Archive for September, 2015

Midwives Can’t Say ‘Pregnant Women’, Must Say ‘Birthing Individuals’ To Avoid Offend Breastfeeding Trans Dad

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Last year, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) conducted a politically correct purge of their guidelines, removing any reference to fact that mothers are women, for fear of offending the transgendered. But now, an alliance of midwifes, mothers and experts have began to fight back, insisting that it is “dangerous” and “harmful” to deny the “biological reality” of motherhood.

In 2014, with little consultation, MANA decided that being a woman was not a necessary or relevant factor for being a mother. They edited their core competencies document, and in effect ordered practitioners to stop referring to clients as “women” and “mothers” demanding they say “pregnant people” and “birthing individuals” instead.

The change did not go unnoticed. At the end of last month a group calling themselves “Woman-Centred Midwifery” (WCM) published an open letter addressed to MANA, signed by hundreds of respected Midwifery experts including the revered “mother of authentic midwifery” Ina May Gaskin.

They wrote, very politely, that: “MANA’s attempts at inclusivity are commendable in today’s complex world. We are concerned, however, by accelerating trends in our culture to deny material biological reality and further disconnect ourselves from nature and the body.”

Referring to the edited core competencies document, they protested that, “women are now all but missing from the language, as if we can separate woman from mother from baby. Woman is recognized now only in relation to her baby. This is harmful to female adult humans; we women have fought long and hard to be recognized as autonomous beings.”

The MANA case is not an isolated one. The American College of Nurse-Midwives also began to recognise “transsexual” and “gender variant” mothers in 2013. However, they are yet to bow to the perpetually offended by following MANA’s lead in denying the right of non-transgendered mothers to be recognised as women.

If you’re wondering how someone who is not considered a woman could even have a baby, such that MANA might want to make the “progressive” move of severing the concept from that of mother, then here is a case study.Trevor MacDonald is a self identified female-to-male transgendered gay man whose been campaigning against WCM, accusing them of “transphobia” in The Huffington Post. It seems that no amount of cosmetic surgery could allow him to escape the innate instincts latent in his biology, and MacDonald has given birth to two children since he transitioned. In 2012, he explain in a blog post how this is so:

“My name is Trevor and I am able to be pregnant because I am transgender. This means that I was born female but transitioned to male by taking hormones and having chest surgery.

“When my partner and I decided to start a family, we got advice from my doctors and I stopped taking my testosterone. My baby is due in April. Because my surgery removed most of my breast tissue, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to breastfeed, but I really want to try.”

MacDonald feels that, “the signatures [on the WCM letter] of midwives held in high esteem in the birthing community are especially hurtful,” and argues that, “trans, genderqueer and intersex people have been giving birth for as long as women-identified people have and we have also encountered oppression.”

MacDonald believes that the people who signed the letter merely, “fear a future where they will not be allowed to write or speak about women in their own practices,” and that, “we do not need to choose between celebrating women and including people of all genders.”

However, far from suffering from some “phobia” or irrational fear, WCM explain their quite rational reservations in the letter. “We know as midwives that biological sex occurs at the level of our DNA and the gametes we produce, and is immutable,” they write.

They acknowledge that “gender is cultural and gender norms vary across the globe,” but state that, “Sex is natural, biological and objectively factual,” and “Human beings, like the majority of other mammals, are sexually dimorphic. i.e. there are two distinct biological sexes.”

Arguing that, “by embracing the idea that any human other than those in a class called women carry offspring to term, give birth to them and nurse them, we are prioritizing gender identity over biological reality,” and that, “We are allowing gender identity to be the primary way that we refer to one another, even for a biological process like birth.”

“The very few gender-identified males that have given birth or accessed an abortion have only done so because they are female-bodied people, and that scientific fact cannot be erased,” they add.MANA even appeal to the arguments of second wave feminists (or trans exclusionary radical feminists / TERFS) to make their point, who have long argued that, “female liberation from patriarchal oppression, including brutal and demeaning birth practices, cannot be achieved if we are forbidden from mentioning female biology.”

Even some transgendered people have taken issue with delusional stance of MANA

Leading midwife and the first signatory on the open letter, MaryLou Singleton, went further still, defending those who believe the concept of gender does not exist as a separate entity to biological sex, who are so often accused of hatred. “By saying that we do not believe in gender, we are not ‘erasing’ the existence of people who strongly identify with gender any more that by saying we don’t believe in Catholicism erases the existence of Catholics,” she wrote on Facebook.

MacDonald accused her of “bizarre and hostile” “Trans hatred.”

It must be remembered, however, that this seemingly petty conflict within midwifery is not just an intellectual question of biology and social theory. It’s certainly not merely the continuation of the long running squabble between old order feminism and gender theory feminists (who deny that female biology has anything to do with women, and so feminism).

This is, primarily, about the children involved. It is a final, humiliating assault on the tradition family, and the attempt to removed the notion of women from motherhood should terrify us all – even those who support same-sex marriage.

As WCM conclude in their letter: “We must fight the forces destroying the living material world and telling us that cultural distractions are more real than life itself. There is life-giving power in female biology. As midwives we protect the lives of the life-givers: women, mothers, females, and their offsping. We must not become blinded to the biological material reality that connects us.”

The Episcopal Church: Undermining the USA from Within (and Betraying Christians)

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

In my previous post, I detailed the sordid story by which the Episcopal Church (USA) has gotten into the debt collection business. Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.

It’s a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church’s coffers, to help with its bottom line.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually.

Now [H/T: El Gringo Viejo], your Curmudgeon has been pointed to this illuminating video message, which tells “the rest of the story,” so to speak. It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria. Listen to Ann Corcoran as she explains what she discovered:

As you see (at 1:29 and following), EMM is one of nine major Government contractors engaged in making money to bring in refugees from these war-torn countries, in which the United States has militarily intervened. Five others, along with EMM, operate under the aegis of major American religious denominations: the Church World Service (an umbrella organization), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the evangelically connected World Relief Corporation.So let us draw the big picture: civil war breaks out in Muslim countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria; the United States intervenes militarily; havoc and destruction generate innumerable refugees, most of whom (but by no means all) are Sunni or Shiite Muslims; well-meaning Christians and liberals in the United States want to resettle them in our country, and so partner with the U.S. Government in bringing them here.

The only criterion for their migration to the United States appears to be that they cannot remain in their own war-torn country—either because it does not want them, or because the situation is so unstable that no one can vouch for their safety or protection.

[UPDATE 05/15/2015: The one criterion of the State Department for refusing to include them in the refugee program is if they happen to be Christians:

Also inappropriate, it seems, is the resettling of the most vulnerable Assyrian Christians in the United States. Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse. But the State Department – while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars, told Dobbs that they “would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States.”

The United States government has made it clear that there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation, even though it is exactly that – their religious affiliation – that makes them candidates for asylum based on a credible fear of persecution from ISIS. The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment. Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters.

So now we have evidence that the “inclusive” liberals at 815 Second Avenue will not extend their sympathy to brother Christians, but only to Muslims and terrorists—because the Government will not fund the rescuing of Christians.]

But those same well-meaning Christians and liberals, who elected a President to bring the troops home before the invaded countries were stable, also did so on their strongly held belief that the people of those countries could never become a democracy, even with our aid and support. One has to ask: what change in character justifies those now assisting the Muslim refugees in thinking that once brought here,  they will fit in to our democracy? And would be preferable to, say, Assyrian Christians?

The communities to which the refugees are relocated have little or nothing to say about the process. Is it any surprise that a good number of the Muslim immigrants remain in enclaves of their own, and assimilate only to the degree necessary to qualify for jobs and welfare? And is it any surprise that some of them might harbor little good will for the country whose intervention they see as having uprooted them in the first place, and nurture the seeds for domestic terrorism?

It is not that Christians do not owe others a duty to provide refuge, assistance and support—they do. But who is monitoring the overall process, and its effects upon our country? The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees? The State Department? The various liberal Church groups who use Government funds to help balance their books, and who leave the refugees to their own devices after they have been handsomely paid to settle them here? Give me a break. (Again, if there is any ongoing support of the displaced persons, it comes from local churches in the community, and not from the big denominations—they do only that for which the Government reimburses them.)

It is the little people, like Ann Corcoran above, who have the most concern for the integrity of their towns and communities that are impacted most severely by these unsupervised migration activities. Her blog, Refugee Resettlement Watch, is the place to get the most detailed and up-to-date information about what is going on. The stories there are all well-documented, and some are eye-popping (be sure to take note of this disclaimer). A good place to start is this Resettlement Fact Sheet. You would do well to keep yourself informed.

Archbishop Welby, what will you do about it?

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

I’m not fond of litigation.  I take our witness to the world very seriously, and the damage to that witness from Christians suing each other is serious. And even though my former profession as a criminal prosecutor put me in the position of litigating daily in the courts, I would much prefer followers of Jesus Christ being able to follow I Corinthians 6 and work out their disagreements within the Church, through church or secular sponsored arbitration services and negotiated settlements.

I cannot, however, let the injustice pass that occurred in the oral arguments before the South Carolina Supreme Court, between the Diocese of South Carolina (Bishop Mark Lawrence) and The Episcopal Church (TEC.) There must have been quite a few people watching the live stream—because there apparently wasn’t any room for me to access it when I tried. But attorney Alan Haley (aka The Anglican Curmudgeon), was able to watch it and then review it again in the archives to make the following point.

The newest Justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court, Kaye Hearn, should have recused herself from the hearing. During the proceedings, she demonstrated blatant bias, prejudice, and disregard for court precedent throughout the hearing. It is no surprise that she is a member of a TEC congregation in South Carolina and a founding member of The Episcopal Forum of South Carolina, which helped bring disciplinary charges against Bishop Mark Lawrence under TEC’s Title IV.

Alan Haley has done an exhaustive job detailing the evidence of bias in Justice Hearn’s questions, citing for any listener the exact point in the tape where she speaks.  You can find his analysis here and I encourage you to read it all.  But the points he makes are:

  1.  Her questions seemed designed more to encourage and advance the arguments of TEC attorneys than to probe the various issues in the case;
  2. Many of her “questions” were actually advocacy statements for TEC which would scarcely have been appropriate for a sitting Justice to make in an impartial court hearing;
  3. She tried to interject the issue of Bishop Lawrence’s “faithfulness to his ordination vows” into the hearing—knowing that this is never a matter before the jurisdiction of the civil courts, in this or any case!  It is and always has been a matter for the internal disciplinary courts of the church.
  4. She suggests that the three new Justices could overturn the unanimous decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in All Saints v. Waccamaw, in which the court ruled that there is no such thing under South Carolina trust law as an “implied trust” imposed unilaterally by a church, thereby overturning any claims by TEC under its “Dennis canon.”  As Haley notes, “only a person who resented that decision personally when it came down, and who has fought it since, would spend so much effort trying to discredit it in court.”

And so Alan Haley concludes:

“This was truly a disgraceful performance and display of impropriety by one of the country’s highest sitting judges. If she does not recuse herself post-argument, there should be, at a minimum, an investigation as to whether Justice Hearn violated Canons 2 and 3 of the South Carolina Code of Judicial Ethics.”

So why am I spending your time reviewing this case?  Because Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called a gathering of Primates in January, 2016 to review the state of the Anglican Communion, a gathering to which he has invited Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) Archbishop Foley Beach. TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada will be there too. Some have said that this is Archbishop Welby’s attempt to take the Primates back to 2007, to the Dar es Salaam meeting, when the last serious attempt to discipline TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada was made. Among the recommendations the Primates made at that meeting in Dar es Salaam was an immediate end to litigation in North America.

A few years later, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) met in Kingston, Jamaica. For various reason I had a front row seat to this gathering. I watched Bishop Bill Godfrey (Southern Cone, Peru) address the delegates to the ACC with a proposal he said he had negotiated with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church to call a “cease fire” to the litigation. We will never know the details, or what might have happened, because the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, approached the microphone and said there was no need to vote for the recommendation to halt the litigation.  Archbishop Williams stated that he had a new scheme of “visitors” who would be coming to North America to sort things out.  He also said that they would not be like the ineffectual “Archbishop’s Panel of Reference,” a previously failed attempt to deal with litigation issues in the Anglican Communion. Well, nothing ever came of the Archbishop’s “pastoral visitors” scheme. In fact, I watched as a vote to affirm the Primates’ call from the 2007 Dar Es Salaam meeting, which asked for a cease fire on litigation, failed.

The only thing that didn’t fail was The Episcopal Church’s willingness to sue people. The length, breadth, depth and cost of TEC’s litigation against departing Anglicans actually intensified.  And why not?  There was no authority in the Anglican Communion to stop them.  There were no negotiated settlements.  In fact, in one case, TEC preferred to sell a church to Muslims than to departing Anglicans. And as we know from the story of Good Shepherd, Binghamton, NY, TEC kicked them out so thoroughly and so fast that they had to put up signs to direct the poor, the hungry and the homeless to the temporary shelter they had to find hurriedly for their soup kitchen.

The Episcopal Diocese of Central NY sold Good Shepherd Episcopal Church to a local mosque as opposed to selling it to the Anglican congregation that once owned it.

In 2010 I was present for Mrs. Lorna Ashworth’s private member’s motion to the Church of England General Synod to recognize the Anglican Church in North America. Before the debate I had a conversation with the bishop of a senior “See” (diocese) in the Church of England.  He told me of a conversation he had with a newly consecrated TEC bishop in their 2008 Lambeth Conference “Indaba” group.  The TEC bishop told everyone in the group that TEC was not suing anyone in North America—rather, they were merely defending against lawsuits launched by the departing Anglicans![1] This bishop went on to say that TEC had no policy of suing individuals either.  So the English bishop asked me “is this a white lie, or is it what we here would call a ‘porky’?”

I answered appropriately, providing from my chancellor friends the cover pages of the lawsuits against all the departing congregations in Virginia alone. Those cover sheets stated TEC as the plaintiff (the “suing” party) and over 200 individual vestry persons and trustees of those departing congregations sued by TEC, by name, in their capacity as individuals.  We (the American Anglican Council) did that because of TEC’s reckless indifference to the truth—indeed, their willingness to misrepresent the facts entirely.

And now, today, in addition to reckless misrepresentation of the facts, we have TEC members sitting as Judges and acting as advocates for TEC cases—in reckless indifference to principles of justice and fair play, violating ethical Judicial standards for impartiality. Of course, as Alan Haley notes, we have seen this before. It happened here in Georgia with the Christ Church Savannah case, where a Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court recused himself because he was a member of an ACNA congregation.  But the Justice who was a member of a prominent TEC congregation, and who subsequently authored the opinion against Christ Church, did not recuse himself.  And this is not an isolated incident. It happened in Virginia as well. We can certainly see a pattern developing.

So we come back to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his call for a gathering of Primates.  If this is not just another “gabfest,” if this is really an attempt to return to the authority the Primates were willing to exercise back in 2007 at Dar, what will this Archbishop of Canterbury do with TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada and the endless litigation?  The new Presiding Bishop of TEC, Michael Curry, will be there. He has just a month before he takes office—but so far, his utter silence on TEC’s litigation speaks volumes. There is no reason to believe this late in the game that he will change any policy or strategy. The litigation will go on as long as the dollars remain to fund it.

What will the Archbishop of Canterbury say to him?  If past history is an accurate predictor of future performance, all we can expect him to do is say “welcome.”  To do otherwise would require great courage to reverse the precedent of the previous Archbishop of Canterbury, who actively intervened to allow the litigation to continue without comment, and without any discipline within the instruments of the Communion. We have not seen such courage yet. So with all due respect, Archbishop Welby, what are you going to do about it?

[1] For a list of the lawsuits filed by TEC against departing Anglicans vs. the few cases where departing Anglicans filed first against TEC, please see our publications Final Tearing the Fabric 2012 and TEC-Overbearing and Unjust Episcopal Acts Feb 2010


The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is CEO of the American Anglican Council.

NIGERIA: Anglican Province Issues Communique — No change on Same-Sex Marriage

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

NIGERIA: Anglican Province Issues Communique — No change on Same-Sex Marriage
Archbishop Okoh calls on Anglican Communion leaders to repent of revisionist theologies
Nigerian Primate will consult with GAFCON archbishops before deciding on ABC’s call to Canterbury next year

By David W. Virtue DD
September 28, 2015

The Archbishop and Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria have issued a communique saying that they will not depart from the orthodox biblical stand on same-sex marriage and called on its members to defend the orthodox biblical teaching on marriage and family. They also urged the Federal Government to continue to resist “foreign pressure” to make it rescind its stand on same-sex marriage.

The bishops and archbishops condemned the “revisionist theologies” of some Anglican provinces and called on the leadership of the Anglican Communion to repentance and renewed faith in Christ as expressed in the Bible, the Articles of Religion, and the Jerusalem Declaration. They also reaffirmed their commitment to those Anglicans throughout the Communion who abide by these truths.

The Communique urged “all Christians to exercise simple faith and obedience to God for victory by living lives characterized by honesty, truth and integrity and called the Church to faithfulness in her message to uphold the holiness and righteousness of the living God.”

The bishops also touched on issues regarding national security and called on the Federal Government to redouble its efforts to putting an end to Boko Haram and obtaining the return of Chibok girls. They said the kidnapping of prominent religious and national leaders is “an embarrassment” and that power failures, unemployment, and poverty are urgent priorities for the nation.

The bishops praised the government for revamping the economy and welcomed the renewed zeal to fight corruption and indiscipline, but noted with concern climate change and flooding where there is an abundance of water.

The Communique came at the end of the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, held at the Cathedral Church of St. David, Ijomu, Akure in Ondo State. ) The Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs, Bishop of Virginian-based CANA East, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), was in attendance.


Bishop of Niassa to resign

Monday, September 28th, 2015

The Bishop of Niassa, the Rt. Rev. Mark Van Koevering, has announced that he will be resigning with effect from 31 October 2015.

Bishop Mark Van Koevering
Bishop Mark Van Koevering
on the occasion of his 10th anniversary as Bishop of Niassa

In a letter to partners, he and his wife Helen write:

Dearest Friends,

We send you greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

After much prayer and reflection, we wish to inform you that Mark has accepted a nomination to become the Assistant Bishop for the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia with a special mandate for mission. Helen plans to complete her doctoral studies and continue to write. Mark’s resignation as the Diocesan Bishop of Niassa was accepted by the Synod of Bishops last week and he will relinquish his See on the 31st of October 2015.

We made this decision for both family reasons and a deep sense that the Diocese of Niassa is in a safe and healthy place where, by God’s grace, she will continue to grow with new leaders who are deeply rooted in her fertile soil. It seems timely now for us to step aside and create space for others to lead.

After 28 years of lay and ordained ministry in Mozambique, there are no words to express the great joy and privilege it has been for us to serve God in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The friendships we have developed with our partners worldwide have played an important and integral part in the development of the Diocese and of the wider community. We wish to thank you for your trust, support and friendship.

We ask that you will continue to pray for and support the work of the Diocese, especially at this time of transition.

In Christ Jesus,

+Mark and Helen Van Koevering

Canada: Same-sex marriage ‘theologically possible,’ says commission

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Commission members present their report to CoGS members (L to R): Stephen Martin, Canon Paul Jennings, Bishop Linda Nicholls, Patricia Bays, The Rev. Paul Friesen and Archbishop John Privett. Photo: André Forget

[Anglican Journal] The Anglican Church of Canada may want to look at same-sex marriages as partaking “in the same covenant” as heterosexual unions, but “on somewhat different terms,” and possibly involving alternate liturgies, recommends the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, released Sept. 22.

Just as the New Testament describes the Gentiles in the early church as drawn into the people of Israel’s covenant with God, but not required to observe Jewish tradition, so might the Anglican Church of Canada understand same-sex couples as drawn into the same covenant as heterosexual couples, but in a new way, commission member Stephen Martin told members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), who gathered for a special session in Toronto to receive the report.

“We’re suggesting this might be the more accurate, faithful and biblical way of thinking about what might be happening in the church today,” Martin said. “That is, it’s not a question of us redefining marriage in the abstract to be more inclusive and thereby imply, I don’t know what – that the previous understanding of marriage was wrong. But, it may be simply that God is calling same-sex couples into marriage and thereby broadening and enriching the institution without denying its previous meanings.”

He added: “Maybe God is intending to graft gay Christians into the institution of Christian marriage, sharing its root meaning yet on somewhat different terms.”

This conception of same-sex marriage, Martin said, would involve revising the canon using gender-neutral language, and probably also new liturgies for same-sex couples which would “share the same core vows” as liturgies for heterosexual couples.

Martin cautioned that the model the report was proposing was a recommendation only. “This argument is not an attempt to prove something, to prove that this is the way to go forward,” he said. “We are offering a rationale, that is a way of conceiving of it theologically in a way that we’re suggesting might have integrity. But the church will still have to discern whether this is God’s will for the church.”

It is, he added, one of three “logical possibilities” being put forward by the commission, and something of a middle way between the other two. The other two possibilities, according to the report, are, on the one hand, to see same-sex marriages as an “undifferentiated” form of Christian marriage, essentially identical to heterosexual marriages; and, on the other, to see them as “blessed partnerships” rather than covenants before God.

The commission said it arrived at a conclusion that it is “theologically possible to extend the marriage canon to include same-sex couples, without thereby diminishing, damaging, or curtailing the rich theological implications of marriage as traditionally understood.”

But, it hastened to add, “to say that it is theologically possible to make this change is not to say that the change is theologically desirable.” What the commission sought out to do was “to show how it may be done – not why or even whether it should be done,” it said in its report. “These questions require more than theological argumentation: they require an act of corporate discernment.”

The commission was formed by CoGS as a result of Resolution C003, a 2013 decision by General Synod to bring a motion allowing same-sex marriage to its next meeting in 2016. The resolution asked CoGS to craft the motion, which would amend the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples.”

In its report, the commission also concluded that changing the marriage canon to allow for same-sex unions does not directly contravene the Solemn Declaration of 1893, the founding document of the Anglican Church of Canada, which reflects its historic roots in the Church of England and its “theological and doctrinal heritage.”

It noted that when General Synod allowed the remarriage of divorced persons, the ordination of women and the reception of holy communion by children prior to confirmation, they were not deemed to be in contravention of the Solemn Declaration “even though the Church of England had not made those changes at the time they were implemented by the Canadian church.”

Nonetheless, the commission ultimately decided that it was the prerogative of General Synod to determine whether the proposed change to the marriage canon is “in harmony with the Solemn Declaration.”

Among others, General Synod 2016 will “need to discern whether this change is sufficiently rooted in the ‘same Word of God’ and discern its relationship to ‘all things necessary for salvation.’”

It is also up to General Synod to determine whether same-sex marriage “is an area of definition and interpretation of doctrine in which it can make change and, if it, whether it is a change it believes is appropriate.”

The commission’s recommendation of the middle way in understanding same-sex marriage comes nearly at the very end of the report, following about 30 pages of reflection on biblical and theological issues intended to provide the rationale for allowing same-sex marriages.

This reflection is located in what Martin called two “clusters of meaning” around marriage: on the one hand, creation accounts in the Book of Genesis, which refer to the goodness of the union of male and female, and the creation of new life out of that union, and, on the other, New Testament descriptions of the church – particularly in Ephesians 5 – as the body of Christ. The latter points to the concept of Christian marriage as a way of living out the divine command to love one another, so that the basis of marriage is not procreation and the union of male and female but rather its ability to point to Christ’s relationship to the church as a model of love.

In practical terms, understanding same-sex covenants as “a differentiated form of Christian marriage covenant” is also “compatible with the revision of the canon to include same-sex couples (as called for in the resolution of the General Synod),” said the report. “It would suggest a liturgy that allows for variation in the theological background and symbolism between same-and-opposite-sex marriages, while retaining identical core texts, such as the vows.” The draft resolution drawn up by the committee calls for, among other things, amending the wording of Canon 21 to be gender-neutral, substituting “partners” for “husband and wife,” for example.

Seeing same-sex and heterosexual marriages as essentially the same has a number of advantages, the report states, such as simplicity and formal equality. However, it continues, simplicity may not necessarily be desirable; “with respect to theological understanding richness, complexity, and differentiation are desirable traits.” Also, the report states, “this model would seem to change to some extent the definition of marriage for heterosexual couples” by removing “the rich symbolism of heterosexual love from the definition of marriage, leaving the institution more abstract.”

Also, Martin said, “it may be that same-sex relationships have specific gifts to offer the church which would not be celebrated if we tried to fit them into a one-size fits all [category].”

Considering same-sex unions merely as “blessed partnerships” also has some advantages, the report states. For example, it “runs no risk of redefining traditional heterosexual marriage…. No one need fear that marriage has changed.” On the other hand, the report states, “as a blessing without vows, this model does not acknowledge the relationship’s potential to be a place in which the couple exercises their vocation of Christian love by striving to be as Christ to one another in covenanted love.”

“Can the church not discern in these partnerships a sign, an instance, of

Christ’s love for the church?” Martin asked.

In its report, the commission also drafted a motion that includes a provision allowing dioceses, bishops and congregations to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. Along with formulating the biblical and theological rationale for allowing same-sex marriages, the commission was charged with developing a “conscience clause,” included in the amendment “so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

The commission’s work also included a consultation process, in which it invited opinions on the issue. It received a total of 223 submissions from individuals representing 26 dioceses, two from theological colleges, three from specialists, three from full communion and ecumenical partners, and six from institutions and organizations. Several submitters argued against allowing same-sex marriages, although whether to allow them or not was beyond the commission’s mandate.

The MegaChurch is Like An Athlete On Steroids

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015


Shrink001If the church is the body of Christ, then the megachurch is like an athlete on steroids.

Every major city has a bevy of churches drawing between 5k-25k people. To get a body to grow that big leaders have to use some sort of performance enhancer. These things—typically models, strategies, and techniques gleaned not from the gospel or the Christian narrative, but from the world of business and the narrative of consumer capitalism—serve as performance enhancers that help create enormous congregations with huge facilities and hundreds of programs.

The impact of these practices is akin to using performance-enhancing drugs. They actually alter the form and function of the body, causing real and serious long-term consequences for the church universal.

Ever watch a bodybuilding competition on ESPN? You look at these massive men and women with huge, well-defined muscles and not an ounce of body fat, and think, That’s not how a body is supposed to look. Something is wrong with this picture. Have you ever compared pictures of Mark McGuire or Barry Bonds as a rookie with a photo taken in their last season and thought, How did that skinny little kid turn into Andre the Giant?

This is how I see the megachurch these days. The body is so big it looks like something is off. This didn’t happen by accident. Our most celebrated church leaders have been feeding the church the equivalent of performance-enhancing drugs for decades. The rest of us immediately asked them how they were doing it so we could try it too. If anyone felt a hint of concern in those early years of the church growth movement, we easily shrugged it off because the results were so amazing. But sometimes we tend to forget the downsides.

For every megachurch that starts up, scores of smaller churches are swallowed whole. The gift set it takes in order to be a megachurch pastor is exceedingly rare, so churches become too dependent on personalities. The typical megachurch’s size provides so much anonymity that people begin to think it’s possible to follow Jesus and escape the challenges of relationship. Megachurches have helped create a religious marketplace, where smaller churches are expected to try and compete for market share — like the mom and pop shop going up against Walmart. The megachurch has changed the way the church is viewed in America.

There can be no doubt that the megachurch has been an amazing laboratory in which we have tested the limits of size on the body of Christ. Maybe it is time for our megachurch leaders to teach us the most important lesson yet: there is such a thing as too big.

“Maybe it is time for our megachurch leaders to teach us the most important lesson yet: there is such a thing as too big.”

Of course, in the popular imagination the opposite is true. The megachurch has become the gold standard, the ultimate objective for all pastors. Growth has become nearly synonymous with God’s blessing. I want us to think carefully about this assumption. If you want to read a pretty comprehensive vision of what it would be like to imagine a church in a completely different narrative, that’s exactly why I wrote the book Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture.

It is interesting to note that nearly all of the megachurches to which I have been exposed are beginning to use the language of “getting small.” That is, finding a way to provide members with more connection, more friendships, more ways to feel like they are not just a cog in a huge wheel. So they form strategies, create structures, and design programs meant to create the sensation of smallness without actually having to get small. Why not just get small? Why not shrink? At least part of the reason is that shrinking brings with it a whole truckload of vulnerabilities.

I don’t mean to turn back the clock, and I don’t mean to tear down all the megachurches. I just want us to think carefully about the ways in which the megachurch leadership techniques have radically transformed the body of Christ. We may have been able to produce big crowds, amazing programs, public popularity, and huge facilities, but I wonder if we have failed the church in important ways. The megachurch mentality is like taking steroids in order to alter the body permanently, so that our churches can grow without limits.