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
A FIRST BLESSING IN NEW WESTMINSTER
by Chris Ambidge
"WHEN PROFOUND DISAGREEMENT OVERTAKES US"
Archbishop Michael Peers' Statement on New Westminster approval of rite for same-sex blessings
IN THE LIGHT OF DAY
Bishop Michael Ingham's Statement to New Westminster Synod on approval of rite for same-sex blessings
ARCHBISHOP TERENCE FINLAY ON NEW WEST BLESSINGS
Not surprised; favours local decisions
from the Rev Susan Russell, on Schismatics
Telling the Good News in Cyberspace
FASTEN YOUR SEATBELTS
Three weeks and four gay-affirming decisions will make for a bumpy ride
by Chris Ambidge
by Chris Ambidge
Integrity's ministry is to work for full acceptance of Anglican lesbigay people in their church. That goal came a significant step closer in late May of this year.
The diocese of New Westminster, at its synods in 1998, 2001 and 2002, repeatedly asked their bishop, Michael Ingham, to authorise a rite of blessing for same-sex couples; the votes being by increasing majorities each time. After the 2002 synod, where the motion passed with a 62% majority, Bishop Michael assented to the motion. In late May 2003, Bishop Michael released a rite, and authorised six parishes (who had, by vote of their vestry [all the members of the parish], requested it) to use the rite.
Almost immediately, Kelly Montfort and Michael Kalmuk, members of the parish of St Margaret's Cedar Cottage, in Vancouver, had their union blessed in their parish church, by their parish priest, the Rev Margaret Marquhart.
This was a very significant event in the lives of Kelly and Michael, of course. It will also have significant repercussions beyond their home, beyond their parish, and even beyond their diocese. The decision of New Westminster has been very controversial. While there are several dioceses in the United States where such blessings take place with the knowledge and consent of the diocesan bishop, and indeed places in many countries, Canada and the United Kingdom included, where such blessings happen informally with the local bishop either not knowing, or turning a blind eye, New Westminster is the first place in the Anglican Communion world-wide where the action comes as a result of the action of the diocesan synod, not the bishop acting alone.
It is not as if New Westminster has rushed into this - there was a three-year study among the parishes after the first motion passed, canon law opinions sought, and a draft service rejected as inappropriate. Long-time readers of Integrator will be familiar with the steps that have been taken. The legal opinion was that if the rite is a blessing, it is within the purview of the diocesan bishop to authorise it; if the rite was sacramental in nature, it would come under the authority of General Synod. The blessing rite released last month is non-sacramental.
General Synod, which will meet in June 2004, will have same-sex unions on the agenda. The Council of General Synod has outlined a process of consultations to prepare for those deliberations, and Integrity is one of the groups which will be involved.
Lesbigay Anglicans and our supporters have been following the events in New Westminster with close interest, and celebrate the progress made towards our full inclusion. The changes are controversial, of course, and so not everyone is as pleased as we are. The Lambeth Conference in 1998 passed a strongly negative resolution against same-sex unions (though it is worth pointing out, again, that Lambeth has no legislative authority; the bodies which decide what may or may not take place are diocesan and national synods or conventions). Various bishops, both inside Canada and from foreign parts have expressed their opinions -- sometimes approval, more often and more loudly it has been disapproval. After Bishop Ingham assented to the motion last year, eight parishes left the synod hall, and seven of them now are in an association called the Anglican Communion in New Westminster. They have called for a different bishop, and accepted the offer of Bishop Buckle of the Yukon. That is not acceptable to Bishop Ingham, who has asked Bishop Hockin (about to retire from the diocese of Fredericton) to be an episcopal visitor to the dissenting parishes. That situation remains in flux.
The rite was published just prior to the May 2003 session of the New Westminster synod. A motion was made at the synod to suspend further blessings until after General Synod has deliberated in May and June of 2004. This motion failed by a significant margin: 181 to 85. New Westminster synod members feel that they have put their hand to the plough, and are not now going to turn back. Bishop Ingham made a statement to the synod about the rites and the blessing, which appears in full below [article 2003-3-3]
The level of controversy increased significantly with the release of the rite, and its use. Many have expressed regret, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Various bishops have declared themselves either in "impaired communion" or "out of communion" with New Westminster, or Bishop Ingham. This includes at present the primate of Nigeria, and (closer to home) the bishop of Caledonia (northern BC).
When the Primates of the Anglican communion met a few years ago in Porto, Portugal, they issued a statement that they did not see same-sex blessings as an issue that would break the Communion. They met again in early May 2003, in Brazil. This year, a pastoral letter included a statement that public blessings of same-sex unions are a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Primates had "no theological consensus about same-sex unions. Therefore, we cannot as a body support the authorisation of such rites". This is no more than the truth: there is no consensus among the Primates, and so they could not collectively endorse such rites. The Primates as a group have no legislative authority in the Communion, and are in no position to authorise or to forbid any such liturgies. The statement has, however, been taken by some conservative people to have the force of prohibition.
The Primate of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, has issued a statement contradicting that assumption. It can be found in the next article.
This situation has clearly not been settled. Other events, both Anglican and secular, in the UK, the US and Ontario, have made this a very interesting and exciting time for Integrity people. Stay tuned.
To return to a personal level, and the people close to the centre of this controversy: Integrity/ Toronto is delighted to congratulate Kelly Montfort and Michael Kalmuk. They have both served several terms on the Board of Integrity/ Vancouver over the years, and Kelly has been chapter President. This church blessing has been a long time coming for both of them - their relationship is of 21 years standing. To those who have been urging the church to wait, to consult, to study, to delay, I would point out that Michael is 49, and Kelly is 62. They have waited for over two decades. I know of no heterosexual couples who have had to be patient that long. The time has finally come. They are the first, but they will not be the last.
I will give the last words here to Michael Kalmuk, speaking to those who oppose the blessings:
"I would say I truly understand how painful this is for you. But it hasn't been easy for us either. We all need to be patient."
Last year's decision by the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster to ask their bishop for a rite for the blessing of persons in committed, life-long, same-sex unions created an occasion for reflection and discernment among Anglicans in the diocese, in Canada, and throughout the Anglican Communion.
That reflection and discernment has happened in a number of places, including the New Westminster synod itself, the Council of General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Canadian House of Bishops, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion.
The synod's decision has also led to the formation of smaller groups within the church at the diocesan, national and global levels, dismayed by the decision of the synod and convinced that it should not be implemented. Seven parishes in New Westminster have responded to the offer of Bishop Terry Buckle of the Yukon to serve as their bishop. Additionally, the Synod of the Diocese of Yukon supported Bishop Buckle in extending this offer.
In early May, Bishop William Hockin of Fredericton accepted the invitation of Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster to serve as Episcopal Visitor to parishes in the diocese seeking such a ministry. The House of Bishops, (in two motions subsequently supported by the Council of General Synod), has urged Bishop Buckle to withdraw the offer and appealed to the seven parishes to explore the possibility of receiving Bishop Hockin's ministry.
The Primates of the Anglican Communion have issued a pastoral letter, identifying the tensions surrounding this matter, and, unable to come to a common mind, have declared themselves unable to support the authorization of a rite of blessing:
"The question of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions is still a cause of potentially divisive controversy. The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke for us all when he said that it is through liturgy that we express what we believe, and that there is no theological consensus about same sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot support the authorisation of such rites."
I share their assessment that the absence of consensus makes it impossible to speak with one mind in support of the actions of the Synod and Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster. At the same time, reports that characterize the Primates' letter as a direct and unanimous repudiation of those actions are wrong. The Primates do not, at our meetings, either move resolutions or take votes. We seek the deepest possible expression of unity in whatever terms are available to us. In this case, our common mind accurately reflects the potential for division and the absence of theological consensus among us and within the churches that make up the Anglican Communion.
As Primate, my personal opinions and views are not the issue. A synod of the church, together with its bishop, has decided, and that decision has now been implemented. The Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod of 2004 will take up this issue. These are the canonical settings in which this issue now is set, and it is not my place as Primate to interject my personal opinions at this time. Neither is it my role to pass judgment on the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster or to anticipate the deliberations of the 2004 General Synod. I believe that the order of the church is a particularly vital and important resource when profound disagreement overtakes us, and I am committed as Primate to sustaining that order so that it may continue to serve us well.
The Bishop of New Westminster's provision of a rite for the blessing of persons in committed, life-long, same-sex relationships completes the commitment he undertook a year ago. He made that commitment only after refusing on two previous occasions to consent to the synod's decision. For my part, I understand the provision of this rite as a response not to the Primates of the Anglican Communion (whose pastoral letter was issued after the bishop's decision to release the rite and authorize its use in six parishes) nor to the House of Bishops, nor to any other body than the synod of the diocese whose congregations elected the synod, and whose members the bishop serves.
Nor on the other hand do I see the Primates' letter as in any way an attempt to exercise jurisdiction in the life of the Diocese of New Westminster. In fact, it makes clear the Primates' commitment, as a body, to recognize in other provinces "the sincere desire to be faithful, and their commitment "to respect the integrity of each other's provinces and dioceses".
Finally, the Primates' letter speaks of the life of the Anglican Communion in terms of having been "irrevocably called into a special relationship of fellowship with one another". Communion is not something we accomplish, but a gift from the Father, given through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Moreover, it is not something we choose, but a fact of our common life, a reality established among us at great cost. Finding a way to embrace that communion in times of profound disagreement and conflict is not likely to be easy. It is, however, the hard and holy work to which we are called as we follow Jesus on the way of the cross that leads to new life.
Archbishop and Primate
Statement by Bishop Michael Ingham to Synod 2003 On the Implementation of Motion 7 (Synod 2002)
A few days ago, as you will know by now, a rite of blessing of covenanted same-sex unions was issued to six parishes in the diocese who have requested permission to offer these pastoral services.
In issuing the rite, I have now fulfilled the commitment I made to this Synod a year ago. All of the provisions of Motion 7 last year are now complete.
For a time we will be in the spotlight of attention as a diocese, and some of us will find it quite uncomfortable. We are in the forefront of a movement of change taking place across the church, and change is never accomplished easily.
In speaking with the Primate yesterday, he reminded me that the way we have reached our decisions in this diocese is particularly Canadian. Canada is a nation where, by and large, public policy changes are discussed openly and in the light of day rather than questionably behind the scenes. We are also a nation where discrimination and prejudice against homosexual people are rapidly diminishing.
This is not true, of course, in every part of the world.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken about his sadness at the impact our actions will have and the inevitable tensions that will result. We acknowledge this. In many places around the world homosexual people are still treated as criminals and even worse, and in some instances with the support of the church. We regret this too, and express our sadness and disquiet at their suffering, and hope our actions in this part of the world may bring some comfort and hope to those millions of people who look to the church for safety and support instead of judgement and condemnation.
We have been weakened in our diocese by this controversy. It has consumed a great deal of our energy. The parishes who left us a year ago have themselves been severely weakened also. Many who remain loyal to us, and are part of our Synod today, do so at personal cost. Their parishes have lost good and faithful members. There is, as with any change, joy in some hearts and pain in others.
Let us acknowledge all this before God. Let us ask God to forgive each of us where we have caused pain to others. Let us ask God to grant us grace to be ourselves forgiving. From this moment on, let us extend the hand of friendship to one another whatever our views, and commit ourselves afresh to the renewing of our church and its mission. We have before us in this Synod the opportunity to take steps to restore the strength of our diocese and renew the work of our parishes. Let us take them. Let us agree to live now with the decisions we have made as a body, trusting them to God, and get on with being the church of Jesus Christ in peace together.
2003 05 30
A same-gender couple had their union blessed May 28 in Vancouver after the Diocese of New Westminster had earlier endorsed the rite for is Anglican parishes.
The Most Rev. Terence Finlay, Archbishop of the Diocese of Toronto, said today: " I'm not surprised to hear that this has happened. The Bishop of New Westminster is responding to a request from his diocese, which has discussed, debated and approved this matter since 1998.
"In Toronto, the people of this diocese have not yet made a decision to bless same- gender commitments. Perhaps there will be more clarity after discussions have taken place at the national General Synod in May, 2004.
"I continue to be personally in favour of the local option which would allow parishes, with specific guidelines, to decide whether or not they wished to bless same gender commitments.
"I recognize that there are a variety of opinions on this issue and I continue to believe that this should not be a church-dividing issue."
By the Rev Susan Russell, an Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of Los Angeles
What it takes to create schism is for someone to leave - and I am sick unto death with the unity of this church being placed on the shoulders of those of us who have committed to stay. When are we going to hold accountable those who threaten to leave? When will we name the actions of those who have conspired with factions of the larger Anglican communion to actively oppress and marginalise its GLBT members with what it is: fomenting schism - creating conflict - sacrificing the unity of the church to their own agenda of power, control and heterosexism?
One of the most common questions Integrity receives is along the lines of "where is a friendly church that my friends A and B, who are gay/lesbian, could go and feel at home?" The answer to that question obviously varies by the geographic location of A and B, but most of us can answer it fairly readily: there are certainly parishes where lesbians and gays can be assured they'll receive a welcome. However, the person asking the question needs to have some kind of a church connection. Quite frequently, there are people seeking a spiritual home who are not regular denizens of "church-land", so they don't even know who to ask.
Integrity/Toronto has had people ask the question on their own behalf as they seek a church home in Alberta or Nova Scotia. Why they wrote to us at Integrity/Toronto, several time-zones away, is unclear, but we were their contact with the Anglican church. In those case, we were able to do some research and come up with a friendly parish or two. However, not very many people would get the length of writing a letter to a group several provinces distant.
At the Toronto Pride parade, marchers will hand out cards listing local lesbian/gay friendly parishes. Enlarging on that idea, we though to put that same listing on the web. We started off listing Toronto parishes, but then realised, given the world-wide nature of the web itself, there is no particular reason to limit the listings to Toronto-area parishes, since people will be able to find the website from terminals all over the place, and they themselves may well live in another province.
The website listing itself is at:
Do check that site out. Integrity would now like to extend an invitation to any parish in Canada that feels itself to be affirming and welcoming of LGBT folks, to have themselves listed on the Proud Anglicans website. We've got parishes from all over southern Ontario and BC now, but are hoping to get listings from across the country. It's primary evangelism: there are lesbigay people all over the country eager to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, but in many cases, they're intimidated by our church organisation - both for traditional-looking buildings, and for the (not very good, in many cases) reputation that Christian bodies have. The listings will make it clear that they can find a welcome in many parishes across the country, and rest assured that they will NOT be told that they are dreadful sinners simply because they are homosexual. Integrity people have heard too many of those sermons, and they are dis-evangelising.
The Proud Anglicans website listings are a way to counteract that disevangelism. One of the positive repercussions of recent events in New Westminster, as reported in the secular press, is that some gays and lesbians will begin to see Anglicans in a more positive way, and start looking for a new home in a Sunday-morning faith community; and the website listings may help them find such a home.
If you know of a welcoming and accepting parish for LGBT people seeking a spiritual
home, please get in touch with Integrity.
There's a link on the Proud Anglicans webpage.
The last few weeks have provided at least four controversies, actions and changes that bring great hope to Integrity/Toronto.
Earliest of these, on 20 May, was the appointment, in England, of Canon Jeffrey John, presently Canon Theologian of Southwark Cathedral, to be suffragan bishop of Reading (part of the diocese of Oxford). He was nominated to that position by Bishop Richard Harries of Oxford, who is a long-time friend of gays and lesbians; but John is himself a strong supporter of homosexuals in the church, advocating for their ordination and the blessing of same-sex unions. Predictably, this appointment was controversial, and the chorus of disapproval became louder still when it became known that he had been in a twenty-year relationship with another man. Canon John has assured Bishop Harries that the relationship is ended, and that he intends to "live within the guidelines" (that is, he will be celibate) in future. This is still not enough to quiet the evangelical wing of the Church of England (and like-minded people overseas) for whom even a celibate homosexual is unacceptable.
Second, on 28 May, was the Vancouver blessing of the union of Kelly Montfort and Michael Kalmuk by an Anglican-approved rite. That story has been told above, at article [2003-3-1]
Third, on 7 June, the diocese of New Hampshire in the USA, elected Canon Gene Robinson as co-adjutor bishop of the diocese. Canon Robinson was married and has two children; his marriage then ended in divorce. For the past several years, he has been living with his male partner. This was well-known by the electors at the synod, and he was elected with strong majorities on the second ballot. Two gay male bishops in less than three weeks, and the controversy gets hotter. Because the Episcopal Church USA will be holding its General Convention in late July, less than 120 days after the election, the Convention must ratify Canon Robinson's election by voting in open session. (In other circumstances, ratification would be by mail-in vote of various diocesan bishops and executive committees). The vote (and debate) at General Convention promises to be quite heated.
Fourth, on 10 June, came a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal. Several cases have been proceeding through the civil courts, in BC, Ontario and Quebec, aiming for marriage for same-sex couples. The claim was that denying marriage to same-sex couples is a violation of their Charter rights of non-discrimination. In the past year, courts in Quebec, Ontario and then the BC Court of Appeal, have agreed. These courts suspended their ruling for two years (to 12 July 2004) to give Parliament time to pass enabling legislation. The most recent ruling in Ontario changed the common-law (ie written by judges, not by legislators) definition of marriage to "the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others", gave that definition immediate effect, and ordered clerks at Toronto city hall to issue marriage licences immediately. Many same-sex couples have obtained licences (both in Toronto and elsewhere in the province) and a significant number of those couples have now been married by judges. As Integrator went to press, the federal government announced that it will not appeal the BC or Ontario judgements. Legislation will be drafted to explicitly recognise same-sex marriage, and at the same time explicitly state that religious organisations may or may not marry couples, according to their own criteria. The legislation will be vetted by the Supreme Court to ensure it meets Charter requirements and will then be presented to the Commons.
Things are on the move. There will undoubtedly be more unions blessed in New Westminster before too long. Canon John will soon become a bishop (Royal assent has been given, only he could choose to stop the proceeding). Civil same-sex marriages are legal now in Ontario and will soon be regularised across the country. And Canon Robinson will have his election voted on by ECUSA's General Convention.
This has, of course, put at least four cats among the pigeons, and the pigeons are not happy. Evangelicals in England are threatening schism if Canon John becomes a bishop - even though he has said he will remain celibate. By being unprepared to accept his assurances that his previous same-sex partnered behaviour will not be repeated, and by still rejecting his episcopal candidacy, they are presumably saying that they do not believe in the forgiveness of sins. That strikes this author as heretical. Campaigns are on to reverse decisions of New Westminster, New Hampshire and Ontario. Fasten your seatbelts: it's going to be an exciting summer.