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
LIKE A NAIL IN THE SHOE
a letter from Bishop Terry Brown, on the 1998 Lambeth resolution on homosexuality
WHY I STAY
Integrity Inc president Michael Hopkins on staying part of the church
WELCOMING THE STRANGER - WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
part 2 of a series by Sister Thelma-Anne ssjd
A summary of recent news in New Westminster, Ottawa, Canterbury, Kansas and on same-sex marriage in Canada
LET US BREAK BREAD TOGETHER
Integrity and Fidelity will again worship together on 16 September.
A FIRST GAY PRIDE
The Rev Andrew Asbil tells of walking in his first Pride parade.
An open letter from Terry Brown, Bishop of Malaita
Bishop Terry Brown was for many years before his consecration the Asia-Pacific staff person for the Anglican Church of Canada. In that period, he presided at Integrity/Toronto Eucharists several times. This letter was printed in the 19 April 2002 issue of the Church Times, and a copy was sent to Integrity by Bishop Terry himself.
PO Box 7
Auki, Malaita Province
Solomon Islands, South Pacific
10 March 2002
London UK N1 0PN
As the recent book by the former Primus of Scotland makes clear, the 1998 Lambeth conference resolution on homosexuality will not go away. It is rather like a nail in one's shoe, continuing to cause much pain.
One very basic difficulty with the resolution is that it denies even the possibility of sexual intimacy to a large population of Anglicans (and, presumably, to all Christians). It denies the evidence of science, that a significant population of people in all cultures have erotic desires directed exclusively to members of the same gender and that these desires are impossible to change. Regarding this evidence as insignificant, the resolution denies the moral value of or the presence of God's grace in any sexual intimacy between persons of the same gender, requiring celibacy of them. Instead of sexual intimacy with another person, such persons are consigned to a life of satisfying desire through private fantasy and masturbation (assisted by pornography if their imagination wears out) or to marriages void of sexual desire.
Surely it would be far better to encourage friendship, even sexual intimacy, in the image of marriage and friendship that Christian Scripture and Tradition so eloquently witness to. The resolution eschews the contribution of human science and reason and rejects the experience of many faithful Anglicans in all cultures. The resolution is inhumane and cruel, hardly reflective of the mind of Christ.
I write as one who voted against the resolution, and still have no regrets. As many have pointed out, the atmosphere was indeed a mean one, not appropriate for a Christian body. I think those who voted for the resolution should pray and think again. You have created so much pain.
In fear that in a century from now, future Anglicans will look back on this resolution with the same shame, distaste, sorrow and disbelief that we today look back at the burning of heretics (indeed, good Catholics and Protestants) in the English reformation. That which was born in hatred, which ignored the legitimate processes of the Conference, and which continues to produce so much pain, cannot survive the eternity of God's love.
The Rt Reverend Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Solomon Islands
by the Rev Michael Hopkins
Some lesbigay people have been in the Episcopal Church for quite a while, but are now angry, fed up, and calling for us to leave, given the church's continuing ambiguity and ongoing efforts by the American Anglican Council (AAC) and other organizations to turn the church in a conservative direction on issues of human sexuality. I cannot follow that call to leave, and I ask others not to do so. I respect it enough, however, to say why.
First and foremost, I will not leave this church because it is my church. It is our church. It is not the conservatives' church. It is not Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's church. It is our church. I am proud of the fact that we have stayed and not withheld our money and not set up competing structures, like ordination programs and seminaries. That the AAC has done so is only a sign of how desperate they are. They are playing with fire, and it has already burned them and will continue to do so.
Second, I stay because of my community. I know (especially compared to many parts of the country) that I live in a near fantasy world, in a congregation that is truly over the whole sexuality thing. My partner, John Clinton Bradley, is a member of the parish as the spouse of the Rector. I am able to be a parish priest in every sense of the word. I know that this would still be impossible in many dioceses, but I thank God it is not in mine, nor in a growing number of others. I am not "satisfied" just because I am where I am, but I do offer where I am as a sign of great hope. As long as there are community's like St. George's in the Episcopal Church, there is no way the conservatives (or anybody else) can believe they've "won."
Third, we do need each other. Why? I don't always know, to be honest. But I believe that we do. I need the conservatives and they need me. I stay in relationship with them as a matter of faith, that God is not finished with either of us yet. It is a dysfunctional family, with a long and continuing, history of abusing folk like me. I have my own scars, some of them as fresh as yesterday. Am I participating in my own oppression by staying? In a sense, yes. But I continue to stand up to it and say no to it. I do this as much for the sake of those who will come after me as I do for myself.
Fourth, I do have to participate in compromise. I appreciate and honor those who must stand on the outside and protest, publicly pointing out and denouncing injustice. Theirs is an important ministry. My gift is to work on the inside. It is occasionally a dirty job. But I do believe it is how this church of ours is changing, and it is changing. Lambeth 1998 was what it was because change is happening so fast. The AAC alternative ordination track is what it is because change is happening so fast.
Some of us have been badly beaten up by the church: relationships disrespected or denied, honesty rebuffed, vocations denied. All of us continue to suffer the church leadership's ambivalence about us. But God is not ambivalent, nor should we be about our place in this church. We belong here. We, at this time in history, are a key part of the church's salvation. And I believe God will continue to use us if we will stay and continue the struggle. And staying and continuing the struggle is participating in the revolution.
Second of a series, by Sister Thelma-Anne SSJD
In my last article, I began to reflect on the theme of this year's Integrity Retreat, "Strangers in their Midst," led by Chris Ambidge and me. In our first session, we talked about our own experiences of being a stranger, and of welcoming (or not welcoming) those strange to us. In our second session, we reflected on some of the most important biblical references to strangers and how we should treat them.
We identified two major "stranger experiences" in the Hebrew Scripture -- Abraham leaving his homeland to live as a stranger in Canaan, and the Children of Israel going into Egypt. These two experiences were crucial both to the Israelites' self-understanding as a people and to their ethical code, which required hospitality toward the stranger.
There was a strong compulsion to be kind to strangers, coming from the desert culture, where kindness to strangers could be a matter of life and death. The stories of strangers visiting Lot in Sodom and of the three mysterious strangers visiting Abraham at Mamre make clear what the biblical witness has to say about the treatment of strangers. In one place, strangers were mistreated; in the other, they were welcomed. We find the divine imperative to treat strangers well coming back again and again with the refrain, "You were strangers in Egypt ... " You have been sojourners yourselves, so you know how destructive it is to be shunned or mistreated, and how life-giving it is to be welcomed.
There are many strangers in the New Testament. Many of these were women, who were in a sense already aliens in their own culture. The ones mentioned were on the fringes of society, whether as Gentiles, like the Syrophoenician woman, as apostates like the Samaritan woman, as "sinners", like the woman who anointed Jesus' feet, or as ritually impure, like the woman with the haemorrhage. Then there were the Romans and their collaborators, the centurion whose servant was ill, and Zacchaeus the tax collector, and there were people like the Ethiopian eunuch, a stranger on two counts.
Jesus identifies with the stranger. He makes this clear in one of the major collections of his teachings, Matthew 25. Inasmuch as you do this to the least of these - whether for good or for ill or whether you neglect to do it - you do it to me. In the stories of the Samaritan who on being cured returned to give thanks, and the other Samaritan who helped the wounded man when priest and Levite passed on the other side, Jesus uses the gratitude and the compassion of these two outsiders as a foil to the complacency and self-absorption of the respectable insiders. In pressing home this contrast again and again, Jesus made himself a stranger, and outcast, and finally a criminal to be handed over to the Romans and executed.
In the Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline letters, the crucial issue being wrestled with is: whether the Gospel is, in fact, for everyone, because of their humanity, or are there other conditions that must be met? "Can Gentiles be included?" Yes. You don't have to be a better kind of Jew; all you have to do is to follow the Lord Jesus.
I believe that we are facing the same issue today as we struggle with the question of lesbians and gays in the church, which has come to a head with the vote in the Diocese of New Westminster on the blessing of same-sex unions. Is the Gospel for everyone, or are there people who are beyond the pale because of who they are? Gentiles, by definition, were outside the pale and yet Peter, commanded to go to the house of Cornelius the centurion, was convinced when he saw these Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit on the same terms as Jews, without having to take on the Jewish law.
Hitherto, the hospitality of the church as a whole toward lesbians and gays has been, at best, grudging. We see lesbians and gays who live by the gospel, whose lives and relationships are obviously blessed and are a blessing to others. Can we refuse to bless what God has so clearly blessed? Is mandatory celibacy for Christians with a same-sex orientation integral to the Gospel or is it imposed by the Law? Must they, as Peter said regarding the Gentiles, be burdened by a law which "neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear"? Or can we extend full hospitality to those who have so long been regarded as strangers and aliens, but are in fact "citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God"?
There is in our humanity a radical equality. We all go through the birth process. As Christians, there is the equality of baptism. There is no such thing as second-class Christians, unless we create them by treating as strangers those who differs from us. This applies equally to both sides. I do not believe that this needs to be a church-dividing issue, one that makes strangers of those who once were friends. I find it sad that in a church which has always nourished diversity and respected conscience, people should become so polarised that they are willing to contemplate schism, or accuse others of being schismatic, over a matter which is not, like the Trinity or the Divinity of Christ, central to our faith. So let us respect one another's deeply held convictions, and welcome one another as fellow-Christians, while waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide us into new understandings of the truth as it is in Jesus, and a renewed commitment to the hospitality which Jesus himself has lavished on us.
There have been all sorts of new developments of interest to Integrity people over the past couple of months. Here is a summary.
The synod of the diocese of New Westminster passed a resolution asking the bishop to approve a rite for blessing same-sex unions. The same resolution provided a "conscience clause" and an episcopal visitor for those who could not go along with the changes. Representatives of eight parishes left the synod meeting.
This move by the diocesan synod is not a surprise: similar motions were passed in 1998 and 2001. It is apparently the first time a diocesan synod has spoken: similar efforts in parts of the United States have been actions of the local bishop.
The parishes which withdrew from the synod session are now referring to themselves as "The Anglican Communion in New Westminster". They wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury to ask for his support. Dr Carey, while expressing his personal disagreement with same-sex unions, urged the parishes to remain within the diocese, rather than walking away. The parishes are now individually considering at a series of vestry meetings whether to continue to be associated with the diocese of New Westminster. If any parish decides that they wish to leave the diocese, there will undoubtedly be legal disputes.
There have been many reactions from all over the Anglican Communion. Integrity chapters world-wide see it as a positive move. More conservative provinces of the communion have expressed concern. Thirteen bishops of the Canadian House of Bishops have asked Bishop Ingham not to proceed with the blessings. The thirteen represent nine dioceses, slightly less than one-third of the House, and slightly less than 20% of the Anglicans in the country. Other Canadian bishops have expressed support for the process followed - if not the conclusion reached - by the diocese of New Westminster.
One parish in Vancouver, St Margaret's Cedar Cottage (one of the three parishes behind the synod motions) has voted unanimously to ask Bishop Ingham to allow blessings at their parish. A number of couples at St Margaret's are hoping to receive those blessings soon.
The actions in New Westminster will undoubtedly occupy much of the attention of the national House of Bishops when it meets in October.
A motion similar to that in New Westminster will be presented to the synod of the diocese of Ottawa at its meeting this autumn. The motion, from the Rev Canon Garth Bulmer of St John the Evangelist in the city of Ottawa, asks the bishop of Ottawa to allow those parishes who request it, to be allowed to bless same-sex unions.
The 104th Archbishop of Canterbury has been nominated; and the Most Rev Rowan Williams, presently Primate of Wales, will succeed the Most Rev George Carey as Primate of All England and leader of the Anglican Communion in October. Dr Williams is a theologian of no mean repute, having taught that subject both at Oxford and at Cambridge. He was widely expected to receive the nomination.
The questions surrounding homosexuals in the Anglican church will doubtless be commanding a fair amount of Dr Williams' attention in the future, with very different points of view being held in different parts of the Communion. While Dr Carey is opposed to any blessing of same-sex unions, that does not appear to be Dr Williams' view.
Dr Williams has said that the current approach in the Church of England (where homosexual clergy cannot have partners, but gay or lesbian members of the laity can) is unworkable. He has himself ordained gay clergy. This has of course caused concern among more conservative circles in the church, as have his views in favour of women bishops and the remarriage of divorced persons. Archbishop Williams is himself committed to the continuing reflection and dialogue on matters of human sexuality mandated at Lambeth 1998. His will not be an easy task over the next few years.
Friends of the fictional Dorothy Gale know that she spent all her time in Oz wanting to go back home to Kansas. Gay and lesbian Episcopalians may want to make the diocese of Kansas their home. Bishop Smalley has said he will begin authorising the blessing non-married couples, both heterosexual and homosexual, who for various reasons cannot avail themselves of matrimony.
A recent court decision in Ontario has brought the question of same-sex marriages in secular law very much to the fore. Back in January 2000, two same-sex couples were married at Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto, after Banns (public notice of intended marriage) were read. This procedure for solemnising matrimony is legal in Ontario, and does not require that a licence be issued beforehand. The Registrar-General of Ontario refused to register the marriages, and it went to court. Note well: this is marriage we are talking about, neither "holy union" (a religious analogue) nor "domestic partnership" (a secular common-law analogue).
In mid-July 2002, the Superior Court of Ontario ruled that denying marriage to a same-sex couple is a violation of their Charter rights, and gave the federal government two years to amend the affected legislation. Under the Constitution Act 1867, marriage (that is, what marriage is and who can get married) is exclusively federal jurisdiction; and the solemnisation of marriage is provincial responsibility.
This ruling has sparked widespread and continuing public discussion. The Ontario government announced that it would not appeal the court's decision, but the federal government has announced that it will. A parallel case in BC was decided in the opposite way, and a similar case is still before the courts in Quebec. It looks as though the decision may well end up in the Supreme Court of Canada.
Internationally, same-sex marriage already exists in the Netherlands. Close analogues exist in law in Germany and France. On this side of the Atlantic, registered partnerships (which come into being immediately, as opposed to requiring a period of cohabitation) are available in Vermont in the USA, and the provinces of Nova Scotia and Quebec. On the other hand, many states and the federal government of the USA have passed legislation specifically forbidding same-sex marriage.
Recent polls taken in Canada indicate that more people support same-sex marriages that oppose them, with support heaviest in urban areas and among the young. Three federal cabinet ministers have said that they support same-sex marriage. The federal government is considering its options. It could amend the legislation to explicitly allow marriages to be between any two unrelated persons. Another possibility could see secular government getting out of the "marriage" [and, presumably, divorce] business altogether, establish some form of civil union/partnership available to all, and leave "marriage" to religious bodies. One back-bencher was quoted as saying "if it's a sacrament, why is the government dealing with it?", and that points out the difficulty in this discussion, where "marriage" has both sacred and secular meaning. The teasing apart of those two overlapping but not identical concepts will take some time. A parliamentary committee will start work on it in the early autumn.
In the Gospel story, we often read of Jesus having a meal with his friends. Those meals range from the great celebration of the wedding feast at Cana to the mundane end-of-the-day meals. He regularly invited people who might not be expected - publicans, tax collectors, and others who probably were not the most welcome to the disciples, his usual dinner companions. Nevertheless, they ate together, because Jesus invited them all. Whatever their relationship to each other, they were all Jesus' friends.
Once a year since 1997 Integrity/Toronto has welcomed members of Fidelity, a group within the diocese of Toronto which advocates traditional Church teachings on homosexuality. That tradition will continue this year on Monday 16 September, when again the celebrant will be Canon Paul Feheley, vice-president of Fidelity.
Given the events in New Westminster earlier this year, this meeting maybe holds more import than our first eucharist together in 1997. Situations that were theoretical then and in some nebulous future are now a lot closer to reality. Will there be blessings? Will there be schism? Will we be able to live together in the same church? We do not know what the future holds, of course, but we certainly will be able to gather around Christ's table, at Christ's invitation, in September. Whatever we think of our dining companions, we are all friends of Jesus. And some of the most startling insights that his followers got arrived in the breaking of the bread.
Please join us on Monday evening, 16 September at 7:30 at the Church of the Redeemer.
by the Rev Andrew Asbil
Excitement, bright colours, flamboyant dancers, costumes, signs, placards and floats filled the street. There were young, elderly and middlers of every nation. There was even a strong showing of Anglicans from parishes primarily in the downtown core.
I had never been to the Pride parade before. I remember seeing images from previous parades in the newspaper and on TV, but I had not been, nor had I felt compelled to go. But now, here I was standing on a hot day, bedecked with clergy collar, shorts and sandals, clinging to a placard that read, "Anglicans marching with Pride." It wasn't just hot, there were also delays, we waited almost two hours before moving. That's a lot of time to adapt to your surroundings and ponder the moment. I wondered what on earth I was doing here, why I was walking in the parade?
I walked for a lot of reasons, but mostly for a lot of people:
For the members of our Church community, Church of the Redeemer, who are gay and lesbian striving to live lives with Christian integrity.
For colleagues in the clergy who are gay and lesbian and who cannot have what I enjoy; a loving partnership, children, family, lived without judgement or reprisal.
For a Church that is struggling with issues of sexuality and at the same time striving to be open to all people.
When the parade started to move, finally, I wasn't prepared for the people! There were so many -- over a million, some reports stated. People stood along the street at times 10 rows deep on either side. There were people hanging out windows, leaning over rooftops. There were people playing in bands, people cheering, or dancing in the streets. I felt at times exhilaration, at times almost claustrophobic, at other times silly and playful.
As we passed through the crowds the reactions from observers were many and various. Some looked right at us and didn't see us. Some folks waved, some cheered, some grimaced. We in turn waved, we held our placards, and we danced our way down Bloor, Yonge and Dundas streets.
In turn I learned along the way that I was walking for a few more reasons. It was for me a moment to walk down a crowded street and to proclaim by presence the Good News. One of my fellow paraders leaned toward me at one point and said, "Andrew, if it means one person comes to church it was worth the walk." How very true.
And I walked for a woman in the crowd, who stood by the side of the road, amongst others who looked bored and disinterested. As we passed, she clapped with gusto and mouthed to me the words
T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U and I in turn mouthed back Y-O-U A-R-E W-E-L-C-O-M-E.