Sunday, 9 December 2012

Beam me down, Scotty...

Apparently the whole Church of England (actually an Archbishop's Council staffer called, perhaps, Fred Bloggs — s/he didn't say) now officially believes in “Complemetarity”

One implication of this, for Fred anyway, and s/he says for Lucy and me, is that our gay married friends, simply by being married, are actually diluting our very happy marriage of 27 years, like damp rot in the basement.

We may not realise this is happening but that’s how the blighters operate and hey! the imperceptibility only goes to prove it cannot be explained. It’s a mystery.

Complementarity is in danger of a bad press, possibly because of the Sydney Three Card Trick:
  1.  All are Equal, of course
  2. Women are different from men, thus... (Here comes the Queen of Hearts...)
  3. Subservience is not inequality after all. It’s only a difference. It’s complementarity. Anyone who says otherwise is collapsing gender identity. (Hot Dog!)
Could there be mileage, however, in another vision of complementarity?

Genesis does imply God makes people for other people, to find part of the meaning of their lives in relationship to significant others. Is there a (non three card trick) complementarity that might wash?

We have to begin with a basic concept of what it means to be human.

If, in biological naïvité, we assume a simple “Janet and John” sexual binarism, Complementarity means conventional geometry is part of the way we are made. Scotty would agree  — “ye canna change the laws o’ physics” or in this case, o’ Biology. If you really believe this, and you are correct, why worry about gay marriage? Once enacted, it will peter out anyway when people try it and discover it conflicts with the basic way they are made. They will receive in their own bodies the reward of their actions, as someone once said.

But what if the Laws o’ Biology are actually rather subtle and complex? If you discover that God has actually made people with all kinds of grayscale, you would expect people to interact personally and reveal all kinds of complementarities in a broad spectrum of ways germane to who they are. This makes all kinds of complementarity possible. True Complementarity is not a batch concept but a customised, contextualised, lived reality. If so, same sex married couples, like everybody else, receive in their bodies the reward of their actions — as much happily ever after, or not, as heterosexual couples.

Which model is truer? There’s only one way to find out...
Furthermore, if the laws of Biology (or Creation) are complex not binary, knowing what we do about the way human beings are made, it is not good to fly in the face of the purposes of Creation by forcing people with minority identities to act as though they are something they are not. That would be as morally questionable and damaging to the institution of marriage as, say, forcing everyone in a society to get married, regardless of their intentions.

So does it all come down to anthropological truth? How wise,as well as inevitable, is it that Bible characters simply absorbed and developed marriage lore contextually, yielding no fewer than seven different geometries of marriage? Should we not do the same thing? Whatever hufflepuff the “Church of England” (aka Fred Bloggs in Church House) or anybody else puts into this debate on any side, actually, the truth is mighty and will prevail.

“Ye canna change the laws of Anthropology.” In the final analysis, was Scotty right?



Flying Fantastic said...

Dear Alan, Have you yet written a complimentary piece to your "how to get rid of your vicar"? I'd like advice on "how to get rid of your wife". In my view marriage is far too easily entered into.....this is evidenced by the multitude of unhappy marriages....and then a devil to get out evidenced by the numbers of marriage that simply exist to satisfy the tenets of the church.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

There was a movie about this a few years ago. Back in the 1650's John Milton observed what you do — of course out of his very particular experience of marriage. I am sure phenomena like Britney's 48 hour marriage do more to chip away at the foundations of marriage than thousands of gay couples trying to pursue a married vocation in good faith.

Ann Memmott said...

1 in 100 people are born as intersex (not possible to tell whether they are physically male or female). And, of course, the CofE has no difficulties marrying many Transgender people in church. One is left wondering how joined-up any of the thinking is. On average, countries that have same sex marriage show marriage rates no different to those without same sex marriage. It's a mystery where this supposed harm to society can be found.

Erika Baker said...

The only way the complementarity argument works is by postulating that procreation is the sole or main purpose of marriage.
Because it is for the procreation of children who are the biological offspring of both parents alone that you do need a male-female pairing.

But as not even the church believes that procreation is the sole or main purpose of marriage and as not procreating does not invalidate straight marriages, the whole house of card comes tumbling down.

As far as I know, no-one has ever attempted to make a complimentarity argument for any of the other goods of marriage.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I acknowledge that the way the term has been used is rather narrow; but I wonder if there are other concepts of complementarity that could be developed to enrich the debate?

Anonymous said...

The complimentary argument is indeed based on the notion of re -pro creation ..that male and female is needed in order to make babies and of course Genesis is cited as justification for that position although in Genesis Adam and Eve never did comply as no babies were made until after they were thrown out of the Garden and then it was followed with a curse of painful child birth. etc
My point is this for complimentarians, do they not see that Gods Curse on Eve Gensis 2v 16 was to make her subserviant to Adam( and all Adams i.e MEN) and further added to that curse is for her to be dependent on his penis ? ( her desire would be for him) far cry from Freuds penis envy theory Clearly she did not need it before or rather was not bothered about it .. now with the curse it became burdensome . Funny what is the norm is abnormal in God’s eyes.
Anyway why would Paul who was a Pharasee – ( no doubt was still under the psychological OMG Eves gotten us chucked out of the Garden syndrome”) . If God said Eve being under Adam was a curse why preach it to be done for we are not under the Curse ANY MORE thanks to the works of the Cross. And men also are now hidden in Christ Jesus a.k.a the last Adam – being regenerated LOL)
Lastly Jesus abolished GENDERISM in all the sense of the word , we are told of this in Galatians 2 v38 where there is no jew nor gentile in Him( no racism) and no male or female in Him,. Whilst it is true that many Christians would only accept this as meaning that Jesus asserted womens rights we know that it must mean that THERE IS NO MALE OR FEMALE in Him as the end result of Christians is to be just that like the angles who are neither male or female but do appear as one or the other when dealing with man. See nativity story and visitation appreance etc Surely no male or female in Him any more must also mean that the male and female governing rules have also been abolished.
I made a low budget short Christian lesbian film (Mums Lesbian Lover MLL© soon on Amazon) which was sadly turned down by Christian film festivals for”promoting lesbianism “, one had suggested that I changed the ending to allow the lead Magda to “repent of her lesbianism “ . I refused as the whole point was this , it was not a question of her faith or her love but a matter of because of her faith she could have her love.

Erika Baker said...

I don't know, Alan. If I look at the reality of people's marriages it seems that some have got partners who are quite different to them and who could be said to complement them in an obvious way, others have got partners who seem to be remarkably similar.
And there is no clear correlation between similarity or dissimilarity in predicting whether a marriage survives or not.

I have heard it said that gay and lesbians are narcissists who only seek to find a mirror image of themselves, which is a shocking argument. And there are as many gay relationships where both partners are so astonishingly different that an observer wonders how they can possibly work.

The only conclusion to draw is that partners complement each other whenever their relationship happens to work out and that they don't where it doesn't.

But on that basis, straight marriage is a complementary or non complementary as gay relationships with the only visible “always complementary” aspect being the opposite sex of the two partners.

I vote for chucking the whole concept of complementarity in relationships and to focus on the astonishing variety of human flourishing.

W de Villiers said...

At bottom, you can do and have done joined up thinking.

Church House has not.

It has advanced an unhistorical argument (it's so new it's shiny bright) to cloak prejudice and fear, and in so doing betrayed the Anglican Church.


Thanks Alan for being a shining light in these new dark ages.

Kate said...

*like* As Erika points out, it is beautiful, mystical and sometimes downright puzzling to observe any relationship, whether chalk and cheese or peas in a pod. Genitalia so small a part of one's being (if that is not to be read the wrong way!), true complementarity coming from every part of that being. Every other is other to oneself. And thus complementary to someone. Amen to focussing on people flourishing in who God made them to be. So many people are in a place where they cannot love themselves, it becomes near impossible for them to find any healthy complementarity at all.

(a "like" button would have been faster) :-)

Mary Clara said...

Such an outstanding post! -- even by the standards of this blog.

I agree that 'complementarity' has to be understood in a much more complex way than just which kind of sexual organs people have got. The reality of marriage as I've lived it and observed it over many years is that good relationships vary enormously. Usually the partners are drawn together by a complex mixture of sameness and difference. They "complete" or complement each other in both ways. On the one hand they are like twins, soulmates who mirror each other's identity and can finish each other's sentences; on the other, they are opposites who fill up the gaps in each other (or at least try to!). There is no one correct formula for this mixture.

We are all going to feel so much better when this nonsense is behind us!

John McKeown said...

Thanks Bishop Alan for the illustrated insights on complementarity. I agree with Erika's focus on procreation, and am disturbed that the CofE statement says complementarity is "most explicit in the biological union of man and woman which potentially brings to the relationship the fruitfulness of procreation". That strays too near to the ideology of procreationism, defining marriage by reproductive capability and intention.

Ian S-T said...

Excellent points from Mary Clara! And I do agree with Alan's greyscale - complex, not binary - as do many expert commentators recently. However, I think that many behaviours are on a greyscale like this. The temptation is to conclude that all moral judgements are therefore compromised. But we still find ourselves condemning paedophilia, or tax avoidance, or political hypocrisy. Even on a greyscale, we can still make a choice.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

All behaviours are on grayscales, and that's what makes moral choices so difficult. but I agree, Ian, we are responsible and need to make them. That's why simple summaries, like the golden rule or the ten commandments, are there. They help us make good choices in complex situations

Anonymous said...

Marriage isn't just a "behaviour" though! Marriage (up til now anyhow) reflects the facts of life for us as human beings - that we are made male and female genetically, and that that affects who we are: physically, physiologically biologically and even in our brain structures.

Marriage reflects that difference in that it joins a man and a woman with inherently complementary functions and aptitudes, AND in that it reflects that human fact that the sexual union can only involve one man and one woman (using our natural, complementary sex organs), AND in that only that sexual union can, naturally, lead to producing future human beings.

It's no use just trying to argue the very occassional hard case chimera, women and men *are* different. If you, dear reader, feel uncomfortable with that, are you trying to argue that men and women are interchangeable? Are women just effemninate men, or men masculine women? I suppose if you think we are just persons trapped in a body then you might argue that we are all *just* human beings -but I don't think God made a mistake in giving us bodies with complementary functions.

But the logic follows that, because men and women are inherently different, loving sexual relationships between a man and a woman are inherently different from loving sexual relationships between two men or two women... and not just physically and biologically... That's why social scientists study the behaviours of men and women in different sexuality classes and find startling differences in behaviour. Hardly surprising, as men and women are different.

So the same-sex marriage argument clashes with human reality as soon as we reach beyond emotional attachment. Same-sex sexual relationships lack key characteristics inherent to male-female marriage This cannot be affected by legislation - however harshly it treats "bigots" who say that Nature as well as Scipture shows that God only blessed male-female marriage.

Mr. Mcgranor said...

Come now Bishop, surely the past Countercultures ethics that have risen to popular culture in the former Protestant West cannot be the extolling of our Lord.
When you all realize the course you are on; then reactionaries need to be in place--for apostolic succession reasons--so that the West will have some sort of affinity from you Postmodern.

Unknown said...

I must say I find the post and the comments 'gob smacking'.

As someone who did a degree in biology, starting with genetics, I detect a slight difficulty with this 'grey scale' notion. Trust me, it doesn't apply when we get down to what sex is about at the biological level.

Then there is theology. Now I know there is some work to be done, but interpreting the biblical text with the help of the zeitgeist is not the way to do it.

Complementarity is written into the fabric of reality, beginning with the way we image God and moving on to the fact that we are being transformed into the image of the image of God. Try getting your own head around 1 Cor 11:7 and substituting 'Christ' for man (husband) and 'church' for woman (wife) and you might get near to a biblical theology of gender, sex and marriage.

Recently I was <a href=">accused of heresy</a> in propounding some views along these lines. But to be honest, I'd rather take that risk than go along with what I'm reading and hearing from the 'defenders' of orthodoxy in some quarters.

As to Sydney (having also recently been accused of being from there - I wish!) be aware of the huge numbers of women they have in ministry and their dedication to evangelism. Check out your beams before you pick out the motes.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

John, I'd be really interested to know what you make as a biologist of the trend in Biology over the past ten years away from sexual selection theories.
The zeitgeist is an interesting phenomenon at a time of year we are celebrating Jesus coming among us as one of us in time — the antithesis to "stop the world I want to get off." We need to have a very strong sense of what the original meant in its context. That done, I don't see the point in absolutising the zeitgeist of the 1950's or the 19th century or the 12th century. Theological development does happen within the framework of the Scriptures and creeds, some better than other. The question is the one Newman grappled with in 1845 — how do you know which is which? This sends me back, like John Milton, to red letter, Sermon on the Mount tests — the fruits and the golden rule.

Anonymous said...

As addressed to the editor of 'The Times':


The Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, insists that ‘gay people… cannot and should not be “cured”. They are just people after all.’ (Opinion, December 14).

In contrast, the apostle Paul insisted that ‘neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you once were, but you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God’ (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

In other words, ‘gay people’ are sinners who need to repent, just like the rest of us. This is the gospel that Jesus preached (Matt. 4:17, etc, etc) and the only ‘values of the Sermon on the Mount’ that have any relevance to Bishop Alan’s decision to ‘commend marriage equality’ are the closing warnings against wolves in sheep’s clothing, trees that bear bad fruit and houses built on sand (Matt. 7:15 -29).

The consecration oaths taken by Anglican bishops include solemn and unambiguous affirmations of the inerrancy and sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures, a determination to faithfully teach from those same Scriptures and a readiness ‘to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word.’

Bishop Alan is clearly no longer willing to abide by these oaths and pours scorn on those who do. I therefore call upon Bishop Alan and all those Anglican clergy of like mind, to do the decent thing and resign. After all the ‘values of the Sermon on the Mount’ insist that ‘Yes’ should mean yes and ‘No’ should mean no, ‘anything beyond this comes from the Evil One’ (Matt. 5:37).

Yours faithfully,

Daniel Bamford.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Gay people are sinners who need to repent just like you and me, indeed. But they do not need to repent of something over which they have no choice, any more than you have reason to repent of being heterosexual.

The word homosexual dates back to the 1890's; No Bible used it before 1946. Jack Rogers (a Reformed Theologian) has written a book on homosexuality in the Bible which gives chapter and verse on why and how "homosexuality" was imported into the RSV by its translation committee in that year, as well as analysing the tiny number of texts in the Bible that can bear on this subject at all.

I do teach from the Bible, and stand by all the promises I have made. These do not require me to import my cultural prejudices into the text, then push them out to people as though they were in the original when they simply aren't. There is a difference between the Bible and your interpretation of the Bible.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop Alan
Apropos your reply to Daniel Bamford, it seems to me that your splitting of hairs over Bible translations is disingenuous in the extreme. The uncomfortable truth is that any sexual activity outside marriage is plainly contrary to Biblical teaching. This, of course, does not fit in with the "cultural prejudices" of today's society.
Your solution is apparently to change the meaning of marriage to suit some people's feelings or beliefs about themselves. Neat! If I happen to be bisexual, can I please marry both a man and a woman in one of your churches?
From my own life experience, I would suggest that many of us are thoroughly confused about sex and sexual identity when we are growing up. After all, according to Jung, we all have both male (animus) and female (anima) elements in our psyche. By "normalising" gay marriage, it seems likely that many confused yougsters may be led into a homosexual lifestyle that may ultimately be damaging both to themselves and to society.
A book that greatly influenced and helped me to sort out my own sexual identity is entitled "Henceforth" by H A Evan Hopkins, published in 1942 by the Inter-Varsity Fellowship. It is now out of print but could no doubt be obtained through local librariies. It was given to me by The Revd Reg. E. Simpson, my army Chaplain, at my Regiment's depot in Bovington in March 1945. It will no doubt seem very "old fashioned" to most modern readers, but to me it spoke - and still speaks - very profoundly of the truth. I must emphasise that it is not a book about sex. It is a book about the transforming power of Christ. I will quote just a few small passages.
"We can see that, if we are to be moral beings, we must have the power of choice. There is no virtue in automatic goodness. Whether we like it nor not, the Christian life is a conflict, a fight between good and evil, between right and wrong.... Temptation itself is not, of course, a sin... Temptation becomes sin the moment that the evil thought is welcomed into the mind, dwelt upon and liked, and finally indulged in actual deed.....The Christian must be ever alert....The unworthy thought must immediately be thrown out....No quarter must be given and no compromise with sin contemplated.....There can be no half-measures in seeking mastery over temptation."
Uncomfortable reading, what?
Sincerely yours
John Buck

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I wasn't splitting hairs; simply challenging the importation into the text of a modern concept in order for it to be , hey presto! read out of it again as though it was there int he first place — which it wasn't.

Although I see no reason to absolutise the mores of 1942, either, I think the point Mr Hopkins makes about moral agency depending upon the power of choice is absolutely correct and fundamental. I am not saying that any behaviour that arises from people's sexual identities, homosexual or heterosexual, is morally neutral. We are all equally morally responsible for how we behave given who we are — which is why any suggestion that merely being made the way people are is somehow sinful in itself is actually morally corrosive. Secondly, I understand and sympathise to a certain extent with what I think you are saying about the formation of sexual identity. It is certainly an element, though endocrines in the womb seem more significant by a very long way. That's why there is absolutely no evidence at all that opening the commitments, disciplines and privileges of marriage to everybody equally has done anything of the sort you suggest it would, in any of the 14 jurisdictions around the world in which this has happened. Lastly, I am puzzled by hysteria about "changing the definition of marriage" when the Bible itself, as well as history, contains many different definitions of marriage.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bishop Alan
It seems I was not clear enough in spelling out that Revd Hopkins's book played a major part in helping me to change from mainly "thinking gay" to mainly "thinking straight." In other words, although genetic or biological factors may play some part in a predisposition to "gayness," in my experience it was mostly an attitude (or habit) of
mind. I believe however that probably none of us are 100 per
cent one or the other
John Buck

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thank you, John. There is certainly a proportion of male gay people (that, being very generous interpreting the results of Exodus type ministries) could be as high as 10% with a high degree of ambivalence. The proportion among women may be significantly higher - say 20-30%. That leaves the 90%/70% where that is not the case.

I agree strongly that none of us are 100 percent anything. It seems far more accurate to speak of a scale upon which people are placed with greater or lesser degrees of variation that it is possible to acquire, than to follow any rigid schematisation n these matters.

Unknown said...

In my mind the institution of marriage is treated like it is an actual place. A real brick and mortar institution that marrieds have treated like a shrine. It ends up like a threesome, me, my husband and the shrine...and it is the adoration of this shrine is what keeps us together...instead of our daily commitment to one another. >> What ever someone else does with the shrine should be of no consequence to couples who's daily commitment to one another is intact.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks very much Jenny (by the way the Captcha did end up working - I deleted other copies of your comment and published the earliest). If marriages are in trouble we make them more of what they could be by committing to the person we are married to as s/he is, not institutionalising the relationship. The trends re gender assignment by surgery are similar in the UK. I believ it is accurate to speak of a scale on which God / Nature/ Creation places us, and a simple binary picture can induce a destructive sense that anything exceptional is unnatural, where, in truth, we are all unique - exceptional.

Anonymous said...

Some time ago at a London railway station I happened to overhear a little boy of about three years of age asking his father, "Daddy, why are those men kissing?" I did not hear the father's reply, but it seems that this young child instinctively felt that there was something odd about two men kissing each other passionately on the lips. "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings..." (Psalm 8:2 and Matthew 21:16)

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

How interesting. Had the encounter been more recently it might well have been like the child the same age I overheard gurgling with glee about a cake in an Oxford shop window with two males on the top, because it reminded her of her favourite neighbours.

Not quite sure what this all proves, mind...

Anonymous said...

Sodomy is a sin. If you preach that it is not then, in the plainest of terms; you're a wolf and hell awaits you.


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