Over the last couple of chaotic days, I've seen a number of misrepresentations of the new church policy. Some people are willfully misconstruing (of course, because how else does a religion-baiter maintain relevance?), but some of the responsibility lies with the church. The crew who wrote this policy got it wrong.
One of the incorrect statements I keep hearing is that the policy disallows baptism of children whose parents have ever been in a same-gender relationship. But it doesn't. But it kind of does. The policy is badly written and hard to follow. Add to that what I think (hope?) are some unstated assumptions and it turns the policy from a difficult one to gobbledygook.
Below I'll be fisking with the new handbook policy (Handbook 1, number 16.3) in purple (how appropriate!) and my own thoughts in black. My point is to note what I think is the intent of the policy as it is currently written, what it can't logically mean, and what I hope (and pray) will be changed.
Here we go!
Children of a Parent Living in a Same-Gender Relationship
This is the title of the section. Note the entire section is written to address a particular situation that is clearly described. This section is to clarify issues concerning children who have a parent who is living in a same-gender relationship.
It's not written to clarify issues concerning children who have parents who are dating someone of their own gender, parents who thought about orientation in high school, or even parents who used to live in a same-gender relationship. It is only about children who have parents living in a same-gender relationship.
If this is not the issue you are concerned about, this is not the section for you.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may not receive a name and a blessing.
This paragraph states that a child who has a parent living in a same-gender relationship (which includes both unmarried and married) cannot be blessed and, subsequently, be listed as a member of record.
Per my post, Same Sex Marriage and the New Church Policies, I think there are a number of logistical and administrative reasons why church leaders believe the issue of homosexuality is problematic enough and that parents are influential enough that they want to withhold this membership until children in these situations are adults. While it may not be fair and may be painful, it still may be reasonable given the other (also possibly unfair and painful) costs involved.
My personal impression is that these concerns would be nearly completely alleviated by limiting this restriction to children living with parents who are living in a homosexual relationship. For now, however, that is not what the policy states. With whom the child lives is not part of the consideration.
A natural or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender relationship, whether the couple is married or cohabiting, may be baptized and confirmed, ordained, or recommended for missionary service only as follows:
This paragraph, similarly, states that a child who has a parent living in a same-gender relationship (which includes both unmarried and married) cannot be baptized/confirmed, ordained in the priesthood, or go on a mission.
As per above, I see valid reasons why this policy may be needed, but think most concerns would be addressed if this restriction only applied to children living with the same-gender couple, given how much influence that circumstance provides.
A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met:
Here we have the paragraph that contains the bad code. The if-then statement presented in the policy moves to the then. That then includes an or condition that will never apply.
Clear? It looks something like this:
This paragraph only kicks in if the if statement is met. If it's not met, you never get this far. You exit the program. As written, this policy and these conditions are only relevant to a child who does have a parent who is living in a same-gender relationship.
Since the A of the if A or B statement was a condition in the original if statement, the if A or B will always be true. The “No” in orange is the fail point. The “…who has lived…” statement is completely nonsensical because the “No” will never apply.
Either the administrators intended this to be a condition in the original if statement—to keep the program running—or it's superfluous.
- The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.
This condition requires the child to specifically commit not to live in their own same-gender relationship and not to support such relationships. (This same condition applies to all of us, although it may not be so specifically addressed.)
- The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.
This condition requires the child be…well…not a child. Again, odd wording. It also requires that the former child does not live with a parent who lived or lives in a same-gender relationship.
My impression is that this condition would be more helpful if it applied only if the parent was unrepentant about the former same-gender relationship. (Obviously, someone currently living in a same-gender relationship would not be considered repentant.) If they had lived in a same-gender relationship sometime in the past, and formally repented, I see no reason why this should impact the living arrangements.
I'd like to conclude by giving the public relations department a bit of a pass. While this was certainly a PR disaster, I suggest the PR department was never informed about the event in the first place…and only in the problematic after place. I mourn with them as well.
Here's hoping the powers-that-be will revisit, reconsider, and rewrite.