Domestic Blessings?

Apr 4, 2023 by

By Dave Doveton.

(Editor’s note: What I write on here arises from a Southern African context, but the principles are applicable everywhere)

An addendum to the communique from the last Episcopal Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa inter alia states the following:

Noting that we are baptising the children of same-sex couples and confirming LGBTQI Anglicans, he (the archbishop) appealed for guidelines on the form of prayers we are to use when ministering to them, for example, when we bless their houses or meals in their homes. He challenged us to develop prayers of affirmation and acknowledgement for all faithful Anglicans with which all of us can agree, and to present such prayers to Provincial Standing Committee (PSC) and Provincial Synod[i]

Noting that the church already has among its publications a set of Occasional Prayers which include prayers for the blessings of homes and table graces – what is the motivation for additional prayers? It appears that this pertains to the domestic situation in which household is headed by a same-sex couple who may or may not be in a ‘civil marriage.’

While there is not the indication that these will include prayers of blessing the couple in particular, what is evident is that there is an implied recognition and affirmation of the basic goodness and rightness of a domestic structure and relationships headed by a same-sex couple.

Firstly, we may ask, on what basis is this domestic arrangement recognized? If it is a same-sex union -whether a civil ‘marriage’ or not, it is not recognized by the church. It has never been recognized in Church history because scripture prohibits all forms of homosexuality. Contemporary bible scholars such as Prof Robert Gagnon, but also the foremost liberal scholars William Loader, Dan O Via, Walter Wink and Bernadette Brooten agree that the Bible rejects and condemns all same-sex sexual activity as against God ordained natural order. In fact, the majority of scholars past and present are clear that the Bible condemns all same sex activity out of hand.

When we are considering same-sex couples, unions, or partnerships we are not just considering a minor adjustment to moral ethics which is not going to affect anything else, nor are we widening a tent in a gracious caring way. No, we are faced with two opposing and irreconcilable doctrines. Paul describes this opposition in 1 Timothy 4:1-11.  Paul charges Timothy to teach the good doctrine that he has followed in contrast to false teaching that was already having an effect in Ephesus[ii] . The false teaching was an errant doctrine of creation in which the ‘goods’ of creation – male female marriage, and food were rejected as corrupting and therefore not good. This teaching rejected the Creator’s purpose and would arise again later in the heretical Gnostic movement as Peter Jones observes,

“Paul classifies the evil attack on the Creator as demonic (v.1). In early Gnosticism, which wrote of throwing the Creator into Hell, Gnostic teachers rejected the good things of the creation, such as marriage and food, as physical, and therefore corrupting.”

In the first chapter of Romans, Paul similarly rejects same-sex desire as para phusis – as against what is God created natural male/female sexuality. In other pastoral epistles he warns the churches in the different cultures of the Greco-Roman world such as Ephesus and Corinth of the danger of misplaced sexual desire. It potentially leads people to be enemies of the cross of Christ and ultimate spiritual death.[iii]

The centrality of desire as a basis for same-sex unions is explicitly acknowledged by churches which accept such relationships. The requirements for a valid same-sex blessing in the Diocese of Massachusetts set by the theological task force explains.

“Two persons, at least one of whom has been baptised, who are drawn to one another in desire and wish to share a life of loving mutuality, intimacy, respect, hospitality, and lifelong faithfulness present themselves to a community that in some fashion discerns the authenticity and integrity of this desire and evokes God’s blessing on this desire[iv]

The basis of same-sex unions is desire. In pro-gay belief, identity is defined by desire and thus desire becomes the good, not our created identity rooted in our biology. Affirming such unions would be affirming the goodness of misdirected desire and a denial of the creation order and the high doctrine of human beings. It offers a structure and template for family life based on desire. It blurs and destroys the creational boundaries defining male and female. To have a union of two males or two females dissolves both the boundaries and the bonds that are the framework of the Creators design for human flourishing. It is thus anti-human and anti-God. Jesus warned his hearers, “what therefore God has joined together (male and female) let not man separate.”[v]

The image of a same sex parenting structure therefore cannot be seen as a good, no matter how faithful and committed because it is a visible rebellion against the creator’s purpose for human sexuality and human flourishing. The goods or wonderful and great blessings of God come to us through the basic social building block he has designed in which we are co-creators with him – which is heterosexual marriage the foundation of family life and the raising of children. Even children in a same sex domestic arrangement are affected by breaking bonds as adopted or surrogate (except for adopted orphans) they will be deprived of one or both biological parents.

The acceptance of behaviours entailed in these domestic arrangements by the church is a problem because whatever the church affirms, even if in an unscriptural way, is an example not only to believers, but also an encouragement to the culture.

How then can we as the church encourage the culture on its headlong rush to disintegration. We show every sign of slipping into moralistic therapeutic deism where the aim of the church is to make people feel good about themselves and their lifestyle. It is moralistic because we ignore the gospel call to repentance from sin, instead we affirm people in their behaviour by a comparative moralizing. The comment[vi] by some bishops that we should encourage “faithful committed” relationships is such a comparative moralism. St Paul clearly condemned such moralising. Using the example of someone who judges others in terms of his own moral standards (I am not as bad as a murderer, for example) he says, “Do you suppose, O man- you who practice such things and yet do them yourself – that you will escape the judgement of God?”[vii] He is saying that God will not excuse any sin because it is ‘comparatively small’ or that my obedience to some of God’s law will excuse sin in another area. Thus, the virtues of faithfulness and commitment do not atone for living in open rebellion against the teachings of Christ. He continues, “Or do you presume on the richness of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is leading you to repentance?”[viii] All sin is abhorrent to God and the only solution is repentance. The alternative is the experience of God’s wrath on the day of judgement. Paul further notes that the seeming absence of any type of judgement is not an indication of God’s approval, but of God’s merciful patience whereby he gives time for repentance. The judgement will come however on the final day – unexpected for hardened hearts, but certain.

The scripture only recognizes and deems one sexual relationship as holy and lifegiving and that is the marriage of one male and one female. Nowhere in the bible do we find ‘faithful and committed’ as a basis for a sexual relationship, and a domestic arrangement. The foundations of marriage are clear. – they are structural – one man and one woman in a legal covenant for one lifetime. They are not defined or governed by inner feelings and desires or vapid definitions such as ‘faithful’ or ‘committed’. The problem is that a sexual relationship between 3 or more people can also be defined as faithful and committed. Polyamorists are in some countries already campaigning for their unions to be legally recognized as marriage. [ix]

Of course, there are many people who are wonderful, kind, and generous but live in adulterous relationships. Following the logic expressed above, they can also be blessed. This issue is being made into a victimhood issue where those in same-sex relationships are portrayed as victims of a wicked church because it refuses to acknowledge the validity of their relationship, and casts that as a refusal to see any virtues or goodness in them as people.

This domestic arrangement then is neither a ‘good’ for those involved nor it seems for the community or the nation. In Leviticus, the instructions of the Lord are crystal clear. Referring to the prohibited sexual relations listed prior, he warns, “You shall therefore keep all my statutes…that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you for they did all these things and therefore I detested them”[x] As Paul notes, God holds all people accountable whether they are of the community of faith or not[xi]. It seems that the God we now believe in is the God of Deism who exists in a disinterested solitude and does not intervene in the history of nations, and nor will he hold us accountable for validating and blessing what he has prohibited.

In the pastoral context Christian leaders are called to bring grace and hope. Pastoral ministry is often very challenging as we are expected to act in a loving and compassionate manner. Yet – love without truth is sentimentality and a betrayal of our calling. Leaders are especially accountable to God for those in their care both with respect to teaching the truth according to revealed apostolic doctrine and in refuting error, but also in maintaining discipline. This is a function that leaders perform with fear and trembling in the knowledge that one day we will all stand before the divine Judge and answer to him.

In scripture we are given a clear idea of what will bring condemnation upon us. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah pronounces several woes against the spiritual leadership of Israel and then outlines the reasons,

“But in the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they strengthen the hand of evildoers, so that no-one turns from his evil; all of them have become like Sodom to me and its inhabitants like Gomorrah.” …. “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes… They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’, and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”[xii]

This is a warning against false affirmation, against the giving of false hope and false reassurance. This occurs when leaders lead people astray by affirming them in sin instead of calling them to repentance. In his day there were those who affirmed people who rejected scriptural teaching, gave false assurance to those who stubbornly followed their own desires, and gave comfort to those who rejected divine revelation. The reference to Sodom and Gomorrah is an indication that Judgement against them had already been set and was irrevocable.

May we not find ourselves in the same position.




[ii] 1 Timothy Chapter1.

[iii] Romans 1:18-32; see also 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 1 Timothy1:10, Ephesians 4:17-23, Philippians 3:18,19.

[iv] Theological Perspectives on the Blessing of Holy Unions, Diocese of Massachusetts, May 2004.

[v] Mark 10:9.

[vi] The addendum notes that “On one side of the debate were those of us who are deeply unhappy that faithful Anglicans, who are members of our parishes, are denied the church’s blessing of their loving, faithful, monogamous, committed same-sex partnerships, when such recognition in the face of societal prejudice would give them the assurance that they are truly part of the Body of Christ.”

[vii] Romans 2:3.

[viii] Romans 2:4.

[ix] See for example Taylor Francis, Why It’s OK to Not Be Monogamous,

[x] Leviticus 20:22,23.

[xi] Romans 2:2, see also Jeremiah 18:7-10.

[xii] Jeremiah 23:14,16,17.



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