Two Theologies of Marriage?

Two Theologies of Marriage?

I want to pick up some of the observations made last week on the Boston Gay marriage and try to move the conversation forward.

In particular, I want to return to the issues of a coherent theology of marriage that were raised from examining the liturgy used in Boston. As you all recall, the Boston liturgy mimicked the 1979 TEC prayer book but made three fundamental changes. These changes were made primarily in the theological introduction to the service which defines the Doctrine of Marriage, the understanding of the meaning of the events about to occur in the service. These changes were as follows:

  1. The removal of the phrase “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.” Such an omission changes the understanding of marriage as an eternal creation ordinance first enacted in Eden, to something that is a later (possibly human) construct.
  2. The addition of the phrase “Holy Scripture tells us that all love is from God” and the alteration of the reference to Ephesians 5 to read “the commitment of marriage signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and the Church.” This amendment removes the specific link of the husband and wife representing Christ and the Church by nature of their specific sex.
  3. The editing of the word “procreation” to be replaced with “gift” in reference to children, removing the clear reference to the sexual reproductive capabilities of the two spouses together.

The purpose then of this post is not to argue whether these are or are not acceptable theological variations (I think we all know where I stand on that issue), but rather to ask what such a variation in liturgy implies for the Doctrine of Marriage in TEC. Let us asssume that the process in TEC of drawing up new liturgies to accompany the new pastoral / theological stance produces a same-sex marriage liturgy similar to the one used in Boston. The following questions arise.

  1. If the Boston liturgy is used for same-sex marriage and the 1979 Prayer Book for other sex marriage, does that mean that TEC would have two theologies of marriage? If not why not?
  2. If there are two theologies of marriage, can it not be argued that that means that TEC will embed in its liturgy a qualitative difference between same-sex and other-sex marriage? If not, why not?
  3. If the result of the liturgical innovation is to scrap the 1979 service and replace it with a standard liturgy for both types of marriage (same-sex and other-sex), what does that say about the doctrine of marriage in the 1979 Prayer Book. Is it incorrect? If not, why not and why is it not being retained?

I think those are good questions to be getting on with. Comments from my more “revisionist” readers are particularly welcome, and let’s all try and stay on topic please!

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