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
Asking a Blessing
Steve Schuh reports on New Westminster diocesan synod's asking the bishop to permit blessing of same-sex unions.
Bless The Lord, O My Soul
A reflection to New Westminster Synod, by the Most Rev David Crawley, Archbishop of Kootenay.
Discerning How The Spirit Is Moving
by the Most Rev Arthur Peters, Archbishop of Nova Scotia and PEI
Who is my Enemy?
Thoughts from Integrity/Toronto's spring retreat, by Bonnie Crawford-Bewley
Opinion by Chris Ambidge on "local options" for dioceses on treatments of homosexuals.
Power? What Power?
A reflection by Janet Bruce inspired by this year's Integrity/Toronto retreat
Integrity/Toronto Website Has Moved!
Asking a Blessing
New Westminster Synod asks for blessings of same-sex unions;
vote falls short of margin Bishop requires for his approval
by Steve Schuh
VANCOUVER – For the second time in three years a majority of the delegates to the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster has asked their bishop to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions, and for the second time Bishop Michael Ingham has withheld his consent.
Of the 400 lay and clergy delegates who voted on the motion, 56.5% voted in favour of blessing same-sex unions, up from 51.3% in 1998. "It is clear now that we have a growing acceptance of our gay and lesbian members," Bishop Ingham told the Synod after announcing the results. Still, support fell short of the level he considered necessary before granting consent, closer to the 60% received by recent episcopal candidates.
"I realise this is a very difficult decision for gay and lesbian people, and I make this decision with some reluctance," the bishop said. "I know this will cause pain. But if we are to move forward, a stronger consensus is needed. I ask you to accept the need of this family to wait a little longer."
Many people were visibly shaken by the Bishop’s decision. "I’m not sure I can go through this again," one man whispered, his eyes brimming with tears.
Dialogue on Same-Sex Unions
This year’s vote followed an involved "dialogue process" established by the bishop following the historic synod vote on the same motion in 1998. At that time some delegates had complained that there had not been sufficient study of the issue, and that the diocese and bishop did not have the legal authority to implement it.
Bishop Ingham therefore commissioned several reports on the theological issues raised by the motion -- representing conservative and moderate views -- as well as a rite that might be used for such blessings. All 80 parishes in the diocese were "twinned" (or tripled), and the resulting groups were assigned trained facilitators to help them discuss the biblical and theological material in eight meetings over 18 months. (All commission reports are available on the diocesan website at www.vancouver.anglican.ca .)
The bishop also established a Commission on Gay and Lesbian Voices to assist parishes in hearing the experience of gay Christians, as suggested by the Canadian and Lambeth bishops. This commission included lesbian and gay Anglicans (many from Integrity Vancouver) as well as gay-supportive friends and family members, and one person identifying as "ex-gay". (Although the Bishop asked clergy to suggest other "ex-gays" to serve the commission, none were offered.) Three or four Commission members were assigned to each of the twinned groups to share their faith stories at one of the Dialogue meetings.
Most people who attended the Dialogue meetings reported that they were very helpful, but a few clergy actively discouraged their parishioners from participating, especially from meeting gay and lesbian Commission members. The rector of a large evangelical parish announced that no amount of gay testimony could change the Bible, and "I am not able to justify the stewardship of time these meetings require."
Some lay leaders and clergy also criticised the bishop publicly, accusing him of engaging in an exercise of manipulation. Violating his explicit instruction, several parishes sponsored alternative workshops and published their own study material. The local Essentials group circulated an open rebuke of the process, citing the Lambeth resolution to support their position – except that they deleted the resolution’s commitment to listen to gay and lesbian voices and then re-numbered the list masking this omission.
For his part Bishop Ingham refused to engage the criticism openly and denied requests from the media for comment, stating only that the Synod would sort it out.
Legal and Canonical Commission
When he established the Dialogue in January 1999, Bishop Ingham said he would authorise the blessing of covenanted gay relationships if two conditions were met. First, church lawyers had to advise him that there were no legal or canonical impediments to the diocese and bishop acting to bless such unions, and second, Diocesan Synod had to vote by a "clear and substantial" majority when he reintroduced the motion at the diocesan synod in 2001. Not wanting the discussion to be distracted by numbers, the bishop declined to offer a specific margin that would meet this criterion.
The Bishop’s Legal and Canonical Commission submitted its report this April and advised that the diocese and bishop could authorise the blessing of a same-sex union if it is construed as a rite – as an issue of practice – rather than as a sacrament, which would be an issue of doctrine and therefore under the authority of General Synod. (In offering legal opinion the Commission chair indicated that they were not making theological comment on these distinctions.) Inasmuch as a blessing is not a marriage ceremony, it was the Commission’s view that the bishop could consent to a diocesan synod vote in favour of the motion.
Diocesan Synod, 31 May to 2 June 2001
The legal hurdle cleared, proponents were optimistic going into Synod meetings. Primate Michael Peers addressed the opening service at Christ Church Cathedral on Thursday evening, celebrated by Archbishop David Crawley. On Friday the Synod moved to Capilano College in North Vancouver where it approved a report of the diocesan Priorities Task Force in unified support of parish ministry and future diocesan mission.
As usual Integrity Vancouver hosted a literature table (with the requisite jelly beans) during the synod meetings, and also supplied copies of a local community newspaper that ran a front-page article about the diocesan debate and featured Integrity’s president (this writer) as a gay Christian voice www.vancourier.com/05501-1/news/05501-1N1.html .
Saturday morning brought the blessings debate and 400 delegates and clergy to the synod floor, 20% more than three years earlier. Non-voting Integrity and Voices Commission members joined many others on bleachers in the rear of the gymnasium as Bishop Ingham enjoined delegates to follow the Spirit courageously. The motion was then reintroduced: "The Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster asks the Bishop to authorise clergy in this diocese to bless covenanted same-sex unions, subject to such conditions as the Bishop deems appropriate."
Within 60 seconds several dozen delegates stood before three microphones, each addressing the synod in turn for no more than three minutes. After breaking for lunch, the debate continued into the afternoon.
Many opponents of the motion argued that although they love homosexual people, the Bible condemns homosexual behaviour, and that blessing same-sex unions would strain the unity of the diocese and the wider Anglican communion. An early speaker likened a "yes" vote to three bullets in the chest, complete with sound effects. One priest reported that 70% of his parish would seek "alternative episcopal oversight" if the bishop affirmed the blessing of gay relationships, and another warned, "The implication of passing Motion 9 will be schism -- do not go there." Repeatedly, delegates from predominantly Chinese congregations opposed the motion, citing the testimony of the "ex-gay" member of the Voices Commission as evidence that homosexuals can change.
Proponents of the motion argued that it was time gay and lesbian Anglicans were accepted as full members of the church, many recalling scripture and the teachings of Jesus in support of equality, justice and love. One youth delegate recounted how she begged a teenage friend not to kill himself, that she and her church friends would support him. "But I’m gay," he said. She pleaded with the synod, "Please, as God loves you, let my best friend love and be loved."
In the end almost one fifth of the delegates rose to speak, as many as 65% speaking against the motion. But when the secret ballots were counted, 226 had voted for, and 174 against. The motion was passed.
Unfortunately for those hopeful that a 56.5% majority would meet the "clear and substantial" requirement, Bishop Ingham announced to a hushed audience that it did not.
"We need a little bit more time before the kind of consensus emerges that we will need in order to move forward with a sense of unity," the bishop said. "I fully expect that level will be met soon."
Concerned that some conservatives might leave the Church over this issue, he added, "My decision is in part a pastoral one to those who now find themselves in a minority position -- those of traditional conscience who are respected and will be protected in this church and in the diocese." The bishop said he was convinced "moderate progressives and moderate conservatives" will remain in the church to work together.
At a news conference immediately following the bishop’s remarks, a lesbian delegate said she felt "silent elation" when the results were announced, then "silent disappointment" as Bishop Ingham withheld his consent. "How long do we have to wait?" she asked, adding that gay and lesbian people will continue to try to convince the Church that they are not a threat to Christian faith.
Conservatives were also disturbed by the synod action. One Essentials supporter told journalists he was "deeply troubled" by the increased support for gay Anglicans. "We do not believe that the Bible allows for the blessing of same-sex unions, covenanted or not. It is not a suitable means to minister to people with a homosexual orientation," he said.
As synod business continued inside the auditorium, many supporters of the motion gathered in small groups in the hall and in the rain outside, comforting one another and trying to understand what they had heard. Their margin of support had grown five-fold, and still it was not enough.
A formal apology
Delegates, however, moved to the next item on the agenda in the printed synod circular, a motion to apologise to gay and lesbian Anglicans for the slowness in which their full inclusion in the Church is being realised. Again, conservative delegates spoke against the motion, some claiming that homosexual Anglicans – like all redeemed sinners -- are already full members of the Body of Christ, and that "ex-gays" have been hurt by the Church, too. But as some people still wiped away tears following the bishop’s last remarks, the synod passed the apology motion by a simple show of hands.
As the afternoon’s business quickly wound down, literature tables were packed-up and removed, and many of the non-voting visitors (and not a few delegates) left the building.
Those who remained, however, heard a particularly poignant meditation by Archbishop Crawley on the meaning of blessing [see article 2001-3-2, below]. If blessing is to know and experience the fruit of the Spirit in their lives and relationships, he said, then gay and lesbian Christians are already among the blessed.
is President of Integrity/Vancouver
Bless the Lord, O my Soul
A reflection to New Westminster Synod 2001,
by the Most Rev David Crawley
Archbishop David Crawley is metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of BC and Yukon. He spoke to the synod of the diocese of New Westminster just after they had voted on Motion 9. This text, which he provided to Integrator, is the gist of his remarks. It is not an exact quotation because he spoke from rough notes
Some time ago at a service at which pets were to be blessed, I heard John Kater, an American theologian, point out that the Hebrew understanding of blessing centred on giving thanks. They did not ask God to bless but rather blessed God for what God had given – Bless the Lord, O my Soul (Psalm 104). Thus, we should not bless dogs and cats but rather bless God for the joy and companionship they bring into our lives. The idea increasingly appeals to me. At our meals when it is my turn, I no longer ask God to bless our food and us, but instead bless God for what God has given us.
Somehow, we seem to have developed the concept that blessing something authenticates it, legalises it, makes it holy, turns it from profane into sacred. I wonder if thinking of blessing in the Hebrew sense might be helpful. The question then would become, "Can I (or we) bless God for the presence and gifts of gay men and lesbians in our church – for their devotion, for their spirituality, for their energy, for their creativity, for their generosity, for their capacity to suffer, to love, to nurture?"
At every level, Lambeth, General Synod, the house of Bishops and this diocesan Synod, the answer to that has been – Yes!. So then we ask, "Can I (or we) bless God for a faithful covenanted, loving relationship between two of these much-valued persons?"
Discerning How the Spirit is Moving
by the Most Rev Arthur Peters
Archbishop Arthur Peters has been bishop of Nova Scotia and PEI since 1984, and metropolitan of the province of Canada since 1997. He is retiring early in 2002, and on Ascension Day 2001 gave his last charge to the diocesan synod. Here is an excerpt from that charge.
It is my firm belief the topic of human sexuality has a definite and prominent place among the unfinished agenda items before our Church. We have not dealt well with the several aspects of this subject, especially the homosexual aspect. A few years ago our [diocesan] Human Sexuality Task Force produced for us a very fine Guideline for Discussion which I again highly recommend for wide use throughout our diocese.
That task force developed eight guidelines to facilitate thoughtful and respectful dialogue:
I believe these guidelines, as well as programmes like "Diverse Voices/Common Ground," are a good beginning to lay the foundation for a conversation which must go on for an extended period. But this is not a matter of debating in academic circles until some degree of common mind is reached. This is a matter of human lives and discerning how the spirit is moving among us. Gays and lesbians are people like you and me. They are our fathers and mothers, our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our sons and daughters, our colleagues in ministry.
It seems to me there is a pressing issue of justice inherent in this discussion having to do with acceptance and inclusion of people regardless of sexual orientation. It has to do with the role of the Church in a suffering world where those who are gay and lesbian are suffering, discriminated against, beaten and many times tortured and killed. Therefore, as a Church, are we...
To love God is to love what God loves. And what does God love? God's love is extended to all that is made -- to us and our fellow human beings and the material things around us. If we really grasp the truth of all this, then, when we look at one another and at our environment, we are looking at persons and things that are the object of God's love. If we say we love God, this is how we must see our world. That surely is the essential building block for any true conversation leading to understanding and true community.
St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2, "If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." One commentator wrote, "Truth must be intolerant of error, but God's truth is also intolerant of intolerance. Truth is intolerant of any self- righteous belief that is void of love and compassion."
Who is my Enemy?
by Bonnie Crawford-Bewley
At our recent Integrity/Toronto retreat someone used the phrase "our enemies within the Church" to which someone else responded that we need to remember that people with opinions that differ from ours are not our enemies. A conversation followed about the power of the words we use to describe people to influence how we react to them and interact with them.
I absolutely agree that just because someone has a different opinion from mine on the question of the how the Church should respond to its gay/lesbian/bisexual members does not make them my enemy. Even though their opinions about lesbigays in the Church differ from mine, none of the people I have met from Fidelity are my enemies.
However, I cautioned then and I caution now, for our own protection we need to remember that we DO have enemies within the Church. I have had personal contact with people within the Church who deny that I am a child of God and as such should be denied all the sacraments including communion and should in fact be barred from all contact with the Church. These people are my enemies. I have had personal contact with people within the church who feel that homosexuals can change their orientation if they want to and that they have a right or even an obligation to try to force me to change my orientation as a condition of my membership in the Church. These people are my enemies. I have also had personal contact with people within the Church who condone violence to gay/lesbian/bisexual people. These people are my enemies.
I agree that it is important to stay in mutually respective dialogue with people who’s opinions are different than ours but I reserve the right to protect myself from physical or psychological or emotional harm from those people who are truly my enemies within the Church. More than that I call on my Church to protect me from these people.
is Co-Convener of Integrity/Toronto.
by Chris Ambidge
The church blessing of same-sex partners is very much to the fore in discussions of late. At the moment, the policy of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada is to forbid anything that might resemble the nuptial blessing. In 1996, a number of bishops expressed interest in changing this policy to one where individual dioceses across the country could choose to extend such blessings -- or not, as the diocesan choice might be.
If and when the policy of outright ban changes, it will probably be by this "local option". The cultures of the dioceses across the country are very different, and it is probable that the blessings of unions will be much more needed, wanted and requested by the faithful in large urban centres like Vancouver , Toronto or Montreal, than by those in more rural or northern parts of the country. The bishops of large urban areas tend to be the ones in favour of the "local option" approach.
On the other hand, there are those who feel that the policy should not change at all, anywhere, until the whole country changes. Calls are made, particularly from more conservative quarters, for the uniformity of application of church policies and guidelines -- from General Synod or from the House of Bishops -- across the country.
If this requirement of unanimity is followed, it will be a long, long time before any blessings are given. Some parts of this church are quite hostile to lesbigay acceptance. For instance, in 1999, in the diocese of the Arctic, the response to the bishop's charge to synod, said "Some of us have confusion and difficulty accepting that [gay and lesbian] people unrepentantly continuing these sinful practices are full members of the church called into baptismal ministry". This denial was only discussion at synod, rather than diocesan policy. However, in 1993, the Arctic passed a canon on lay ministry, which says in part "no person shall be eligible to hold the licence of minister in the Diocese of the Arctic who while licensed or seeking licence willingly engages in homosexual, lesbian or bisexual practices."
The national church guidelines are not nearly as restrictive as that: the House of Bishops 1979 guidelines acknowledge that gay and lesbian people have full call on the pastoral resources of the church. They restrict the sexual practices for those in ordained ministry only.
In 1995, General Synod passed a resolution that said, in part, "[we] affirm the presence and contributions of gay men and lesbians in the life of the church, and condemn bigotry, violence and hatred directed toward any due to their sexual orientation."
These are, without doubt, the policies of the Anglican Church of Canada.
And yet it is quite clear that lesbigay people are NOT able to exercise their baptismal ministry of lay leadership in the Arctic. That restriction is not only indicated by diocesan synod debate, but by different standards imposed by diocesan canon.
This is a clear example of "local option", where the application of national policies is varied in local dioceses. The diocese of the Arctic has its own standards of treatment for lesbians and gays which are not those of the House of Bishops. It is therefore disingenuous, at the least, for those people to insist that other dioceses may not move away from national standards of treatment for lesbigays in a different direction.
It is time that "local option" was followed across the country.
[with files from Anglican Journal]
Power? What Power?
A reflection by Janet Bruce inspired by this year's Integrity/Toronto retreat
I wasn't sure if we examined the weekend's topic, Claiming our Power: Healing, Reconciliation, and New Life as thoroughly as time permitted. We rather discussed family relations, anger management programs for wife-beaters, and other topics that for the most part shied away from the subject of our own potential. Even those of us who have experienced the power of parenthood preferred to talk about our own parents. We seemed to spend the weekend not so much claiming our health, as commiserating in our helplessness.
Little wonder, though, when the first gut reaction to the word "power" was overwhelmingly negative. Little wonder when Christ's capacity to forgive, to heal and to free is upstaged by the Church's presumption to know better. Little wonder when Jesus himself was such an antihero: a love-child from the boonies, a tradesman who liked parties and had no respect for religion, an upstart who kept telling the authorities how to do their work, a poor schmuck whose closest friends abandoned him when things got sticky, an unmanly man who didn't even leave a wife and children to mourn him when the occupying army put him out of his misery.
How dare we speak of appropriating power, when the only weight Christ wielded was that which strengthened others, and any other domination we see is so often nasty? How do we follow his example? Do we cede our strength to others, do we cry out for the right to be ordained, to be married, or do we stand quietly together, ever more crowding our prison, until the bishops pity us and free us?
Of course, if we stand up for ourselves, we automatically stand up for others like us who don't yet dare speak out. If I protest from relatively gay-positive Toronto, maybe a soothing breeze will stir in the closets of rural Ontario. If the Church in North America decides to protect and celebrate its lesbigay congregants, maybe good will come to the persecuted queer Christians of Africa. Maybe.
I've recently seen some e-mails from Integrity members gearing up for Synod. People have frequently added tags to their signatures, some along the lines of "Weary but hangin' in there," or "Rather disappointed," others to the tune of "There's hope yet!" or "Keep the faith!" Integrity is 26 years old, with no reason as yet in sight to retire its raison d'être. What power we need so far, apparently, is that to ward off despair and apathy as we struggle to keep the faith.
has just been appointed deputy rector's warden at St. Peter's Carlton Street, which may very well necessitate learning how to count.
Integrity/Toronto Website has moved!
In 1997, our friend Keith Nunn proposed a website for Integrity/Toronto, and got it up and running. Not only was Keith our webmaster, but he has hosted the site gratis for the last four years. He has recently moved on in his own career, and could no longer host us at the old address. Integrity owes Keith a huge debt of gratitude, not only for being webmaster and host, but also for kicking us into cyberspace in the first place.
We've taken this as a prompt to move our entire website to:
consolidating the main site with our photo website at the latter address. Surf by, change your bookmarks / favourites list, and check us out! And while you're at it, check the new Integrity Canada website at www.geocities.com/integritycanada .
[Note: these links have been updated in May 2004 to reflect a move to our own 'domain']