Thinking Again About Marriage: Key Theological Questions

My new book, co-edited with John P. Bradbury, is out! It's entitled Thinking Again About Marriage: Key Theological Questions
and is published by SCM Press. We have lots of fantastic contributors: 

Mike Higton on marriage, gender and Christian doctrine 
Charlotte Methuen on what we can learn from the history of marriage 
Ben Fulford on thinking about marriage with Scripture 
Julie Gittoes on the liturgical theology of marriage
Raphael Cadenhead on gender and asceticism
John Bradbury on marriage as vocation 
Brett Gray on reproduction and the body's grace 
Susannah Cornwall on being faithful to our sexuate bodies 
Augur Pearce on the shifting understanding of marriage in English law
Rachel Muers on developing a contemporary theology of marriage

As John and I say in the Introduction,

"This book is not a summary of existing theological claims about marriage ... Rather, it aims to guide readers into the practice of thinking theologically about marriage. We will explore what is involved in thinking through marriage in the light of the Bible; what it means to draw on the Christian tradition; what it means to attend to the liturgical forms in which marriage is celebrated; and what it means to attend to experience theologically. The book will show how theological thinking about marriage has been bound up with theological thinking about the nature of sex and gender, and with thinking about the place and importance of procreation, and fecundity more generally. It will explore the place that marriage can have within broader accounts of Christian life, and develop a theology of marriage as vocation ... It also includes chapters that introduce aspects of the history of marriage and aspects of the legal questions surrounding it, in order to provide a wider context for these theological questions. 

The book is prompted in part by recent debates about same-sex marriage, but its focus is not limited to those debates, and it will be relevant to audiences who are interested in many other questions about marriage. Those debates have, nevertheless, revealed that there is a striking need for rich, positive theological thinking about the nature of marriage – and the book is written in the conviction that theological thinking can be a useful resource for those debates precisely because it is not wholly determined by them. One of the things we acknowledge throughout the volume is that marriage is not, and has never been, a single, monolithic thing: at different times and across different cultures there have been diverse things called 'marriage', which have varied according to factors such as whether they involve only two people or multiple spouses (polygamous marriages, where one man marries several women, have been particularly common); whether they are understood as private or public arrangements; what the minimum age is for entering into marriage; whether and on what grounds marriages can be ended via divorce; whether marriages can be contracted between family members; and so on. Given that marriage is already multiple, then, it is deliberate and conscious that there are also multiple perspectives on marriage represented throughout this volume. All the authors are Christian theologians, but we have different disciplinary and denominational backgrounds. We include a mixture of clergy and lay people; a mixture of sexualities, sexes and genders; a mixture of married and unmarried people, with and without children; and a mixture of ages and career stages ...

One of the catalysts for putting this book together was the frustrations that some of us felt about the kinds of conversations about marriage that were happening – or not happening – in the churches. Some of us were upset and discouraged by the fact that Christian responses to prompts such as the UK Government’s 2012 consultation on same-sex marriage seemed theologically “thin”, and seemed not to acknowledge or draw on the breadth of existing rich theological reflection on marriage, gender, sexuality and relationship that we knew existed. Some of us were bothered by the fact that denominations’ official pronouncements on matters of this kind often seemed not to reflect the diversity of belief, practice and experience we knew were present within their memberships. Some of us felt that such pronouncements tended to occur in “top-down” fashion, and were not reflective of the ongoing conversations taking place at all levels of the denominations ... [The book] has grown via a mixture of face-to-face meetings, and Skype, Facebook and e-mail exchanges. We have all been convinced that the way good theology is done is in conversation, with an acknowledgement, rather than a stamping-out, of our disagreements and divergences."