Saturday, July 14, 2007

An Agreement to Disagree

In the comments of the previous post, Paul Stanley proposed "An Agreement to Disagree." I think it is worth further consideration. Here it is:

(Note that the ordering of the specific points has been amended from the original, with Paul's permission. The original order, to which the early comments refer, can be found here - J.)
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1) We agree to disagree. We accept that some Christians conscientiously believe that same sex relationships are legitimate and holy. We accept that some Christians consider them to be sinful. We do not regard the expression of either of these views as incompatible with full membership of the Church, and we specifically resolve that we remain in communion with those of both views.

(2) We agree, however, that where people choose to live in a same sex relationship, that relationship must be lived on the same principles as marriage between people of different sexes--with faithful and loving stability. We provide accordingly for the marriage of persons of the same sex.

(3) No minister will be compelled to marry people of the same sex. But if asked to do so, a minister whose conscience does not permit him or her to perform such a marriage must ensure that the couple are referred to a minister who is willing to do so, and must treat the request with pastoral sensitivity. Pastoral sensitivity is not necessarily inconsistent with making it clear that the minister's own view is that same sex marriage is wrong, but due restraint must be exercised, and the minister must always make it clear that this view is his own and one on which others disagree.

(4) No church will be required to have as its priest in charge or as an ordained minister a person who is married to a person of the same sex.

(5) No church will be required to have as its priest in charge or any ordained minister a person who is conscientiously unable to perform marriages for persons of the same sex.

(6) Where a diocese has a bishop who is married to a person of the same sex, arrangements will be made to delegate episcopal functions to a bishop who is not so married in relation to any parish that requests it.

(7) Where a diocese has a bishop who is conscientiously unable to perform marriages for persons of the same sex: (i) the bishop may not refuse to permit clergy in his or her diocese to perform such marriages and (ii) arrangements will be made to delegate episcopal functions to a bishop who does not have such conscientious objections in relation to any parish that requests it.

(8) But nobody may (i) refuse communion to a person on the grounds that he or she is married to a person of the same sex or (ii) deny the validity of the orders of any member of the clergy on the ground that he or she is married to a person of the same sex.

I don't think either side would or ought to be altogether happy with this. But I don't see why it couldn't be a modus vivendi.

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The primary advantage of such a proposal is that it is practical. It does not engage in splitting theological hairs, nor does it favor one position over another, while still honoring everyone's perspective.

I think this is a possible way forward. If diocesan bishops would adopt this policy on their own, which would certainly seem to be within their authority to do, it could be put into action immediately.

So, what are your thoughts? Additions? Corrections? Clarifications?

J.

UPDATE: In order for this conversation to be fruitful, we all need to consider Paul Stanley's further recommendations as to some basic principles that we need to follow:


When people ask "How can we live together if we disagree?" I do not regard that as a rhetorical question.

"In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas" [unity in essentials, freedom in uncertain things, love in everything] ... this seems to me to be the right starting point; it needs to be coupled with:

(1) a rigorous insistence that "necessary" REALLY means necessary (the creeds, not the whole-nine-yards);

(2) a humble understanding, that a thing may be "uncertain" (objectively) even when I have no doubt about it all;

(3) a determined focus on caritas, that greatest of Christian virtues. It must surely be true that if we actually understood and lived out that most paradoxical of commandments that we should love one another we could not find ourselves in the position that we are in. It is not enough that we merely refrain from grotesquer forms of nastiness towards each other--though that would be a start!

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