Friday, November 15, 2013

On Re-marriage and Divorce

The current "big issue" in our society and Church is that of homosexuality and the limits of our permissiveness towards those who suffer from same-sex attraction. However, I do not think that this is the most important issue about which the Church should fret. Scientifically, homosexuality is a genetic mutation that will always affect around 2-3% of the population (from what I've read on current statistics). This is not to say that homosexuality is not an important issue that merits our thoughts and discussion, however, there is another issue that is much more prevalent in Church and society, that is, divorce and remarriage.

Consider, if only 2-3% of the population is homosexual, that means about 97% of the rest of the population is heterosexual (another post will deal with the identification of "gay" and "straight" another problem in the Church). A majority of these folks will marry and the current statistics seem to indicate that around half of all marriages, Christian or not, end in divorce. The issues of divorce and remarriage are not intrinsically tied to the issue of homosexuality, yet, they fall within the same "camp" of issues. Consequently, the current liberals in the Protestant Episcopal Church have used the erosion of marriage within our own Church and the society as a form of justification for the inclusion of active homosexuals in the life of the Church. I stumbled upon a piece from Bishop Vono of Rio Grande, which can be found here, which uses this point to justify the same.

The problem with our current Church is that we have no grounding in traditional, Christian sexual morality, much less a solidly Reformed understanding of marriage. As an unmarried man, I feel somewhat presumptuous to lecture on the finality of marriage, yet, I hope the reader will have ears to hear.

Divorce is a problem caused by the human condition, that being complete and total fall into depravity, caused by our father, Adam, and passed throughout generations. The cultural fad of "emotional fulfillment" and the concept of soul mates leads one to question their spouse, when the infatuation begins to wane. This waxing and waning of human emotion is normal. It brings to mind C.S. Lewis's concept of the law of undulation. We are all subject to the undulation or waxing and waning of emotion and desire that we might feel towards another person, which is precisely why Christian marriage is not based upon "eros" love. I am no Greek scholar, but from what I understand, there are three words for love in the Greek language: agape, phileo, and eros. The first describes the sacrificial love of God to man, manifested in the atoning death of Christ at Calvary. The second is the brotherly love between friends or siblings. The last is romantic love or sexual desire that one feels towards a spouse or future spouse. Now, this is not to say that eros is not important nor that sexual desire is wrong or unnecessary, both of which are false ideas. The issue is that we cannot build the foundation for a life-long relationship solely on sexual desire. Our culture places an unbelievable expectation upon sexual desire and fulfillment that which can even be a burden to someone, who cannot possibly be a perfect fulfillment of the entirety of one's sexual desires.

This is not the case with Christian marriage. The covenant of marriage is not based upon feelings, however important they may be in the establishment of a relationship, but on a committed love, such as that of Christ in his death to atone for our sins. I intend to look at the biblical passages touching on the subject as this point to clarify some points.

The first passages to investigate are Jesus' commands in the Gospels. I will present the Matthean version of these sayings. In Matthew's Gospel, we have the issue of the so-called Matthean exception, which we will see shortly.
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: but I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. (Matthew 5:31-32)
In this passage, we see Jesus revoking the system of divorce established under Moses, which was given due to the "hardness of heart" of the Israelites. Divorce is no longer permitted in the Christian community. Jesus likens this to adultery, a serious sin and offense. There are some interpretative issues here that will not be resolved in this post, yet, I intend to offer my thoughts on the matter. The so-called Matthean exception, deals with the phrase "saving for the case of fornication" which some interpret to mean that if one spouse cheats on the other, there is a lawful case for separation. I tend to agree with this treatment. However, I am not convinced that this subsequently permits remarriage. The passage seems to indicate a complete rejection of remarriage in the Christian community. 

Another important passage from Matthew's Gospel is found in the nineteenth chapter:
The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. 
10 His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. 11 But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. 12 For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. (Matthew 19:3-12)
This passage elaborates on Jesus' earlier teaching (within the Gospel, not necessarily chronologically earlier). We see, again, that divorce is prohibited. The Matthean exception is included here. This means that, perhaps, divorce can be justified on the grounds of infidelity. However, this is not for individual Christians to decide but the proper ecclesiastical authority. Included here is Jesus' teaching on celibacy as well. Marriage is a good thing for the individual and society but there are some who are called to celibacy. Jesus enumerates the various reasons for celibacy but it is important solely here to note that celibacy is an option for Christians, but only for those who are so called.

We move now to St. Paul's teaching on the matter:
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. 9 But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. 
10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 but and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife. 
12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. 14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy. 15 But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace. 16 For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save thy husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save thy wife? (1 Corinthians 7:8-16)
In  this passage, Paul reiterates the teaching of Jesus on the matter. It is interesting to note that Paul also exhorts celibacy, those who are called to it. The general principle remains, divorce is prohibited (except in certain circumstances) and remarriage is absolutely prohibited. I think the so-called Pauline exception is debatable, but, for the sake of simplicity, let's assume that Paul is saying that Christians who are married to unbelievers, before their conversion, are allowed to separate, if their unbelieving spouse so desires. Paul does not allow for the remarriage of separated Christians, neither does Jesus. Paul exhorts that spouses should be reconciled or if reconciliation is not possible that they should remain unmarried.

This is what I see as the teaching of Scripture on the matter, that divorce is prohibited and the subsequent remarriage of Christian persons is equally prohibited. If the so-called exceptions are to be allowed, that Christians may separate in the case of infidelity or if an unbelieving spouse departs, this does not allow the subsequent remarriage of Christian persons. Marriages are to be mended and relationships reconciled but the Church has not historically allowed remarriage.

Now some may ask, where does the Anglican tradition fit into all of this? Didn't Henry VIII divorce Catharine of Aragon? How can we claim to have any sexual ethic with this example? First, it's important to remember that we are not the Church of Henry. Secondly, we should remember that Henry was never divorced. He had multiple marriages declared null and void.

How does all of this relate to the issue of same-sex relationships? Essentially, it is the same problem. Moreover, if we as orthodox Christians wish to be heard and especially if our argument is based upon Scripture, then we need to take Scripture seriously ourselves. Clearly, Scripture condemns homosexual behavior (1 Cor. 6:9; Romans 1:26-27; Lev. 18:22, these passages clearly condemn homosexual behavior, presuming that other references are dealing with perverse prostitution, ritualistic sex acts, although I doubt they are; equally, the moral law is applicable to Christians, if Lev. 18:22 is no longer applicable, then incest and bestiality are also acceptable. Now, the problem is that if we are basing our rejection of homosexual behavior on Scripture (as we should), we have to equally condemn divorce and remarriage.

Of Clerical Marriage

What follows is a short reflection on one of the Articles of Religion, which, perhaps, could be overlooked due to its simplicity. The issue is of clerical marriage, a key point during the Protestant Reformation, which broke the ties with the medieval Church. To this day, it is one of the defining marks that separates the Reformed Churches from the Roman and Eastern Churches. The requirement of celibacy was seen by our Reformers as an unbiblical and unnatural demand of men in the ordained ministry of the Church. They searched the Scriptures and saw the holiness of marriage as it was instituted by God. Furthermore, they saw that the Apostle Peter was himself married, as well as many in the early Church. If one were to look at the history of the Church, they would see that the issue of clerical marriage was not settled in the West until the 11th century and that the decision to require clerical celibacy was rooted in issues of property rather than any doctrinal issues (obviously, this is drastically over-simplified for the sake of brevity).

Here is the text of Article XXXII...

XXXII. Of the Marriage of Priests.

BISHOPS, Priests, and Deacons are not commanded by God's laws either to vow the estate of single life or to abstain from marriage. Therefore it is lawful also for them, as for all other Christian men, to marry at their own discretion, as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness.

The importance of this Article is crucial to the question of Anglican identity. This is the point which is often overlooked when discussing the issues related to the material in this Article. This Article allows marriage to the discretion of ministers, to whether or not they will pursue it. This overturns the medieval practice of requiring celibacy for all orders. More importantly, it also departs from the Eastern tradition of allowing married men to become priests and deacons (but not bishops). There seems to be a current in North American Anglicanism to highlight the alleged similarities between Anglicanism and unreformed Byzantism. This is one of the supposed ways in which these two drastically different religions are similar. The problem is that the underlying principles of Article XXXII are contrary to those underlying the allowance of clerical marriage in the Eastern churches. In the East, a married man may become ordained but, after ordination, a priest or deacon may not marry. This is remarkably different from the Anglican position.

The teaching of the Bible does not support the idea that ministers may not marry (except perhaps by some strange eisegesis). St. Paul implies that ministers will be married in his discussion of the qualifications of bishops and deacons in I Timothy iii and Titus i:

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife... One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) (I Timothy iii, 2, 4-5).

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly (Titus i, 6).

There is no Scriptural requirement that ministers be unmarried. The nature of the Church's authority does not allow it to require something to be practiced that is contrary to Scripture, which would be unlawful. Does the requirement of celibacy contradict the teaching of Scripture? While it is not the purpose of this piece to exhaustively prove this point, I do think that the requirement of clerical celibacy is contrary to the teachings of Scripture.

The key thing which should be noted about the teaching of Article XXXII is the wedge that it places between Anglicanism and both Rome and the East. In a time when many are trying to create some artificial bridge between Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy, it remains ever crucial to note that this bridge does not exist. The Non-juring Scots found that out in the 18th century and I have the feeling that many "non-juring" bishops in North America are going to find that out rather soon as well.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Revisiting "Moderate Ceremonialism"

In the effort to re-protestantize our Church, it is necessary to evaluate things as they are, not as we wish them to be. In the spirit of this idea, I am re-evaluating an earlier concept of mine "Moderate Ceremonialism" as providing a way to evaluate the current practice of the Church. What can be retained? What should be retained? These sorts of questions are the ones which guide the present discussion.

On this blog, I have intended to revive the spirit of an earlier age.  The Protestant High Churchmanship of men such as Laud, Taylor, Cosin, Waterland, Van Mildert, Hobart, Seabury, and Hopkins has sadly been displaced by a newfangled mishmash of poor, medieval theology and an unnatural affinity for lace.  The Prayer Book, Articles of Religion, Homilies and the Authorized Version form a core by which the Anglican spirit is derived.  We believe these things to be an honest summary of the doctrine contained in Holy Writ and the Fathers of the Church and faithful representations of the same.

This post is rather different, in that it intends to explore the ritual and ceremonial expression of that faith, once delivered to the saints.  While the theology of a movement is crucial, it is its ritual manifestation that affects the average layman.  Indeed a rector can suddenly change his theology and perhaps only the more astute layman will acknowledge it.  But the addition of a Sanctus bell or incense on Sunday morning will be noticed by most of the laity present.  The intent here is not to return to the customary of the past but, rather, to evaluate the changes which have occurred in Anglican worship since the late 19th century and determine which of these is consistent with our theology.  The choice of words in the title "moderate ceremonialism" is also deliberate in relation to Ritualism which was extreme in all senses of the word and exceeded the limits of Anglican belief and practice. This is not meant to be a guide to the celebration of Holy Communion such as Percy Dearmer's "The Parson's Handbook," but rather a guide to overall ceremonial which will guide the minister in the application thereof.  

A Brief History of Ceremonial in the Church of England

During Henry's reign, the process of reform was slow but there was steady momentum for reform, often correlating with the pace of the various German cities undergoing reformation at the same time. Many people claim that Henry did not support reform but there is evidence that he was cautious and looking to the Germans for guidance. But the German reformation was happening at different paces in each city and the definition of "protestant" hadn't really crystallized yet. However, regardless of the historical interpretation, liturgy and vestments stayed the same until nearly the end of Henry's reign when various things began to be prohibited. The first prayer book was issued in 1549 under Edward VI, however, it allowed the traditional vestments and followed the structure of the Latin Rite and Canon. However, the 1552 BCP would be revolutionary because it abolised all vestments except the surplice for priests and rochet for bishops. It also departed from the structure of the Roman Canon and applied biblical principles to worship and reformed the service to be more in line with the teaching of the Fathers. Most of the ceremonial which was used under the old rite was now abolished. For instance, the stone altar was replaced with a wooden table, which was to be brought out from the chancel at Communion-time and placed "table-wise" facing east/west so that the priest stood at the north side of the table and the communicants kneeld around the table for the Communion.

However, the reforms of 1552 would be shortly lived for in 1553, Mary Tudor ascended the throne and reverted the nation back to Romanism. Therefore the old vestments and ritual came back. But the Marian reign was short enough and Elizabeth ascended the throne in 1558 and republished the Book of Common Prayer in 1559, mostly the structure of the 1552 text but with a few alterations to make the 1552 text more catholic. One infamous rubric included in the revision of 1559 is the "Ornaments Rubric," which deals with the ornaments of the church and the vestments of the minister, it reads:

"The Morning and Evening praier shalbe used in the accustomed place of the churche, chapel, or Chauncell, except it shalbe otherwise determined by the ordinary of the place: and the chauncels shall remain, as they have done in tymes past.
And here is to be noted, that the Minister at the time of the communion, and at all other tymes in hys ministracion, shall use suche ornamentes in the church, as wer in use by aucthoritie of parliament in the second yere of the reygne of king Edward the .VI. according to the acte of parliament set in the beginning of thys booke."

There has been endless debate about the intended meaning of this text, and I am not going to spend time on hypothetical intentions behind the text but to appeal to history and see how real Anglican ministers vested for divine service. I have referred to various works on ceremonial of the time but chiefly, "Hierurgia Anglicana." It appears from a glance reading of the rubric that it was intended to revive vestments as they were under Edward VI and the 1549 BCP, yet, if that was the intention, it was not obeyed by nearly any of Elizabeth's subjects. There are at least three theories for this discrpeancy: 1) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be brought back but no one obeyed; 2) Elizabeth intended the old vestments to be worn as a temporary measure until a futher injunction was released; 3) Elizabeth did not intend old vestments to be worn at all. The first theory does not have much merit, considering the later Injunctions promulgated by Elizabeth. The third is more likely, yet, it seems that vestments were worn for a brief time, therefore, I propose the second option as the most likely. The old vestments were to be worn until further instruction was provided, which it was in the form of the Injunctions, which led to the classical definition of Anglican vestiture in the 1604 Canons.

For various reasons, the Ornaments Rubric was deleted from the first American Prayer Book. This was not to allow provision for the wearing of Mass vestments, but, rather, an attempt to make legal the custom of wearing the Geneva gown in Anglican services instead of the surplice. In a strictly literal sense this means that the wearing of Mass vestments is not "illegal" in America, in the sense that it is in England, that being illegal under secular laws.  That does not mean, however, that the wearing of such garments is right or intended for Protestant Episcopal clergy.  In fact, as already mentioned, the historical norm for Episcopal clergy was the black gown, not the surplice, the latter which only was revived in the years preceding the Oxford Movement.  

Whatever the case was, the old vestments died out. The universal dress was the surplice for parish clergy. The academic hood is allowed to be worn by clergy with degrees and the cope to be worn at cathedral and collegiate churches by the minister as well as by the "epistoller" and "gospeller" in the 1571 and 1604 canons. The latter canons also require a coif to be worn by the clergy and later the tippet was also worn by clergy.  While the occasional alb shows up at a cathedral or two throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, however never stoles or chasubles. Likewise, the vesture of bishops was set at the rochet and chimere and also a tippet. Sometimes bishops wore mitres and had crosiers but only rarely and most often they were buried with those items.  Samuel Seabury was a notable exception, in that he routinely wore a miter in his ministrations.

The Prayer Book cannot be regarded as ceremonially deficient. It permits a decent number of ceremonies and visible actions to aid the believer. In comparison with other Reformed service books, it permits a great deal more ceremonial, for instance the manual acts in Holy Communion, kneeling to receive the elements, and the sign of the cross in baptism. A few other actions became very popular (and even codified in canon law), the most popular being the bowing at the name of Jesus. The authorized vestments, as we have seen, were the old choir dress: cassock, surplice, tippet for deacons and presbyters and cassock, rochet, and chimere for bishops. These were probably chosen as an appropriate distinctive dress for the clerical office because they were not associated with the Mass in the Roman Rite. The Caroline Divines are an excellent example of moderate ceremonialism embraced for worship. The example of Durham Cathedral served as the exemplar of Laudian worship. It should be noted that Cathedrals were expected to have a higher degree of pomp and circumstance for their position in the diocese but, nonetheless, examples for dignified worship for parish churches too. The Psalms were chanted and also they had beautiful altar basins, patens, and chalices, as well as fine linens on the altar. The normative practice for the Church of England was to have wooden, communion tables. However, the general principle was not to tear apart churches, hence, some cathedrals maintained stone altars. In association with other sacraments, the font for baptism was placed in the "ancient place" at the door of the church. There is also evidence for a number of "incense pots" which were used to burn incense as a perfume (no censing). Some of the actions of Bishop Cosin and the Cathedral were beyond the norms for Anglican worship at the time, such as facing east during the prayer of consecration and the bowing to the holy table.

Moderate Ceremonialism Today

While the historical information provided above many be entertaining to certain ears, I believe it can provide a framework for ceremonial today. In addition to the practice of the Caroline Divines, I also will refer to Cranmer in his treatise, "Of Ceremonies" contained in the Book of Common Prayer.

In the spirit of Anglican history, we see that, while the Prayer Book is normative and authoritative in worship, some ceremonial actions have been added, such as bowing at the name of Jesus. This principle will allow us to consider maintaining other actions not specifically allowed in the Prayer Book. However, these must not be contrary to the teaching of Scripture and, moreover, we should keep the principle of simplicity at heart. Some things have lost their original connotation and can be retained at the present moment, provided that catechism is provided and the laity are properly instructed in the faith. Catechism is necessary to teach the laity what we are doing in worship and why we are doing it. This will prevent the laity from fostering unbiblical notions of Christian worship.

Firstly, the ornaments of the church must be discussed, while the ornaments rubric exists, a clear interpretation of it has never existed. In all things, we must remember that we wish to give to the Lord that which he is due. The Laudians often speak of the "beauty of holiness," and the church on earth is compared to the heavenly throne and the earthly liturgy with the heavenly. For this reason, Anglicans have always been open to having precious items in worship. The standard is a fair linen cloth to cover the table and another to cover the paten after communion, the paten itself, the chalice, a flagon to hold extra wine, an offertory basin to collect the offerings of the people, the communion table itself, a Prayer Book and Bible or Epistle book and Gospel book, a lectern, pulpit, and pews or a place for the people to sit. These things are required for Prayer Book worship, however, there are things which can be added which are not specifically mentioned in the Prayer Book. Ancient custom calls for two candles to be on the table to symbolize the light of Christ, this seems a harmless custom, although the preference is for simplicity and the removing of them to some other place in the sanctuary. The custom now is to place a cross or crucifix on, above, or near the holy table. A plain cross is preferred to the crucifix and it would be better to do without but they can remain if need be. Often times other linens are placed on the table as well, such as reflecting liturgical season and color. This also seems a harmless custom. The lavabo was practiced by Lancelot Andrewe's and it has become very popular. The preference would be to refrain, for simplicity's sake, but if it is practiced it should be done decently, without provoking superstition. Many churches had incense pots to burn incense as a fragrance for the church but there is no indication they were used in censing things.

The vestments, that being the dress of the minister, historically, the authorized vestments were, cassock, surplice, tippet, and the cope in cathedral and collegiate churches, although, the expectation was that the cathedrals would be imitated by parish churches. However, the Mass vestments have been reintroduced into our Protestant Church and the sight of Protestant ministers in alb, stole, and chasuble is too common. In this regards, it is important to catechize the people about the true nature of Holy Communion and not to hold to an unbiblical notion of sacrifice in relation to the Eucharist. If the minister should wear such vestments, it is crucial that he catechize the people. If this practiced, the mere wearing of them is not contradictory. Yet, the identification of classically Anglican dress is more appropriate and should be the priority.

Gestures at Holy Communion, much is made of the actions of the priest during the Holy Communion, however, I do not intend to list a series of acts that the priest needs to do because these are already listed in our Prayer Book and are confined to the manual acts at the consecration and the sign of the cross at baptism. The custom of bowing to the table has become increasingly popular. It has been advocated by various divines, yet, I cannot advocate such a gesture. This seems a contradiction of our theology that Christ is not confined to the elements and there is no substantial change to them. However, I am willing to agree to disagree on this matter. The bowing at the name of Jesus is a decent practice that should be retained. There really is one thing we have to avoid, that of elevating the Host at the consecration, which is specifically condemned in the Articles and it also implies an objective presence of Christ in the elements, which the Articles also condemn. Many people today make the sign of the cross at other points in the service, both laity and clergy, this is not objectionable but the key here is simplicity. I think obsessive signings promotes superstition but at the same time this ancient custom cannot be counted as objectionable.

Cranmer is of some value here because he adds two valuable qualifications for a ceremony, that it must be edifying to the people and not contrary to the teaching of Scripture. In addition, he believes in the simplicity of worship, therefore a multiplication of rites is wrong in his eyes because it it is unedifying to the people. I hope clergy and laity listen to Cranmer and promote the Gospel in their congregations and not focus on the details of ceremonial.

Ceremony is good and necessary as human beings but as the English Reformation taught us, it is important to limit ceremonial with the teaching of Scripture. I advocate "moderate ceremonialism" instead of ritualism as a guide to the rites and ceremonies of the Church. As always, the Gospel is the focus, ceremonies only help us see the truth of the Gospel and this should be our focus.