Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Episcopal bigwig: The Christian marriage service is "a dumb prayer" and "laughable"

The "Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" in The Book of Common Prayer contains language consistent with marriage rites in most Christian traditions, including

"The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people."

This is, for those who like the word, just about the most "inclusive" paragraph in Christian worship. Marriage exists before the church. Christ performed a miracle to prolong a wedding party, well before he preached his message to the world. While marriage signifies some unique expectations for Christians, all marriages - Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, whatever - reflect God's design and are to be honored. When people who were married outside of the church convert, we don't require some sort of "remarriage." Some people request a church blessing, and that's fine - but their marriage is honored with or without it.

Yet on a listserve for Episcopalian insider poobahs, one of them had this to say:

"It is a dumb prayer that is based on prejudice not Bible IMO - God did not establish a bond and covenant of marriage in Creation. The story has nothing to do with marriage - it has to do with procreation - which we no longer support with abandon. As to Jesus attending a wedding as a basis for holding marriage in esteem - also not much of a reason. I hope someday we have an opening to the marriage ceremony that is not so laughable."

You can guess why she thinks it's "prejudice." Not much effort to decode the little group of elitist, wine and cheese clergy that think that.

Besides which, the poobah's own reasoning is faulty. The Genesis account is not just about making babies, but about restoring the human representation of God in male and female (that used to be an "inclusive" talking point, but we're about half-past that now). Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding had nothing to do with procreation, unless maybe Cana had an unusually ugly poplulation and they needed "closing time" levels of inebriation to have sex. Paul's description of marriage as a reflection of the mystery of Christ and the church points beyond procreation, to the kingdom of God where Jesus says there is no more marriage. Like the rest of this Episcopalian leadership club, she has no idea what the Bible says and banks on the general Episcopalian ignorance of the scriptures to make a bogus argument.

Even more bizarre is that the person who posted this craziness used to be known as a "moderate" influence on the church.

But the most painful thing for me is to read a church leader - a leader in a church I still serve - expressing such contempt for my marriage. The language of that service has been a source of strength and inspiration for my wife and me for 20 years now. We have come back to it for help in seasons when "worse, poorer and sickness" outweighed "better, richer and health." But we are dumb, laughable beings to the single-issue advocates who fly all over the world to confabs about their single issue.

I've already sent the quote to my parish leaders. I will be sending it on to my Bishop in just a minute. I'll get the usual responses about, "Oh, well, just do a good job right where you are and stuff like this won't really matter."

I disagree. This crazy statement can't be overlooked. The traditional Christian understanding of marriage is not just about procreation. It emphasizes commitment, sacrifice, forgiveness, reconciliation, spiritual nurture, comfort and a journey of love beyond the campfire ease of eros and romance. It is what my wife and I do with our autistic child. It is what we do when one or the other is exhausted and our male and female brains just don't get each others' responses to that.

It is not a bunch of aging narcissists draping themselves in fancy robes and titles to talk about a campy LGBT catholic lite club that mocks what it claims to practice.

No wonder I would sooner go to the Wesleyan guy around the corner, an old lady in a nursing home or a Benedictine monk three hours away for wisdom. I wouldn't ask national Episcopal Church leaders how to boil water. They betray truth they promised to uphold, not to bring "justice" to others but to indulge themselves.

h/t Greg Griffith and there's oh-so-much-more.


Kim said...

You said: "I'll get the usual responses about, "Oh, well, just do a good job right where you are and stuff like this won't really matter." "

This is exactly the mantra in my former TEC parish. It is foolish.
That sentiment is exactly how good people are diverted and silenced. It is why it is my FORMER parish, despite the obstacles to building a new one.

The apostasy is ugly. But the insidious and lasting and most far-reaching damage has come from the leadership that is not vigorous, not honest, not courageous. Anyone serving faithfully in that church could not count on leadership to lean on and be guided. So you'd better be ready to walk alone when you're wounded.

Bless you Fr. Tim for being the shepherd and leader your people need. I pray that you continue to find the support you need to minister to them. It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on where to look.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Kim, but I also confess that the "head in the sand" folks are influential and I might have to shake the dust off and move on. I have not had the clarity that you received, so I've not made Good Shepherd or TEC my "former" digs as yet. If anything, God seems to have said stay put, even slamming some doors and windows when I thought about leaving.

But God is not static and this horrific quote stirred me to sound more warnings. Likewise, I've been stirred to warn them about ditching worship when I am on sabbatical. This could be a most interesting autumn 'round here.

Keith said...

I feel your pain at the comment. My wife has asked me why do I want to stay in a church that has gotten whiter and weirder. I have to tell her that I think that God is telling me to stay as well. The stuff at the National Church does matter, so how do we who are called to stay deal with this mess? I feel that I am called to be the best pastor to my people, and part of that is speaking out when I think that TEC is wrong, and preparing my people for God centered ministry outside the four walls of the parish church. Tim I love your blog and your insights and you help me to remember one thing about God. God never said it would be easy, He just said that we wouldn't be alone.

TLF+ said...

Keith, thanks for that encouragement! It does seem silly to keep blogging the obvious - but to hear that it ministers something of value to you is a reason to keep it up.

Your last point about "not easy" really hit home today - I was reading Mark 13, in which Jesus lays out all the awful things his followers will face. He did this just before undergoing all of them himself! He is with us, more than we know.

suthie58 said...

Fr. Tim
I got back from Florida 2 weeks ago where my mom & stepfather (dad) solemnized their relationship at St. James in Leesburg after 33 years of civil marriage. It is their second marriage each. Through all these years they have had their ups and downs like everyone else. My dad has at times royally anger me since he entered our lives when I was teenager. However, he has redeemed himself than any issues I might have with him. You see my mom has 6 months at most to live and he has stayed by her side when others would cut and run like her first husband. I do not know about this Wyoming priest, but is the church that whacked?

TLF+ said...

suthie58 - first, I want to commend you on the obvious attention you give to reconciliation. What you have with your stepdad is the kind of day to day victory that Jesus wants for the kingdom of God. Bless you both for it.

Second, to answer your question, yes, that whacked and more. Lord, have mercy.

Thanks for visiting! Will pray for your mom and the whole family this morning.

The Underground Pewster said...


I just returned from visiting my parents on their 60th wedding anniversary. As I was cleaning out the old family house, my sister and I divided up the surplus pictures. There were pictures of their wedding, newspaper clippings from their engagement, my grandmother's wedding band, pictures from my wedding, all of these events were held in the presence of God so that man and woman might become one flesh as the Bible spells out. What I felt was the power of that bond that God creates between two, a bond that seems impossible to last 60 years. Only God can hold us together.

The crazies in charge of the Episcopal church want to put their god in place of the God of the Bible. Their god does not have the glue that can do miracles. People must call them out on this. Unfortunately for us, we have to be the one who stay because only those who really love the church can be its critics.

TLF+ said...

Thanks for that witness, Pewster. It is ironic - the leadership's every action seems designed to wreck the church, yet they are perceived as standing up for it... those of us who criticize are perceived as hating the church, when we actually love it.