The Church is the Body of Christ, we affirm, but it is the body of Christ among human beings. As fish swim in water, human beings live in history. For as long as we draw breath, we do not escape it. And history is always a journey. History travels from one place to another. Its beginnings are not its endings. Although the domain of God is timeless, life on the earth is not: it only moves forward. Whatever else the Church may be, it is not a way out of the pilgrimage of human history.
We may long for a way out, but we will not find one. You and I will move aside, will yield our places to those who wait to take theirs. Over time, we have seen that the company of those who claim a place at the table of the Lord has widened. Over time, we have seen that some of what was once unthinkable has become normal, and some of what was once normal has become unthinkable, and that the direction of these changes has been toward the wideness of God's mercy. Only rarely has this happened easily. Our assumptions, too, will yield - indeed, they are yielding at this very moment.
So we must go slowly in asserting the timelessness of our own customs, however dear they may be to us. Judging from what we have noticed about the widening movement in history, we must question ourselves with especial rigor whenever we cherish and defend any system that enshrines us at its summit. In the name of moral honesty, I must always suspect myself: perhaps it is not really morality I defend. It may only be turf.
Might marriage change its meaning? Might it move, a bit, from one place in the landscape to another? Most assuredly, it will, as it has many times before. Might the complexion of ordained ministry change as well? Certainly it will. It already has, many times. And are these things steps on a downward spiral that can only end in chaos and the death of faith, as some are absolutely certain they are?
Not at all. Fear not: faith does not die unless we choose to stop trusting in the love of God and serving the children of God. That airlessness alone kills it, and even then it only lies dormant, ready to spring to life again, given half a chance, a little sunlight, and half a cup of water.
Thank you, Barbara! That last paragraph is just what I've been trying to find the words to say, many times, to people who raise these concerns. The Church is God's church - he gathered it together, and he's certainly not going to let a few arguments between Bishops derail his purpose for it, no matter what the enemy might intend. We need to remember Romans 8.28 (for the nth time): "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."