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
MORE FROM GENERAL SYNOD
THE CHURCH MUST NOT OUTSOURCE PASTORAL CARE OF GAYS AND LESBIANS
Chris Ambidge's words to the General Synod panel on same-sex relationships in the church
I FEEL COMPELLED TO LOOK FOR A BETTER WAY
The Rev Sarah Tweedale's comments to the same panel at General Synod
DOES THE BIBLE ACTUALLY SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY?
by the Rev Canon Bill Morrison
DIGNITY, INCLUSION AND FAIR TREATMENT
The adoption of principles at General Synod
HOLINESS AND WHOLENESS
The Rev Canon Dr Kim Murray comments on Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment, and the health of the church
General Synod 2001 heard a panel present various viewpoints on same-sex relationships in the church. In the last issue of Integrator, we printed Bishop Ingham's words that evening. In this issue, we print the comments of Integrity's Chris Ambidge, and of the Rev Sarah Tweedale, a parish priest in Vancouver. All panellists were responding to this question:
At this point in the life of our church we find ourselves facing pressures, both from within the church and from the wider society to change our understanding and response to committed, faithful, same sex relationships. At the same time we are a diverse church who wish to remain in communion with each other and the wider Anglican world. In this context;
- What pastoral needs and opportunities are we facing, and how do we need to respond to them?
- What more needs to take place, at what levels of the church, in order to enhance collegiality and maintain the maximum degree of communion as we seek to provide pastoral care for all involved in this discussion?
by Chris Ambidge
Your Grace, members of Synod:
My name is Chris Ambidge, I'm a cradle Anglican, and I've been a gay man for just about as long - certainly from before my ability to make conscious choices. I no more selected my orientation than I selected blue eyes, or right-handedness.
God created in me - just as in you - an ability to love and a need to be loved. I know in the depths of my soul that for me, intimate love will be for another man. I cannot believe in a god so cruel and spiteful to create those abilities and needs in me, and then say "no-no, you can't use them! "
As things stand, heterosexuals are called on by the church to be celibate outside marriage, and sexually active only within it. Homosexuals do not have any choice. We are told that we may not establish any committed, intimate relationships. The playing field is not level at all.
However, all of us in this church have been baptised -- we are all members, one another, in Christ, and every single baptism is as good as the next. There should be no such thing as a second-class Christian, but that is the message that lesbian and gay Anglicans receive. We love this church, because it is a place where we meet Jesus, and because it is home. Many of us are staying. However, many leave, and over the years there has been a huge, albeit silent, leakage: not just of lesbigays, but also our families and friends, leaving because of the way the church treats gays and lesbians, and that is a pastoral problem.
One message I would bring from lesbigay Anglicans is that we do read the Bible, and do govern our lives by the Gospel imperatives. It's our bible too, it's our baptism too - and it's our church too, but some of us have had to leave.
Some go to Metropolitan Community Church, a denomination which has a particular focus on lesbigays . On Christmas Eve MCCToronto fills Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto not once but twice - that's 5000 lesbigay people hungry to hear the Good News of Christ. I'd venture to say that up to a quarter of the people at MCCT were Anglicans at one point. That's evidence of pastoral care gone astray.
Gay and lesbian Anglicans that I know have been told to take their vocation and ministry to the United Church. That is appalling, this is their church home. More pastoral care gone astray.
Those sheep didn't get the care they needed from their Anglican shepherd, so they're now in another flock. We must not outsource our pastoral care of non-heterosexuals.
Twenty-two years ago, the House of Bishops explicitly said homosexuals are fellow Christians with full call on the pastoral resources of the church. This synod in 1995 passed a motion acknowledging and celebrating the presence of gay men and lesbians in the life of our church. The pastoral challenge is to put legs under those statements.
I've been asked to talk about some pastoral needs and opportunities. We need to address these pastoral needs:
Allow me to tell a couple of anecdotes that show some of the gaps right now:
I am blessed with many friends who are in same-sex partnerships, and who wish that their church could have blessed their relationships - or rather, to quote Archbishop Crawley, that their church could bless God for the good things which the church sees in the relationship. But it's not just "the wedding day". In weddings, the community promises to support the couple in their future life in Christ. For same-sex partnerships, that support - during better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and health - is what we really want. At the moment, that's a pastoral need going unmet.
A friend of mine had her primary relationship dissolve a couple of years ago. Because her church and her relationship seemed so separated in her life, she didn't think for a moment of asking for support from her parish in that horrible time - support that should have been there, but isn't. And that's a pastoral need going unmet.
I feel very supported in my parish church, I'd venture a guess that 20-25% of the congregation is lesbigay, because our sexual orientation is a non-issue there. Recently a gay man developed intestinal cancer, and didn't have long to live. Over the six months of his decline, the pastoral care and support of him and his partner, who was also his primary caregiver, were just what you would hope any parish would give. At the funeral, though, and in the obituary in the parish newsletter, scant if any attention was paid to the widowed partner, something which hurt and alienated him very deeply. If my parish, which is pretty good on lesbigay pastoralia, can set a foot wrong that way, then I'm sure it's worse elsewhere. And that's a pastoral need going unmet.
The opposite side of the coin, of course, is opportunity. We have:
At this point, I firmly believe that allowing different dioceses in the church to follow the Spirit as they hear it is the most appropriate approach. This should not, however, occur without ongoing dialogue.
It has been my privilege, over the last six years, to be part of a diocesan dialogue about human sexuality. That dialogue will not have a "winner" or a "loser". To paraphrase the Primatial address: welcome for one group cannot be brought about by creating un-welcome for another. Our conversations are seeking ways that we can all live together in the same church, and it is my prayer that all Anglicans can be made welcome.
Let me leave you with an image: this church has a huMONgous array of worship styles, spike to prot, books maroon to green, pipe organs to guitars. Yet all of us are Anglicans, all in communion with each other. While it is not necessary that all parishes immediately be welcoming of lesbigays, some should be explicitly permitted to be so.
Our church is a big tent - let's make it bigger.
[Because of a time limit the last portion of the above text was slightly abbreviated by Chris during the actual delivery.]
by the Rev Sarah Tweedale
[Note to readers: these comments were made in response to the questions listed above, and are very much influenced by the context within which I live and minister as a priest in the Diocese of New Westminster and Rector of the parish of St Clement's, North Vancouver. ]
Your Grace, Mr Prolocutor, Members of General Synod: I appreciate very much this opportunity to speak, though I can't possibly say all that I would like in eight minutes.
The pastoral need we face is urgent and it involves us all. We're having real trouble knowing how to respond to the pressure to change our attitudes and response to committed same sex relationships. Some are frustrated that change is far too slow. Others are adamant that no change is permissible.
Our diocese is very much of two minds on that issue. We don't know how to reconcile the apparently irreconcilable. It takes courage to admit that. After we have admitted that, it takes more courage to lay aside our 'agendas', to lay aside our power, and seek peaceful reconciliation and such answers as there may be.
The pastoral need we are facing is not limited to one constituency within the church family. The pain, the agonies are felt by us all, and the need, the opportunities, belong to us all.
This is not the time, as you've heard, to rehearse arguments one way or another on same sex unions, but I do think it's important to recognise that my conservative friends and colleagues are feeling marginalised and disenfranchised at this point. There are many people in the church, both clergy and lay, who are feeling increasingly that they're losing something, they're somehow losing their place in the church and that their perspective is somehow not tolerable, even though their stance and views are shared by many in the global Anglican Communion. For these members of the church, the issues raised by proposing the blessing of same-sex unions cuts right to the heart of our doctrines of creation, marriage and sexuality. The clarity of Scripture from which these doctrines emerge, means that we cannot accept the blessing of same-sex unions.
If I've learned anything in seven years of intense debate and discussion and work in this area, it is this: there is not going to be agreement. Further, I've become convinced, in this process, that neither 'side' has it 'right'. I don't think we know what to do in this dilemma or how to do it. I'm not even totally sure we know what it is exactly that we're trying to do.
Here's the problem: we've been talking about one proposed solution without exploring the underlying issues, without exploring the interests involved. We've heard lots of justification for that one proposed solution (blessing covenanted same-sex unions), but we haven't actually reached any common ground on what the issues are that need to be addressed. That has, for me, both magnified and clarified the pastoral needs that we're facing right now. My great fear is that if we proceed towards that one presupposed outcome or solution or action, we may exacerbate, not solve, a problem.
As a church we have a great pastoral need and opportunity before us. Those needs as I see them are actually multiple. They send us in three directions. First, toward one another. We have a great need and an opportunity to actually, truly minister to one another; to care for one another; to really pay attention to one another's perspectives and needs. This process can't be legislated or programmed. It has to come from a deep commitment to work for reconciliation and relationship with one another. That's the first direction, the first pastoral need: to minister to one another in the midst of a most difficult situation.
The second direction the pastoral need sends us is into the particular issues that are before us. But this must be done together. We need to clearly identify together, and come to some agreement together on, what those issues are. Then, together, we must seek mutually satisfactory solutions and outcomes. The way I would propose we approach this is through a recognised means of conflict resolution, where initial positions are stated - I think we've done that - then underlying interests are explored, and then and only then proceeding to search for mutually satisfactory outcomes. So that's the second direction: the second pastoral need that needs to be addressed.
The third direction of pastoral need - and this is a big one - is the world in which Christ calls us to testify to him. That's our reason for being a church. We're charged with a mission: the proclamation of the reconciling work of God for us in Christ; the announcement to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord. In this mission our words are empty if they're not reflected in our lives. The world isn't in fact very interested in our words; the world is watching what we do. What we do matters in both process and outcome. In both process and outcome we must be faithful to the Lord Jesus. Now here's the catch: every single one of us believes with all our heart that's what we're doing.
So -- what are we to do?
I think that we are at a great moment. We can see the need. We have a great opportunity. But I'm wondering if we're willing to take the risk of looking one another in the eyes and saying, actually, we don't know what to do. Do we dare risk admitting that and radically seeking to follow Jesus into this together?
What needs to be done at every level of the church?
I would say - at every level of the church -- clergy, lay, bishops, primates, archdeacons, priests, deacons, everybody -- what we need to do is this: we must dare to face the limits of our understanding, admit we really don't know what to do, and stand at the foot of the cross together, laying aside our power -- power to walk out, power to use words, money, influence, or authority, to get our own way.
We could respond to the current situation in a variety of ways, ways that we are trained in by our culture and we adopt uncritically. A solution could be imposed; that would be divisive. We could compromise; but we know compromise inevitably fosters resentment. We could use a bureaucratic approach and create an institutional structure that would allow us to have diversity of theology and practice while maintaining the appearance of unity; but that might be illusion.
Given who we are, I feel compelled to look for a better way. Not imposition, not compromise, not a masque of unity, but the possibility of a new way to be together, embracing afresh the good news of God for us in Christ.
If only we would dare to stand at the limit of our understanding, and admit that we don't know the true implications of discipleship in this situation. This is at least to some degree, to take a risk. It takes courage to admit we don't know what to do. It takes courage to lay aside our power and seek peaceful reconciliation and such answers as there are. It calls for a deep humility and extensive patience from each one of us.
by the Rev Canon Bill Morrison
No. The Bible says nothing about homosexuality because it knows nothing of homosexuality. The Bible assumes that everyone is heterosexual (just as it assumes that the earth is flat and that God lives just beyond the blue dome we call sky).
Within that framework of universal heterosexuality, the Bible knows of:
It is not surprising that the Bible knows nothing about homosexuality (the innate affectional orientation a small proportion of humans have for members of their own sex). The concept of sexual orientation, and with it homosexual orientation, came into parlance only in the late nineteenth century. Indeed, the word "homosexual" - in spite of its anachronistic and improper use in some versions of the Bible to translate words of indeterminate meaning (malakoi in 1 Corinthians and arsenokoitai in 1 Timothy) - was not coined until a little more than a hundred years ago.
The Bible knows nothing of what we today mean by "homosexuality." It follows that it can have no concept at all of persons of same-sex affectional orientation living in mutual, equal, consensual relationships where "sexuality [serves] personal fulfilment in a community of faithful love" (Canon XXI, On Marriage, Anglican Church of Canada). This is one of the many things that separates the biblical world-view from our own.
HOWEVER, if we look at the question in another way, the Bible can be seen to say a great deal about gay men and lesbians in their intimate, faithful and loving relationships.
In the creation story we are told that God creates a partner for the solitary original Earth-creature (the Adam), and brings them together into relationship, "bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh," because "it is not good for the Adam to be alone" (Genesis 2). This is as true for the gay man and lesbian woman as it is for heterosexuals. It is not good for us to be alone; we are created for relationship.
As the marriage service says, this joining together of two people in "heart, body, and mind is intended for their mutual comfort and help, that they may know each other with delight and tenderness in acts of love," and that, if it may be, "they may be blessed in the procreation, care, and upbringing of children" (BAS p541). Now that we know that there are people who will naturally seek for that kind of union with a person of their own sex, there is no reason not to believe that God wills the blessing of such an intimate relationship for them as much as for heterosexuals.
With the blessing goes the responsibility. Gay spouses, just like heterosexual ones, are called upon to love one another as they love their own bodies, so that their lives can be a sacrament of Christ's love for the church (Ephesians 3). Lesbian and gay couples living in covenanted relationships of love and faithfulness will be powerful signs of God's "love to this broken world, so that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy overcome despair"(BAS p546) - especially to the gay community in its brokenness, so much of it caused by the Church and its people.
Christianity has survived the discovery that, no matter what the Bible says, the earth is not flat and at the centre of the universe, and has learned to read the Scriptures in the light of that new knowledge. It has survived the discovery that, no matter what the Bible says, the coloured races were not created by God to be slaves to the white, and is the better for that new knowledge. It will survive the discovery that, no matter what the Bible says, not everyone is heterosexual, and it will learn to read the Scriptures in the light of that new knowledge, and it will be the better for it.
So, once we come to understand the nature of sexual orientation and can then see that what the Bible says about faithful, loving, sacramental relationships applies to people no matter what their sexual orientation is, the Bible indeed does have much to say about gay men and lesbians - exactly what it has to say about their heterosexual relatives and friends.
Or, to put it better, the Bible has much to say to gay men and lesbians in their relationships. What it has to say to them is what it has to say to their heterosexual relatives and friends: "It is not good for them to be alone. I will provide a partner for them" (Genesis 2.18).
It has taken over 20 years, but the Anglican Church of Canada now has a set of principles on how the church should treat parishioners and employees
The principles, contained in a document entitled A Call to Human Dignity, call for protection for "all persons seeking spiritual care and nurture ... and those people employed by our church." They ban discrimination on the basis of "age, sex, sexual orientation, family or marital status, race, colour, ethnic [or place of] origin, ancestry, disability, creed or social-economic status."
As we reported in our last issue, many of the objections to DIFT (and its predecessors which were voted down in the past, most recently in Montreal 1998) were based on mention of sexual orientation.
Terrence Buckle, bishop of the Yukon, was clear: "There was one phrase that caused the trouble [in the 1998 debate], and it's still here," he said. "It's 'sexual orientation.' The practice of homosexuality is not acceptable to bishops in priests and deacons. If an employed deacon or priest is a practising homosexual we have no recourse."
Synod considered, and defeated, four separate amendments to remove references to either employment or sexual orientation.
Ron Ferris, bishop of Algoma, has long been a strong opponent of full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. In the debate on DIFT, he said "This document is about sexual orientation and promotion of gay love and bisexual love in the Anglican Church of Canada. Your next rector could be a practising bisexual and the person teaching your Sunday school could be in an open marriage. This is a war."
Bishop Ferris called for a vote by orders, and then by dioceses. General Synod passed the motion strongly, in both votes. DIFT is now the policy of the Anglican Church of Canada. Alleluia.
by the Rev Canon Dr Kim Murray
One of the truly regrettable tendencies among some who were present at General Synod this summer was that of seeing certain issues as matters of "winning" or "losing." This, I fear, was most true about the debate over the passage of "Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment." In both the rhetoric used during the debate, and in discussions after the motion was passed, there were some on both sides of the issue who either celebrated victory or lamented defeat.
I would humbly submit that in both instances they were missing the point of the exercise, and, perhaps worse still, they were actually doing something destructive to the health of the church. When General Synod passes a motion, the matter becomes a decision of the whole synod, and, as members, we own the decision and accept it, no matter what side of the issue we supported prior to its passage.
The passage of DIFT was in fact a huge step forward in the healing of the family of our church. If one of the things we are called to do is to reflect the holiness of our God in the unity and intrinsic wholeness of our community, then DIFT, which enshrines as non-negotiable the equitable and respectful treatment of all who are touched by the life of the church, is a triumph for all and a sign of the Spirit's work and guidance in our midst. It is a step or two closer to honouring our Lord's premise that "Inasmuch as you do this to the least of these my brothers, you do it to me."