INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2001 Integrity/Toronto.
The hard-copy version of this newsletter carries the ISSN 0843-574X
Integrity/Toronto Box 873 Stn F Toronto ON Canada M4Y 2N9
SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES - Integrity/Toronto's 25th Anniversary celebration
by Chris Ambidge
A STEP ALONG THE WAY: Thoughts on Integrity's 25th Birthday Party
by Janet Bruce
preached by the Rt Rev Terence Finlay, Bishop of Toronto, at Integrity/Toronto's 25th anniversary Eucharist.
CAN BUMBLEBEES FLY?
Sister Thelma-Anne ssjd's regular column Ways of Prayer
25th ANNIVERSARY LETTERS
[2000-5-5A] - from Integrity's Founder Louie Crew
[2000-5-5B] - from Mayne Ellis
[2000-5-5C] - from Ronald Lwabaayi
INTEGRATOR VOLUME 2000-XXV
a special edition of Integrator, a collation special articles from the past, has been published.
BEWARE OF THE "INTEGRITY SCAM ARTIST"
a confidence trickster is pretending to be an Integrity member in distress. Don't believe him.
DISCERNING THE WORD
a new book assessing the scriptural approach taken by the bishops at Lambeth 1998
has been written by Paul Gibson.
On Monday, 18 September this year, Integrity/Toronto celebrated 25 years as a worshipping community, working for full inclusion of lesbigays in the life and witness of the Anglican Church of Canada. Our diocesan bishop, Terence Finlay, presided and preached at the liturgy. The date was set by chance -- the chapter's regular worship service is the third Monday in the month, and September was the one that meshed best with the bishop's datebook. 18 September in the church calendar is the commemoration of the Founders, Benefactors and Missionaries of the Church in Canada. Some say that this was providential, others coincidental. Others say that "coincidence" is the pseudonym used by the Holy Spirit when she wants to remain anonymous. In any event, a better date can hardly be imagined for such a celebration as ours; and we gave thanks to God for the founders, benefactors and missionaries of Integrity in Canada, and indeed around the world.
The epistle appointed comes from Hebrews 11 - 12 (read by Sr Thelma-Anne, in from Montreal for the occasion); and it speaks of the cloud of witnesses that surrounds the faithful. There was a positive cloud of witnesses in the church that evening: sixty people present in body were joined in prayer by forty who sent word of their support from all over the world. Their messages were printed out, and a couple of them appear in this issue of Integrator.
Founders, benefactors and missionaries were all together that night. We were very fortunate indeed to have a guest come from away-far-off to join the Integrity/Toronto celebrations. Dr Louie Crew founded the Integrity movement back in the mid-1970s. It was initially a newsletter, and Louie was part of an inter- racial same-sex couple in rural Georgia. Talk about courage!. More than a quarter of a century later, Louie and Ernest are still together, and live in New Jersey. Louie made a flying visit -- thirteen hours -- to Toronto to join our anniversary celebrations.
From Louie's beginning, Integrity grew, and chapters were initially formed in 1975 -- Integrity/Toronto was one of the first, founded at the Chicago convention by six Canadian Anglicans. Two of those six, Peter and Bruce, were among the worshippers in 2000.
It was a wonderful party, and some people were saying "here's to
another 25 years". I understand the sentiment, and the
celebration certainly equipped us (nourished at Christ's table,
buoyed up by each other's presence) to continue our work. To be
quite honest, though, I hope Integrity/Toronto *isn't* around in
2025, because by then it won't need to be. Our task is to work
for full inclusion of lesbigays in the Anglican Church of Canada.
When that happens, we will have put ourselves out of business.
God hasten that day. We're closer than we were in 1975, but our
mission is not yet accomplished. Thanks be to God who has
brought us thus far, and who (we have a sure and certain hope)
will give us the grace to continue our ministry.
With my daypack emitting Chinese food smells from a still-warm doggie bag, Gillian and I entered the Church of the Redeemer shortly before 7:30. Hi, Chris; how's it going, Michelle; happy birthday, Bonnie; oh hey there, T-A! Over sixty bodies were milling about, and dozens of spirits manifested themselves in congratulatory e-mails papering the walls. Integrity's 25th birthday party was underway.
In proper Anglican fashion, we distributed ourselves evenly about the nave, one or two faithful per pew. Gillian and I sat near the back, just behind Michael Peers --although we didn't know it at the time. We did notice during the Peace that he had a good handshake.
Bishop Finlay entreated us LGBTs not to give up on the Anglican Church just yet. He confessed his disappointment with the Lambeth decision, and although his position may require some discretion in his public life, he did manage to relate Mrs Bishop Finlay's opinion that the Council of Bishops was more interested in collegiality than in justice. He praised Integrity's insistence on preferring dialogue to discord, and averred that the document *Emerging Common Ground* was a step in the right direction.
Perhaps symbolising that wish to remain Anglican, during the offertory hymn we five dozen congregants did not toss toonies but rather offered ourselves, our souls and bodies. We filed to the front while singing *Praise my soul the King of heaven* and formed a huge circle around the altar: lesbigay and straight worshippers of various hues, shapes, ages, and degrees, from ordinary Janes like me to members of religious orders to the Primate himself. Let the feast begin. We held hands during the Lord's Prayer, and observed silence as the paten and chalice passed slowly from one partaker's hands to the next.
The dismissal "Thanks be to God!" resounded mere moments before "Photos! Places, everyone!" My lifelong disadvantage of being vertically challenged won me a spot to the Bishop's left. The least will be first, especially in group pictures.
Over a flute of champagne, I talked shop with my Integrity Retreat buddy Mike-From-Western-Ontario and another language teacher named Dan. Then we piped down as Michael Peers gave an encouraging speech. His Grace reminded us that, even in this young country's history, 25 years is a drop in the bucket, and in that short time Integrity has accomplished a good deal. Keep up the good work, was his message. And with thy spirit, was our reply. The final official gesture of the evening was the cutting of a beautiful rainbow cake by a beaming Louie Crew, none other than the founder of Integrity, come all the way from New Jersey just for the occasion.
At 9 o'clock, Gillian and I were ready for the walk home to
Cabbagetown. I hoisted the Chinese leftovers onto my shoulders
and we bid our friends good night. As we strolled through the
warm night air and recapped the evening, we held hands, a simple,
loving action made possible in part through the existence of
On this special day, in which we celebrate the 25th anniversary of Toronto Integrity, I want to begin by honouring the contribution that Integrity has made to the Anglican communion, the Canadian church and the diocese of Toronto. Your affirmation of lesbians and gays in the Anglican church is a cause that can be emotional and divisive. I value your thoughtful and sensitive way of working, instead of giving in to methods that could be so politically motivated that we would end up in armed camps.
I am sure that this restrained approach has not always been an easy choice for you. I know there must be some who would like to "push the nuclear button". But I want you to know that I am grateful for both your courage and your caution.
I appreciate that you have made an effort to keep the lines of communication open with more traditional groups. In conversations with others, you listen as well as talk. You handle criticism with *elan*, you have been accessible to those who want to learn more about you, and you are supportive of me as we try to keep the dialogue open at various levels of the church.
However, it would be a mistake if I gave the impression that Integrity is simply a group that facilitates dialogue. Integrity has also challenged and pushed the church, you have kept this important issue alive and you are not going to let it slip to the back burner. Your challenge to other Anglicans keeps faith discussions lively. For all that, I am also grateful.
Finally I want to honour the fact that your efforts come out of a spiritual base. Your gatherings are rooted in an appreciation of the Anglican ethos of worship and prayer. Although I am sure you grow impatient with the church and its awkward journey with you, I appreciate that many Anglican lesbians and gays and their friends remain loyal to an institution that has not always treated them well. Thank you for not giving up on us for the last 25 years and the centuries before that.
The church is living in interesting and difficult times. We come together in a culture that is indifferent, almost hostile to the church. At the national level we struggle with the costs of the past as we cope with the tragedies from the residential schools. The international communion now has rogue bishops ready to bring their version of truth to dioceses that they feel are too liberal about issues of sexuality. It all feels quite surreal sometimes; occasionally I feel as if I am living in a Salvador Dali painting.
You know well how divisive the issue of sexuality was at Lambeth. It was very painful to listen to the harsh comments about homosexuals. As I listened, all I could see were the faces of gays and lesbians back here at home, people I knew to be faithful servants of Christ, and I wept.
I think our dioceses and the national level have the potential to also become divided over this issue but there are some hopeful signs.
Because of the supportive work of groups such as Integrity, people feel more comfortable speaking out about their sexual orientation. More and more I hear of people who have found that some member of their family is gay or lesbian, someone they love or care about confronts their prejudices. People come to me and say, "I never thought I would be saying this to a bishop but, I want to encourage you to keep helping people to understand homosexuality. For some the discussion is confusing and threatening, but for others it is liberating.
Many young people, of course, don't know what the problem is and wonder why the church cannot be more affirming of same-gender commitments. As long as they stay in the church, they will keep us on our toes.
From our diocese, the document *Emerging Common Ground* has made its way across the country and to other parts of the world. Both Integrity and Fidelity have brought a grace to our discussions.
At the national level, you need to know that the House of Bishops has had some lively and frank discussions about sexuality and same-gender blessings. We try to work together on contentious issues and to keep some unity in our body. (My wife is a bit harsh about this approach and says that the House of Bishops values collegiality over justice.)
The closest we have come to amending the guidelines was when we took a vote regarding a local option. This would have allowed interested diocese to explore the form and requirements that such blessings would take and whether they could be put into practice. I voted in favour of this motion because this is a crucial issue in our diocese and we have people who would be sensitive to the Anglican ethos. As you know, it was defeated, but I mention this because it will probably come up again after the vote in New Westminster (whatever way that goes). Personally, I am open to this possibility, but I do not want it to be a major church- dividing issue and I want it to be thought through with a great deal of care and sensitivity and spiritual depth.
At the international level, the Archbishop of Canterbury has called together a group of 12 bishops from around the world to try to heal the wounds of Lambeth. These bishops are not extremists but represent a spectrum of opinions on the place of gays and lesbians in the church. Canterbury has asked me to be part of this group. We have had one meeting and there is another scheduled for Winchester in December.
The talks are well facilitate and people speak from the heart. In some ways it is frustrating to deal with old arguments but in other ways it is good to be a part of a positive attempt to understand each other. Despite the divisive actions that we hear of some Asian, African and Southern US bishops, I think the men and women around our table do not want to divide the church in this way.
As I listened to the readings for today I was thinking about how they speak to your hopes and dreams for this organisation. They remind us that we are a part of a great community moving through history, attempting to be faithful to God's calling to us to transform our societies to be places of justice, truth and compassion.
The readings use images of foot races, of struggles for survival, and harvesting of crops. All of these require perseverance and faithfulness to reach a goal. I know there are times when you feel your race is endless and the harvest will never be ready but I encourage you to persevere.
The readings also inject a note of caution. When we expect immediate results and grow impatient that change is not happening quickly enough, the readings are clear that often those who begin a cause may not be the ones who see the hoped-for results. Some sow the seeds of a mission but may not be there to reap the harvest, some may start the struggle but not be there to enjoy the fulfilment. And as we tune into the Olympics this week on television and watch the relay races, it will be very clear that those who begin are as vial as those who break the tape at the end.
It is serendipity that the readings for today are in commemoration of founders and benefactors and missionaries of the church. So today we think of those who are your founders, benefactors and missionaries over the last 25 years and before, the cloud of witnesses who surround us. I think they can look on your achievements with pride and with hope for the years ahead.
In the book entitled For All the Saints, there is a passage for this day taken from the sermon preached at the first General Synod in 1893. It is for a different time and a different church but it is interesting to think of it in our context today. Archbishop Robert Machray says, "We ... are at a crisis in the history of our beloved church in this land. But it is not a crisis that should be filling us with anxious foreboding. ... On the contrary, we may well see before us a future of grand possibilities. But if we are to do our part well in the future, if we are to rise to its opportunities, we must throw our hearts in to what we do. We must be strong and of good courage. It does not matter what we have in hand; half the battle is in the spirit, the resolution, with which the work is undertaken. [end quote]
While we were on holiday in Chataqua this summer we attended a gathering of gays and lesbians and their friends and listened to the ways some churches are journeying with the gay community. Later when I was at another lecture, a gentleman came and sat beside me and started up a conversation. He turned out to be the pastor of a church in the southern United States. He talked about the difficulties they had faced when a lesbian couple joined their congregation. At first, no one realised that they were a couple. They became involved in committee work, Sunday school etc, but eventually one of the elders became suspicious and started a whisper campaign against them. It was painful.
Within a short time, however, that particular elder got into trouble with his job. He was laid off and eventually let go, he was ashamed and broken by his experience. "But," the pastor said to me, "guess who were the first people at his door? Who prayed with him and renewed his faith? Who helped him write a fresh CV? Helped him get to interviews and get a new job? Encouraged his wife? The lesbian couple of whom he had been so fearful."
The pastor went on to say, "Their concern for him shook his foundations. He has been a different person ever since, and one of my strongest workers in helping people to accept diversity in the church."
May God bless us all with perseverance and courage, but most of
all with faithfulness, to live as Christ has called us in our
work for compassion, truth and justice.
In my last column I wrote about scripture as a kind of sacrament -- both as outward and visible sign and as inward and spiritual grace. I suggested that scripture is a record of God's call and human response. I spoke of the crucial role of experience in discerning God's call and of tradition as the cumulative experience of the faith community, tested over time and under the guidance of the Spirit, and therefore open to growth and renewal.
In the great themes of scripture we find our own experience mirrored, illuminated and validated. These themes provide patterns which are archetypes or templates for our own lives. As we experience God in these ways, modelled in scripture and reproduced in the experience of generations of the faithful , and find them grace-filled and life-giving for us and those around us, we know that God is at work in us and through us.
In this and the next two columns, we will be considering three of these basic patterns, against which we test our lives and vocations as lesbian and gay Christians in today's church. Each, we shall see, corresponds to the Summary of the Law:
Call, or vocation, is a major biblical theme. When God calls, things happen: there is a new creation. God calls the world and humankind into being. The word is spoken. And what is spoken comes to be. God calls to Adam and Eve in the garden. God's word creates history and human responsibility as we know them. God calls Abraham to leave his own country creates a covenant relationship between God and a people, and farther along, three major world religions. God calls Israel out of Egypt - creates a new way of being in relation with God and one another. God calls the Assyrians and Babylonians from the north - breaks open a small, self-contained pod of a society and scatters its seed far and wide, opening it to new influences. God calls Mary to a daring and radical trust. The Word takes flesh and dwells among us. God calls John the Baptist and through him, challenges a people to accept or reject a new order of which he is the prophet. God calls Jesus to baptism, to a mission of healing and proclamation, to a life among the outcasts of society, to rejection by the establishment, to the cross and beyond.
The list could be expanded. In each case, we see a pattern of separation or departure often painful and disorienting -- from something old, so that something new and unforeseen can be created, which will be a blessing not only to the individual or group that is called, but to many others. The call of Abraham and Sarah is a classic example.
Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your
kindred and your fathers house to the land that I will show
you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you
... and in you all the families of the earth shall be
blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
We see three elements here, each of which corresponds to the threefold law of love.
Trust: God calls Abraham and Sarah to leave all that is secure and familiar. Their love of God both enables and deepens their trust.
Affirmation: God's promise, "I will bless you," affirms them and enables them to love themselves as the beloved of God.
Fruitfulness: God's promise, "In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed," enables them to become channels of God's love to an ever-widening circle of neighbours.
God asks us for trust deep enough to leave family, culture and security behind; if the call is answered, blessing follows; the person who responds is blessed ; and the blessing extends far beyond the individual. Through the one who responds, God's will to bless is set free to operate more freely in the world. This is true of all whom God calls, and the call comes over and over, throughout a lifetime.
We recognise this pattern in our lives as people of faith who are lesbian, gay, or persons called to stand with lesbians and gays in the struggle for full acceptance. We know that this call originates not in ourselves but in God. It springs from our deepest being, and gives us no peace until we respond. As we respond, God confirms our vocation by a sense of rightness; we find courage and hope; we become more integrated; we experience blessing. And we find that this blessing extends beyond ourselves. We give hope and courage to others. We bear witness to God's grace in and through our life and relationships.
The twenty-fifth anniversary celebration of Integrity/ Toronto was a vivid reminder of how far that blessing extends. The sixty- two people present represented only a small fraction of those who have been blessed through God's call to Integrity/ Toronto. Bishop Finlay spoke of the supportive work of groups like Integrity which makes people more comfortable speaking out about their own orientation and helps family members to confront their prejudices. On a broader scale, he spoke of the way that Integrity has pushed and challenged the church, making it a friendlier and more accepting place.
For me, one of the most moving parts of Bishop Finlay's address was the story about the lesbian couple who came to the help of the church elder who had tried to destroy them with a whispering campaign. Love of enemies is an unquestionable sign of grace at work in human lives, giving flesh to Jesus command, "Do good to those who hate you." Not many of us, straight or gay, can rise to that. This is but one among many signs of grace in the lives of lesbians and gays which remind the Church that it is God, not humans, who decides who is in and who is out.
It has been said that, according to the laws of aerodynamics,
bumble bees are incapable of flight. Bumble bees don't know that,
and fly anyway.
Dr Louie Crew, founder of the Integrity movement, sent this letter to Integrity/Toronto to mark our anniversary (though in the event, he was able to be present at the Church of the Redeemer himself).
It is with great joy that I celebrate with you your 25th Anniversary of servant ministry in Toronto. What an achievement!
Persons yet unborn will call you blessed.
Thank you for every risk that you have taken.
Thank you for your patience in adversity.
Thank you for every time that you have returned love to those who have not loved you.
Thank you for every time that you have forgotten your own weariness to take the time to listen to yet one more question, even when you had no good reason to think that the questioner was sincerely listening. Thank you for every act of kindness you have done in the name of Christ to those whom Christ's church does not yet welcome.
Thank you for your courage, especially your courage to be as fully as you can be the person that God made you to be.
May God continue to bless absolutely everybody through your witness.
From Mayne Ellis, [Victoria BC]
Date: Fri, 2 Sept 2000
Since 1986, when I first made contact with Integrity/Vancouver, I have been proud and very grateful to be an ongoing part of this cloud of witnesses.
Integrity's work has been a path to mutual liberation, as well as helping me grow a profoundly deep and healthy spirituality. Integrity has enabled me to give the best of myself to my friends, family, community, church and world because its work and ethos has provided an honourable, joyful and authentic way for me.
Through many dangers, toils and snares, gay and lesbian Christians have returned good for evil, love for hate, respect for contempt. I have been able to remain part of the body of Christ *ONLY* because of Integrity; because of the love, acceptance, fellowship and commitment of so many beautiful, unique and faithful women and men. God will surely bless and companion us as we continue our journey together.
And may Integrity/Toronto's 50th anniversary be a day of rejoicing for the whole people of God, not just some.
In the love of the Lover,
Past President of Integrity/Vancouver
Last year we told the story of Ronald Lwabaayi. He is a gay man, and was working for gay and lesbian freedoms in his native Uganda when a government crackdown forced him to flee the country. He was in contact with Integrity/Vancouver, and came to Canada as a refugee. He now lives with Integrity members in Vancouver. As this letter announces, he has just received status as a Convention Refugee in Canada. Hallelujah!
This is to send two messages to you.
One is to congratulate you for 25 years of the existence of Integrity / Toronto. Please keep it up -- may Integrity outlive all of us.
The other thing is to inform you that I am now a convention refugee in Canada, as per decision taken yesterday by the immigration board. Thank you for all the efforts. I can now breath with peace I am also fighting that my three friends still in Africa get the dose of freedom I am now enjoying.
The struggle continues for sure there is no easy walk to freedom.
Not long after Integrity/Toronto was founded, a chapter newsletter was started. At first it was handwritten, and later typed, and was published sporadically for several years. It was named *Integrator* in 1984, and began publication in its present form in 1988. Since then, 453 articles have been published. To mark the chapter's twenty-five years, a few of those articles have been collated into a special silver-anniversary edition of Integrator.
Volume 2000-XXV was available at the anniversary celebration. If
you'd like a copy for yourself, just let us know (letter, phone
or email) and we'll be delighted to mail it to you.
Periodically, an unknown white male attempts to scam Integrity members, Integrity chapters, diocesan offices, and Episcopal/ Anglican congregations throughout North America by telephone. The perpetrator generally pretends to be an Integrity member in need -- he is either sick with HIV/AIDS, or has fallen among thieves, beaten up and robbed in a distant city. For plausibility, the perpetrator often assumes the name of a real Integrity member. He usually asks the victim to wire money to him at a Western Union office.
In July, the scam artist successfully persuaded an elderly member of Integrity/Colorado to wire $200 to him at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
This past month, this individual appears to have been in Toronto and was impersonating Chris Ambidge of Integrity/Toronto. Calls were made to parishes in Toronto and Vancouver (apparently Chris had been foolish enough to get himself beaten up in two different cities in California on the same day; fortunately he managed to make it back for the 25th anniversary service in Toronto that evening none the worse for wear. Even more fortunately, no-one was taken in by the ruse this go-round.)
Integrity/Toronto encourages all members and diocesan/ parish
offices to be wary of this scam. Individuals who are solicited
may wish to file a report with their local police department.
Paul Gibson, liturgical officer of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written a book assessing and criticising the scriptural approach of the bishops at Lambeth 1998, in particular the report and resolutions on homosexuality.
Discerning the Word: The Bible and Homosexuality in Anglican Debate asks if the church can accept homosexual relationships, or ordain homosexual people. Gibson also asks if the 1998 Lambeth conference amended the traditional Anglican understanding of and approaches to the Bible.
The Most Rev Richard Holloway, Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, says Discerning the Word is "a devastating critique of the bad theology behind Resolution I.10 of the Lambeth Conference. The book is brilliantly argued and luminously sane."
The book will be launched Wednesday 25 October from 5-7pm at the
Anglican Book Centre in Toronto. A review will appear in the
next issue of Integrator.