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
A JOURNEY OF FAITH AND BLESSING
Sister Thelma-Anne SSJD's regular column "Ways of Prayer"
QUOTABLE QUOTE, reconciling homosexuality with scripture
by William Sloane Coffin.
DIVERSITIES OF GIFTS
Sabbatical reflections on dialogue around full inclusion of gays and lesbians
by The Rev Bob Webster
LOVING JUSTICE, A Celebration of Queer Holiness in Toronto
Chris Ambidge reports on a conference at Holy Trinity, Toronto
CHECKING IN ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Ron Chaplin reports on a meeting of Diocesan representatives on homosexuality dialogues
INTEGRITY EUCHARIST WITH FIDELITY
by Penelope Holeton
by Chris Ambidge
TWELVE BISHOPS AT ALTON ABBEY
CLAIMING OUR POWER: Healing, Reconciliation and New Life The Annual Integrity Retreat
CHANGES AT INTEGRITY/TORONTO
In my last article, I wrote about Gods calling each one of us out of the safe and familiar into the unknown, in order to be blessed and to be a blessing. Coming out is our response to Gods calling us out. We look for scriptural models which support and affirm our coming out, and we look to find in our own lives the same pattern of call and response, being blessed and blessing.
The exodus from Egypt provides the paradigm. The exodus represents a journey from bondage into freedom, made in response to a call from God. The biblical account tells of oppression, hard labour, and attempted genocide in Egypt. The journey to freedom is long and dangerous, with many delays and detours, with weariness and longing for return to the security of enslavement. It is a journey made not alone, but in company with others; a community is forged, a people who are to belong to God and to each other. "You will be my people, and I will be your God." You will live by my ways, not those of your former masters. You will be blessed and will be a blessing.
Lesbians and gays know about fear, oppression, violence, the subtle genocide of having ones very existence denied "there are no gays in *our* parish". We know what it feels like to be in bondage to the assumptions of a heterosexist society, and the resulting internalized homophobia that saps our self-worth. We go forward and slip backward. We long for the camouflage of the dominant culture, the relationships with family, friends, and faith community which were broken when we began our exodus. Slowly, tentatively, we recognize that it is God who is leading us on the journey and feeding us in the wilderness. New friends take the place of those we have lost. Even within the faith community we meet those who are on the same journey. In solidarity, we find strength and grace to keep on travelling, knowing that our call is from the God who made us and loves us as we are.
In a classic essay, "Passages in Homosexual Holiness" (*Seasons of Strength: New Visions of Adult Christian Maturing* Winona, Minnesota: Saint Mary's Press, 1995), Evelyn Eaton Whitehead and James D. Whitehead speak of journey, or passage, as a major metaphor of the Christian life. The central paradox of passage is loss and gain. It begins in disorientation and the threat of loss, matures as we allow ourselves to fully experience and name this loss. But this time of vulnerability and loss is also a time of potential grace, an opportunity for extraordinary growth. Amid the chaos and turmoil we find new strengths, an unexpected ability to risk and to trust. We emerge with a new direction and confidence in our life.
The closet is an "image of perilous transition" for lesbians and gays, a developmental haven meant to be outgrown. To venture out of such secure confinement is to initiate a dangerous and exciting lifelong journey. The Whiteheads identify three closets and three passages in the process of coming out: an interior passage (coming out to oneself); a passage of intimacy (coming out to trusted others), and a public passage (being generally known as a lesbian or gay person). The first two are non-negotiable; the third is seen as a special call, not feasible for everyone.
This is the passage from the closet of ignorance or denial to the light of self-acceptance. It may come early or it may be long delayed We begin to accept and befriend our sexual identity. "This is a passage of identity and vocation coming to admit and love who I am and who I am called to be." Our fears will be powerfully reinforced by family, church and culture, but the passage must be made. It is "foundational and nonnegotiable". All of our adult love and work hinge on the self-knowledge and self-intimacy released in this passage and to refuse it is to "choose a self-denial of a most unchristian form. . . In the closet of self-rejection we can be obedient children, fulfilling every church law, but we cannot become adult believers."
In this passage, we are being led into a way of presence with others in which we are known for who we are. We experience a tension between the need and desire to share ourselves and the fear of rejection and humiliation. But strengthened by the grace of a growing comfort with ourselves, gained in the first passage, we enter the risk and excitement of being known. As we move out of this second closet and find ourselves accepted and loved, we are still further affirmed in our ability to love ourselves. This passage is necessary "because it is so difficult to continually come up close in friendship and in work while keeping closeted an important part of oneself." Whether choosing a celibate or a sexually active lifestyle, we must face this passage. In the deepest sense of the word, intimacy is not optional.
This third passage seems to be a special vocation. It is possible to grow in maturity without coming out publicly. But there are some for whom this third passage comes as a distinct call. The motive is generativity, the impulse to care for and to contribute to the good of humankind, and particularly to the good of those coming after us. The public witness of homosexual maturing in a community of faith becomes a gift to the next generation. It provides role models to young people who are still closeted or struggling to decide whether there is a place for them in church or synagogue. It educates the faith community to accept and welcome lesbian and gay believers in their midst.
At whatever stage we are in our coming out, in whatever
confusion and loss, we can be assured that God is with us,
leading us into a deeper authenticity, strengthening and
blessing us, and calling us to become, in our turn, a
strength and blessing to others on the journey.
The problem is not how to reconcile homosexuality with
scriptural passages that appear to condemn it, but rather
how to reconcile the rejection and punishment of
homosexuals with the love of Christ. I do no think it can
be done. I do not see how Christians can define and then
exclude people on the basis of sexual orientation alone --
not if the law of love is more important than the laws of
I have spent the last three months reading and reflecting on the issue of full inclusion for gay/lesbian Christians in the Church. As a particular focus, I visited and talked by email to people in several dioceses about the matter of Dialogue. I am particularly concerned for this matter for two reasons. The first is that we had a short lived dialogue group in my home diocese [Rupert's Land] which foundered on an issue of trust / confidentiality. I wanted to try to understand what we needed to do better. The second is that I do not want to see our church lose people unnecessarily. I am particularly concerned about Evangelical and Charismatic folk.
So it's time to come out of my closet. I am charismatic.
Yes, it's true. In August of 1963, in fact before the term charismatic was in popular use, I experienced the infilling of the Holy Spirit at a National AYPA conference being held at Huron College. The following year, I received the gift of tongues, and somewhere in that time a sense of priestly vocation and with that vocation gifts of preaching and teaching. While many of my understandings and opinions have changed over the last 37 years, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit working in and directing my life has remained constant.
Unfortunately my experience as a gay charismatic has been treated as an anomaly. Most people in my life have been supportive and nurturing, but with only a couple of exceptions, my charismatic and evangelical friends have turned away indicating that I had lost my way and could not be gay and Christian, much less a charismatic Christian. I would only be acceptable if I repented and denied the truth I had come to affirm about my sexual orientation as a child of God. This attitude of rejection came swiftly without offers to pray with me about it, or truly listen to my journey of faith which included every method of healing and change I know about.
On the other hand, my gay friends in and out of the church have been so wounded by the church and particularly by those at the conservative end of the spectrum, they were certainly not open to hearing my testimony about the transforming power of God's love working through the Holy Spirit. It is my conviction that gay and lesbian people in particular do need healing. The hatred, rejection and abuse they have experienced, almost universally, has left deep wounds which I believe only the deep healing power of Christ's love, plumbing the depths of our spirit, can touch and heal. Once that deep, eternal, transforming love has enfolded us, we know ourselves to be the beloved queer children of God that our creator longs for us to be.
The Rev Canon Gray Temple, a Charismatic leader in the USA, has encouraged charismatics to undertake three projects, the first two simultaneously. "They are, obviously, listening, exploratory prayer and courageous candid personal dealings with fellow believers who are gay. ... The third urging, once you've addressed the first two, is to do your head-work. ... Re-read the Bible as a prayerful charismatic in love with Jesus and in honest relationship with gay people who love him too. Re-examine the tradition of the church, filtering out mere customs masquerading as traditions. Prayerfully rethink the whole matter. Finally, budget the courage it will cost to withstand the reactions of those who have not yet accepted God's challenge."
On the other hand, I challenge gay and lesbian believers to be open to those conservatives who do make the effort to engage openly, respectfully and honestly with you. We too must set aside our prejudices and judgements if we are to truly hear, see and touch the gifts that others have to offer us. We too must allow the power of the Holy Spirit to open and empower us in discerning the way God is leading us toward a healed and holy Body of Christ.
No one, NO ONE, should allow themselves to be abused or taken for granted in any dialogue or conversation. Those participating in them must be open to deep, spiritual and spirit led listening with real respect for the persons involved as precious children of God. This can only be accomplished in a context of prayer asking God to make us truly open to the Spirit's direction. I encourage you all to seek out others with different positions, and begin again to engage the conversation we need to be having about Human Sexuality and homosexuality within it.
May the power of the Spirit of Christ be with you in this endeavour.
Note: Canon Gray Temple's article The Gay Challenge and Charismatic Episcopalians
is available online at newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/temple01.html
The Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto hosted a three-day conference in mid-December,: *Loving Justice; Celebrating Queer Holiness*. They brought in two well-known keynote speakers: Mary Hunt, a lesbian feminist RC theologian from Washington DC, and the Most Rev Richard Holloway, who had retired as Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland a couple of weeks earlier.
The promise of spending time with Hunt and Holloway, and indeed with each other, brought together significant numbers of lesbian, bisexual, gay and heterosexual Anglicans from all over the country. All of those present are working for full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders (sexual minorities that society and the church tend to place on the margins) in the church.
The conference was to be explicitly "queer without apology" -- that is, taking the innate goodness of homosexuals as a starting point, and not entering into discussion with those who take more conservative views on lesbigays and the church. As one who has spent a considerable amount of time in that very discussion, I was eager to attend and hear what others had to say -- and I was not disappointed.
Bishop Holloway spoke of being brought into the church as a young man by priests he now realises were gay. He has often wondered why queer people would want to be part of an institution that isn't very friendly, and has been moved by the replies that he gets; the way that they identify with the carpenter from Nazareth, who was himself always surrounded by outcasts.
Mary Hunt, in addressing justice issues, pointed out that we've only just begun. While all sorts of theological work has been done by John McNeill, Virginia Mollenkott, Carter Heyward and many others; and while there is loads of evidence that homosexuals and our relationships are good, natural and holy, this still hasn't trickled down to Lambeth. There is backlash against the work of queer- justice-seekers, across the denominational spectrum; and this in itself is a sign of progress -- but the backlash still hurts.
Bishop Holloway was at Lambeth in 1998, and spoke of being battered by the ugly, homophobic attitude of many of his brother bishops. He is particularly concerned by two things: a more literalistic use of biblical texts, and the disproportionate weight that seems to be given to sexual matters. He is bothered that the churches, over the years , have made filthy what was originally a dynamic of delight; and how that continues today.
Mary Hunt agreed, pointing out that "it's just sex", and how work for queer justice involves so much more than what happens in the bedroom. She would prefer to focus on eliminating duplicity, the odious necessity of having to keep secrets; and on promoting pluralism, in society, traditions, and our religion.
Fourteen workshops were planned, on subjects ranging from the Bible ("Whose Book Is It?"), creating welcoming communities, and commitment rituals. I went to one on "Our Church, Our Passion for Justice". Here we reconstructed a timeline of changes within the Anglican Church, and Canadian society in general, for lesbigay people. When it was all laid out on three metres of newsprint, as we all told about the steps we remembered making, I was impressed anew on just how different we are in 2001 from the early 1970s, before women were ordained. For some, this was discouraging, that final steps still seem so far away. I think many of us found it re-vitalising, seeing how our own individual works fits in the flow of change, as the Anglican Church moves towards fuller inclusion.
I think that the best outcome of the conference was that
re-energising of the participants. A priest from Ontario
spoke with joy of the meeting, never imagining she'd be in
such company. People from as far away as Winnipeg and
Vancouver, rural Alberta and northern Ontario came together
to praise God and to hear people from other parts of the
vineyard talk about their contributions. The Holy Trinity
organisers gave a real gift to those who attended the
conference: we heard theological reflections, and we heard
each others' stories, and now we go forth to our own parish
homes, rejoicing in the power of the Spirit, working anew
for full inclusion in the church we love. Or, as Mary Hunt
said, "Ready or not, queer we come."
On the last weekend of January, I was pleased to participate, at the invitation of Ottawa Bishop Peter Coffin, in a meeting of representatives from dioceses across Canada regarding the dialogue process on the issue of homosexuality. Only a few dioceses were not represented.
Seven dioceses presented reports on dialogue programs instituted by their respective bishops (Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island, Montreal, Toronto, Rupert's Land, Saskatchewan, Caribou, New Westminster, and British Columbia). The bishop of Saskatchewan had issued a report affirming traditional teachings on homosexuality. The process in the Diocese of Ottawa was different, in that it was volunteer-driven and reported directly to synod, rather than the bishop.
The group which gathered was diverse, comprising clergy and laity, male and female, and a few openly gay men. Opinions were diverse, ranging from strongly pro-inclusion to strongly pro-tradition -- but the majority of participants were non-commital, although interested and attentive. What surprised many of us is that, while their were differences in biblical interpretation and in our understanding of the "authority of Scripture", most differences were due to other factors, such as north/south, east/west, and urban/rural distinctions.
Although convened by the national Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee, we were unable, as a group, to recommend any particular course of action for General Synod in July. Almost all of us left, nonetheless, committed to be faithful to the resolution of the 1998 Lambeth Conference to continue the church's dialogue with the gay and lesbian community.
We gathered at the Church of the Redeemer, settling in the pews and waiting to see how many would be there. As the time drew near for the celebration to begin, it was decided to move chairs up into the sanctuary in a circle. In the end there were eighteen of us there, two of whom represented Fidelity.
We were fortunate to have Bob Webster visiting from Winnipeg who presided at the table. Paul Feheley of Fidelity was the homilist.
He brought us greetings from Dean Mercer who had hoped to be with us but was needed for a family emergency. Paul preached on the Gospel reading - the healing of blind Bartimaeus. He spoke of the importance of the blind man's insistence, (despite the discouragement of the crowd,) that he be led to Jesus. Paul spoke of the importance of the continuing dialogue between Fidelity and Integrity. He spoke most eloquently, but as so often before, I found it difficult to see why the dialogue cannot move further towards action and change.
The celebration was as always a time of real community, and
was followed by a happy reception.
Integrity is an international organisation. In July 2000, the continent of Africa was added to North America and Australia, when Integrity/Uganda formed. The names of the officers and contacts for the new chapter in Kampala can't be released generally now, because Uganda is a pretty hostile place to be lesbian or gay. The chapter is a small group of folks who are determined, despite the opposition from those around them, to begin the process of transformation in the Church in Uganda. Their goal is to begin the education process in Uganda, and to bring other African gay and lesbian people together for support and encouragement. Before Lambeth 2008, they want to have a Pan-African gay and lesbian gathering to show that there are faithful gay and lesbian Anglicans on that continent.
They certainly have their work cut out for them. Regular readers of *Integrator* will know of our friend Ronald Lwabaayi, who was obliged to flee Uganda after being arrested several times for advocating for homosexuals. Ronald is now a refugee, living and studying in Vancouver, hoping to return to Uganda some day.
Both the government of Uganda, and the Anglican Church in that country are strongly anti-homosexual. Radio Kampala (in reports monitored by the BBC) said early this month that Uganda's House of Bishops had urged the government to deny official registration to Integrity/Uganda. The bishops called the group unBiblical and immoral, and charged that its formation represents a move by guys and lesbians from the US who want to establish themselves in the African continent using Kampala as their base. Well, it isn't -- the members are native Ugandans. This tendency of some Africans to blame homosexuality on the decadent West is well-known. Homosexuals are found in populations all over the world.
At press time, Integrity's Uganda contacts are checking
things out there. Initial response was that they knew
nothing of the actions of the House of Bishops. That's a
good sign in that they are not yet experiencing any active
persecution. Please keep them in your prayers.
Ten bishops from across the Anglican communion, with a wide diversity of opinions, met at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park New York in November 1999, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, to speak about the broad range of approaches to human and homosexuality across the Communion [see Integrator article 99-6-5]; Twelve bishops met again at Alton Abbey, just outside Winchester, in December of last year. Our own Archbishop Finlay was one of the participants on both occasions. The bishops issued this statement:
"In an atmosphere of prayer and grounded in Scripture, and through participation in the worship life of Alton Abbey, the participants continued conversations on human sexuality and the call to Christian holiness. The conversations noted events in our Communion since November 1999, including the consecrations in Singapore, the meeting of Primates in Portugal and the General Convention of ECUSA in Denver, USA.
"The same experienced facilitators present at New York assisted the process at Alton Abbey. Trust and respect continued to grow as the group practised the disciplines of 'interpretive charity.' The bishops also recognised the priority of maintaining and deepening the unity of the Anglican Communion in the truth and love of Jesus Christ as a witness to Him.
"The conversations on human sexuality included attention to specific Biblical texts. A variety of understandings emerged which brought our differences into focus. It also revealed each person's profound commitment to seeking God's will as discerned in the Scriptures.
"The value of facilitated dialogue was experienced as the bishops were enabled to explore different views with respect and care. The experience lead the members of the group to seek deeper understandings of each other's view points and situations. Their positive reactions to the process encouraged the group once again to offer this to the Communion as a way of working with this and other controversial issues.
"The illumination of Holy Scripture beckons us to continue to walk together: 'You are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Gal 3:26-28"
The diversity of approaches across the communion is
undoubtedly very wide. The actions of ordaining
"missionary bishops" in Singapore, and possibilities of
parishes or maybe dioceses to leave the Communion over
homosexuals is very difficult for Integrity members.
Doubtless those at other points on the spectrum find other
events difficult too. However, the primates last year felt
that this is not a church-dividing issue. May the church
continue to seek and do God's will in the world, through
these meetings of bishops, and in all of our everyday
For nearly two decades, springtime has seen Integrity/Toronto's annual retreat at St John's Convent, Willowdale, led by Sister Thelma-Anne. This year the pattern continues, though the timing is a little earlier this year than in the recent past.
The theme of General Synod in July will be "Healing, Reconciliation and New Life". Sr Thelma-Anne has taken that as her cue for this year's retreat. Here's what she has to say about "Claiming our Power":
"Power is something we all want and need, whether we admit
it or not. Power is something we all have, whether we know
it or not. But how do we access it? How do we name the
powerlessness we experience in ourselves and in our life,
and how do we move beyond it? How do we operate from a
base of empowerment and self-worth to bring healing,
reconciliation and new life in a church and a society which
remain ambivalent toward us, to say the least? These are
some of the issues we will explore together in this year's
Integrity/Toronto's Annual Meeting was held in January, after a Eucharist presided over by Lillian Porter, of the diocese of Niagara.
The annual elections were at the annual meeting, of course. After many, many years on the Integrity/Toronto executive, Don Uttley is taking a well deserved rest. Don has done all sorts of administrative tasks, and has made the day-to- day running of the chapter much smoother for the rest of us. Thank you very much, Don!
Bonnie Crawford-Bewley, Chris Ambidge and Brian MacIntyre were re-elected to the executive. They were joined by Penelope Holeton, newly elected to the executive.
Integrity/Toronto, early in its history, had a chaplain.
Two incumbents of the position were the late Gregory Lee
and the late Galt Kortright. The office has been in
abeyance for over fifteen years. The executive thought
that it was time to have a chaplain again. We're very
pleased to announce that Archbishop Finlay, at our request,
has appointed Lillian Porter. Welcome Lillian and