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
INTEGRITY GOES TO GENERAL SYNOD
A report on Integrity's presence at General Synod in Waterloo, by Patti Brace
LISTENED TO, RESPECTED AND ACCEPTED
The presentation of Bishop Michael Ingham, of New Westminster, to the General Synod discussion on sexuality.
"The Spirit has equipped us to share in the ministry of Jesus Christ to the world"
Integrity's response to Bishop Ingham's apology
Richard Birney-Smith sends this description of all those Anglicans at Toronto Pride 2001
The 35th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada was held 4-11 July 2001 at the University of Waterloo. PATTI BRACE of Sudbury was part of the Integrity team. She tells this story of what happened in Waterloo.
Conversation. Rainbow stickers. Lutherans. Receptions. Chatter. Eucharist. Apology. Talk. Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment. Bishop Bakare. Gabbing. Sexuality presentation. Anglican/Lutheran full communion. Discussion. Drive-in food court. The pace of General Synod was frenetic and talk, all day, every day, held it together. Fortunately, the residence rooms at the University of Waterloo were comfortable and quiet, so that the limited time available for sleep was refreshing.
Early in July, eleven Integritites from six cities across the country converged at Waterloo to construct the most colourful booth, with the best selection of treats, in the display area. Beyond the snappy decorating, our goal was to articulate the presence and hopes of lesbigay people in the Anglican Church. Over the week we forged bonds with one another and with many others in the Church, even with some whose position is at some distance from our own. I think that the desire to make connections dominated this General Synod, as it celebrated full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and worked toward reconciliation with Native people hurt by our participation in the residential schools' system. The synod theme, "towards healing, reconciliation and the new life, " extended to us as well, as gays and lesbians were mentioned repeatedly in discussions throughout the week.
In the business of General Synod, two matters were of direct concern to Integrity. The first was the sexuality presentation on Friday night; and the second was the ongoing debate and, finally, vote on the Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment (DIFT) resolution. This resolution begins to create a set of human rights principles (not regulations) for the church in both pastoral and employment contexts.
On Friday night, the presentations and table discussion that followed focussed on the pastoral needs and opportunities for the church in relation to lesbigay people and the issue of same-sex unions. Bishop Michael Ingham led off with an account of the events of the New Westminster Synod and the decision that followed. [see article 2001-4-1 below] He concluded his segment by reading an apology from the New West synod to lesbigay Anglicans for the slowness of the church's movement on our issues and for the hurts that have been inflicted. Not knowing that this was coming, I was stunned and sat gaping like a guppy and snuffling. While the hurts are not yet over, this recognition struck me as monumental. Chris Ambidge spoke next, with passion and, to use someone else's words, "just the right amount of anger." He was followed by the Rev. Sarah Tweedale, also from New Westminster and representing a more conservative position. What I found encouraging about her presentation was a stated desire to talk and build bridges. The final speaker was Gordon Beardy, bishop of Keewatin, who talked about the way in which lesbigay issues are coming to be seen as everyone's issues in his part of the world as more Native people begin the process of coming out in their communities. Summaries of the table discussions showed very encouraging patterns, as it was clear that members of synod worked hard at engaging with the issue rather than retreating to strongly polarised positions.
This effort showed again in the discussion of DIFT, where members spoke, for the most part, respectfully. The result was that less-than-respectful responses to the inclusion of "sexual orientation" in the resolution stood out as anomalous. After voting down four amendments to the resolution, General Synod voted to pass the DIFT principles...twice. Instead of a regular vote, Bishop Ron Ferris (Algoma) requested a vote by orders, which passed in all three (laity, clergy, bishops). After that vote, Bishop Ferris requested a vote by diocese. This caused some kerfuffle because, while on the books as an option, it hasn't been invoked in living memory - for some reason, I found this wildly exciting. The motion passed again, 24 dioceses for, 5 against, 1 deadlocked. There was Much Rejoicing.
The week of business was punctuated by gatherings: for worship; for meals; for recreation. The first official synod event was Wednesday's opening service, held at St. Michael's church, a Roman Catholic parish near the university. The preacher was Stephen Charleston, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School and a Native American, who emphasised both the necessity of reconciliation and the hope that this represents for our church. Later in the service, an episcopal waterfight broke out as the bishops (including Bruce Howe of Huron and Michael Peers) had rather too much fun during the asperges and more than a little damp.
The ELCIC was meeting at the same time as the Anglicans, not far away at Wilfrid Laurier University. Several Integritites attended a reception at Laurier sponsored by Lutherans Concerned, the Lutheran counterpart to Integrity.
The Sunday service, at which the Waterloo Declaration of full communion were signed by our Primate and the National Bishop of the ELCIC, took place in a nearby arena. We knew the crowd was enormous when we spotted a piece of paper on the floor in front of where the Integrity contingent sat that marked communion station #17! The grand total was 32. It was a very moving service and we were all very much aware of being present at an historic moment. At the end of the service, as everyone sang "We are marching in the light of God" over and over for about the next 10 minutes, the two bishops broke from the procession and came back in, arms around one another, to dance (yes, dance) around the space at the centre of the building. That was joy.
Also on Sunday, some of us had a dinner meeting with Bishop Sebastian Bakare from Zimbabwe, who was one of the international partners. The meeting was initiated by Integrity because we had heard about the difficult position of lesbigays in central Africa and wanted more insight. As well, we were uncomfortable about the position on lesbigay issues apparently taken by the African and Asian bishops at Lambeth. Bishop Barry Hollowell (Calgary) arranged meeting (many thanks to him!) and he, Bishop Ingham and Bishop Fred Hiltz (Nova Scotia and PEI) attended with us. In discussion over the meal, we learned a lot about the limits of our assumptions about the perspective of the church in Africa on the persecution of lesbigays. As Bishop Bakare asked, we need to be careful not to "put all of the African bishops in the same blanket." There's more support out there than we thought.
On Tuesday at noon, we gathered for a different sort of meal: a quiet Eucharist for Integritites, celebrated by Bishop Don Phillips of Rupert's Land. That was also joy.
Integrity needed to respond to Bishop Ingham's apology. On Wednesday, the final day, Bishop Hollowell read our letter of thanks on the floor of Synod. [see article 2001-4-3, below]
Daily gatherings really helped to draw the Integrity group together. Starting our day together with breakfast and morning prayers helped to remind us of why we were there. We also met for dinner most days to explore the embarrassment of riches offered by two strip-malls near the university, dubbed by us the "drive-in foodcourt" because they are composed almost entirely of eateries representing a variety of cuisines. We enjoyed each other and I think it showed in our interactions with the rest of synod.
For me, ongoing informal meetings and gatherings formed the heart of General Synod, as we met people at our booth, on the floor of synod, at receptions and occasionally at meals. One of our formal actions, though, was to distribute 347 sticky rainbow triangles, in order for people to show their support for the full inclusion of lesbigays in the life of the Anglican church. To our delight, a rainbow triangle stuck to the name tag became a key component of the General Synod dress code and members sought us out to get them. 30 more went, upon request, to the Lutherans meeting at Wilfrid Laurier University! As always, the rainbow candy and fruit and nuts available at our booth were very popular, especially with certain episcopal personages.
Personally, participation in this synod has given me a renew sense of connection to, and purpose within, our church. Things have shifted dramatically since 1992, the last General Synod I attended, and I anticipate that the pace of change will only increase. Our church is growing and I look forward to General Synod 2004 at McMaster University in Hamilton.
Further coverage of Integrity at General Synod appears elsewhere in this issue of Integrator, and will also appear in our October issue. In the meantime, more information, with many many pictures, is available at Integrity/Toronto's website /integritytoronto/synod2001.html
This presentation was made by Bishop Michael as the first speaker in the discussion session of General Synod titled "A Presentation on Sexuality" on the evening of Friday, 6 July 2001.
Thank you your Grace, Mr. Chairman, members of Synod:
I thought it was very interesting today we spent a lot of time listening to the pastoral needs of people who want to get out of church buildings to have a blessing on their relationship [proposed amendments to the Marriage Canon]. In the Diocese of New Westminster we've been dealing with the opposite problem.-- not really a problem but a request from people who would like to come into church and have their life-long, permanent and faithful relationships blessed by the church and who have experience rejection and exclusion and denial of those requests.
What I want to do in a few minutes is to try to interpret to you what has been happening in our diocese in the last few years, not to rehearse the arguments again, but to share with you something of the pastoral urgency of this matter where we live.
The West Coast of Canada, as you may know, is a place to which people move. People move to Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of British Columbia from other parts of Canada, indeed from other parts of the world, and when they come there, they are seeking to build for themselves a better life. Often it is in an attempt to seek refuge from various kinds of oppression: whether a politically motivated oppression, or economic disadvantage, or religiously-based prejudice.
Some of these people who come to live where we are experience themselves to be marginalised or endangered, and some of them are gay and lesbian people. There is a large community of gay and lesbian people on the West Coast, as there is in many urban centres in Canada. Some of them have always lived on the West Coast, some have moved there, which is another way of saying some of them have moved from your Dioceses to our diocese; and they have come to us-- to the place where we live-- in search of acceptance, welcome, dignity, and a safer and more productive way of life.
The gay community by-and-large does not generally perceive the church as a place of acceptance. More often they experience among us judgement, condemnation. And though they are not sick, they are offered healing, on the presumption of some sort of defect. Many people who do not experience themselves as sick because of their sexual orientation are quite confused when the church offers healing to them as 'pastoral care'. In fact, it is often experienced as intrusive and spiritually abusive.
Nevertheless, there are many gay and lesbian people who have become members of our churches. They have found Christ in their lives; they have come into deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they have accepted Christ as their Lord and Saviour; and they have discovered that Jesus Christ accepts them, and welcomes them as they are, without the need to change them.
Many of them have become active and valuable members of our churches, contributing with their time, talents, and certainly their money, to the mission of the church and to our work of evangelism. But the mission and evangelism of the church among this community is severely impeded by the church's historical understanding of homosexuality and its current pastoral practices.
In 1998, three parishes in our diocese brought a motion to our Diocesan Synod. The motion asked the bishop to authorise clergy in the diocese to bless covenanted same-sex unions, under such conditions as the bishop shall deem appropriate.
I want to draw attention to what the motion is asking for: it is not asking for marriage, not for ordination, it is not about promiscuity or casual sex. It was a request from members of our church committed themselves to the life in Christ that they be pastorally received in their partnerships with their life-long committed partners; and that that relationship-- which they themselves know to be blessed by God- would be blessed and recognised by the church.
We had a very fine debate, I thought, in 1998, certainly the Lambeth Conference later that year never even approached the dignity of the discussion in our diocesan synod. The motion passed by 179 votes to 170, but I withheld my consent out of concern for the unity of the diocese; for the impact that this move might have upon other dioceses in this church, and the wider communion.
I consulted a few weeks later with the House of Bishops-- we went to the Lambeth Conference and later on I invited parishes in our diocese to engage in a dialogue process. Every parish was twinned with another parish in the Diocese, and together for two years we studied the various and complex questions around the issue of homosexuality in scripture, reason, and tradition.
And most importantly, we listened to gay and lesbian people themselves, telling their stories, which was one of the stipulations of the  Lambeth Conference, which was not widely and everywhere reported. And included in that group of gay and lesbian people telling their stories was the ex-gay experience, the experience of one brave person in our Diocese who came forward to tell the story of her life and how she chose to come out of that- um, of a gay relationship.
Now, a month ago, just a few weeks ago, the same resolution came back to our diocesan synod, and this time it passed by 226 votes to 174, a majority of 52 votes, up from 9 votes in 1998. Again I withheld my consent with some reluctance, but out of a pastoral concern now for people who found themselves as a new minority in our diocese, people who had not thought of themselves in that way, those of a 'traditional conscience' both within the church in our diocese and in the wider church who felt themselves out of step with this potential development.
I believe that in the nearly eight hours of debate that took place over our two synods on this one resolution -- a debate characterised by Christian charity and listening and mutual respect at its very best, for the most part, I believe that in this discussion in our diocese, and in the decision that the diocese clearly wants to make, and has now made twice, there is no sense among us of rebelling against the Word of God, no sense among us of wanting to engage in doctrinal change or deviance, but rather in obedience to God's Word, to end religiously-based prejudice and discrimination against gay and lesbian people based on inherited cultural assumptions, or irrational fears, or misuse of scripture.
In some ways, the question in our Diocese has now changed. We began by asking ourselves "What is the place of gay and lesbian people in the church? " I think the question we are now asking ourselves is 'What is the place of people with a traditional conscience in our church? How do we express pastoral care to them? " and "How do we extend appropriate pastoral care to those persons who are gay and lesbian and who are asking for their life-long permanent and committed relationships to be blessed by the church as they are blessed by God.
I believe that pastoral care happens when people are listened to, when they are respected, and accepted for who they are. I believe that pastoral care happens when people know themselves not to be 'a problem to be fixed' or changed, but as human beings to be loved and cherished. And this is true for people on all sides of this question.
For gay and lesbian people, it means affirming their dignity as human beings, their committed relationships, their lives as sexual beings, persons created in the image of God, and desirous of a deeper relationship with God, and a recognition of their permanent and faithful commitments to the persons they love.
For those of a 'traditional conscience', I believe this means being respected for their honestly-held conscience, traditional conscience, backed by centuries of Christian teaching. I believe it means they should be free from coercion or imposition to change their conscience, and that they should be protected and affirmed in their right to hold to their historic beliefs.
If we go forward in this matter in our diocese, there will be a protection of conscience for those who hold a traditional position.
One of the things that happened in our synod after this debate was another resolution that was passed by the Synod: and it was a request that I apologise to gay and lesbian people for the slowness of the process for their full inclusion in the church; and I take this request to be not simply directed towards gay and lesbian people in our diocese, but in your diocese and everywhere in the Anglican Church.
And so I want to take the opportunity of this evening to offer that apology. At the request of the diocese of New Westminster and on my own behalf I would like to apologise to gay and lesbian members of our church for the slowness of the process for their full inclusion in the body of Christ. We apologise to you for your treatment, and sometimes mistreatment in the life of the church; for our slowness in recognising you as sexual beings, created in the image of God, desiring a deeper communion with God, and the freedom and responsibility of life-long, permanent and committed unions in body, mind, and spirit, with those you love.
I ask your forgiveness when we have wronged you, knowingly or unknowingly; and I pray that we with you may one day know a time when it may truly be said that 'in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, male or female, slave or free, gay or straight' and that on that day we may be equal members of this church, and Christ will be all in all.
Integrity responded with thanks to Bishop Ingham's July 6 apology to lesbians and gays for the slowness of full acceptance in the church. This letter of response was read by Bishop Barry Hollowell of Calgary on the floor of General Synod on July 11. Bishop Hollowell began by saying:
Your Grace, Mr. Prolocutor, Members of Synod -
The theme of this Synod - "Towards Healing, Reconciliation and the New Life" - is one that has touched and challenged each one of us as we have journeyed through the time of this Synod.
One of the privileges I have had in the relatively short time I have been Bishop of Calgary, has been to grow in friendship with the Calgary chapter of Integrity. Someone asked me near the beginning of Synod what I have found surprising since being ordained Bishop. My response is to share that I have been surprised by many more moments of grace than I had dared to hope or imagine. One of the things, though, I miss in this wonderful ministry of being bishop (and I do mean that) - is the pastoral planning and praying of liturgy with a community of people with whom you are growing in relationship and in the rhythms of the liturgical year and indeed of life itself.
Over the past year and a bit, the Calgary chapter of Integrity has invited and welcomed me to do just that - and for that I thank them. We are friends ... and it is in that spirit of friendship that the leaders of Integrity across Canada, who have been here during this Synod (albeit not as members of this Synod), have asked me to read the following letter.
9 July 2001
To: the Right Rev. Michael Ingham and members of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
On June 1st, 2001, the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster asked their bishop to apologise to lesbian and gay people for the slowness in which there for inclusion in the life of the church is being realised. This past Friday evening, before the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Ingham offered that apology. And he went further, asking forgiveness for the mistreatment gay and lesbian people experience as we seek to live and minister in the fullness of our Christian faith and humanity. He expressed hope that one day gay and lesbian people will become equal members in the Anglican Church, even as all believers are equal members of the body of Christ.
Speaking on behalf of lesbian and gay Anglicans in Integrity chapters across Canada, we acknowledge and appreciate this sincere and heartfelt expression, and we will share Bishop Ingham's message with our members and friends. In all honesty, for many this apology is long overdue, and some will find it difficult to accept -- the injustice has been severe and pervasive, and it continues.
We are encouraged, however, that the spirit is moving us toward a greater understanding of one another, and a greater appreciation for the uniqueness of God's image in every human being. We are thankful that our church is beginning to recognise the full humanity of gay and lesbian people. And we rejoice that, in some places, our church recognises that God's grace is operative in our committed relationships and that the spirit has equipped us to share in the ministry of Jesus Christ to the world.
In the words of our Synod theme, we also affirm that the "Healing, Reconciliation and New Life" to which the Spirit is calling our Church includes everyone. No one is unwelcome. Our friendships with those who find our inclusion difficult are important to us, and we pray that God will use our struggling together to forge a stronger bond among us. With all those who name of the name of Jesus, we look forward to the day when all God's children -- gay and straight, in every diocese in our Communion -- will experience the wholeness and healing that comes with belonging in the family of God.
President, Integrity Vancouver
Co-Convener ,Integrity Calgary
Bob Webster, priest
Integrity member, Winnipeg
Integrity member, Sudbury
Integrity member, Ottawa
Chris Ambidge and Bonnie Crawford-Bewley
Co-Conveners, Integrity Toronto
I marched in my first Pride Day parade at the end of June, and was surprised that it was such a deeply moving experience. I have attended my parish's Pride Barbecue for each of its five years but never summoned the courage to march in the parade. (This is not the place for public self-examination but I note that I have always been the sort of person who would sign a petition or write a letter, but have never demonstrated or carried placards.)
Early Sunday afternoon I went looking for position V-12 in the assembly area on Church Street. There I found about three dozen people from St. James' Cathedral, St. Simon the Apostle, St. Peter's Carlton Street, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Matthias', Church of the Redeemer and Integrity. (There was also a contingent from Holy Trinity, but an administrative glitch kept their float in a different position in the parade). Seeing pictures of the crowd on television or in the newspaper ill-prepared me for the experience of so many people.
After waiting for about fifteen minutes past the appointed step-off time, we began to move. For the first two or three blocks we passed other floats that were to parade behind us in. As we passed the Muslim float, we received loud applause, cheers and thumbs-up signs. I thought "Wow! That must take real courage. Their history of oppression and condemnation is even worse than ours."
As we moved out of the assembly area and turned onto Bloor Street, the cheering and welcome began in earnest. At first I thought that it was just general noise from an enthusiastic crowd having a good time. Then it slowly dawned on me that there were clearly pockets of people cheering specifically for us. Some of them may have been Anglicans but I suspect that most were just people who were glad to see the Church standing up for social justice. That was when my eyes filled with tears for the first of several times. Along the way there were more pockets of people specifically cheering for us. We weren't doing anything special, just bearing witness to what we believed was right and people were cheering for us.
The sign that I was given to carry said "Anglicans marching with pride." And I was proud. But I couldn't help wondering why it had taken me so long to get there. I hope that I can persuade more people to walk with us next year. It really feels good.
Integrity and the parishes marched behind a street-wide banner proclaiming PROUD ANGLICANS in two-foot-high rainbow letters. Photographic evidence of this - including an untypically stern picture of Richard - can be seen at Integrity/Toronto's website, /integritytoronto/photos/pride2001.htm