The following is a letter from the Christian Challenge that Dr. Toon wrote, and that appears in the July-Sept. issue. What Dr. Toon says about conservative Anglicans in the official Anglican Communion and the problem of inconsistent moral standards, has application as well for the Continuing Anglicans who claim that they want to be free from the wrong directions taken by revisionists in such churches as TEC (or ECUSA). Recently, I questioned the wisdom and integrity of an old established jurisdiction elevating to the level of Archbishop a man who, despite his excellent theological mind, brings enough baggage to his new position to cause potential ruin to that jurisdiction's reputation and to the people in their various churches who need clarity of teaching and a strong example of godliness among the clergy. Although I may incur the wrath of some of my CC colleagues, I am posting Dr. Toon's letter, and stating that I not only agree with every word of it, but I see that it is, sadly, relevant to the Continuing Church jurisdictions as well. 1
There is a question worth pondering about African and Asian bishops who have been so upset - even enraged - by TEC’s acceptance of same-sex unions. The question is whether those bishops realize that the church’s relaxation of marital discipline some 30 years ago is part and parcel of the massive change in attitudes toward, doctrines of and practice of sexual relations in both the USA generally and TEC in particular.
In other words, had not TEC liberalized its doctrine of marriage in canon law in 1973, in its Marriage Service (1979), in resolutions of General Convention and diocesan conventions, and in pastoral care and practice, and if TEC had not allowed divorced, and divorced and remarried persons to be ordained and engage in parish work and pastoral care, then TEC would never have come anywhere near to its present adoption of same-sex blessings and the like. For most clearly the latter are parasitic on the former and would not exist without the preparation of the way by them.
What needs to be put forward is a renewed doctrine of sexual relations and marriage, which brings all of us under the Law of Christ, declares to us what is not merely the ideal but the norm, and which judges equally those who unyoke and re-yoke marriages as well as those who engage in same-sex activities.
Unless I am severely mistaken, there has been from “the orthodox” very little critique of the divorce culture within TEC and its offshoots, but much criticism of the “same-sex” culture. Indeed a crisis in the global Anglican family has been caused by excessive attention to this latter issue by the “orthodox,” and the former - the invasion of the church by the divorce culture and of marriage by the therapeutic, self-fulfillment culture - has been treated pretty much as “normal,” at least in North America, by the same people.
Regrettably, the reports and resolutions of The Lambeth Conference from 1930 onwards up to 1998 concerning the doctrine and practice of marriage, the use of artificial birth control and same-sex relations do not provide a clear word for the global Communion to follow. Rather, this “instrument of unity” sends forth a mixed message when it comes to holy matrimony and relations between the sexes.
In contrast, the declarations (Encyclicals) of Popes since 1930 and the teaching of the recent Roman Catholic universal Catechism present a very clear statement of the meaning and purpose of marriage and sexual relations. Happily, the Marriage Service in the classic edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the Canon Law of the Church of England in place till very recently, do/did testify to a full Christian doctrine of marriage.
I personally cannot see any revival of the Anglican Way in North America which does not include a readiness and resolve before God to face the unhappy situation wherein the whole doctrine of marriage and sexual relations is deeply affected by the American zeitgeist, and where the church is not only in the world but also of the world and for the world, and where morals are based on what sociologists call “rights-monism.”
For an excellent collection of essays on the changes in law, public policy and culture with respect to marriage in the U.S.A. over the last century see: The Meaning of Marriage (edited by R. P. George and J.B. Elshtain, Spence Publishing 2006). And see also Allan Carlson, Conjugal America: On the Public Purpose of Marriage, Transaction Books, 2007, which is very useful.
The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society (www.pbsusa.org)
1. Yes, I know that proper annulments make a difference. And, one must hope that these are always done with integrity.