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In light of US court rulings, ACC Synod moves to tighten canonical definition of marriage

Nov 16, 2015


Synod delegates listen to recommendations on amending the ACC Canons on marriage.

by John Omwake, editor of The Trinitarian

The ACC has extensively amended its marriage canons to define without equivocation that Christian marriage as “in its nature a union permanent and lifelong … of one natural, biological man with one natural, biological woman.”

The action by the XXI Provincial Synod, meeting Oct. 28-29 in Athens, Georgia, U.S.A., is in response to a controversial decision by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. The 5-4 ruling, issued on June 26th, overturns state laws and constitutional provisions defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

In addition, regarding human sexuality, the canonical changes make clear that any attempt to change a person’s biological sex at conception “also rebels against God by rejecting His image and His design” and that “God intends males to mate with females and females to mate with males and any individual’s contrary choice is a violation of God’s plan and, therefore, of natural law.”

The canonical changes make it clear that natural law transcends civil law.

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ introduced a new incarnational principle into human life, as part of which He took several preexisting customs, conditions, practices and institutions and imbued them with a new and sacramental significance, making them direct covenant channels of God’s Grace....  

One of these institutions that He thus transformed was that of marriage, so that natural law marriages, and usually but not always civil law marriages, can if they comply with the requirements of the sacramental system, become themselves Sacraments and covenanted channels of God’s Grace. Thus Christian Marriage or Matrimony, which is both a Sacrament and a covenanted channel of divine Grace, has an essentially and fundamentally divine, religious and ecclesiastical significance that transcends and, where necessary, supersedes both the institution of civil law marriage and any positive civil law that purports to contradict of violate the law of nature.

The amendments also add “rejection of sex at conception by mental or physical means” to the list of impediments to marriage. By specifying marriage as a union between one natural, biological man and one natural, biological woman, the marriage canons reject civil marriages in which one or both partners have been sexually altered.

Dr. Frank Wiswall, senior deputy provincial chancellor and author of the legislation, noted that every church faces the challenges arising from the Supreme Court decision, including the possibility that their tax-exempt status may be in jeopardy if they remain firm to biblical teachings on marriage.  But, he noted, “we cannot let fear make us shrink from our beliefs and principles.”

For the full story on this subject and others like it, see the upcoming issue of The Trinitarian.

Tagged: marriage, canons, natural law, sacrament, grace