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
WHO CARES WHAT THE CHURCH SAYS? !
Breakfast with Archbishop Terence Finlay, on his thoughts about same-sex unions and the church
WHERE IS YOUR TREASURE? WHERE IS YOUR HEART?
Sermon preached at the 2001 Integrity/Fidelity eucharist, by Canon Paul Feheley
PROUD ANGLICANS AT SYNOD
Chris Ambidge reports on Integrity/Toronto at Toronto's diocesan synod in November 2001
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
from Archbishop Desmond Tutu
On Wednesday 30 May 2001, Archbishop Terence Finlay of Toronto was the speaker at a breakfast gathering sponsored by the Bishop's Company and held at the Toronto Board of Trade, First Canadian Place, Toronto. Here is an excerpt from those remarks. They were made a couple of days before the New Westminster diocesan synod, which dealt intensively with rites for blessing same-sex unions.
... I want to switch gears now and change the punctuation of our title for today from an exclamation point to a question mark; from an exclamation of indifference and disdain, "Who cares what the church says!", to a question, "Who cares what the church says?". Because you are here this morning, I'm going to assume that you care what the church says and I am going to use our remaining time to touch on a couple of topics that are current in both the church and our culture. ...
One of the major divisive issues in our church is in the area of human sexuality. At the moment, our national church has a strong statement of affirmation on behalf of gays and lesbians in the church, but it does not open the door to recognition of same gender partnerships. Yet more and more voices are being raised, asking the church to work on a theology and process for blessing a covenanted relationship.
It bothers me deeply that there are many gay and lesbian couples in our pews who are faithful, monogamous, committed Christians -- people who are striving to live out their faith with compassion and action -- and yet too often they are treated as second class Christians. This is a major concern for me and for many in our diocese.
As a bishop, I operate as a sign of unity within a very diverse institution, so I have to be sensitive to all sorts of understandings and opinions. But, if I were free to follow my personal beliefs around this issue, I would say this is one of the places where the Spirit is pushing the church to grow and develop a more compassionate and just understanding.
At the moment, the House of Bishops has held to the guidelines with the understanding that bishops will support one another. But there are some of us who want to explore a local option. That is, we would like to work with our synods to test the spirit, to explore with sensitivity and spiritual depth, the form and responsibility such blessings might take. Three years ago, the synod of the Diocese of New Westminster in Vancouver voted in favour of this step, but because the vote was too close, another vote is scheduled to be taken this weekend. All will depend on a clear and substantial majority and consultation with the House of Bishops.
Perhaps the blessing of same gender relationships could take place in two or three assigned parishes comfortable with this responsibility. The blessing would not be offered to the general public, the couple would have to have been part of the parish for a certain time, with a strong supportive community around them. In our diocese good background work has been done to explore this possibility, but there are mixed views just how inclusive the church can be. There are strong activist groups on both sides of this issue, so the debate would be lively. It would have to be thought through with a great deal of care, sensitivity and spiritual depth, reflecting the differences that exist.
In the Diocese of Toronto we have something called the dialogue group where representatives of differing positions have met for six years to talk through where they agree on issues of sexuality and where they differ. They still hold to their basic beliefs but they have come to respect each other, and have even become close friends and share in speaking events together. They have produced an interesting pamphlet entitled Emerging Common Ground.
Internationally, the church is in a great fuss over the issue of sexuality.
There have even been rogue bishops consecrated illegally whose task is to swoop
into dioceses they feel are not acting in an orthodox manner. My involvement
with the international group that the Archbishop of Canterbury appointed has
made me more aware of how complex and difficult this issue is at an
On 19 November, Integrity was pleased to welcome members of Fidelity to our regular monthly celebration of the Eucharist. This breaking of bread together is important, we believe; realising that while the two groups disagree on matters of human sexuality, we share our faith in Jesus Christ even as we share the elements around the table. We are all one body, for we all share the one bread. At the time of last year's shared service, Redeemer was under construction, and the furnace was out-of-commission. This year, the construction is finally finished, and the welcome was physically as well as metaphorically warm.
A Homily on the occasion of the celebration of the Holy Eucharist among members of Integrity and Fidelity at the Church of the Redeemer
19 November 2001 ( St Elizabeth of Hungary)
Tobit 12: 6b-10 ; Psalm 146: 4-9 ; Luke 12: 32-34
The Rev Canon A Paul Feheley
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
My dear friends;
This is the fifth time I have had the privilege of standing before you to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is an honour that I treasure and value. It being the fifth time, I was reminded of the cartoon I saw recently where the preacher leaned in the pulpit and said to the congregation, "This is my fourth sermon on the transforming power of the gospel, and you look like the same bunch as before."
Five years of worshipping together brings familiarity and friendship, but it also brings some dangers as well. During the past year we have been together at our Diocesan and General Synod, we have shared together in a meal at the home of a Fidelity member and ate, drank, talked and laughed. Chris Ambidge and I travelled to Guelph to speak to the Youth Synod of Niagara Diocese and also made a presentation in the Diocese of Montreal. These five years have brought a great deal of learning and respect to each of our groups. Significantly when Chris and I go to exotic places like Guelph, we do not go to debate - these are not occasions to show off debating skills or who can sneak in the latest salvo to be one up on the other. We have insisted that we go together as a team to model dialogue, understanding, friendship and Christian love and charity. I think at times we befuddle people who are looking for Joe Frazier and Mohammed Ali to come out instead of two Christian people who share so much, but honestly disagree on some things.
I said a moment ago that five years brings familiarity and friendship, but has some dangers as well. The biggest danger that I see is that we simply get so locked in our positions that we stop praying and listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. You think this - I think that, and we will just leave it there. As we have said each year we gather, these Eucharists are not about convincing each other or masking differences, but together we are called by the Holy Spirit to be at each other's side to hold the Christ-light and see the reflection of Jesus in each other.
Happily our Eucharist tonight coincides with the Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Let me share with you a brief account of her life from Stephen Reynolds' wonderful book For All The Saints.
Elizabeth of Hungary was a thirteenth century princess who devoted her short life to serving the poor, the sick, and the homeless.
She was born in 1207 and at the age of fourteen became the wife of Ludwig, the ruler of Thuringia. Their marriage was happy and with her husband's support Elizabeth not only cared for their own children but also found time to supervise various projects for the aid of the poor. She founded several hospitals and homes for the elderly, and provided shelters for orphans and abused children. But then Ludwig died, and her brother-in-law drove her from the royal court. Elizabeth joined the Franciscans as a lay-associate and adopted a life of poverty. She did menial labour in the very hospices which she had founded and went into the homes of poor people to help them with their daily tasks. Love for Christ kept her going in the most brutalising conditions, but in 1231 she succumbed to overwork and a sudden virus. She was only twenty-four when she died.
The people of Germany immediately began to venerate her, and she was declared a saint of the Church within four years of her death. Even today, many hospitals throughout the world bear her name in memory of her devotion to binding up the wounds of suffering humanity.
On first glance you may wonder what a thirteenth century Princess of Hungary has to do with a group of men and women gathered almost eight hundred years later. When I reflect on her life and the words of our gospel from St. Luke, I believe they speak to us in a very beautiful way about our ability to see Christ in each other.
The thirty-fourth verse of Luke 12 says, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
I wonder, what it is that you and I treasure? Do our actions match the things we value the most?
A week ago yesterday I was in Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal for their Remembrance Day service. I was sitting in the congregation wearing a shirt and tie. This is always an interesting experience for me because I am able to hear in a different way what lay people really think.
Sitting behind me was an elderly veteran who proudly displayed the medals he had earned during the war. The conversation with his neighbour was interesting. "Do you come here often?" she asked. "No," he responded gruffly, and went on to complain about many things in church life including liturgy and hymns, and then said, "It's not so much that I've left the Church as the Church has left me." In the midst of Eucharist when the Peace was exchanged, I thought it important to try and be at peace with him so I turned toward him. But he refused to exchange a handshake, preferring instead to sit with arms folded in defiance of the liturgical directive.
How ironic on Remembrance Day that the man who had fought for Peace would refuse to exchange it among fellow Christians. I was reminded of one of the African tribes that appoint an overseer during the Peace and if anyone refuses to exchange the Peace with another, the Eucharist is halted and does not proceed.
What did the elderly veteran treasure? Where was his heart? Contrast this man with Elizabeth. Elizabeth's spiritual director Conrad of Marbury wrote the following in a letter:
"Among others, Elizabeth took in a paralysed orphan boy who suffered continually from dysentery. In order to exercise herself in perfection she put him to sleep in her bed, suffering many things through him, for often six times and even more in the night she would carry him to satisfy his natural wants. She washed his dirty linen cloths with her own hands.
"When the boy died, without my knowledge she took in a leper girl, hid her in the house and served her in every way. She would feed her, make her a bed, wash her, take off her shoes, humbling herself in many ways, and cleverly won her servants' silence by begging them not to get her into trouble with me. When I did hear of it - may God forgive me! - I gave her a sound beating because I feared she might catch the disease and I took the leper girl away from her.
"While I was away preaching she took in a very poor boy covered with scurvy whose head was in such a state that he hardly had a hair left; she treated him with medicines, washed him, and did all to cure him. This boy was sitting by her bed when she died (For All The Saints, pp 743-744).
We don't have any trouble answering the question "What did Elizabeth treasure?" - love for Christ among the poor, the homeless, the orphaned, the ill. She became the servant of the servant of God. In her heart we can see Christ because he is reflected in the faces of those she served.
Finally, what is it that you and I treasure? What is in our hearts this night? We passionately believe certain things on matters of human sexuality. There is nothing wrong with that, but what we must treasure is seeing Christ in each other. You and I are called by our baptism to be servants to and for each other, just as Elizabeth was. You and I are sent to each other by God to wash one another's feet, to bind up wounds that hurt, to see in each other the wonderful image of God who created us.
This vision and reflection will not convince us of the other person's position, but will keep us from shrinking or turning our eyes from each other. Where is your treasure? Where is your heart?
A very beautiful hymn would seem to summarize all that I have been sharing with you this night. Will you remain seated and please join me in singing "The Servant Song". As you sing it, think of Elizabeth and her love and ministry. Think of all that our two groups have been through, both individually and together. Think of times when we have hurt each other and of times when we have loved each other, and now we ask each other if you will let me be your servant.
The Servant Song
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
That's the challenge that Jesus lays before us this evening:
Go and make a difference to our community that they will know what you treasure and what is deep within your heart.
by Chris Ambidge
Friday and Saturday November 23-24 saw Integrity/Toronto at our diocesan synod. Toronto synod is ginormous: over 900 members if they all show, and you can count on about 850 bodies actually present, when you reckon staff and other hangers-on, including us. The business sessions of synod take place in a second-floor ballroom at a big hotel out on the airport strip. The area outside the ballroom is known as the "crush court", and here displays are placed, refreshments are served, and schmoozing happens -- the very important keeping-up-with-your-neighbours function of synods.
This year, for reasons not completely clear, there were many more displays, and Integrity and a number of other "external" displayers were relegated downstairs to the registration area-- which meant that we couldn't set up our table until noon Friday, even down thar in the Court of the Gentiles. Having had displays in out-of-the-way venues at General Synods before [St John's 89 upstairs in the gymnasium mezzanine, Toronto 92 in a sewing classroom down the corridor, Ottawa 95 in the next building], we were not best pleased by this geographic isolation. In the event we had better traffic than we feared, but the space was still distinctly less-than-optimal.
Faced with this, we realised we'd have to take ourselves to the synod members, even without a display table. John Gartshore (who has been part of Integrity's presence at more synods than anyone else) came up with the idea of making ourselves very conspicuous, effectively becoming walking displays in the crush court. For the first time, we wore a uniform. There was a T-shirt that proclaimed both that we were PROUD ANGLICANS (a slogan picked up from the Anglican presence in the 2001 Toronto Pride parade), and also that we were Integrity members. Then there were rainbow-theme hats, and for some, rainbow aprons. The latter were multi-pocketed, to contain notebooks, three separate kinds of giveaway candy, pamphlets, and rainbow stickers for nametags. This all worked very well to make us quite visible, and helped us in our real goal, to engage members of synod in conversation.
When the display was put up, we again were sharing space with the gay and lesbian group at St James' Cathedral. We joined behind the PROUD ANGLICANS banner which led the Anglicans down Yonge St last June in the Pride parade.
At previous synods, we've had bowls of goodies (Smarties -- "rainbow candy from the rainbow people", gummi bears, and sugar-free candy for diabetics) on the display table. Bowls weren't going to work this time, so pre-packaged treats went into apron pockets. People were very happy to be handed wee key-sized envelopes (bearing Integrity's name) with emergency rations to counteract that sinking feeling should debates get a little lengthy.
Rainbow stickies for nametags -- narrow ribbons that fit neatly along the bottom of the nametag -- were more popular than ever. Through the tireless efforts of Penelope and John, I believe all five of the Toronto bishops were wearing them. As at General Synod, we not only were being pro-active in handing them out, we also had LOTS of people seeking us out to get the rainbow stickies. This active groundswell of people wanting to identify with the lesbigay cause was one of the strongest indications of good hope. We cut out well over 200 ribbons, and by the time Saturday noon came along, all but a dozen were in circulation. Not bad shooting.
There weren't any particularly sexuality-relevant items on the agenda. We did come up a few times (always positively) in the comments at Members' Time: twice people commenting on Archbishop Finlay's comments of last May [see article 2001-6-1, above]. And in the part of his Charge to synod, where he was commending broad cultural diversity within the church, the Archbishop said that he was grateful for parishes who are reaching out to gay and lesbian couples in these congregations and including them in the life of the parish.
While the presence of Integrity, and debate on sexuality questions, were not
nearly as front-and-centre of Toronto synod's attention as in New Westminster, I
believe that the news is good and progress is being made. I am really quite
optimistic about the tenor or synod and the diocese towards same-sex unions.
Integrity certainly hopes that the model mentioned by the Archbishop last spring
could be put into operation soon.
"I want to say sorry to you and all the others who have been made to suffer so horribly. We in the church have a great deal to answer for. Sometimes the Bible says these things are unnatural. But, I ask, unnatural to whom? I support and firmly stand with those who say, 'We are as we are and don't want to apologize for that.' "
The Most Rev Desmond Tutu, former Primate of South Africa, addressing a conference on homophobia in Cape Town, 30 September 2001