Same-Sex Marriage: A Church's Ambition to Bring About Unity
It seems nearly impossible that the first month of the program at Saint Hilda’s House has already gone by. And what a month it has been! One of the most rewarding things has been coming to an environment with so many people who are passionate about the Church and meeting new people here at Christ Church and at Yale Divinity School. Talking with these new friends has been a wonderful way to form my ideas on the issues that face the church today.
Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury announced changes that would further decentralize the Anglican Communion. This is the latest development in a decade of mounting tensions and uncertainty over the future of the Communion. The Archbishop's announcement has spurred some rewarding discussions with my new friends in New Haven about what these changes would mean for the health and the integrity of the broader church. Many people lamented the Archbishop's decision. My friends also expressed a sense of inevitability over decentralization, that the Anglican Communion was bound to break apart after The Episcopal Church's decision this summer to allow same-sex marriage. But through these discussions, I felt a sense of frustration with the way in which our church went about coming to this decision to redefine marriage and has thought about our recent change in the definition of marriage and the thoughts of dissolving our ties to the Anglican Communion as an inevitable consequence to same-sex marriage.
It is understandable that many within the Episcopal Church would see disunion as an inevitable outcome of a change in the definition of marriage. But we shouldn’t allow ourselves to settle for disunion! Like many of my friends in New Haven I feel that God calls the Church towards ecumenism and unity rather than to reject it. So the emerging tension, and potential schism, in the Anglican Communion gives me cause for concern. Christianity has a great track record of division, and not such a good precedence for reunification.
The Episcopal Church has spent many years considering the issue of same-sex marriage; and the change made this summer certainly has the backing of the vast majority of both our bishops and lay people. But I struggle with this decision. After considering my position, I realized my frustration has nothing to do with whether or not gay marriages are moral. My frustration steams from the way in which the church came to this decision, and how the church seems so willing to cast off our Anglican brothers and sisters over this issue.
I feel that the Episcopal Church did not properly address same-sex marriages in terms of our relation to the other members of the Anglican Communion. This change came right after the Supreme Court's decision to declare the definition of marriage as being “between one man and one woman,” unconstitutional. The timing of this was a PR fiasco for the church. Because of the proximity of the two decisions, it appeared that the church was trying to shy-away from its verdict, rather than embracing the change in policy by hiding it under the larger news story of judicial rulings. This made it look like the church’s choice of acceptance was an endorsement of federal law instead of the result of prayerful discernment and holy inspiration.
But my biggest frustration steams from the willingness of many in the Episcopal Church to abandon their ties of union with our fellow Anglicans in exchange for creating a more inclusive definition of marriage. This seems to confirm my fear that we are not seeing God in this decision but are serving our own political desires. If we in the Episcopal Church truly and earnestly believe that God has called us to embrace same-sex marriage as sacramental and valid, then we are also called to fight for this right to be embraced by all Anglican churches. God’s intensions are not revealed to be horded by a subset of his people. God’s will is one, it is holy, and it is catholic.
Instead of idly standing by accepting the “inevitable” demise of the Anglican Communion, we should preserve what God has called us to do here in the United States. We need to uphold our decision as having been made prayerfully and inspired by the Spirit. We have seen the witness of that inspiration already, most notably in the couples who have been able to marry since the change. Their union in Christ is the strongest demonstration of the holiness that comes with any type of marriage.
What we must remember is that our call as Christians is not only to do what is right but to live by example. We cannot ignore our responsibility to stay in communion with the other Anglican churches, acting as an example of the holiness that has been revealed to us. If we truly believe something to be right then we must share it with the world.