N.B. This paper addresses the basic canonical framework regarding the Church’s doctrine concerning Matrimony. It does not address the practical application of the Church’s basic canonical framework, which, according to Canon CII of the Quinsext Council, is intended to be undertaken in a careful, balanced, and pastorally sensitive manner that conduces to the spiritual welfare both of the Christian and the entire Church. This application is known as “economia,” and ideally it takes place between the priest and the penitent in the confessional.
"In all Sentences pronounced only for Divorce and Separation a thoro & mensa, there shall be a Caution and Restraint inserted in the Act of the said Sentence, that the Parties so separated, shall live chastly and continently: neither shall they, during each others Life, contract Matrimony with any other Person. And for the better Observation of this last Clause, the said Sentence of Divorce shall not be pronounced, until the Party or Parties requiring the same, have given good and sufficient Caution and Security into the Court, that they will not any way break or transgress the said Restraint or Prohibition."
Canon CVII of the 1604 Canons of the Church of England
The Church of England affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching, that marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, on one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.”
Canon B30.1 of the Church of England
In 2002, the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, writing on behalf of the House of Bishops, asked the General Synod to approve a motion permitting marriage in Church for divorcees. In the first paragraph of his statement, GS 1449 Marriage in Church After Divorce, Carey explained that the recommendation of the House of Bishops was based upon the principle that “the Church of England has sought both to uphold the principle of life-long marriage and to provide a pastoral ministry to divorced persons who seek a further marriage in Church.”
Some of us will be familiar with the Orthodox practice of using a penitential rite for second marriages. In his report, Archbishop Carey stated that the House of Bishops had rejected this practice, because “just as the Church of England holds to one theology of marriage, we believe that there should not be different marriage rites for first and further marriages: in each case the couple will be setting out on a lifelong union, and the rite should reflect that.” In the same vein, he continues: “the Church needs to uphold its firm conviction that there is one type of marriage for all.” Carey concludes by asking the General Synod to “recognize that some marriages regrettably do fail and that there are circumstances in which a divorced person may be married in church during the lifetime of a former spouse.” In 2002, the General Synod received his report and voted by 269-83 to adopt its proposals, thereby allowing remarriage in Church for divorcees, subject to the discretion of the parish priest, who, according to the Synod resolution, is permitted to decline to solemnize any marriage if either party has a former living spouse.
In order to set this development into its proper context, let us consider Pope John Paul II’s remarks in his 2000 address to the Roman Rota. In this address, Pope John Paul II stated that the Roman Pontiff has no authority to dissolve a sacramental marriage. He affirms that “a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage can never be dissolved, not even by the power of the Roman pontiff…the doctrine that the Roman Pontiff’s power does not extend to ratified and consummated marriages has been taught many times by my Predecessors…Neither Scripture nor Tradition recognizes an faculty of the Roman Pontiff for dissolving a ratified and consummated marriage; on the contrary, the Church’s constant practice shows the certain knowledge of Tradition that such a power does not exist…It seems quite clear then that the non-extension of the Roman Pontiff’s power to ratified and consummated sacramental marriages is taught by the Church’s Magisterium as a doctrine to be held definitively…it must always be held and accepted by the faithful.”
Many of us will be familiar with the extraordinary claims made about the power of the papal office at the First Vatican Council, particularly concerning the universal jurisdiction and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff. When we take these extraordinary claims into consideration, what becomes clear is that a sitting Roman Pontiff, believing in his own universal jurisdiction and infallibility, states that he does not have the authority to dissolve a sacramental marriage and never could have the authority to dissolve a sacramental marriage. This is of critical significance, because what it means is that in 2002, the Church of England’s General Synod, by giving the priest authority to solemnize a marriage when either of the parties has been previously divorced, effectively declared that a simple parish priest has the authority to dissolve a ratified and consummated sacramental marriage when the Pope denies that authority even to himself. Every priest who solemnizes the marriage of a couple when either party has a former spouse still living is arrogating to himself an authority that goes well beyond what the Pope claims about his own authority. He puts himself above the Pope.
But there’s more. We will remember Archbishop Carey’s remarks in his 2002 report, stating that there should be one rite of marriage both for those who are marrying for the first time and for those who are entering a subsequent marriage: “just as the Church of England holds to one theology of marriage, we believe that there should not be different marriage rites for first and further marriages: in each case the couple will be setting out on a lifelong union, and the rite should reflect that.” These remarks, as incoherent as they are, make manifest his belief, and the belief of the House of Bishops on whose behalf he wrote this report, that marriage is a lifelong union. Indeed, in his 2002 report, Carey notes that several dioceses were concerned to “reaffirm Canon B30” codifying “the Church of England’s traditional understanding of marriage,” according to which “according to our Lord’s teaching,…marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman,” and he affirms that the House of Bishops “shares such concern.”
Just eight years later, however, the House of Bishops issued a report entitled GS Misc 960 Marriage after Divorce and the Ordained Ministry, in which it stated that “the Church of England’s teaching is that it can be said of two living people that they were married and are no longer married. Nevertheless, the Church of England recognizes the sincerely held convictions of those who do not believe this because, on theological grounds, they hold that marriage is indissoluble.” Now, I don’t know about you, but I find these statements to be remarkably confusing. In 2002, Archbishop Carey, on behalf of the House of Bishops, stated that marriage was a “lifelong union,” citing Canon B30. Yet in 2010, the House of Bishops denied that marriage was a lifelong union: “the Church of England’s teaching is that it can be said of two living people that they were married and are no longer married.” I would personally love to know where this so-called “teaching” is enshrined, because it certainly isn’t enshrined in Canon B30, which to this day states that “according to our Lord’s teaching,…marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman.”
I noted earlier that, on the basis of the prerogative granted to the priest to solemnize the marriage of persons with former living spouses, the Church of England General Synod in 2002 effectively granted the priest permission to dissolve ratified and consummated marriages, a prerogative that the Pope denies even to himself. What we see in light of the 2010 House of Bishops Report, however, is that the Church of England can theoretically claim that this is not the case, because, according to the 2010 House of Bishops Report, “the Church of England’s teaching is that it can be said of two living people that they were married and are no longer married.” But what this actually means is that marriage is no longer a lifelong, indissoluble union, and this view is reflected in the statement of the House of Bishops, that “the Church of England recognizes the sincerely held convictions of those who do not believe this because, on theological grounds, they hold that marriage is indissoluble.” It is very kind of the Church of England House of Bishops to “recognize” the beliefs of those who hold to the view expressed in Canon B30 that “marriage is indissoluble,” but it is clear that, despite the fact that Canon B30 has not yet been repealed, the House of Bishops of the Church of England rejects the view enshrined in Canon B30, has abandoned its historic teaching regarding Matrimony, and no longer believes that marriage is indissoluble.
Let us turn now to the problem of divorce and remarriage as it manifests itself in an American context. In the United States, in 1808, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church granted permission for a divorced person to remarry in Church if he or she were the innocent party in the case of adultery. Over the course of the 19th century and into the early- to-mid 20th century, there were numerous unsuccessful attempts to repeal clauses granting permission for remarriage in the case of adultery. In 1931, the General Convention also allowed remarriage for innocent parties in the event that the previous marriage were annulled, and in 1973, the General Convention repealed the marriage canons and adopted new canons allowing for general divorce and remarriage, removing any language referring to the duty of the minister to withhold the sacraments from those married otherwise than in accordance with God’s law. Canon 1.17, as adopted in 1973, stipulates that marriage is “a physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman, entered into within the community of faith, by mutual consent of heart, mind, and will, and with intent that it be lifelong.” Here we see an important change in terminology. Canon B30 of the Church of England stipulates that, “according to our Lord’s teaching,…marriage is in its nature a union permanent and lifelong, for better for worse, till death them do part, of one man with one woman.” In contrast to this clear affirmation of the indissolubility of marriage, Canon 1.17 of the Episcopal Church’s 1973 Canons states that marriage is a union entered into “with intent that it be lifelong.” What this means is that marriage has no intrinsic indissolubility, but that those entering into it intend that it should “be lifelong”: marriage lasts as long as it happens to last, and that may or may not be “lifelong.” In accordance with this rejection of the indissolubility of marriage, the 1973 canons require no declaration of nullity for a subsequent marriage and require no waiting period for a subsequent marriage. All that is required is a civil divorce.
It is of especial significance for us that the Episcopal Church openly abandoned the fundamental principle that marriage is indissoluble in 1973, long before the House of Bishops of the Church of England did. What this means for us is that the majority of clergy serving in Anglican groups today in the United States, even those who profess adherence to more traditional teachings, served for many years in an ecclesial environment that already rejected the principle that marriage is indissoluble. It should therefore, not surprise us, that their own attempts to build ecclesial communities should be marked by this radical departure from traditional teaching concerning the indissolubility of matrimony.
The Anglican Church in North America is the most prominent example of such Anglican groups. The Anglican Church in North America was founded in the early 2000s as a separation from the Episcopal Church due to the latter’s endorsement of the ordination of active homosexuals and blessing of homosexual relationships. In contrast, the Anglican Church in North America professes fidelity to fundamental Christian teaching concerning Holy Matrimony. As we read in Title II, Canon 7, Section 1: “The Anglican Church in North America affirms our Lord’s teaching that Holy Matrimony, commonly called a Sacrament (Article 25 and ACNA Catechism, 124-125), is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, binding both to self-giving love and exclusive fidelity.” In addition, in Title II, Canon 7, Section 4, we read that on account of the nature of marriage as a “lifelong covenant,…the failure of a marriage is always a tragedy.” We can certainly concur with such sentiments.
Nevertheless, Section 4 goes on to stipulate that “Scripture acknowledges our fallen nature and does provide guidance to know when a marriage may be declared a nullity or dissolved and allows the possibility of a subsequent marriage in certain circumstances,” referring to the standard passage in Matthew that some scholars have mistakenly claimed allows for remarriage in the case of adultery. In application to situations where a person with a previous living spouse wishes to enter a subsequent marriage, Section 4 stipulates that “the Clergy must ascertain the pertinent facts concerning a declaration of nullity or termination of marriage; and in the absence of a declaration of nullity, forward such information to the Bishop in writing for his godly advice and consent.”
Just as for the Episcopal Church, it seems that, for the Anglican Churchin North America, marriage is a lifelong union, until it is not. As we read: “in the absence of a declaration of nullity,” the priest must forward information related to the previous marriages “to the Bishop in writing for his godly advice and consent.” Whereas the Church of England in practice allows the parish priest to dissolve previous marriages, the Anglican Church in North America requires the priest to transfer this matter to the Bishop. According to Title II, Canon 7, Section 4, the priest alone does not have the authority to dissolve a marriage. But the Bishop does. I remind you that the Pope of Rome denies that he has that authority, but the Canons of the Anglican Church in North America suggest that the Bishop has the authority to dissolve marriages.
The Canons of the Anglican Church in North America refer to alleged grounds of dissolution, which these Canons neglect to identify specifically. However, by referring to Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7, the Canons imply three possible grounds: (1) adultery; (2) desertion; and (3) the non-Christian nature of the previous marriage. As far as I can tell, the Episcopal Church has permitted remarriage in the first case since 1806, in the second case since 1973, and in the third case since 1931. Of these three alleged grounds of dissolution, it has been the Church’s constant teaching that, although adultery may be grounds for separation, adultery and desertion are not legitimate grounds for dissolution of a validly contracted marriage. In his work Adulterous Marriages, St. Augustine of Hippo responds to Pollentius who argues that Our Lord’s remarks in Matthew 19 permit remarriage for the innocent spouse in the case of adultery. St. Augustine emphatically denies that this is the case. As he writes: “How can those next words in Luke be true: Anyone who marries a woman who has been divorced by her husband commits adultery (Lk 16:18)? How is he guilty of adultery, if it is not because the woman he has married is still someone else’s wife, as long as the man who divorced her is still living? It clearly would not be adultery if the woman he is sleeping with now were his own wife. But it is adultery; therefore the woman he is sleeping with is someone else’s wife. So if she is someone else’s wife, namely the wife of the man who divorced her, then she has not yet ceased to be the wife of the man who divorced her, even if she was divorced on the grounds of adultery.” For St. Augustine, divorce does not sever or dissolve the marriage bond: the parties remain man and wife. Divorce is merely a divorce a mensa atque thoro and not a divorce a vinculo matrimonii. This excludes the possibility of dissolution on the grounds of adultery or abandonment. As to the alleged third ground of dissolution, namely the non-Christian nature of the previous marriage due to the parties not having been baptized, although St. Augustine (at least implicitly) denies in Adulterous Marriages that those separated from a non-Christian marriage are free to remarry, the post-schism Church has generally affirmed the so-called Pauline privilege, according to which a non-sacramental marriage may be dissolved by a sacramental marriage. Certain Anglican scholars, however, notably T. A. Lacey and Francis J. Hall, reject the Pauline privilege and maintain that even the non-sacramental nature of a previous marriage does not constitute grounds for remarriage (see Hall, Dogmatic Theology, Vol. IX, pp305-306). I find it a fact of spectacular amusement that Hall’s work is published by the Anglican Province of Christ the King, an ecclesial community riddled with clergy who marry multiple times.
This vitiation of the historical canonical framework for matrimony by the introduction of “exceptional circumstances” permitting dissolution of prior marriages reflects both the intrusion of the modernist worldview into the Church and the infiltration of a Protestant understanding of marriage contrary to the historic teaching of the Church of England. For example, most of us would take it as read that it is not lawful to have more than one spouse. But in Chapter 24 Section 1 of the Westminster Confession, we learn that this is apparently not the case. According to the Westminster Confession, “neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.” So according to the Westminster Confession, one may have more than one spouse, just as long as one does not have another spouse at the same time. The significance of this point will manifest itself to us, if we read it in light of Chapter 24 Section 6 of the Westminster Confession, where we learn that “nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage.” What they are saying here is this: a man can have two, or more, living spouses, but he can only live with one at a time, provided that we can find a reason to pretend that the first spouse is no longer his spouse – and that’s really what’s going on, because adultery and desertion have never been understood to be grounds for dissolution of a marriage. This is nothing short of disgraceful. The fact that the liberalization of the marriage canons is a manifestation of an insidious protestantization of the Anglican Church is indicated in Section 12 of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s 2002 report, Marriage in Church After Divorce, in which Archbishop Carey states: “any agreed change in the Church of England’s practice in respect of further marriage could have particular implications for the Methodist and United Reformed Churches for whom second marriages comprise a high proportion of their total number of marriages.” So, by abandoning the historic teaching of the Church of England on marriage, the Anglican Church is becoming just another Protestant sect.
In addition to the Anglican Church in North America, there are a number of smaller Anglican groups like the Anglican Catholic Church and the Episcopal Missionary Church. Some of these groups allow divorce and remarriage and cite various grounds for dissolution of previous marriages. Most of these groups, however, being of a more Anglo-Catholic theological orientation, enshrine in their canonical framework for matrimony the stipulation that an annulment of prior marriages is a necessary condition for contracting a second marriage. There is certainly much to be commended in the principle that, without an annulment, a second marriage is not permissible. However, just as in the Roman Church, the annulment system in the Anglican Church is fraught with sources of scandal. In the modern Roman Church, a full 96% of annulment petitions are granted, many of them on the most specious of grounds, like “psychological immaturity.” Regrettably, the material necessary to conduct a diligent examination of the practices of the Continuing Anglican annulment tribunals is not publicly available. Yet it is common knowledge that, in these groups, an annulment tribunal is essentially a pro forma process and that the process is virtually guaranteed to result in a declaration of nullity. I myself have had a priest tell me that “the Church can usually find an impediment,” and a bishop told me that “if a marriage fails, it’s generally a sign that the marriage wasn’t actually valid” (this latter claim also appears in an article, “The Annulment Dilemma,” by Fr. Paul Garrity, in the February 16th 2015 issue of America). In my opinion, such statements, which are commonplace in the Continuing groups, suggest that the clergy of the Continuing groups do not really take marriage seriously, and we should take the annulment decisions of the Continuing groups about as seriously as we take the annulment decisions of the Vatican II annulment tribunals. A Continuing priest whose theological acumen is widely known once stated that sacraments are like Tonka trucks. They are very difficult to mess up. Accordingly, it is incredibly difficult, in my opinion, for two baptized Christians to contract a sacramentally invalid marriage, and this fact should be reflected in the proportion of annulment petitions that are approved: certainly an annulment process in which the overwhelming majority of petitions are approved cannot be taken seriously. Sadly, and tragically, this is not the case.
Thus far, we have occupied ourselves solely with the problem of divorce and remarriage. We haven’t devoted any attention to the problem of the ordination of clergy who have been married more than once or who are married to a woman who has been married more than once. Such a practice is antithetical to the universal witness of the Church throughout history. Inter alia, it is condemned by Pope Innocent I, Pope Leo I, St. Augustine of Hippo, Gratian, the Apostolic Constitutions, Canon LXVI of the Council of Nicea, and Canon III of the Council of Trullo (Quinsext Council).
Again, the practice of ordaining men who have been married more than once is a reflection of the infiltration of a protestantizing principle into the life of the Church. In 1 Timothy 3, we read that the bishop must be the “husband of one wife.” This has generally been taken to mean, as we read in Pope Leo I’s Letter 12, that the bishop may have been married only once and that his wife may not have been married before. But we will remember that, in the Westminster Confession, the Protestants declared “neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.” In application of this principle to the present case, those who advocate for the ordination of men who have been married more than once or for the ordination of men who are married to women who have been married more than once are liable to the accusation that they are adopting the Protestant principle that it is not necessary for the bishop to be the husband of only one wife but only for the bishop to be the husband of one wife “at the same time.” There is, however, the case of a priest in the Anglican Province of America who wouldn’t meet even those modest criteria, since it turned out that he was married to four different women at once. But I digress.
Now that we have outlined the basic features of the problem of divorce and remarriage in the Anglican tradition, let us consider its implications.
In the 1928 Form of Solemnization of Matrimony, the priest addresses the man and woman in the following words: “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that if any persons are joined together otherwise than as God’s Word doth allow, their marriage is not lawful.” These sound like strong words indeed, but they are in fact a weakening of the charge given in the 1662 Form of Solemnization of Matrimony: “I require and charge you both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it. For be ye well assured, that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God; neither is their Matrimony lawful.” The proposed 1785 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church adopted this section of the 1662 Form verbatim, but for some reason, the weakened form was adopted in the 1789 Book of Common Prayer. The American form, adopted in 1789 and retained in the 1892 and 1928 versions of the Book of Common Prayer, stipulates that a marriage contracted otherwise than in accordance with God’s Word “is not lawful.” The English 1662 Form, substantially the same as the 1549 Form, stipulates that such marriages are not truly marriages in the first place: “so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow are not joined together by God, neither is their Matrimony lawful.” This apparently subtle difference reveals a fundamental difference towards attempted marriages in the case where an impediment exists: the American form suggests that an impediment is merely a prohibitive impediment, that the marriage is merely prohibited by the Church (“their marriage is not lawful”), whereas the English form suggests that an impediment constitutes a diriment impediment, meaning that it renders the marriage null and void (they “are not joined together by God, neither is their Matrimony lawful”).
In Canon 17 of the 1946 Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America appears a list of canonical impediments for the Solemnization of Matrimony. Two impediments are of particular significance. Canon 17 Sec. 2. B.7 stipulates that “facts which would make the proposed marriage bigamous” constitute an impediment, and Canon 17. Sec. 2. B. 8 stipulates that a “concurrent contract inconsistent with the contract constituting canonical marriage” also constitutes an impediment. When we consider these canonical impediments in light of our remarks concerning the charge that the priest addresses to the couple in the Form of Solemnization, when a couple seeks to marry in the Church where either party has been married before and where a valid annulment of the prior marriage has not been granted, there is a canonical impediment preventing the contracting of marriage for which the parties will have to answer to God at the Last Judgment. A valid first marriage constitutes a fact “which would make the proposed marriage bigamous,” since it would entail that one or both of the parties would be attempting to marry a second person while already being married to one person. It is also a “concurrent contract inconsistent with the contract constituting canonical marriage,” in this case the second marriage, because the first marriage constitutes a “concurrent contract,” and this contract cannot be dissolved just because one or both of the parties changes his or her mind. Unless I am gravely mistaken, that is not how marriage works.
The impediment listed in Canon 17 Sec. 2. B. 7., namely “facts which would make the proposed marriage bigamous” really gets to the heart of the problem of marriage in the modern Anglican Church. The Church of England and the Anglican Church in North America allow marriages without annulment of the previous marriages. Continuing Anglican groups often go through the motions of annulling the previous marriages, but it is difficult to lend any credence to their annulment tribunals. So what is actually happening in practice depends upon whether you believe in the indissolubility of marriage, as remains the teaching of the Church of England in Canon B30. If you reject the indissolubility of marriage, or believe that a priest or bishop has the authority to dissolve a valid sacramental marriage, then I guess you should just be open and honest about your convictions and become a Presbyterian, and good luck with that. But if you believe in the indissolubility of marriage, as the Church of England always taught (prior to 2010, at least), then what all of this means is that the Anglican Churches - be it the Church of England, the Anglican Church in North America, or the various Continuing Anglican groups – are sanctioning the practice of bigamy. I can imagine that they will retort that this is patently not the case because the parties are only cohabiting with one person at once. But divorce a mensa atque thoro and divorce a vinculo matrimonii are two very different things. Divorce a mensa atque thoro does not dissolve the marriage bond, and not even the Roman Pontiff claims the authority to enact a divorce a vinculo matrimonii in the case of valid sacramental marriage. So one may separate from one’s spouse and even obtain a civil divorce, but this is only a divorce a mensa atque thoro that cannot dissolve the marriage bond, meaning that what occurs when a party in such circumstances remarries is bigamy because the party is attempting to marry a second person when his or her first spouse is still alive and therefore is still very much his or her spouse. They are still married to the first spouse, and they are attempting to contract matrimony with the second spouse, and the fact that he or she just so happens to be separated from the first spouse has nothing to do with it from a canonical standpoint. As St. Augustine writes in Adulterous Marriages: “she has not yet ceased to be the wife of the man who divorced her, even if she was divorced on the grounds of adultery.”
In light of all of this, this means that the Anglican Church, along with its various offshoots, has degenerated into a polygamist sect. This is a serious charge, and so I will explain my terms.
In order to understand this point, one must distinguish between a genus, phylum, species, and sub-species. In the case of modern Anglican marriages, where one party has a valid prior marriage, the genus is marriage, the phylum is polygamy, the species is bigamy, and the sub-species is simultaneous bigamy. Simultaneous bigamy is a sub-species of bigamy, which is a species of polygamy. The Anglican Church and its various offshoots have opened their doors to the practice of a form of polygamy, namely simultaneous bigamy. And it should be of no surprise to us that the Anglican Church has also weakened its stance towards even more explicit forms of simultaneous bigamy or polygamy, as can be seen in the statement of the 1988 Lambeth Conference according to which an overt public polygamist can be admitted to the Communion of the Church without putting away any of his multiple wives, and indeed one of the conditions of his being admitted to baptism and confirmation is that “such a polygamist shall not be compelled to put away any of his wives, on account of the social deprivation they would suffer.” That’s a direct quote, by the way. So let’s be clear. The state of matrimony in the Anglican Communion and its various schismatic offshoots has degenerated to the point where, not only can you remarry after civil divorce without an annulment, but in certain provinces of the Anglican Communion you don’t even need to secure a civil divorce but can instead become a member in good standing of the Anglican Church while living with multiple wives at once, and indeed you are required to remain with all of your wives as a condition of entering the Church and receiving communion. If that isn’t a polygamist sect, it is hard for me to imagine what is.
I have spoken at length about the question of the Anglican Church and the Marriage Canons as it relates to marriage between one man and one woman. But I have said nothing about the attempts of two persons of the same sex to contract matrimony, so-called same-sex marriage. This omission is intentional. For the last twenty years, the so-called conservative Anglicans have denounced the Episcopal Church for its acceptance of homosexual lifestyle choices, and again and again these so-called conservative Anglicans engage in histrionic posturing, presenting themselves – in contrast to those wicked, liberal Episcopalians – as standing faithful to biblical teaching concerning Matrimony. The one point I want you all to understand in light of everything I have said is that this is a mere façade. The Anglican groups centred around GAFCON do not uphold biblical or patristic teaching concerning matrimony. The Anglican groups do not uphold the historic Anglican canon on matrimony, Canon B30 of the Church of England, which clearly affirms the indissoluble nature of the institution of marriage. And until they do so, these groups do not merit our association since they are merely degenerate polygamous cults who happen to suffer from a pathological antipathy towards homosexuals. I commend them to your prayers.
So what is the solution? I’m going to point out that the rampant practice of divorce and remarriage is far from the only problem in the Anglican Church. There’s also the association with Freemasonry, the adoption of rather peculiar Anglo-Saxon supremacist theories like British Israelitism, ordination of women, ordination of homosexuals, the list goes on. But sticking with the marriage question, many people conclude that one should just “grin and bear it” and try to work within these groups to convince them to return to biblical teaching. Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves, however, whether marriage is a matter of primary significance or not. If marriage is a matter of primary significance, which I believe it is, then our marriage praxis has a formative influence on what we are as a Church. In Ephesians, St. Paul talks about the Church as the Bride of Christ, being presented to him without spot or blemish. And in the Eucharistic prayer in the Anglican canon, we present ourselves to God as a “holy, living sacrifice.” How can we have the audacity to offer Christ to God in the Mass as our Holy, Living Sacrifice and to offer ourselves to God in the Mass as a Holy, Living Sacrifice, if our Church is full of public adulterers? And this reaches the core of our life as a community. Many Anglican clergy have strong feelings about the validity of Anglican orders, but in a certain respect, the question of Anglican orders is only of secondary importance. Even if we accepted without question that Anglican orders are valid, we would have to be in cloud cuckoo land to believe that God would bless the Eucharistic sacrifices of a community where adultery is the norm. God does not accept the sacrifice of Cain. God does not accept the sacrifices of wicked, unrepentant Israel. And God does not accept the sacrifices of a Church that rejects his clear teaching on matrimony. On the contrary, such a Church incurs his vengeance and, as we read in Revelation, we must depart from it, lest we partake in its sins. And departing from it, we must undertake the arduous work of building new structures and networks, grass-roots structures and networks, so that the congregation of the elect can be presented as a pure and spotless bride to Christ. That is the task of our generation. May God bless us as we undertake it.