Monday, July 14, 2008

What Lambeth Has Said on Health Care (2)

You can read part 1 here.

The next two Lambeth Conferences were notable in that they marked a significant change in some of the positions of Anglican bishops on some health issues. More to the point, there was a significant change between 1920 and 1930.

The 1920 Lambeth Conference itself demonstrated little change in health issues from the 1908 Conference. While the was moved from issues of foreign missions to “Social and Industrial Questions,” the 1920 Lambeth continued to address “the evils of drink:”

Resolution 79
Social and Industrial Questions
The Conference notes with deep interest the prohibition by the will of the people of the sale and manufacture of intoxicating drinks in the Republic of the United States of America, and of their sale in most of the provinces of Canada, and commends this action to the earnest and sympathetic attention of the Christian Church throughout the world. The Conference urges members of the Church in other countries:
1. to support such legislation as will lead to a speedy reduction in the use of intoxicants;
2. to recognise the duty of combating the evil of intemperance by personal example and willing self-sacrifice.

More issues related to health were once again considered around issues of marriage. Indeed, the number of resolutions related to marriage grew from ten in 1908 to twelve in 1920. Moreover, there was no significant change in perspective. For example, the resolution in opposition to birth control, and implicitly to abortion, was expanded.

Resolution 68
Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality
The Conference, while declining to lay down rules which will meet the needs of every abnormal case, regards with grave concern the spread in modern society of theories and practices hostile to the family. We utter an emphatic warning against the use of unnatural means for the avoidance of conception, together with the grave dangers - physical, moral and religious - thereby incurred, and against the evils with which the extension of such use threatens the race. In opposition to the teaching which, under the name of science and religion, encourages married people in the deliberate cultivation of sexual union as an end in itself, we steadfastly uphold what must always be regarded as the governing considerations of Christian marriage. One is the primary purpose for which marriage exists, namely the continuation of the race through the gift and heritage of children; the other is the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control.

We desire solemnly to commend what we have said to Christian people and to all who will hear.

There were new concerns raised. A series of resolutions addressed concerns both personal and social: venereal disease, appropriate preventive education for young persons, and what we might call today the “sexualization of the culture:”

Resolution 69
Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality
The Conference, moved by responsible statements from many nations as to the prevalence of venereal diseases, bringing suffering, paralysis, insanity, or death to many thousands of the innocent as well as the guilty, supports all efforts which are consistent with high moral standards to check the causes of the diseases and to treat and, if possible, cure the victims. We impress upon the clergy and members of the Church the duty of joining with physicians and public authorities in meeting this scourge, and urge the clergy to guide those who turn to them for advice with knowledge, sympathy, and directness. The Conference must condemn the distribution or use, before exposure to infection, of so-called prophylactics, since these cannot but be regarded as an invitation to vice.

Resolution 70
Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality
The Conference urges the importance of enlisting the help of all high-principled men and women, whatever be their religious beliefs, in co-operation with or, if necessary, in bringing pressure to bear upon, authorities both national and local, for removing such incentives to vice as indecent literature, suggestive plays and films, the open or secret sale of contraceptives, and the continued existence of brothels.

Resolution 71
Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality
With regard to the education of the young in matters of sex, the Conference presses upon parents that the duty of giving right teaching on these subjects rests primarily with them, and that it is the duty of all persons giving such instruction to prepare themselves for this responsible task. Boys and girls should be guarded against the danger of acquiring knowledge of sexual subjects from wrong persons and in wrong ways.

Resolution 72
Problems of Marriage and Sexual Morality
Bearing in remembrance the example of our Lord, and the prominent place that he gave in his ministry to protecting the weak and raising the fallen, the Conference deplores the common apathy of Church people in regard to preventive and rescue work*, and urges on bishops, clergy, and all Christian people the duty of taking a more active share in this essential part of the Church's life.
*That is, in relation to sexual delinquency.

However, between 1920 and 1930 something happened. Once again, there are twelve resolutions on marriage and family life. However, that there has been a change of perspective is clear from the first such resolution:

Resolution 9
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference believes that the conditions of modern life call for a fresh statement from the Christian Church on the subject of sex. It declares that the functions of sex as a God-given factor in human life are essentially noble and creative. Responsibility in regard to their right use needs the greater emphasis in view of widespread laxity of thought and conduct in all these matters.

And the reason for the change is clear in the second:

Resolution 10
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference believes that in the exalted view of marriage taught by our Lord is to be found the solution of the problems with which we are faced. His teaching is reinforced by certain elements which have found a new emphasis in modern life, particularly the sacredness of personality, the more equal partnership of men and women, and the biological importance of monogamy.

A turn is visible in the understanding of marriage expressed at Lambeth.

Resolution 13
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
The Conference emphasises the truth that sexual instinct is a holy thing implanted by God in human nature. It acknowledges that intercourse between husband and wife as the consummation of marriage has a value of its own within that sacrament, and that thereby married love is enhanced and its character strengthened. Further, seeing that the primary purpose for which marriage exists is the procreation of children, it believes that this purpose as well as the paramount importance in married life of deliberate and thoughtful self-control should be the governing considerations in that intercourse.

Now the “sexual instinct is a holy thing implanted by God in human nature;” and while procreation continues to be “the primary purpose for which marriage exists,” it is also true that “intercourse between husband and wife… has a value of its own within that sacrament.”

This difference is also seen in the discussion of birth control.

Resolution 15
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, the method must be decided on Christian principles. The primary and obvious method is complete abstinence from intercourse (as far as may be necessary) in a life of discipline and self-control lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles. The Conference records its strong condemnation of the use of any methods of conception control from motives of selfishness, luxury, or mere convenience.

Where in 1920 “unnatural means for the avoidance of conception” reflected “theories and practices hostile to the family.,” and fraught with “grave dangers,” now it could be permissible “where there is clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood… provided that this is done in the light of… Christian principles.” The suggestion that there might be “Christian principles” for “limiting or avoiding parenthood” is in itself new (although said principles are not explicitly stated in the resolution).

Clearly, however, there continue to be Christian principles for not using contraceptices:

Resolution 17
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
While the Conference admits that economic conditions are a serious factor in the situation, it condemns the propaganda which treats conception control as a way of meeting those unsatisfactory social and economic conditions which ought to be changed by the influence of Christian public opinion.

Resolution 18
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
Sexual intercourse between persons who are not legally married is a grievous sin. The use of contraceptives does not remove the sin. In view of the widespread and increasing use of contraceptives among the unmarried and the extention of irregular unions owing to the diminution of any fear of consequences, the Conference presses for legislation forbidding the exposure for sale and the unrestricted advertisement of contraceptives, and placing definite restrictions upon their purchase.

So, contraceptives are not appropriate either for the social good of reducing poverty nor for private use outside of marriage.

Proper education of youth about sex and relationships is important, but in light of the new perspective so is education of clergy:

Resolution 12
The Life and Witness of the Christian Community - Marriage and Sex
In all questions of marriage and sex the Conference emphasises the need of education. It is important that before the child's emotional reaction to sex is awakened, definite information should be given in an atmosphere of simplicity and beauty. The persons directly responsible for this are the parents, who in the exercise of this responsibility will themselves need the best guidance that the Church can supply.

During childhood and youth the boy or the girl should thus be prepared for the responsibilities of adult life; but the Conference urges the need of some further preparation for those members of the Church who are about to marry.
To this end the Conference is convinced that steps ought to be taken:
1. to secure a better education for the clergy in moral theology;
2. to establish, where they do not exist, in the various branches of the Anglican Communion central councils which would study the problems of sex from the Christian standpoint and give advice to the responsible authorities in diocese or parish of theological college as to methods of approach and lines of instruction;
3. to review the available literature and to take steps for its improvement and its circulation.

Some things, of course, did not change. Abortion was explicitly rejected, while social workers and others who address social consequences of these issues are praised.

However, a change was clear, one that begins to sound more familiar to us today. The attitude toward sexual expression was changing, from something inherently fallen, tolerated in marriage for procreation, to something still intended for marriage but a good and healthy gift of God. While procreation was still the “primary” purpose for marriage, we began to see appreciation of the partnership in marriage, and the sexual component of marriage as formative for that partnership. These changes will continue to evolve in future Lambeth Conferences.

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