“To be undistracted by husbands and wives does not have to mean one is distracted by other earthly entities. Paul’s encouragement to the singles was to be undistracted in their devotion to the Lord. Still, a godly unmarried person will, and should, have more time to invest in study, discipleship, ministry, and service than a married person will. This is a precious gift and shouldn’t be overlooked within the church. Churches need to equip their singles—not with singles ministries where they meet and mingle—but with opportunities to grow in their devotion to the Lord, specifically in vocational ministry.”

— Lore Ferguson, Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership

“If the life of a single Christian, as Paul admonished, is to be undistracted by the world, concerned with the things of the Lord, then unmarried ministers have a unique calling indeed. And it is one the church ought not ignore—or usurp. […W]e must have men and women who have walked the narrow path of godly singleness teaching those who come after them.”

— Lore Ferguson, Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership

"Why Singles Belong in Church Leadership" by Lore Ferguson

excerpt:

“If the life of a single Christian, as Paul admonished, is to be undistracted by the world, concerned with the things of the Lord, then unmarried ministers have a unique calling indeed. And it is one the church ought not ignore—or usurp. […W]e must have men and women who have walked the narrow path of godly singleness teaching those who come after them.”

“Because sexual ethics must be lived and embodied, questioning how particular sexual ethics are bearing fruit in one’s life is important. Also, it’s impossible to create one’s sexual ethic without considering the experiences of other people one knows.”

— Lindsey, Reflections on Discerning a Sexual Ethic

“What does it mean to be called to the religious life? Even the most articulate of these women [called to the religious life] cannot find the precise words to explain how she came to understand her vocation. The youngest nun says, ‘I’m sure anyone who falls in love, they look back and say, “Oh, remember how we met? Or he showed his love?” It’s the same, how God has shown his personal love.’

But how does one fall in love? These women are no more capable of explaining their love of the holy than we are of understanding the reasons two human beings are attracted to each other, and yet they try. One sister compares it to God ‘playing hide-and-seek,’ drawing her to the religious life, but leaving her unsure of where to go. Like any love, there is struggle, not only with which of the various religious orders to join but how to live once there; it is not desperation which brings these women to the cloister but desire.”

— Casey N. Cep, Inside the Cloister (on Abbie Reese’s new book Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns)

(Source: godthings)

“The costs of obedience at Rockford are Sister Mary Clara crying at the sound of school buses, which remind her of the children she used to teach; claustrophobic Sister Mary Nicolette, who hoped to have a large family, but lives now in a seventy-eight-square-foot room; and Sister Maria Benedicta saying that making vows means ‘everything you’ve ever believed in, you’re giving up; or everything you’ve dreamed of, it’s not important anymore.’

But sacrifice can be made into a discipline, an art of loss that can be mastered. That is how Sister Maria Deo Gratias can describe the vow of chastity as ‘freedom, because we can give ourselves totally to God and we don’t have divided responsibilities.’ And how the women can experience enclosure as liberty, not prison: laughing instead of recoiling when one woman’s four-year-old great-niece says they live in a ‘Jesus cage.’ They laugh because the world thinks that the metal grille keeps them caged in, but they feel that the bars keep the world out.

Reading that story and so many others in [Abbie Reese’s new book] ‘Dedicated to God’ reminded me of Philip Gröning’s stunning documentary ‘Into Great Silence,’ which portrays a community of Carthusian monks in the French Alps. The film is almost entirely silent—no commentary from the director or dialogue from the subjects—until a scene where the monks go sledding, when it explodes with the sound of their laughter.

That is another one of monasticism’s surprises: where the world expects sorrow, the cloistered feel joy.”

— Casey N. Cep, Inside the Cloister (on Abbie Reese’s new book Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns) (via wesleyhill)

“Sister Mary Monica of the Holy Eucharist defines obedience as ‘a crucifixion,’ saying, ‘If it doesn’t cost anything, you know, it doesn’t make a very good story.’”

— Casey N. Cep, Inside the Cloister (on Abbie Reese’s new book Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns)

“When explaining to others why I’ve been convinced by the traditional interpretation of the biblical text with respect to same-sex sexual behavior, I’ve often said that the first three chapters of Genesis were far more persuasive than any of the so-called ‘clobber passages’. Of course Genesis 1-3 don’t explicitly talk about same-sex sexuality at all, but I think what I’ve been trying to get at is the point that [Peter] Leithart is making above about Athanasius: the overall shape of the story should guide our interpretive decisions.

Athanasius argued against Arianism on the basis that the loss of the divinity of the Son actually ‘damages the coherence of the plot.’ Of course, many supporting revisionist readings (note: I’m using this term descriptively, not pejoratively) of the text on same-sex marriage would have no problem with this criteria, contending that just as same-sex relationships don’t obviously harm anyone else, neither do they harm the overall coherence of the biblical story. So the appeal to the shape of the story is not a sort of debate-deciding maneuver.

I do think the shape of the story is a point in favor of the traditional reading of the biblical text. For Athanasius, the shape of the story was particularly Christocentric, and the discussion of whether a doctrine damages the coherence of the plot rests on what it does to Christ’s role in the plot. Here emerges the importance of the Pauline image of Christ as the bridegroom coming for his people, his bride. The marriage illustration wonderfully displays both Christ’s solidarity with his people (so much so that he will be one with them) and his distinction from them (he is creator, they are creature). The marriage typology emphasizes the loving relationship between Christ and his church while maintaining their corresponding distinction as well. Thus, altering our understanding of marriage and same-sex sexual behavior actually does damage the coherence of the plot because it flattens the creator-creature distinction and therefore cannot simply fall under the ‘debatable topics’ that denominations agree to disagree about.

I want to conclude by bringing this back to my personal experience with the text. When I was in undergrad wrestling through the arguments for and against the traditional reading of the text, I found myself unpersuaded by revisionist readings of individual texts. However, I did not find the conservative readings of those same six or so texts compelling in motivating me to live in fidelity with scripture. Sure, those six texts seemed like they were saying same-sex sexual behavior was bad, but they didn’t give me a vision for living my life in accordance with the overall purpose of God. It was only in stepping back and looking at the overall shape of the biblical story—with Christ at the center—that I found myself captivated by the story of a Creator, a Lover, becoming incarnate to save his Creation, his Beloved.”

— Kyle Keating, Athanasius and the Scope of the Story

“Some of the confusion about gender identity in our culture arises because of narrowly constrained gender norms (i.e., girls wear pink and boys wear blue). Many of these norms are fluid, culturally bound, and change over time. And yet God creates male and female in his image, with the implication that men and women, in their physical attributes and gender identity, are intended to complement one another so as to better reflect the character of God. On the one hand, I want to be careful not to assume traditional gender norms simply because they are traditional (i.e., men can’t be nurses or women can’t be in the army). On the other, I want to understand for myself and for my daughters what it means to be a woman—and for my son, to be a man—before God.”

— Amy Julia Becker, Four Questions I Have About Transgender Identity

“Christians believe that God created us as persons, and that each of us bears the image of God (an image marred by sin, but an image nevertheless). Further, we believe that our bodies, minds, and spirits are integrated and ought not to be divorced from one another. Jesus’ incarnation—his willingness to become a human being—affirms all the more the importance of bodies.”

— Amy Julia Becker, Four Questions I Have About Transgender Identity

“When I described this article to some undergraduates I interviewed, they wondered what the connection between abortion and gay marriage could be. And I wondered, myself, whether the old ‘social issues’ mantle had been a seamless garment or a patchwork coalition.

But there is one major way in which opposition to abortion conflicts with support for gay marriage — one feature of a pro-life stance that reveals the major flaw in the gay-marriage argument.

If abortion is morally neutral, an unpleasant but basically acceptable form of backup birth control, then heterosexual relationships look vastly more like homosexual relationships than they do if abortion is wrong, horrific, or tragic. If abortion is outlawed; or if enough women become sufficiently pro-life that they choose life for their babies, even when the pregnancy feels like a cruel joke; or if enough men and women lose their naiveté and wishful thinking and begin to make sexual choices knowing that they may be creating a child… then the tragedies and the culture of heterosexuality will be starkly different from the tragedies and culture of homosexuality. If there’s one social evil a gay relationship will virtually never produce, it’s an abortion. And yet, for most heterosexual couples to avoid abortion, they must make a lot of difficult choices again and again.

Thinking this way should underline the ways in which homosexual relationships were always different from heterosexual ones. Because men and women are different — biologically different, and differently situated socially — men and women face different risks and rewards in a straight relationship. The norms and culture of marriage arose to meet the needs of heterosexual couples: to minimize the damage of unregulated intercourse and maximize the great social good of childrearing within the natural family. (To take one obvious example, try to find someone who holds up ‘abstinence until gay marriage’ as an ideal. I did find one guy who said this, but he’s very much in the minority.) Can we sustain or, more pointedly, renew the marriage norms and culture which heterosexuals and their children desperately need, while pretending that heterosexual relationships face the same challenges as gay relationships and need the same rules?”

— Eve Tushnet, The Great Unweaving

“American marriages are under tremendous pressure, since they are almost the only form of relationship we honor and on which we depend. All the other roles that once had public status and popular honor have become mere accessories: neighbors, friends, godparents, extended family. All of these are nice, if you happen to get a job near one of them, but especially in more affluent communities (interestingly, the ones much more likely to get married), these roles impose no special obligations. They are neither forms of love nor forms of duty. A 2004 study purported to find that one-quarter of Americans have no confidants at all; though later research suggests that this is an exaggeration, the trend is still toward increasing isolation and fewer close relationships.

This pressure on marriage makes gay marriage appear more necessary. If nothing but marriage is honored, then marriage seems like the only possible way to honor the social and personal goods provided by gay couples. I would prefer to see us honor a far wider variety of nonmarital loves and obligations, acknowledging that they are different from one another as well as from marriage. Civil unions address the legal needs of gay couples while, one hopes, preserving the concept of marriage as something distinct and tailored to heterosexual couples’ needs. A couple of states recognize ‘reciprocal beneficiaries,’ in which two people not eligible for marriage can nonetheless share various legal benefits and obligations. Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis proposed something similar in 2009 in The Public Discourse.

But legal distinctions can be undermined by cultural shifts: Although the United Kingdom has ‘civil partnerships’ rather than gay marriage, the cultural effect is that newspapers say gay couples are ‘wedding’ and heterosexuals refer to their ‘partners’ rather than their husbands or wives. And many forms of nonmarital kinship don’t need much legal accommodation; what they need is social honor and support. If we began treating our closest friend as kin, how would our lives change? If we treated our godchildren as ours, what would we need from others to support that kinship?

My sense, based on necessarily unrepresentative conversations with young adults, is that they are much more open to the possibility that marriage is a heterosexual institution when they are offered other ways of acknowledging, honoring, and supporting the good work done by gay couples. There will be limits to how much honor many religious Americans can give these relationships; but the answer cannot be ‘don’t give any legal support to gay couples raising children,’ for example.”

— Eve Tushnet, The Great Unweaving

“[Y]oung adults embrace gay marriage not solely because of their beliefs about gay couples, but because of their beliefs about marriage. They typically view marriage as the capstone on their accomplishments, to be attempted only once they’ve crossed off all the other major items on life’s to-do list. A friend of mine, who got engaged right after graduating from college, said he’d had to make a mental shift: He wasn’t missing out on the twenty-something years of drifting and experimenting and ‘living a little,’ but was instead getting an early start on his real life, married life.

The biggest change in our understanding of marriage might be called ‘the Great Unweaving.’ A whole host of concepts that used to converge in marriage have now been unlinked: sex, commitment, cohabitation, procreation, and child-rearing now appear mix-and-match rather than bundled. In the 2000-2005 school terms, researchers replicated a 1940 study of students’ attitudes toward premarital sex and deliberate childlessness. The contemporary students were more accepting of premarital sex, and vastly more accepting of voluntary childlessness, than their World War II-era predecessors. Young adults are familiar with commitment outside of marriage, and when they discuss marriage they talk almost exclusively in terms of a couple, childless and isolated from the extended family.

The notion of marriage as a haven for procreation, a promise to tie the child to her biological father and to keep him from dividing his energies between many families, rarely occurs to them when they discuss marriage. The exceptions, which have always been with us — some women raise their children alone, some couples adopt or remain childless — are now viewed as undermining the rule, making it impossible for young adults to view the biological family as a norm or ideal.”

— Eve Tushnet, The Great Unweaving

"The Great Unweaving" by Eve Tushnet

excerpts:

“[Y]oung adults embrace gay marriage not solely because of their beliefs about gay couples, but because of their beliefs about marriage. They typically view marriage as the capstone on their accomplishments, to be attempted only once they’ve crossed off all the other major items on life’s to-do list. A friend of mine, who got engaged right after graduating from college, said he’d had to make a mental shift: He wasn’t missing out on the twenty-something years of drifting and experimenting and ‘living a little,’ but was instead getting an early start on his real life, married life.

The biggest change in our understanding of marriage might be called ‘the Great Unweaving.’ A whole host of concepts that used to converge in marriage have now been unlinked: sex, commitment, cohabitation, procreation, and child-rearing now appear mix-and-match rather than bundled. In the 2000-2005 school terms, researchers replicated a 1940 study of students’ attitudes toward premarital sex and deliberate childlessness. The contemporary students were more accepting of premarital sex, and vastly more accepting of voluntary childlessness, than their World War II-era predecessors. Young adults are familiar with commitment outside of marriage, and when they discuss marriage they talk almost exclusively in terms of a couple, childless and isolated from the extended family.

The notion of marriage as a haven for procreation, a promise to tie the child to her biological father and to keep him from dividing his energies between many families, rarely occurs to them when they discuss marriage. The exceptions, which have always been with us — some women raise their children alone, some couples adopt or remain childless — are now viewed as undermining the rule, making it impossible for young adults to view the biological family as a norm or ideal.”

———————

“Polygamy gets terrible press, but rebrand it as polyamory — egalitarian, excruciatingly ethical — and the media changes tune. The weblog Poly in the Media argues that polyamorists are ‘winning the race to define ourselves,’ citing a score of positive mainstream media stories. Moreover, while the gay students I’ve spoken with were as adamant about sexual exclusivity as their heterosexual cohorts, a January New York Times story suggests that age and experience may complicate their purity: ‘A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many.’ If knowing happy and productive gay couples led young adults to support gay marriage, will knowing people in happy and productive ‘open relationships’ lead them to unweave yet another thread?”

———————

“American marriages are under tremendous pressure, since they are almost the only form of relationship we honor and on which we depend. All the other roles that once had public status and popular honor have become mere accessories: neighbors, friends, godparents, extended family. All of these are nice, if you happen to get a job near one of them, but especially in more affluent communities (interestingly, the ones much more likely to get married), these roles impose no special obligations. They are neither forms of love nor forms of duty. A 2004 study purported to find that one-quarter of Americans have no confidants at all; though later research suggests that this is an exaggeration, the trend is still toward increasing isolation and fewer close relationships.

This pressure on marriage makes gay marriage appear more necessary. If nothing but marriage is honored, then marriage seems like the only possible way to honor the social and personal goods provided by gay couples. I would prefer to see us honor a far wider variety of nonmarital loves and obligations, acknowledging that they are different from one another as well as from marriage. Civil unions address the legal needs of gay couples while, one hopes, preserving the concept of marriage as something distinct and tailored to heterosexual couples’ needs. A couple of states recognize ‘reciprocal beneficiaries,’ in which two people not eligible for marriage can nonetheless share various legal benefits and obligations. Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis proposed something similar in 2009 in The Public Discourse.

But legal distinctions can be undermined by cultural shifts: Although the United Kingdom has ‘civil partnerships’ rather than gay marriage, the cultural effect is that newspapers say gay couples are ‘wedding’ and heterosexuals refer to their ‘partners’ rather than their husbands or wives. And many forms of nonmarital kinship don’t need much legal accommodation; what they need is social honor and support. If we began treating our closest friend as kin, how would our lives change? If we treated our godchildren as ours, what would we need from others to support that kinship?

My sense, based on necessarily unrepresentative conversations with young adults, is that they are much more open to the possibility that marriage is a heterosexual institution when they are offered other ways of acknowledging, honoring, and supporting the good work done by gay couples. There will be limits to how much honor many religious Americans can give these relationships; but the answer cannot be ‘don’t give any legal support to gay couples raising children,’ for example.”

———————

“If abortion is morally neutral, an unpleasant but basically acceptable form of backup birth control, then heterosexual relationships look vastly more like homosexual relationships than they do if abortion is wrong, horrific, or tragic. If abortion is outlawed; or if enough women become sufficiently pro-life that they choose life for their babies, even when the pregnancy feels like a cruel joke; or if enough men and women lose their naiveté and wishful thinking and begin to make sexual choices knowing that they may be creating a child… then the tragedies and the culture of heterosexuality will be starkly different from the tragedies and culture of homosexuality. If there’s one social evil a gay relationship will virtually never produce, it’s an abortion. And yet, for most heterosexual couples to avoid abortion, they must make a lot of difficult choices again and again.

Thinking this way should underline the ways in which homosexual relationships were always different from heterosexual ones. Because men and women are different — biologically different, and differently situated socially — men and women face different risks and rewards in a straight relationship. The norms and culture of marriage arose to meet the needs of heterosexual couples: to minimize the damage of unregulated intercourse and maximize the great social good of childrearing within the natural family. (To take one obvious example, try to find someone who holds up ‘abstinence until gay marriage’ as an ideal. I did find one guy who said this, but he’s very much in the minority.) Can we sustain or, more pointedly, renew the marriage norms and culture which heterosexuals and their children desperately need, while pretending that heterosexual relationships face the same challenges as gay relationships and need the same rules?”

“Despite my eccentric evolution on gay marriage, I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a certain fugitive solidarity with those whose paths differ from my own. A strange portion of the intellectual discovery and growth in friendship I’ve enjoyed these past years has come about not despite, but because of, the vexations of the gay marriage debate. Those with whom I disagree have helped me see how the strands of the Christian sexual ethic combine to form a great tapestry, the patterns of which would be much more obscure had they not prompted me to think through how sex intersects with Scripture, nature, culture. For this, I owe them a great debt. I hope that in the years to come I can do something to repay it.”

— Matthew Schmitz, How I Evolved on Gay Marriage