Report22 – report of the Theological Forum

Number of deliverances – 5 deliverances
Length of report – 11 pages

whats the report about?
The theological forum help the church consider theologically the stuff the church wants to do or is thinking about.

whats the key point of the report?
Asking assembly to approve a theological approach to the theology of same-sex marriage.

Thoughts on the report.
short report, long appendix.

1. Argument centres on the use of scripture.

1.1 – Any approach to this matter is shaped by how we handle scripture.

1.2 – Theological Forum have used the theological interpretative lens of six previous reports on human sexuality to General Assembly within the last decade.

1.3 – There are a spectrum of views, not many people see this issue on a simple binary yes/no basis.

1.4 – More Inclusive arguments – centre on considering based blical condemnations were culturally framed.

1.5 – More Inclusive arguments see scripture from Christ as living word of God. If jesus calls us to a new understanding, we should go.

1.6 – More Conservative arguments. centre on determining the intention of biblical writers to condemn same sex relations, we as a church, should follow.

1.7 – Both ends of the spectrum share an acknowledgement of the authority of scripture, and of Jesus Christ. Difference lies in what factors of authority we focus upon, focusing on the words of scripture or looking through the words. 

1.8 – More conservative perspective rest in obeying the words of the text. Key Question for this prespective, What does this mean in original context? (Then we can do what it says.) this viewpoint is not really concerned with why this is the will of God?

1.9 – More inclusive perspective rest in understanding that “the scriptures meaning is wider than the particular words themselves.” It is about the original context and also the developing story, 

1.10 – The Theological Forum considers both ways of reading the bible as valid. And that both carry the possibility for revealing Christian truth.

1.11 – By holding this tension in check as been integral to the development of the reformation. This doesn’t need settled here at GA2017.

1.12 – The bible has both God’s voice the scriptures and God’s voice in the whirlwind.

1.13 – The difference between us is how we hear scripture today.

2 extra biblical arguments.
A – human rights
B – analogical arguments.
C – theological arguments.

2.2 (A) human rights

2.2.1 – Long history of societally given rights to specific groups.

2.2.2 – Luther’s thesis, all are equal before God, with the freedom to believe, and the right to scripture in your own language.

2.2.3 – Enlightenment introduces the idea of the social contract. (Some persons may limit their natural rights for good of society, also delegated self rule to elected officials)

2.2.4 – Virginia declaration of rights 1776, the French declaration of the rights of man and citizen, these types of moves are opposed by Bentham.

2.2.5 – Also Hauerwas. First order moral descriptions are threatened and replaced by the appeal to rights. “If you need a theory of rights to know that torture is morally wrong then something has clearly gone wrong with your moral sensibilities.”

2.2.6 – Alvare – Forcing someone to do something that they religiously disagree with on the ground of human rights takes away from their 1st amendment religious liberties.

2.2.7 – We should acknowledge our failings in our historic treatment of gay people. But the theological arguement cannot be based on these arguements. 

2.3 -b- analogocial arguements.
2.3.1 Professor Jean Porter, Expert in Aquinas and the theological thinking that preceded the reformation.

2.3.2 Key theological questions.
Is man and woman the only acceptable valid form of Christian marriage?
“-  has “Christian marriage” been reduced by state action to no more than a civil contract.
-“if marriage is today available to a wider range of people, does it follow that Christians should try to restrict the use?
– if same sex marriage does not extinguish or ecilipse heterosexual marriage, could prohibiting it to be refuse to accept the variety of God’s creation’?”

2.3.3 – Scholastics in 1200-1400

2.3.4 – Marriage was secular rather than church law in pre-scholastic period. feudal in nature. I am glad that kiss changed.

2.3.5 – Development of canon Law. Marriage disputes became a Church issue. Reforms led by the church, lead to marriage by vow and by consent alone. endorsed by Pope Alexander 3rd. (sexual union not necessary to be married.

2.3.6 – Marriage as a procreative exercise argument was skewered by Mary being a perpetual virgin.

2.3.7 – Marriage has not been always agreed upon and not always in the same form throughout history and in the teaching of the church.

2.3.8 – Scholastics worked on “the goodness of the sexual act,… and separately on the criteria for marriage and its benefits.”

2.3.9 – Philip the Chancellor 13th century rational animals, sex is for the good of the species. ” for humans, reproduction includes not just legitimate genital activity” its also about the care of children.

2.3.10 – Scholastics understood marriage as – “a complex and in many ways contested set of institutional practices’.”

2.3.11 – This gives historical precedent to the position of constrained difference that the Forum have previously outlined to Assembly.

2.3.12 – 12th century the church sacralises marriage. Reformation allowed the ministers to marry and re secularised marriage and Marriage understood as contract enters enlightenment thought.

2.3.13 – The marriage covenant. (I like the key idea of marriage being a new condition of human person.

2.3.14 – The Theological Forum affirms the covenantal understanding of marriage.

2.3.15 – Secular affirmation same sex marriage is in secular authorities gift.

2.3.16 – Scholastics argued for an ideal type of marriage. kinship marriage was also argued against.

2.3.17 – The Scholastics argued for;
1 – faithfulness of spouses
2 – fruitfulness (through progeny)
3 – sacramental bond between spouses.
This viewpoint was founded on the primary concern of long term support for children. This move had the effect of sacralising marriage into canon law.

2.3.18 – Distinguishing marriages – (note, it is not one type but plural.) “…the “clarification of the paradigm of marriage”. that we the Theological commission are trying to also do.

2.3.19 – Needing to be careful when we consider the different elements that make up marriage. What do we judge as needed to make a marriage valid?

2.3.20 – Procreation is not the only valid basis of marriage. other valid aspects include “(1) that marriage provides a framework for mutual personal and nancial support. It (2) focuses recognition of those claims and it (3) gives ‘public expression to interpersonal love’. It allows the sexual expression of love to be seen ‘within the context of an overall pattern of life’.”

2.3.21 – Sexual acts are necessarily ‘public’, they carry with them an emotional aspect that needs to be expressed within “a narrative of shared commitment.”

2.3.22 – For Porter this means marriage can be extended to groups of other unions that are not reproductive.

2.3.23 – We accept marriages is a framework beyond procreation by extending marriage in include heterosexual couples who cannot have children.

2.3.24 – Do we say those who cannot have children as a consequence cannot be married? as we do not, to deny same sex couples who display many of the same attributes as couples in a non-procreative relationship would seem to be unjust.

2.3.25 – This argument is from what we know of the tradition of marriage and its history.

2.3.26 – The procreation argument therefore is neutered.

2.3.27 – One of the other arguments made considers same-sex relationships as unnatural and a violation of the man & woman standard. Rejoinder – it is natural to the person with same sex attraction. Further rejoinder – the argument is circular, gender understandings shaped by marriage experience, therefore the marriage experience is only normal when experienced in two genders.

2.4 Theological arguments with particular reference to the work of Professor Robert Song.
2.4.1 two remaining objections
1 – Unwarranted jump from acknowledging the possibility of same sex relations to affirming them.
2 – We know know better than St Paul.

2.4.2 – Enter Prof Song.

2.4.3 – Jesus as human person influences how we within about sexuality. (The celebrant in eucharist represents church is Christs humanity, not representing Christs gender.)

2.4.4. – Therefore a woman celebrate is theologically correct. is sexual difference able to be thought about in the same way?

2.4.5. – The site of the theological fight is between creation = be fruitful and multiply and resurrection = cannot marry or be given in marriage.

2.4.6 – The issue to be evaluated is not heterosexual vs homosexual, rather evaluate non-procreative vs procreative.

2.4.7 – This argument is centred on Christ as the eschatological fulfilment of Adam. While Adam did his work by procreation, the second Adam (Jesus) did this without procreation.

2.4.8 – Full personhood is available in Christ without marriage, procreation or even being sexually active. This Re-sites marriage, does not provide erasure for marriage

2.4.9 – Reaffirms covenant but pulls apart the seams of marriage as it is by pointing to a new eschatological order.

2.4.10 – By resiting marriage in an eschatological reality, the procreation argument is neutered and other forms of marriage which point to God by “echo[ing] God’s faithfulness and therefore God’s holiness” become acceptable.

2.4.11 – The eschatological more solidifies the argument as procreation vs non=procreation marriages.

2.4.12 – Counter argument over gender complementarity, these gender roles have changed and are ever changing, if that is the case when were/are gender roles correctly understood?
Counter argument of Biological complementarity, By arguing this we have to consider how we treat those who biologically cannot have children but get married. It is important to consider the whole of the marriage relationship, not reduce it down to the sexual act.

2.4.13 – Romans 1.
For Song, all biblical verses on same sex written in the genesis understanding.
the understanding of an eschatological residing by Jesus opens up what the understanding of marriage is, a biblical objection to same sex is changed by Jesus removing procreation as a key factor.

2.4.14 Why didn’t St. Paul understand this? Well God’s word is revealed through and also within scripture. The Holy Spirit may lead us into new places, that new understanding is what we are seeking to discern.

2.4.15 – Not everyone will buy this eschatological argument.

2.4.16-8 – In the same was as we have moved on the matter of woman elders and ministers, (directly opposed by St. Paul.) We can move on the matter of same sex marriage (also directly opposed by St.Paul.)

2.4.19 – This allows for the question to move from “Heterosexual vs Homosexual” to “Procreative vs non-procreative”

Section 3 – Conclusions
(a) – Theological reflection has moved since 2012 believing in Marriage report.
(b) – Constrained difference continues, affirming the Theological Forums understanding of covenantal relationship remains between two human persons.
(c) – There are no theological grounds to deny presiding over same sex marriage.
(d) – Permission should not be given to do this until conscientious objection is protected.

I really like this report. I think it is well written and an interesting piece of theological work. One I have to support.

I am suspicious of the fact it does not mention the word Sin. I assume this has been dealt with in a previous report to Assembly but I would have found it helpful to have a brief recap of the previous reports the Forum have referred to as shaping their theological lens.

Thought on deliverances.
1 – Yes
2 – Yes
3 – Yes
4 – Yes
5 – Yes

Questions or amendments or suggested new deliverances.
I really like this report. I think this offers a very interesting corrective to the discussion. by siting our understanding the marriage in the totality the elements that we consider essential for marriage has to be separated from the procreation. I think about the question in the Ministries Council report (18), “What is the minimum needed in order to still be a Church of Scotland church?” How does this question of the essential elements of marriage allow people to consider marriage in all its fullness?

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