INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2002 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
SPEAK BOLDLY TO THE WINDS OF CHANGE
an Integrity/Toronto sermon
by the Rev John Fletcher
by the Rev Canon Dr Kim Murray
JOURNEY AND TRANSFORMATION
Bishop Ralph Spence visits Integrity/Toronto,
and Gillian Barfoot filed this report
Janet Bruce writes a response to "A Great and Public Mystery" from the February 2002 Integrator.
The Rev John Fletcher presided at Integrity/Toronto's monthly Eucharist this past March. This is the sermon he preached
I am absolutely delighted to be here with you tonight, and to share in this celebration, and in your fellowship. I have followed the work and ministry of Integrity/Toronto for some time, from a distance albeit, but certainly with great interest, and with much intercession.
I first became familiar with the work of Integrity during the General Synod in Ottawa, in 1995, and I became a member and subscriber to Integrator at that time. I missed the General Synod (or General Sauna as it was dubbed) in Montreal, but was back for the most recent General Synod in Waterloo this past summer (2001), where some truly wonderful things happened. Wonderful things that Integrity was a part of. And wonderful things that, I believe, would not have happened if it were not for the work and ministry of Integrity over the past number of years.
Highlights of the Waterloo Synod included, for me not only the acceptance of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples' call to a New Agape, and the acceptance of the Waterloo Declaration (both of which have ushered in the possibility of exciting new collaborative ministry relationships, with our aboriginal brothers and sisters, and with our Lutheran brothers and sisters); but also the very impassioned address that Chris Ambidge gave, calling us as a Church to stop "out-sourcing" our pastoral care for gay and lesbian Anglicans. The highlights included the apology that Michael Ingham gave for the slowness of our Church to address the outstanding justice issues that would lead to the full and unfettered inclusion of gay and lesbian members in the life and ministry of our Church; and the response to that apology by Barry Hollowell, on behalf of the members of Integrity.
But perhaps most of all, I was struck by the "skeet shooting display" that we all witnessed, as amendment after amendment was shot down by a Synod that had clearly lost its patience with the attempts of some to neuter, or diminish, the Call to Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment, [DIFT] which was quite apparently being felt by the majority of Synod members to be precisely what God's Spirit was leading us as Church to embrace. DIFT was passed, unamended, that afternoon.
Over the past seven years I have been nourished by my association with this fellowship, and not only by your offerings to me of gummi bears and candies at national and diocesan synods. Far more importantly, I have been nourished by your courage, by your faithfulness, and by the leadership and resolve that you have shown to all of us, in this Church of ours. And now that I have been posted from Halifax to Toronto, I do look forward to the many more opportunities I will have to be with you, and to share with you in your fellowship and in your work.
In reflecting on the wealth of Scripture contained in this Sunday's lections, and knowing, of course, that I would be here with you this evening - to share in the breaking of the word and in the breaking of the bread with you - I couldn't help but be struck by how clearly these passages spoke to me about the work and ministry of Integrity.
This week's scripture readings address us concerning the very power of God to bring new life and new hope in the face of hopelessness, and even in the face of death.
The story of Ezekiel and the dry bones is perhaps one of the most familiar passages in the entire Hebrew Scriptures; and surely there can be nothing more dead, or more hopeless, than a pile of dry bones in a barren wasteland of despair. This story conjures up for me images of the mounds of human remains and ash that were depicted in Steven Spielberg's rendering of the book Schindler's List. It conjures up for me images of the Holocaust, and of the killing fields of Cambodia, or Rwanda, images of the mass graves unearthed in the Balkans, or even of the gray cloud of ash and debris that became etched in minds, of ground zero in New York City.
2600 years ago, the children of God were in exile in Babylon. They were cut off from their homeland, and from their temple; and consequently, they felt cut off from their God. They were lost and afraid. And they were a people without hope.
Their situation, in that exile, typifies the experience of those who have been victims of oppression in every place and time. And so this story of dry bones also conjures up for me images of the plight that has been experienced by anyone who has know the cruelty of systematic subjugation and injustice. It conjures up for me images of the broken lives - of disowned children, of disavowed relationships, and of dismissed clergy. It conjures up for me images of the lives of too many gay and lesbian men and women who have been scarred by hatred and self-loathing, by disease and disdain, by fear and by prejudice.
And the voice of God asks the question: "Can these bones come back to life?"
In our reading from John's gospel tonight, we also heard once again the story of the raising of Lazarus. And like the story of the dry bones, we are presented in this gospel passage with a situation that is seemingly beyond hope. Can there be anything more dead than a corpse that has been in the grave for four days (well beyond the time when it was believed that body and soul would have separated, and even beyond the time when the body itself had begun to rot and decay)?
"Lord if only you had been here, my brother would not have died."
"Can these bones come back to life?"
And Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and I am the life!"
Many of you, I know, probably watched the made for TV movie this weekend about the death of Matthew Shepherd; and many of you, I know, perhaps joined in the weeping of those who mourn this tragic and criminal act, as well as in the tears of those who mourn all of the other senseless and brutal deaths that have been like it. Many of you, I know, like Martha, have cried out to God, "if only, you had been present in this situation this would not - this could not - have happened."
Yet I believe God was present, and is present everywhere and anywhere that any child of God suffers. I believe that God is present in the midst of that suffering, and that God too suffers. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, and Jesus still weeps.
But Jesus also says, "I am the resurrection, and I am the life."
In both of these biblical stories, we are presented with a seemingly hopeless situation; and in both stories we are also presented with a startling reversal of that situation.
The message to us in this lifelong Lenten journey of ours - from wilderness to promised land - is that the reality of Easter resurrection is always also present to us, seeking to powerfully transform death into life, oppression into freedom, darkness and decay into creativity and light. We, like Ezekiel, and as members of Christ's body in the world, are to be not only called to be bearers of that message, but we are also called to be the agents of its growing power.
Just as Ezekiel was called to prophesy to the dry bones, as well as to the wind, and just as Jesus spoke both to Lazarus, and to those who had gathered at his grave, our message, as Christ's servants in our day and age, must be both to those who experience themselves as oppressed victims, as well as to those who are called to contribute to the transformation of that oppressive reality.
God called Ezekiel to proclaim a message of hope to the dry bones, to tell them that the Sovereign Lord would bring them back to life. But God also called Ezekiel to speak to the wind, saying that God commands it to blow from every direction.
Similarly, Jesus not only called Lazarus "to come out". He also called those who were there to remove the stone that entombed him, and work to unbind him, and to free him, so that he might experience, in its fullness, the life God had given him.
The work of Integrity, I believe, is to boldly proclaim both of these messages.
On the one hand your work is to give hope to those who feel themselves in a hopeless situation. You are called to give courage and strength to those who feel diminished and powerless. You are called to speak to them about wholeness and love, so that they might know God's restoring and liberating and life-giving power.
But equally the work of Integrity is speak boldly to the winds of change, calling God's spirit to blow with renewing and transforming energy from every direction. Your work is to call our Church and our society to open the graves, to remove the stones that enslave, and to banish the injustice that diminishes and holds captive the children of God.
It is my prayer that this fellowship we celebrate, and that this sacrament we share tonight, will be a source of God's renewing love for each of you, so that you might go from here to be the servants of hope, and of change, that God's calls and equips you to be.
May God bless you in your ministry and strengthen you in your work. Amen.
by the Rev Canon Dr Kim Murray
Let me begin by relating an incident which took place a few months ago in the parish which I serve as rector. It was a Sunday morning, and we were in the midst of the greeting in peace. As is my habit, I was making my way down the centre aisle, greeting folks as I went along. Near the far end of the nave I encountered a couple of visitors, a mother and daughter, the latter a young teenager. I greeted the mother, and was about to greet the daughter when the young lady in question did something entirely unexpected. Swivelling herself to present her right side, she presented me with a visibly paralysed and atrophied arm, and then greeted me with a radiant smile and the words "See, I've got one too!" I managed to reach out and take her hand, but I'm afraid that my response was an incoherent mumble as I struggled in the grip of powerful and unexpected emotion. To some extent I am still working through the significance of the event.
At this point I suppose that it will be helpful for me to tell you that I am a person who has lived with disability for all of my life as I remember it. At the age of six weeks I contracted equine encephalitis and the resulting brain damage produced a lack of motor co-ordination and spasticity which emulates cerebral palsy. My childhood was punctuated with nightmarish periods of time spent in clinics and hospitals run, it seemed, by people who might successfully have applied for employment in Dante's inferno. By the time that I reached an age at which I could speak for and extricate myself from the clutches of a system which, even from the reflective distance of the past thirty years, seems to have been designed to afflict the already afflicted, I was committed to having nothing further to do with disability. I was going to lead, as much as was possible, a "normal life".
And I have. Despite expectations to the contrary, I proved to possess a relatively agile intelligence, and used it to pursue an education. On my way to becoming a lawyer the persistence of a vocation derailed things and I found myself asking my parish priest about ordination. Despite initial out-of-hand rejection by a bishop who informed me that there was "no place in the ordained ministry of the church" for someone with my sort of disability, I was ordered deacon in 1976 and priest in 1977. Two years after ordination I met the love of my life and we have now celebrated 23 years of married life. I have served in a variety of parishes, and, I suppose, in order to finally lay to rest the nagging suspicion that I lacked a normal intelligence, I earned a Ph.D. in History from the University of Durham in 1990. By these measurable criteria my life has been "normal" indeed.
Normal - but in the past few years, the ghosts of the past and the petitioners of the present have shaken the stability of the firewall that I built for myself all those years ago. I had, you see, built a life for myself on the basis of denying my disability, of turning away from it, and in consequence, turning away from others who, like myself, lived with disability. I am presently discovering how to live as a normal person with a disability - something which, in the end, I believe, will be both more whole and faithful an expression of my Creator's will than that which I have offered previously. I owe this change, in part, to the intervention of two quite distinct communities within our church, these being Aboriginal Anglicans and members of the Gay and Lesbian community. Hearing the witness of survivors of the residential school system, particularly at General Synod 1998, battered down the firewall that I had created to prevent myself from dealing with the memory of my past. Beginning with the trial of the Rev Jim Ferry, and continuing contact with friends and colleagues who are gay and lesbian Christians, I have come to recognise both the deep hurt that comes with being rejected for something you did not choose and cannot change, together with the healing power of solidarity in the shared faith of those who recognise a common need and identity in one another. I am beginning, I pray, to accept myself as Christ has already accepted me, and thus, in consequence, beginning to discover a community to which I was never before willing to belong.
In his first letter to the Corinthian Church, St. Paul writes "...now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face." (I Corinthians 13:12) My journey to a more whole sense of myself as a person created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ is far from being unique. It is offered here simply in the hope of affirming others whose journeys may be in some way similar, and in the hope that our Church, through grace and the Spirit's guidance, might better become the community in which such journeys might be safely made.
It is also offered in the hope that, should the young lady with the "one" like mine ever return to visit my parish, I might be able now to offer her a more positive affirmation and acceptance of her gift of solidarity in Christ.
He writes: "I promised this article to Chris Ambidge almost a year ago. The fact that it has taken until now to write it is evidence that some, at least, of the issues touched upon are still very much 'in process' and may continue to be so for some time to come."
by Gillian Barfoot
Journey and transformation: these inter-related themes characterised Integrity's monthly Eucharist on 15 April. Journey was apparent in the large group of members and friends who had travelled to the Church of the Redeemer to visit with our celebrant and guest, the Rt Rev Ralph Spence, Bishop of Niagara. And the hope of transformation surrounded us in that space as we shared communion and our concerns for our church.
In his reflection, Bishop Spence discussed the story of the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, our gospel for the evening. Many archetypal stories tell of a journey, he pointed out. These stories often feature a divine figure in the midst of travellers who are blind to that presence, but then their eyes are opened and transformation takes place.
That image - of blindness transformed into openness - set the stage for an honest dialogue that followed the eucharistic celebration.
Bishop Spence thanked Integrity members for their hospitality at sittings of Synod, specifically mentioning his predilection for their gummi bears - his visit in April was welcomed by a gift of a large tub of the chewy treats - and encouraged the perspective which Integrity brings to the Anglican church.
When questioned about the possibility for change in church policy regarding gays and lesbians in the near future, he spoke about the decision-making process, the rule of collegiality in the House of Bishops and the need for them to continue addressing divisive issues.
"When you make those decisions," responded an Integrity member, "remember that they have real consequences for real people. Look around this circle and think of us."
One member stated that many gay and lesbian people, especially those who are un-churched, find it next to impossible to discover which churches are welcoming and which are hostile. "There are evangelistic questions here," he said. Another member said she was successful at finding a welcoming church only because she knew someone "on the inside".
Bishop Spence acknowledged the difficulty of having to rely on "jungle drums" to reach a diverse range of people, but he also pointed out that every diocese has within it a wide variety of approaches. One parish might be liberal, and another might be more conservative, he said, as he shared some of his own experiences in a range of parishes.
Others present told of their frustration at what seems to be lack of progress on an issue of justice. One person, who stated that he has been with his partner for 29 years, agreed that he has been getting increasingly discouraged by the long struggle. However, he added that the evening's dialogue had given him more hope for change within the church.
Following that reminder of the journey incomplete, the participants moved to an informal reception at the back of the church where they enjoyed a rainbow of gummi bears.
Re: "A Great and Public Mystery"
(Integrator, February 2002 - article 2002-1-1)
My 1962 Book of Common Prayer contains this rubric in its service of the solemnization of matrimony: "This Prayer next following shall be omitted, where the woman is past child-bearing." Dr Reynolds appears correct, then, in stating that our Church's view is that marriage is not simply a license to churn out new genetic material.
Neither has marriage ever been an exclusive privilege to those who fit within the bounds of "natural law". It is natural, for example, for a man to have two feet. My grandfather lost a leg during the Great War, but on his return to Canada, no one prevented him from marrying my grandmother.
Of the christo-theological issue of Christ and his Church, Dr Reynolds says, "This is where matters become complicated -- not in an intellectual sense so much as in an imaginative sense." I wonder if that statement doesn't apply just as well to the whole question of queer marriage. The easier it becomes for our society to imagine loving relationships between two men or two women, the sooner our society will come to think of the taking of marriage vows by gay couples as a thing "meet and right so to do".