TCitMW: Responses to Critics

I wish to thank all those who have contributed their opinions to the discussion what ways the Church

can/should change in the next pontificate and ways it cannot/should notchange. Some of the responses have come in the form of full blog entries, rather than comments. I’d like now to offer rebuttals and clarifications.

the_methotaku, “an unapologetically progressive Methodist”, called my post “reactionary garbage” and offered his progressive opinions at his blog, Finding God in Cartoons from Japan.

“1. Married clergy. In the UMC the fact that our clergy are married has not prevented our bishops from exercising a good deal of control over where our elders are assigned to serve, or the amount of time our elders they have available for parishioners. Furthermore, the Bible
clearly teaches that everyone should marry, if possible, to contain their sexual desires.”

Strictly speaking, this isn’t entirely correct. First, let’s reiterate what Jesus said about marriage.

“Now when Jesus had finished these sayings, he went away from Galilee and entered the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; and large crowds followed him, and he healed them
there. And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?’ He said to them, ‘For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery.’ The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.’” – Matthew 19:1-12 (emphasis mine)

Clearly Jesus did not expect all to marry. Now, let’s look at what Paul advised.

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own
wife and each woman her own husband.
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command. I wish
that all were as I myself am. But each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is well for them to remain single as I do. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.
To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) — and that the husband
should not divorce his wife.”


“Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek marriage. But if you marry, you do not sin, and if a girl marries she does not sin. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. I mean, brethren, the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no
dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is
anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
If any one thinks that he is not behaving properly toward his betrothed, if his passions are strong, and it has to be, let him do as he wishes: let them marry — it is no sin. But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well. So that he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better.” – 1 Corinthians 7:1-11, 25-38 (emphases mine)

Paul seems to pretty unambiguosly prefer the single life to marriage. He does not forbid the people of Corinth to marry, but he also doesn’t encourage them to do so. On a side note, I think these instructions from Paul are the clearest indictments of divorce outside of the words of Christ Himself. How any Christian denomination ever made the leap of (il)logic to allow divorce and remarriage is beyond me.

“2. Women, in pulpits and at alters. Methodists have always felt that if a woman is preaching the Gospel, and shows the fruits of the holy spirit, she should be allowed to preach in church. Formal ordination and authorization to celebrate the Eucharist came later, (as early as 1889 in the United Brethren, to as late as 1968, where a number of small groups united with the Methodist church to form the United Methodist Church). I’ve never really understood why people could be opposed to the ordination of women in general- it just doesn’t compute for me- women clergy are showing the fruits of the spirit and leading congregations large and small. Frequently they are preaching the Gospel in places where men are unwilling to serve.”

The issue of male-only clergy is not and has never been about if, given the opportunity, women would be capable of performing the duties well. I would not expect a Methodist to understand or appreciate the real reason because Methodism denies the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The single biggest obstacle to ordination of female priests is the question of whether they could validly confect the Eucharist. Every sacrament has a form and matter that must be used in order to be efficacious. The Church must decide (or perhaps has already decided) whether or not humanity is sufficient matter for holy orders or maleness is required.

Comments 12

  1. Tom Smith wrote:

    Actually, Eric, it seems to me that the matter isn’t as simple as that remarriage alone is the sin. That’s clearly wrong in our understanding, but divorce seems to be forbidden by the injuction not to “tear asunder” that which “God has joined together.” I may try and find the particular verse later. Anyway, I’ll have to think about the whole bit a little more, but I think there’s more nuance than most people give it.

    Posted 13 Apr 2005 at 12:04 am
  2. Tom Smith wrote:


    Above, I claimed that Paul wasn’t a Jew. Actually, he was, but unlike Christ, he was a Pharisee. Anyway, I had thought that Paul’s Roman citizenship (he was executed by decapitation, rather than crucifixion) and his Apostleship to the Gentiles implied that he wasn’t a Jew. Oops

    Posted 14 Apr 2005 at 3:33 am
  3. Rob wrote:


    What is the R.C. position on spousal abuse?

    This is an area where I am puzzled by the silence of the Bible. When Nancy and I married, we agreed that no matter what, we would seek to preserve our marriage – with one exception. If either of us ever struck the other deliberately, that would be the end – no question.

    As far as divorce in other churches…that’s a tough one. There are Bibilcal grounds for divorce that the R.C. Church doesn’t recognize – among them adultery and some Pauline situations.

    Of course, most Protestants accept divorce far more readily than that. I don’t think I can make a theological argument for that. Given that I can make a theological argument for gay and lesbian marriage, you have to admit that’s something.

    But I will say this – I’d rather see people divorce than have the relationship degenerate into abuse. I guess my time as a paramedic influenced me pretty strongly.

    There’s something unspeakably horrifying about trying to keep someone alive, knowing that the trauma was done to the victim by a spouse.

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 3:25 pm
  4. Tom Smith wrote:

    From what I understand, the Wesley bros. had a fairly high view of a number of Catholic practices — they seem to have liked the sacraments and the public recitation of the Office, amongst other things. I’d bet that, had John Wesley been active one hundred years later, he would’ve been part of the Oxford Movement that gave us people like Frederick Faber and John Henry Newman.

    It’s kind of a shame that has Methodism splintered so — there’re the AME and AME Zion Churches, the UMC, the Wesleyans, the Southern Methodists. . . and that’s just in the US. And it’s a shame that they don’t really have any unique characteristics any more; they’re either nondescript evangelicals or have followed the lead of ECUSA and ELCA and embraced the pan-sexual agenda wholeheartedly (as it seems the UMC will be doing any minute now).

    Posted 14 Apr 2005 at 2:50 am
  5. Jerry Nora wrote:

    Funky’s recommendation of Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility is impeccable, but for those who are not up to buying new books at the moment, here are some online apologetics:

    First:a series of articles by Christopher West, who is probably the English-speaking world’s most prolific popularizer of JPII’s Theology of the Body:

    Here are also some articles by Mary Shivanandran, also a noted popularizer:

    Also for a broader spirituality of the human family, check out Women Affirming Life International. I just learned of this group, but they’re becoming a favorite of mine:

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 2:30 am
  6. Amy wrote:

    Funky, regarding that calendar… I looked quickly & was dismayed to see Sts. Perpetua & Felicity listed. The only “evidence” to support listing the two was a lot of stuff that any two people would do when faced with those kinds of conditions… Had they taken the time to research their story further, one of them had a young child, still nursing, and the other gave birth while in prison…
    It appears that the authors of this calendar are taking only what snipits of history suit them. If you plan on becoming a martyr, don’t comfort any same-gender prisoners or you’ll end up on the calendar 😉

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 2:52 am
  7. the_methotaku wrote:

    I apologise for calling your origional post garbage. The only excuse I can offer is that it was late at night, and I had been studying, so I was in an rather grumpy mood.

    I hope we can continue the discussion in a more civilized tone of voice.

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 4:11 pm
  8. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’d be glad to. 🙂 I hope you didn’t find my rebuttal offensive.

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 4:19 pm
  9. Richard Hall wrote:

    I’d just like to pick up on your assertion “Methodism denies the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist”

    Do you suppose Methodists believe that Christ is absent from the Eucharist? It’s true that we don’t subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation, but that’s hardly the same thing. Perhaps a few lines of Wesley’s hymnody might be excused? This is from the 1745 collection, “Hymns on the Lord’s supper”:

    We need not now go up to heaven,
    To bring the long-sought saviour down;
    Thou art to all already given,
    Thou dost ev’n now thy banquet crown:
    To every faithful soul appear,
    And show thy real presence here!

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 2:48 pm
  10. ELC wrote:

    Of course, Methodism denies the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Doing so is one of the main reasons I’m no longer a Methodist. By Real Presence, Catholics mean that the God the Son is present in the Sacrament, body and blood, soul and divinity, and that He is received thus by the communicant. Methodists do not, and never did, mean that at all. Whether they call something else a “real presence” is another issue.

    Posted 13 Apr 2005 at 1:03 am
  11. Funky Dung wrote:

    Rob, most of the world seems to be confused regarding the Church’s policies toward divorce. In cases of abuse or adultery, the Church, to the best of my knowledge, does not forbid civil divorce. However, the crucial thing to remember is that though a marriage may be civilly dissolved, it is not necessarily a null sacrament. I’ll leave discussing of annulments for another day. The point is that the sin is not divorce. It is remarriage. Marriage, like baptism, confirmation, and holy orders, is a sacrament that cannot be repeated.

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 3:44 pm
  12. Tom Smith wrote:

    Yeah, the calendar of gay saints is pretty ridiculous. The guy seems to think that Paul was gay because he was an unmarried Jew, which was unusual for the time. First off he wasn’t a Jew. Secondly, he clearly believed celibacy was far more spiritually fruitful. This makes me doubt the veracity of their other claims regarding the sexual orientations of the saints. Also, the claims regarding Paulinus are pretty goofy too. It seems he wrote two poems to Ausonius, but they had much more to do with the fact that his lustful desires would be wiped away in the afterlife. Also, I couldn’t find any evidence that Ausonius returned his love, or was even remotely gay (though that’s not to say there isn’t any). It’s really rather baseless to call the two a “male/male couple.”

    Also, as an aside, have you really seen people “saved,” methotaku dude? (If that’s not your handle, I apologize.) How do you know they were saved? I’d like to think that I am, but I dunno.

    Posted 12 Apr 2005 at 10:28 am

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