Mixed views about the marriage canon report: Theologians give their two cents' worth on commission findings.

Author:Forget, Andre
Position::CANADA
 
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A church commission's report providing a biblical and theological argument for the adoption of same-sex marriage does little to bridge the ideological gap between conservatives and liberals in the Anglican Church of Canada, according to theologians interviewed by the Anglican Journal.

In September, the church's Commission on the Marriage Canon released its final report, after carrying out a broad consultation about changing the marriage canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples.

"It was not a theological report. It was a report that used some theology, but for a non-theological purpose," says the Rev. Ephraim Radner, a professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in the diocese of Toronto who has frequently spoken out in opposition to same-sex marriage.

For Radner, the report was compromised from the very beginning due to its starting assumption that committed, adult same-sex relationships are acceptable expressions of human sexuality.

But Radner's frustration also stems from the fact that the commissions mandate was not to look into the theological possibility of same-sex marriage, but to provide an argument for why Canon XXI, which governs marriage, could be changed to include same-sex couples.

"I don't think it was set up in order to be methodologically sound with respect to the issue at hand," he says. "It wasn't actually asked to think through an issue in some kind of steady state, even-handed, neutral manner in the Christian tradition."

Archdeacon Alan T. Perry of the diocese of Edmonton disagrees. While quick to acknowledge that the report was responding to a very specific mandate, he does not believe this undermines its integrity.

"I think that methodologically it is sound, and I think [the commission has] worked very hard to give a balanced and clear response to the question that was put before them," he says, adding that it will be up to the 2016 General Synod, which meets July 7-12, to judge whether or not it finds the report convincing.

Michelle Rebidoux, a professor at Queen's College in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, rejects the notion that because the report was building on previous theological work done by General Synod, it was necessarily compromised.

"They may start from precedents, but they base it on really good theology," she says.

"[The report] approaches Scripture as a middle path--not viewing Scripture as set in stone, but at the same time not looking at Scripture as a heritage document...

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