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
O Comfort My People
A Word for Pride Day by the Rev Chris Brittain
A Restful and Spiritual Place
Michelle Crawford-Bewley reports on Integrity/Toronto's 2002 retreat
Welcoming the Stranger
First of a series by Sister Thelma-Anne SSJD
Welcome: The In-Breaking of the Kingdom
preached on Gay Pride Weekend 1999 by the Rev Canon Judy Rois at St James' Cathedral, Toronto
We Are Amused
Integrity/Toronto celebrates Victoria Day
Liturgy for Blessing Same-Sex Unions in New Westminster
The last two articles appeared on a Stop Press insert in the paper edition of Integrator
New Westminster will proceed with blessings
by Chris Ambidge and Steve Schuh
No-one is being excluded
Statement following the vote on motion 7 by the Rt Rev Michael Ingham
by the Rev Chris Brittain
Perhaps it is more than a little ironic that our Gospel for today focuses on a model of the heterosexual married couple. Here we have Elizabeth and Zechariah, an elderly couple who have longed to conceive a child together, but for some reason or another have been unable to. They are pious and respectable people who want the very thing their society encourages them to want - a child. And so, we might find it rather ironic that we celebrate the birth of John, who will become "the Baptist," on the Sunday of Pride Week, for this day of the Christian calendar surely represents what my brother would call a "Het-Fest," or, as he calls baby showers (somewhat uncharitably), a "Breeder Party." Perhaps there are some among us today who are silently wondering, "Why oh why couldn't this celebration have fallen on last Sunday - Father's Day - when perhaps we could get into the spirit of the song of Zechariah, and join with him in his enthusiasm, 'You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High'?"
For Pride Week is a day of celebration for many in our community and society at large - people who, when they revealed their true identities to their parents (if they ever did) might not have received as enthusiastic a response as that displayed by Zechariah and Elizabeth. And, even if they did, this identity has not been received with enthusiasm by our Christian tradition.
But we might over-emphasise this contrast of parental reactions if we focus solely on Zechariah's song of thanksgiving. Let's remember for a moment what happens before this reading. An angel appears to Zechariah to tell him that Elizabeth will bear a child, and that they will "have joy and gladness, and that many will rejoice at [this child's] birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord." But at this news Zechariah doesn't begin to sing praises or become excited. He dismisses it: "Yeah right... 'My wife is getting on in years;' it won't happen; it isn't 'natural'." And so the angel Gabriel makes Zechariah mute, unable to speak until God's plan comes to fruition.
Many times in our lives we can be like Zechariah: fearful of change and the unknown; cynical and resolved to fate rather than willing to hope and dream; clinging to what we know, rather than believing that other possibilities may be more life-giving. And so, at least in the eyes of God, we become silent and mute - unable to serve as vessels of God's Spirit. Sometimes, too, our church has been like the priest Zechariah - working hard in its sanctuary and trying to remain faithful, but allowing its routines and fears to blind and silence it to voices in and around it.
But Zechariah in our story doesn't remain mute. The promised child does arrive, and when Elizabeth gives him the appointed name of John, and all the relatives run to Zechariah to protest, "but none of your relatives has this name," it is Zechariah who insists, by writing on a tablet, that they will indeed defy tradition and expectations, and call the child "John," just as God desired. At this decision, we read, "all were amazed," and with this action, Zechariah's voice is restored. But despite his amazing recovery, the relatives and others observing this event remain unimpressed. We read: "Fear came over all the neighbours, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea." And they pondered to themselves "What then will this child become?"
Indeed: what then does this child become? Does the name "John son of Zechariah and Elizabeth" become one that is loved and revered? Does John become what his society considers to be a well-adjusted member of the community? Not at all. He becomes an outcast who wears clothes of camel's hair and who eats locusts and wild honey. And he goes around calling people "broods of vipers" and telling them that they shouldn't think that just because they descend from Abraham that they are automatically holy people. John's prophetic preaching made him an object of scorn and ridicule. Perhaps all of his relatives could only shake their heads, and self-righteously continue to reprimand Elizabeth and Zechariah for breaking with tradition and calling this child "John;" and muttering: "They should have known better, and avoided all this trouble."
Few of us are called or are able to serve as prophets like John. But, I'd suggest, we are all called to be like Elizabeth and Zechariah, and to be prepared to believe in God's promises; to be led to places we didn't expect to go; and to be open to prophetic voices in our midst. Sometimes, in the face of such voices, our church has become mute and paralysed. It failed to listen for decades to the voices of women; it avoided facing racism and cultural imperialism; it closed - and still closes - its ears to the voices of gays and lesbians in its midst; and, I'm sure, there are other voices that we continue to remain deaf to.
But today we celebrate the life of a prophet - someone who broke through the deafness of his time - and we celebrate the ears that were opened, preparing the way for people to respond to the message of Jesus. And we give thanks for others like John who were willing to serve as disruptive voices, and willing to live with the trouble this caused them, in order to push God's people closer toward God's kingdom. We also celebrate those who made John's ministry possible: people like Elizabeth and Zechariah, who, despite the urgings of their relatives, despite the social expectations of their time, were prepared to listen to the voice of God, and to recognise their child's calling as a gift and not a burden. John's mission might have lost Elizabeth and Zechariah some friends and some standing within their community, but they greeted the birth of their child with thanksgiving, in the knowledge that John's work will "give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death," and that the one he prepares God's people for will "guide our feet into the way of peace."
John's role in the drama of the gospels is only a brief one. He's a supporting actor, not the main character of the story. As with many prophets, many of those he criticised felt that he had to be gotten rid of, but not before he had prepared masses of people to be receptive of Jesus and his message. John, then, is a figure who lived on the boundary between the old and the new era to come. He both represents the past and serves as a herald for the future.
Many of us in the church who are impatient and frustrated with what seems to be of an older era can relate to figures like John, who had to struggle through the old as he dreamed towards the new. And so perhaps his example might comfort us. But it also reminds us, as we so struggle, that John's focus in this labour was not simply on himself or on what he wanted and what he preferred. His focus was on the one who was to follow, and his message was not change for change itself, but to prepare for the one who comes from God. 'Repent,' says John, 'turn from your self-absorption and narrow-mindedness - and look ahead to what is to be.'
Looking ahead this morning, as we continue to struggle as Christians in our complicated world, coming from such a variety of backgrounds and experiences, longing for that same "love that passes all understanding," the ancient words of another prophet are offered to us: "Comfort, O comfort my people." Isaiah speaks to a people burdened by wars and famine, by oppression and disappointment, and reminds them that God is still there for them, and continues to lead them towards a new era: "every valley will be lifted up, and every mountain and hill will be laid low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain."
We come to this space this morning a burdened people - burdened by the demands of daily life; burdened by worries, sickness, and fear; burdened perhaps by ignorance, prejudice, or impatience. God's word to us in the midst of this is: "Comfort, O comfort my people." Worship me without fear, for Christ has come, my Spirit is with you, and my prophets continue to cry out in the wilderness to prepare my way. The challenges we face will fall away, just as the grass withers and the flowers fade. And all that needs to happen for this to be possible is for our hearts and minds to be opened to God, just like Zechariah's mouth was opened and his tongue was freed. May God grant us the wisdom and openness to discern God's will, so that we too might witness Christ's coming and to prepare his way.
by Michelle Crawford-Bewley
The annual Integrity retreat took place at the end of April. We continued our custom of meeting for dinner at Swiss Chalet and travelling to St John's convent in a rainbow convoy.
The retreat is something that I look forward to year by year. I've never found a more restful and spiritual place in the world than the convent of the Sisters of Saint John the Divine. As much as I enjoy the camaraderie of my fellow retreatants, it's the convent that draws me to the Integrity retreat every year. I can feel the tension melting away as soon as I enter the guest wing. This year was no exception.
Chris Ambidge and Sister Thelma-Anne shared facilitating duties this year. It was a very successful arrangement. They took turns presenting material for us to ponder and comment on.
As Sister Thelma Anne says elsewhere in this issue, "Beginning with the experiences we have all had of feeling like a stranger or feeling welcome, we went on to recall times when we had welcomed, or had failed to welcome, someone different from ourselves." These were powerful concepts to struggle with, but so thought provoking and interesting to share. For me, one of the most provocative things we talked about was original shame as opposed to original sin in our self-concept - the shame that's passed from parents to their children and can make us strangers to ourselves. We also discussed strangers in scripture; gays, lesbians and others as strangers in the church; and the vocation of the stranger.
In a way the topic of the retreat was ironic. Of the 12 people on the retreat only one of us was a first-timer; the rest of us have been on retreat together many times.
We all had a lot of stories and comments about times when we've been strangers and even managed to talk about how we've made others the stranger in our lives.
The topic of the retreat was fairly serious, so the traditional wine and cheese party with the sisters on Saturday night was a welcome treat. Sam and Bev Moffat-Schaffner catered the party and tempted all of us with a wonderful array of tasty treats. The variety of food and wine makes for good conversation starters and I know that the sisters look forward to the evening together as much as we do.
On a sadder note, Sister Thelma-Anne announced that this would be the last retreat that she would lead for Integrity. We all expressed our sadness at losing her guidance but she assured us that she would be attending the retreats, just not leading them from now on. It's reassuring to know that we won't be losing one of the most stimulating and thought provoking retreat members.
With TA's announcement we tried to figure out how many retreats she had led for Integrity. An unofficial finger toting put the number at around 18 or 19. So though we'll miss her guidance, we all appreciated her need to take a break.
The tradition will continue next year with another retreat leader (we discussed asking several people) so keep your eyes open for an announcement.
We have a group photo taken at Integrity/Toronto's
2002 Retreat on our website.
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First of a series by Sister Thelma-Anne SSJD
By a happy coincidence, Dr. Kim Murray's article, "Mirror Images?" in the last issue of the Integrator came just in time for the opening of this year's retreat. As I continue to reflect on the retreat in the light of Kim's article, I realise how profound and healing his insights are.
The theme I had chosen for the retreat was "Strangers in their Midst." Beginning with the experiences we have all had of feeling like a stranger or feeling welcome, we went on to recall times when we had welcomed, or had failed to welcome, someone different from ourselves.
In the first session we considered how deep-seated xenophobia, the fear of strangers, is in our society and in ourselves. We identified some of these strangers in our midst - women in a male-dominated culture; people of different races in a white culture; the poor in an affluent culture; the elderly in a youth-oriented culture; the mentally challenged in a culture which prizes intelligence and expertise; radicals in an increasingly repressive and conservative society; immigrants in a new country - and from the perspective most familiar to us, lesbians and gays in a heterosexist world. With the possible exception of immigrants (not counting refugees), there was no choice for those who are "different."
We recognised that we become strangers to ourselves when we internalise the norms of society and in shame deny or repress whatever does not fit. In so doing, make strangers of others whose resemblance to us makes us uncomfortable. Moreover, as we deny who we are in order to fit the norm, we become strangers to ourselves. A good example is the internalised homophobia which makes people strangers to themselves as well as to others. In coming out, by contrast, the stranger that is oneself is welcomed, and this brings with it a new capacity to welcome others.
And that is where Kim Murray's story fits in. Not only did he suffer psychological damage from a "system which . . . seems to have been designed to afflict the already afflicted"; he internalised the common assumption that those with a visible physical disability must somehow be mentally incapable. He used his agile intelligence to pursue an education, right up to the doctoral level, to convince others and at a deeper level, himself, that he was not mentally challenged. He "built a life for [himself] on the basis of "denying [his] disability, of turning away from it, and in consequence, turning away from others who . . . lived with disability." Unable to accept the reality and the goodness of the person he was, he not only made strangers of others but also became a stranger to himself. Now he has begun a journey toward self-acceptance. "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."
Not only did Kim's experience illustrate the theme of the retreat; it illuminated the journey I have been taking during the last several months. I, too, have been learning to welcome a stranger, one which had taken up residence, unrecognised, long before my diagnosis with Parkinson's last October. In welcoming this stranger, who is myself, I believe I have grown in many ways. I have had to accept limitations I could not have imagined earlier, and I am becoming more empathetic toward the limitations of others. I have had to acknowledge my own unrecognised assumption that personal worth depends on achievement, energy, and efficient cognitive function. I have been moved to repentance for the many times I myself have turned away in embarrassment, fear, or distaste from the physically or mentally challenged.
The opposite of shunning the stranger is hospitality. Can we extend hospitality to the stranger who threatens our unexamined norms, who challenges our assumption that "different" means inferior, unacceptable, fearsome? Kim Murray's words about "discovering how to live as a normal person with a disability" have provided a context for my difficult decision to step down from leadership of the retreats after almost two decades. When I told this year's retreat group of my decision, and of my desire to keep on attending the annual Integrity retreats, I experienced hospitality in a wonderfully affirming way. The applause and smiles of those present told me that I was welcome not just as a leader but as a friend.
Thank you, Kim, for sharing yourself so honestly and generously. And thank you, each one of you in Integrity/Toronto and beyond, for the friendship and love which have surrounded me for so long and will continue to the journey's end.
A homily preached on Gay Pride Weekend 1999 by the Rev Canon Judy Rois at St James' Cathedral, Toronto
Today's gospel [Matthew 10:40-42] comes from the second of two major speeches Jesus makes as recorded by Matthew, the first of which is The Sermon on the Mount which outlines the principles of a Christian ethic, and the second is that ethic in practice. Both speeches are directed to a community strongly Jewish in outlook with a deep commitment to Jewish law. But it was also a community under persecution -- their Temple had been destroyed and the rabbis had reorganised the Judaism of the day Which left many Jews completely cut off from the religious practices -- the very things that had given them their identity as Jewish people -- all of it was gone!
It is to these people that Matthew offers an ethic to live by, and also records Jesus' clear directive on how people who find themselves in such circumstances should be treated.
Which brings us to this morning's passage where Jesus urges his disciples to be open to these people in their unsettled situation, to welcome them, and to engage in acts of mercy as unspectacular as offering a cup of cold water. At first glance, this gospel may sound like plain homespun advice. Hospitality may seem to be a small, mundane sort of virtue, except that Jesus holds it up as a sign of the in-breaking of the kingdom of heaven Whenever you offer welcome, Jesus says, you welcome me. Which is a pretty amazing statement. Just to welcome another is to welcome Jesus himself. Which makes hospitality not such an insignificant virtue.
Just imagine our selves as members of this Cathedral -- if this building was desecrated into ruin and we had no place to go and we received a hospitable welcome by others, perhaps with traditions different than ours, who committed themselves not only to help re-build this Cathedral, but in the meantime to provide a place for us to worship. That's just the kind of generous hospitality Jesus encourages his disciples to show others.
Let me put a real face to this ethic described in Matthew. This cathedral has a fund, to which many of you have contributed that makes it possible for us to be hospitable to those who show up here looking for food or clothing or transportation. You make it possible for those of us here through the week to show hospitality to all kinds of people for whom life has not become what they would have hoped for: drug addicts, ex-cons, men and women in the sex-trade, the unemployed, the poor. And why has this Cathedral chosen to intentionally act this way? Because Jesus told us that generous hospitality is a sign of the kingdom of heaven. And it is a hospitality that is not defined by age, culture, race, class, gender, sexuality, or religious practice. Jesus called his followers to be welcoming of all people.
And that happens here on Sundays too -- tour buses often stop here -- visitors come here from many different countries. Regardless of their nationality, we show them hospitality. Not long ago we welcomed a group of American psychiatrists who were here for their annual convention. And another time a gathering of lawyers. Regardless of professional status, we welcomed them. Last Sunday evening we held a special service for aboriginal peoples of Canada, and while they had very different ceremonial practices than our own, we honoured their traditions by saying : You are welcome in this Cathedral. This morning there are visitors in Toronto for Gay Pride week to celebrate the diversity of sexual orientation., and we welcome you. It is all hospitality and we offer it not just because it is the courteous thing to do (though it is). We do it because we call ourselves a Christian community, and part of what that means is a commitment to Christian hospitality without imposing our own definitions of who we believe is deserving of that virtue, but in response to Jesus' own open welcome of all people.
Makes the virtue of hospitality sound more spectacular than at first glance. But it is not only hard to do sometimes, it is sometimes risky. If we don't like a certain cultural group it's hard to be welcoming of them. If we don't think children belong in church, our displeasure may be obvious. If we don't approve of gays or lesbians, our antipathy will probably be detected. The practice of non-hospitality is not only deeply hurtful -- it's just not in synch with our Lord's ethic of welcome.
Henri Nouwen, former director of the Jean Vanier communities here in Canada -- he said that hospitality sometimes evokes the image of soft, sweet kindness, tea parties, bland conversations and a general atmosphere of doziness. Probably this has good reasons since in our culture the concept of hospitality has lost much of its power and is often used in circles where we are more prone to expect a watered piety than a serious search for an authentic Christian spirituality. But he goes on to say that if there is any concept worth restoring to its original depth and evocative potential, it's the concept of hospitality: one of the richest biblical terms that has the capacity to deepen and broaden our relationship with all people who have a full and equal claim on the love, acceptance, concern and pastoral care of the church.
We demonstrate this liturgically in the sharing of The Peace, a greeting to one another that communicates the acceptance of God and the love of Christ in the gesture of a handshake. When we share this greeting we are saying to whoever is standing near us that we wish the peace of Christ for them. Before we come to the altar to receive grace for ourselves, the peace is a sign of our concern for others. It is a wonderful gesture of Christian hospitality, and it is based on what Jesus himself said to his disciples - my peace be with you.
So whoever you are and however you came to be worshipping in this Cathedral this morning, we say welcome and we pray for grace to fulfil the baptismal promise that declares Christians will respect the dignity of every human being. Amen.
Victoria Day, the 3rd Monday in May, is closest to Queen Victoria's actual birthday of 24 May, and is the official celebration of the Queen's Birthday here in Canada.
Integrity/Toronto's monthly Eucharist is always on the 3rd Monday of the month, so we took this co-incidence as a cue for a party (what better excuse than the Queen's Birthday?). The celebration began with a Pentecost liturgy, presided over by Dennis Dolloff. After spiritual food, Penelope and Chris, as the English expatriates in our group, arranged for tea and cucumber sandwiches to appear. Penelope also baked a birthday cake for Her Majesty (a Victoria sponge cake, in fact), and a jolly good time was had by all.
This year is Her present Majesty's Golden Jubilee, and our congratulations and good wishes go to her. We had so much fun at this year's birthday observations, they'll probably appear again next year.
A photo of the Tea Party is on our website.
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As Integrator went to press, the synod of the diocese of New Westminster was considering the question of liturgies for blessing same-sex unions. This is quite a divisive issue for the Vancouver-area diocese, it was controversial and no matter what happened at synod, large groups of the faithful were bound to be displeased. This issue will not be solved in a day, and there will be lasting repercussions. Please keep the family of the diocese of New Westminster, and Bishop Michael Ingham, regularly in your prayers.
[In the paper edition of Integrator, this item appeared on a separate Stop Press insert, somewhat abridged for space reasons. The full text appears here]
by Chris Ambidge and Steve Schuh
After many years of study, prayer and discussion, the synod of the Diocese of New Westminster has voted by a "clear and substantial majority" in support of same-sex unions. The synod motion -- winning 62.5% of delegate votes -- endorsed Bishop Michael Ingham's proposal that outlines a process for moving forward on blessing same-sex unions and also protects those of "traditional conscience."
"We have voted not to compel but to permit," Bishop Ingham stated, "to permit those parishes that wish to celebrate permanent, intimate, loving relationships between persons of the same sex to do so in recognition of the God-given goodness of their sacred mutual commitments; and to permit those parishes who stand in continuity with the historic practice of the church, and with biblical truth they sincerely believe it, to do so without compulsion, with full protection of conscience, and with the pastoral support of episcopal ministry."
[The full text of the statement appears below, article 2002-3-8].
The proposal followed earlier synod votes that had won smaller majorities -- 51.5% in 1998 and 56.5% in 2001 -- that had simply asked the bishop to authorise same-sex unions. Bishop Ingham withheld consent on those votes, saying the diocese was not yet ready to move ahead.
This year's motion endorsed the idea of a "conscience clause" which made explicit that no clergy or parish would be forced to participate in a same-sex blessing without their consent, and that those who disagreed with synod would not face discrimination. More boldly the proposal also included provision for an "episcopal visitor" for those clergy or parishes who may feel unable to accept pastoral care from the current bishop. This was seen as an attempt to address the legitimate needs of dissenting clergy without compromising the authority of the episcopate office.
[For full documentation, visit the diocesan website at www.vancouver.anglican.ca.]
For some people, however, the conscience clause and episcopal visitor provisions were judged inadequate. While the bishop was still reading the results of the vote, a representative of some of those opposing the motion stood to read a prepared statement indicating their belief that the synod had removed itself from full communion with the world-wide Anglican fellowship, and that to remain in the Anglican Communion they felt compelled to leave synod. Several delegates -- and a large number of people in the gallery -- then walked out of the hall.
Although it was unclear what the act meant, or even what those who left intended to communicate in their doing so, it was obviously difficult for many synod delegates to watch. Later in the day the synod expressed sadness at the departure of their brothers and sisters and hope for future reconciliation.
Many gay and lesbian Anglicans and their supporters expressed disappointment that some people have not yet found a way to respect those of differing beliefs on this issue and remain in fellowship. Some stated that they experienced the walk-out as an "act of violence" and that their joy was stolen even before it was fully revealed.
But Bishop Ingham would remind them that the synod has not acted to recognise God's blessing on gay and lesbian relationships on its own accord but has been moved by the Holy Spirit. "We do these things in the belief that they are the call of the Spirit to the church everywhere. To the Spirit of God and the to the church we pledge our continued loyalty and affection."
At a celebratory service on Sunday evening Integrity members and supporters expressed their deep thankfulness for Bishop Michael and his family for the many people who contributed to the effort over the last several decades. At long last, the Church in New Westminster is recognising its lesbigay members as full human beings equally deserving of the Church's care and ministry.
To God be the glory!
[In the paper edition of Integrator, this item appeared on a separate Stop Press insert]
Statement following the vote on motion 7
by the Rt Rev Michael Ingham
Vancouver 15 June 2002 - The Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster has now made a clear decision about the pastoral care of Anglicans in this part of Canada.
We have voted not to compel but to permit: to permit those parishes that wish to celebrate permanent, intimate, loving relationships between persons of the same sex to do so in recognition of the God-given goodness of their sacred mutual commitments; and to permit those parishes who stand in continuity with the historic practice of the church, and with biblical truth as they sincerely believe it, to do so without compulsion, with full protection of conscience, and with the pastoral support of episcopal ministry.
We take these steps today in full awareness that others in the Anglican Communion may not understand our actions. We hope all will realise that Canadian Anglicans live in a country where homosexual activity was decriminalised thirty years ago; where human rights legislation offers legal protection to gay and lesbian people against all forms of discrimination; and where churches across this great country freely and openly welcome men and women of every language, race and nation, colour, marital status and sexual orientation. We are an inclusive church in a plural, peaceful and tolerant society.
We are not compromising the Christian faith nor relativising its moral teaching. We are extending to gay and lesbian Christians the same freedom that is enjoyed by others to commit their lives to Jesus Christ together, and the same obligation to grow in the costly demands of love. We are calling them to fidelity, permanence and stability in relationships. We are offering them the support of the Christian community as they grow into the fullness of the stature of Christ through the struggles and challenges of mutual commitment.
No one is being excluded from our fellowship today. We have not taken sides with one group in our church against another. We have chosen to live together in mutual respect. We acknowledge and repent of the pain we have caused in the course of this long process. We are deeply aware that there is much more work to do to build up mutual understanding and reconciliation. In this we ask for the support of the wider church, not condemnation, and patience from those who live in very different social contexts from our own.
We have voted for unity in the midst of diversity. We have decided to embrace faithful Christian believers of differing conscience within the one Body of Christ. We are not taking sides with some members of our church over against others, but inviting both to work together to support the mission of the church throughout the world without the scandal of division.
We do these things in the belief that they are the call of the Spirit to the church everywhere. To the Spirit of God and to the church we pledge our continued loyalty and affection