A year ago the bishops of The Episcopal Church received a report from a group of eight theologians commissioned by the bishops to provide their perspectives on same-sex relationships. That report appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Anglican Theological Review.
Available online is the preface by Professor Ellen Charry of Princeton Theological Seminary, who chaired the task force. Indeed, the entire 95 page report (pdf) remains available at the College of Bishops website.
Now we have a complement to Charry’s preface, written one of the four theologians, Eugene F. Rogers Jr., taking the liberal side. His article appears in Christian Century under the title Same-Sex Complementarity.
Despite the dismissals of bishops and others who thought that the divide between the panel’s theologians meant that nothing had changed, the two sides had unwittingly converged. “The mystery of male and female is a profound one,” the author of Ephesians writes, commenting on the passage in Genesis, “and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” It appears that, for both sides, their new disagreement turns on the mystery of Christ and the church, what icons can image them and what “male and female” means for Christians.
…[S]ame-sex marriage raises the question whether two women or two men can signify the relationship of Christ and the church. Ephesians presents that as a typological and a moral matter. As types, the spouses represent the love of God and God’s people. In morals, they practice love of neighbor. Ephesians frames the mystery of Christ and the church with paraphrases of “love your neighbor as yourself”: “He who loves his wife loves himself, for no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of one body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church; however, let each one of you love his wife as himself.” The mystery opens and closes with neighbor love. “Marriage,” the [liberal] panel wrote, “bears witness to both of the great commandments: it signifies the love of God and it teaches love of neighbor.”
That’s even more important if, following Ephesians, we take marriage as an ascetic discipline, a particular way of practicing love of neighbor. The vows do this: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.” Those ascetic vows—which Russian theologians compare to the vows of monastics—commit the couple to carry forward the solidarity of God and God’s people. Marriage makes a school for virtue, where God prepares the couple for life with himself by binding them for life to each other.
Marriage, in this view, is for sanctification, a means by which God can bring a couple to himself by turning their limits to their good. And no conservative I know has seriously argued that same-sex couples need sanctification any less than opposite-sex couples do.
Read it all.