices in the nurture of children. That is why it is important to have supportive lessons from one’s religious community and other cultural pressures that support marriage and the nurture of children. Why would we move to reduce those pressures in the current culture of the U.S. where they are already so weak, except out of a sense that individuals should be given maximum liberty to pursue their own projects and desires? 

(4.) There is likely a connection between the facts, on the one hand, that over the past 50 years half of all marriages have come to end in divorce, from about one quarter in the 1950s and 1960s (pp. 76-77, and see p. 59 & p. 92), and, on the other hand, that rates of cohabitation before marriage have increased in the same time period by nearly 900% (pp. 88 & 93). Young people seeing their parents go through divorce might naturally hesitate to enter right away into marriage. The changes have been felt unevenly, though, as the authors of Essay 7 point out.

Marriage remains the norm for adults with a college education and a good income but is now markedly less prevalent among those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. (p. 91).

They also note the following:

While earlier generations looked at marriage as their entry point into adulthood and a crucial vehicle for defining themselves as mature individuals, today young men and women expect to achieve individual and autonomous identities before they become bound as a couple...Also helping to redefine marriage is what many sociologists call the “soul mate ideal.” As women have become more economically equal and empowered, marriage for them has been drained of its primary economic incentive. Young adults are now more inclined to focus on marriage for its potential for deep emotional and sexual connections. (p. 92)

Marriage used to be a rite of passage for economically well off and well educated young people, marking them as adults. It no longer performs that function for the well off, so they delay marriage and cohabit, planning to marry some day. For the not well off, marriage has lost some of its significance as one of the marks of middle class status, and they may or may not ever hope to marry.

The authors of Essay 7 offer a helpful overview of the current state of marriage in many of the areas where The Episcopal Church has congregations. Perhaps it is asking too much that they would have drawn out implications of their findings that run contrary to the Task Force recommendations.

* * *

I conclude with two brief sections: one on the argument for the recommended amendment of the marriage canon and one on the common ground that might exist between traditionalists and progressives.

Essay 5 is about the history of the marriage canon. The heart of the argument at the end of Essay 5 is stated briefly in three paragraphs. Its conclusion is that we should eliminate the purposes of marriage from the marriage canon, by deleting the Declaration of Intent. The three paragraphs are these (emphasis added):

Subsections (d)-(f) spell out the Declaration of Intent, which the member of the clergy must have the couple sign before proceeding with the marriage. The prescribed declaration is a series of statements to which the couple must assent: marriage is lifelong; a union of heart, body, and mind, intended by God for mutual joy, for help and comfort in prosperity and adversity, and for the procreation and nurture of children when God so wills; and pledges the couple’s utmost efforts to establish the relationship with God’s help. Traditionally, the prescribed declaration is signed as part of the required pre-marriage counseling.

The proposed revision of Canon I.18 deletes the declaration from the canon. The language of the declaration rings of a creedal statement, a statement of belief that may not be accurate. The couple is required to declare their belief in a set of statements about marriage; but the intentions of marriage are properly about performance, not belief. Since baptism is required for only one partner to the marriage, the declaration may force a false compliance on a nonbeliever or a person who holds to a tradition with a different theology of marriage or no theology at all.

An unbaptized nonbeliever or an atheist may marry in the church for the sake of a spouse, but that person ought not to be placed in the situation of affirming a belief about whether marriage is “intended by God.” Again it is the performance of the content of the vows that is the proper focus of the couple’s intention. The marriage liturgy itself includes the Declaration of Consent, as well as the vows, and the wording in the proposed canonical revision points to these as the operative texts. (p. 82)

It is hard to know what it means to say that “the intentions of marriage are properly about performance, not belief.” Intentions for performance of course presuppose beliefs. If I intend to pay you my debt, I must believe there are such things as promises and indebtedness, and such things as money or other instruments of payment. If I intend to form a life-long bond with you in which we will become as one and you will become another myself, an extension and part of my own identity, I must believe such fusings of persons in heart, mind, and spirit are possible. And so on. So the claim that the intentions of marriage do not involve beliefs is a nonstarter.

The other part of the argument about nonbelievers and non-Christians is peculiar. The canons require that one member of the couple be baptized. The Declaration of Intent requires that both can truthfully affirm that they intend to perform God’s intentions for marriage. There is no inconsistency here unless we assume that Christian marriage should be available to non-Christians who reject the Christian idea of marriage. That’s what’s peculiar. Why suppose that?

The assumption of the authors of Essay 5 seems to be that Christian marriage should be fully available to those who reject Christian understandings of marriage, who, as the argument suggests, may simply be doing their partner a favor by getting married in a Christian ceremony. Why not say the same thing about baptism? So-and-so wants to be baptized for the sake of her grandmother, so we can drop the baptismal covenant from the ritual for all persons because we don’t want to force a false compliance in a few cases. No. Or how about ordination? No.

We don’t remove the requirement of assent to Christian understandings because Christian sacraments presuppose Christian understandings. We should make no apology about that. If Christian understandings concerning a sacrament are not valid, the sacrament doesn’t exist, except as an empty ceremony. We should not evacuate our sacraments just to accommodate those who already believe Christian sacraments are empty ceremonies. That’s how they become empty ceremonies.

* * *

My thesis in this Part III has been that there are better and worse ways to sustain group cohesiveness and replenish group membership. The better ways make possible large-scale, multi-level cooperation for mutual flourishing. And such cooperation is required for respecting the dignity of every human being in more than words. I have argued that the Task Force recommendation, that we eliminate the statement of purposes of marriage from the marriage canon, makes sense only if we make WEIRD assumptions about marriage and about morality more generally.

The ethic of Autonomy works well as a way of relating to strangers and/or people with whom we do not share basic cultural assumptions and commitments. That is, it works fine for inter-group or between-group dealings. It was invented during the Enlightenment for increasingly multi-cultural interactions so that there would be an alternative to cultural and ethno-racial imperialism. But the ethic of Community is far more effective for sustaining in-group cohesiveness and replenishing group membership. It works well for intra-group or within-group dealings.  

There is one primary place where the real disagreement lies between a traditionalist understanding of Christian marriage and the progressive position I support, what I identified in Part I as marriage equality (ME) without liberal individualism (which I called ME2). That one place is found in the following paragraph. I have copied it here from the second section of the introduction above. I highlight parts of three sentences for emphasis:

To move away from the nuclear and extended family as the fundamental unit -- replacing families with "households" of individuals -- is to abandon the mutual support and love families entail. Of course not every family is perfect or even healthy, but that does not mean that the standard, the ideal, should be changed to conform to our brokenness.  If we understand the person as a chooser, a free agent in society and morality, if we accept "no fault" divorce and remarriage as normal, if we condone same-sex unions as on an equal footing with the traditional norm for families...then we suppose that each of us is fundamentally a consumer. Some of us desire this type of car, others that type. Some of us want this sort of companion, others that sort. Some like chocolate, some strawberry. Some of us would really rather not have children, or not be formally married, but would rather cohabit. If it is all a world of consuming what we desire and can afford, we are morally adrift, following our own desires rather than God's purposes for us.  With each new desire and act of consumption, we move on as we please.

Put simply, marriage equality (in the sense of ME) does not require a consumer or free agent model of human nature, though liberal individualism (as in ME2) offers such a model of the person. The decision we in The Episcopal Church have been dealing with about same-sex unions is not a decision for or against embracing liberal individualism and the ethic of Autonomy as the official Christian worldview or ethic. That is because marriage equality (ME) is consistent with a traditional understanding of God’s purposes, with one principal amendment to our former understanding.

Support of marriage equality (ME) requires that we suppose that sex difference is not essential to the monogamous, indissoluble, covenanted companionships that God blesses. The idea that God blesses non-heterosexual relationships of this sort only requires the following: God’s design requires sex difference as normative when procreation is mandatory for group survival, when extinction is a real possibility. When that condition is relaxed or does not obtain at all, then procreation is beneficial and a priority but not mandatory or a necessity for every biologically capable couple.

There is of course far more to be said here than I would want to add to this Part III. It is possible to get into the thicket very quickly, and in other contexts that would be important. But I end simply by noting that support for marriage equality (in the sense of ME) involves noticing how same-sex couples can exhibit the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in their relationships. They can be and have been for me positively humbling signs of the kind of all-giving love that Christ displayed for humanity.

Seeing that requires not arguments and reasoning so much as witness and experience of the wonderful gay and lesbian couples by whose presence among us we in The Episcopal Church are so blessed. Opportunities for this witness and experience are not equally available to all of us, often through no fault of anyone concerned, but they are becoming more available.

Some of these same-sex couples are doing difficult but remarkable work by nurturing children who, without the devotion and self-giving of these couples, would be pushed from foster home to foster home or would be living dangerously and precariously on the street.

Whether generally as examples of the fruits of the Spirit in their relationships, or in particular as exemplars of self-giving love in their nurture of children, these same-sex couples bless us.
* * *
15 People were bringing even infants to [Jesus] that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” (Luke 18:15-16, NRSV)