Friday, March 16, 2012

Voices of Faith Speak Out: the sacrament of marriage

The Dean of St Albans (Church of England/Anglican, UK), the Rev. Jeffrey John was interviewed about marriage equality. (The UK currently has civil partnerships for LGBT people which it is considering converting to actual civil marriages).
I start from the fact that the Church calls marriage a sacrament because the covenant of love between the married couple reflects the covenant of love between Christ and his Church, and so becomes a channel of God’s own love into the world. The secure framework of marriage helps you to keep loving through the bad times, and in the process it teaches you a deeper sort of love – the sort that involves the will and self-sacrifice and not just feelings. Growing in that sort of love means you are growing in the image and likeness of God.

That is the traditional understanding of Christian marriage. But the big point is, exactly the same love and commitment are possible between two people of the same sex as between two people of different sexes, and it is not immediately clear why the Church should regard such a relationship as ethically or spiritually inferior to a heterosexual marriage.

Of course the procreation of children by two same-sex partners is not possible. But the Church has never seen procreation as a necessity for marriage, and so has always married partners past the age of childbearing. Even in Genesis the first reason given why God created Eve is not childbearing but because ‘God saw that it was not good for man to be alone’.

…What really pleases me is that the call for same-sex marriage comes from gay people themselves. In the past gay people were often accused of being inherently promiscuous, uninterested in or incapable of permanent relationships. Civil partnerships have shown that to be the lie that it always was. The truth is that the great majority of people, gay or straight, know that their best chance of happiness and fulfillment lies in finding a partner to love and grow together with, someone who will be there at the end of the day and at the end of their life. That is not a heterosexual hope or a homosexual hope, it is just a human hope.

It is illogical to argue that same-sex marriage somehow undermines heterosexual marriage. On the contrary, it confirms the value of marriage and extends its blessings to many more people.
Read more from the Voices of Faith series on this blog.

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