by A. S. Haley, the Anglican Curmudgeon
It is that time of the triennium again, as Episcopal Church (USA) starts to build up to its 78th General Convention this summer. Long since having lost its mooring and drifted out to sea, General Convention continues to be populated by those whose object is to move the Church in their desired direction, and who think they can do so by getting General Convention to take some particular action. In the process they do not care how they bend the rules — even when it means driving the cart before the horse.
Take the subject of Christian marriage, for example. It should be obvious that the term “Christian marriage,” also known (in the Book of Common Prayer) as “Holy Matrimony,” has a meaning that is different from “civil marriage,” right? The Church derives the former from Scripture, and has been handed it down from generation to generation, to preserve, protect and defend — correct? While the State defines the latter term in accordance with its statutes from time to time?
And that has been the status for nearly two thousand years in various branches of the Church. As ECUSA received that tradition from the Church of England, which received it from the Church of Rome, “Holy Matrimony” is a union conferred by God (as Jesus explained) upon a man and a woman, sealed by their lifetime vows, acting through the divine authority conferred upon Peter by Jesus Christ, and by Peter upon the priesthood whom he and his apostolic successors ordained.
Civil marriage, on the other hand, is a status conferred upon two people (not necessarily, in this day and age, a man and a woman) by the State in which they reside, and whose jurisdiction over them they recognize. Virtually anyone authorized by statute can act as the State’s agent in conferring such a status, provided the couple has obtained a “license” in accordance with the State’s own requirements. Specifically, the agent does not have to be anyone ordained to the priesthood.
One would have thought until now that the Episcopal Church (USA) had managed to keep the two separate. One would have been wrong.