INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2003 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
DRAMATIC MOVES TO GREATER EQUALITY BY CHURCH AND STATE
by Chris Ambidge - news on recent developments
HALFWAY TO LAMBETH
upcoming conference in Manchester
WHAT, EXACTLY, IS THE BIG DEAL?
by Anna Langenwalter
CONTACT YOUR MP
JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK
by Andrew Asbil lessons for lesbigays and the church, from Jacob wrestling with the angel
Toronto Synod in November 2003 will discuss same-sex Blessings
RAINBOW LIVES WANTED
Send in thumbnail biographies of LGBT churchfolk
FINISHING THE PAPERWORK
a marriage, 14 years after the church blessing
by Chris Ambidge
The situation for gays and lesbians -- in Canada, and in the Anglican communion -- continues to evolve, with more change in the past 15 weeks than in the previous 30 years. While non-trivial progress was being made in the last 29 years, the pace of events has picked up considerably. And, as in all periods of rapid change and many-balls-in-the-air at the same time, it's an anxious time for many.
Those developments had begun on several fronts when the last issue of Integrator came to you. Same-sex blessings had begun in the diocese of New Westminster. Canon Jeffrey John of Southwark Cathedral had been nominated suffragan bishop of Reading (near Oxford) in England. Canon Gene Robinson had been elected co-adjutor bishop of New Hampshire in the US. And court rulings in Ontario and BC had made same-sex marriage legal. Lesbigays and our supporters have greeted these shifts with joy.
Not everyone has been pleased. The opposition to these events has been rather loud and widespread. Bishops of various dioceses -- Caledonia (northern BC) and Ontario (Kingston) in Canada, and the entire ecclesiastical province of Nigeria, have said that they are in impaired communion, or out-of-communion, with New Westminster. It's not quite clear what this means. Perhaps it is simply an acknowledgement (in churchy language) that the parties have deep disagreements. The Anglican communion is defined as those dioceses which are in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he has not ended relationships with any of the parties. Indeed, Bishop Ingham of New Westminster has explicitly said that he does not wish to end ecclesiastical relationships with other dioceses. It is clear, however, that more conservative parts of the church are quite upset with New Westminster.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the future: further blessings of more same-sex couples will happen in the Vancouver area, and perhaps they too will invoke the wrath of the bishops of central Africa, the West Indies, and the far east. One may wonder why it is that the blessing of the union of Kelly Montfort and Michael Kalmuk provoked so much ire from Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and his supporters. Similar blessings have been going on for at least twenty years in various parts of the communion, and they have not been secret; but the great distress and rejection of Western decadence and prediction of disintegration of the communion has only begun recently - really, since New Westminster began its journey toward blessings in 1998.
The spotlight shifted away from New Westminster when two gay bishops were selected. Although there have certainly been gay bishops before, these two were widely known before consecration not only to be gay, but to be in relationships. Jeffrey John, a theologian of no mean repute, was appointed suffragan bishop of Reading by Richard Herries, who would be his supervisor as bishop of Oxford. Gene Robinson, long-time executive assistant to the current bishop of New Hampshire, was elected co-adjutor bishop of that diocese after a year-long nomination process. Differences in church polity made for differing selection processes: in England, bishops are appointed by the crown on advice from the Prime Minister (though for suffragans, the actual decision is made by the diocesan bishop); in the USA, as in Canada, bishops are elected by the convention or synod of the diocese (and the election assented to by a larger body). Another difference between John and Robinson was the nature of their primary relationships: John has for a number of years adhered to the Church of England policy that while same-sex partnerships are permissible for the laity, gay or lesbian clergy must remain sexually abstinent. This has meant that his relationship has not had a physical dimension for over a decade. Robinson, on the other hand, is in a spousal relationship.
Even though Jeffrey John was in compliance with the stated policy of the Church of England, and not sexually active, his appointment was met with huge resistance from the evangelical wing of the church. For weeks on end, protests were made, pressure brought to bear, and a lot of printer's ink was spilled by both church and secular press. Dire predictions for the future of the church were made, with threats of withdrawal of membership and fiscal support. The Royal Warrant for his ordination had been signed, so the only person who could actually stop the process was Canon John himself. After a six-hour meeting in Lambeth Palace with members of the Archbishop of Canterbury's staff, he declined the appointment. The Lambeth lynch-mob had pressured him into backing off "for the good of the church." That phrase may sound inflammatory, but I think it accurately describes the public perception -- especially in the UK -- of the events. This decision was intensely disappointing for lesbigays everywhere, but ultimately it was Canon John's decision to make - for his own sake, and for that of his partner, as well as for the smooth-running of the church.
About a month later came the triennial General Convention of the Episcopal Church USA. Among the scores of decisions made by that body, two were of great significance for Integrity, and this issue of Integrator has been delayed to report on them. First was the confirmation of the election of Gene Robinson, and second was consideration of motions to develop a rite of blessing for same-sex unions.
Earlier on General Convention's agenda was the confirmation of the Robinson election. Ten elections, which had taken place less that 120 days before GC, were up for confirmation (had they been at other times, confirmation would have happened by mail-in vote of bishops and diocesan executive committees). Only one was controversial. In the event, the laity and clergy, voting by diocese, agreed to the election by a significant majority. The house of bishops was to consider it a couple of days later. The process was already all over the world's press, and when two improprieties were alleged just before the vote by the bishops, the publicity became hotter still. Allegations of web-page links between that of a support group for LGB youth Robinson had helped found eight years previously and various porn websites came up, and a man in Vermont alleged he had been inappropriately touched by Canon Robinson. The allegations were dealt with swiftly and on investigation were found to be groundless (he had not been involved with the support group since before it had a website, and anyway the naughty websites were several clicks distant; and the "touching" was on the shoulder and upper back, in the context of a conversation at a public meeting with 300 people present). The allegations and investigation delayed the vote by the bishops by a day, and sent the secular media into even higher breathless coverage.
The vote, 24 hours later, was again to confirm the election, and again by a substantial majority. Ironically, the delay meant that the vote was on 5 August 2003 -- five years to the day after the Lambeth Conference motion I.10 condemning homosexual relationships was passed by a huge majority of bishops. After the confirmation vote, several conservative bishops read statements lamenting the decision and disassociating themselves from it -- and further protests have been heard from all over the world.
The other item of business for General Convention of particular interest to Integrity was a resolution (C051) calling on the church's standing liturgical commission to come up with a rite for blessing committed same-gender relationships, for approval at the next GC in 2006, ultimately for inclusion in the church's national liturgical texts. This approach was controversial in Integrity circles -- some believing that the request should be for marriage, and for inclusion in the prayer book rather than in supplemental texts and occasional-service books. However, the decision was taken by Integrity to steer this middle course.
The parliamentary process at GC is complex, and motions go through various hearings and committees, and have to pass both houses of Convention. The day after the bishops had done a fairly brave thing in giving final approval to Canon Robinson's consecration, the resolution on same-gender union rites came to them, and they backed down. The motion was altered, and the direction that a rite be developed was deleted. As Integrity president Michael Hopkins said, this was disappointing. "It is past time for the church to be engaged in the work of crafting common prayer for ... celebration and blessing of same-gender relationships".
However, resolution C051 did make significant statements and forward steps. It reaffirmed that lesbians and gay men have full and equal claim on the love, acceptance and pastoral care of the church. That is a restatement of a policy in place since 1976. New in 2003, and of significance, was the recognition "that local faith communities are operating within the bounds of our common life as they explore and experience liturgies celebrating and blessing same-sex unions." This, the fifth clause of the resolution, clearly gives national licence both for development and practice of liturgical rites to bless same-sex unions. It gives approval at the General Convention level for the "local option" -- various dioceses can, if they so decide, bless same-sex unions; and in so doing, they are not operating inappropriately or out-of-bounds. Hopkins foresees that within the year, several dioceses who had previously been just quietly supportive, now acting on C051's national go-ahead to local-option blessing. They may use the New Westminster model, with motions passed by diocesan convention (synod), or they may move on the initiative of the bishop; but in either case, he predicts a number of places around the country where same-sex blessings will take place by recognised rites.
Resolution C051 has not raised many hackles from those opposed to lesbigay inclusion. It has flown more-or-less under the radar, while the world's attention (and vituperation from some) has been focused on individuals -- Jeffrey John and Gene Robinson. Perhaps that is simply human nature -- we tend to focus in on people when they are the focus of stories. Life has not been pleasant for either of those priests while this swirl of controversy has been focusing on them -- John was being doorstepped at home by nosy reporters, and Robinson was not only accompanied by a security guard, but also wearing a bullet-proof vest at GC. One hopes that the world will soon weary of their novelty and look elsewhere while they get on with their work of building the Commonwealth of God.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the secular authorities are moving towards regularising same-sex marriage across the country. As things stand now, such marriages can take place in Ontario or BC, and they are legal across the country. The government has drafted legislation to make it explicit that a) civil marriage in Canada can be between any two adult people who are not closely related already, and b) that religious groups do not have to marry any couples that do not meet the criteria of those religious groups. This is no more than is the case now: orthodox rabbis cannot be required to marry non-Jewish couples, and Roman Catholic priests are free to refuse to marry divorced people, for instance. The government wanted the legislation to be explicit, realising that the rights guaranteed to Canadians in the Charter have to be balanced: lesbians and gays have the right to marriage, and everyone has the freedom of religion. The government has also made a Reference to the Supreme Court of Canada, asking if the pending legislation is consistent with the Charter, and if it is within the competence of the federal government (exclusively) to legislate on this matter. If the Court confirms the government's assertions, then provinces will not be able to opt out of same-sex marriages.
This has brought on further protest. Demonstrations have been held and letter writing campaigns initiated. Fundamentalist churches and the Vatican have brought great pressure to bear, to the point of threatening the Prime Minister (and other parliamentarians) with eternal hell-fire if the legislation goes through.
"Marriage" is clearly a loaded word -- and it is interesting to see how the ground has shifted recently. Most of the conservatives are prepared to allow anything except the word -- "civil unions" or something similar would be OK, but they would say "you can't call it 'marriage' ." Some invoke religious grounds -- "marriage is a sacrament". There are several answers to that: one might point out that it has only been defined as a sacrament since the fourth Lateran council in 1215; and one might also wonder, if it is a sacrament, why parliament has anything to do with it at all. The answer to that conundrum is there are two institutions here -- civil marriage, and religious marriage -- and while they overlap, they are not the same thing. The federal government is talking only about civil marriage, which is its exclusive jurisdiction, in which neither provinces nor churches nor synagogues have a say. Religious bodies continue to be free not to recognise any individual civil marriage -- just as the RC church today does not recognise the marriage of a divorced person.
The PM himself has said that he is uncomfortable with the situation, and would rather not have had his hand forced -- but he is clear that he must bring the legislation into compliance with the court rulings on the (un)constitutionality of the old situation. The legislation will probably not come to the House of Commons before the Supreme Court has responded to the Reference, so votes are several months off. Stay tuned.
Also coming up in the future is a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion has been called for by Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury for October. In his letter to the primates on 8 August, Archbishop Williams said: "I am clear that the anxieties caused by recent developments have reached the point where we will need to sit down and discuss their consequences. I hope that in our deliberations we will find that there are ways forward in this situation which can preserve our respect for one another and for the bonds that unite us."
While recent public statements have threatened imminent dissolution of the Anglican Communion, even Archbishop Akinola, the most vehement opponent of any appeasement to homosexuals, said in 1991 that he didn't think this was a church-breaking issue. And our own Primate, Michael Peers, has pointed out that the church has survived similar stresses and differences of opinion before. He notes that there are "very close parallels" between the homosexuality discussions on one hand, and the election of women bishops on the other. Just as Gene Robinson will be the first explicitly gay bishop consecrated, Barbara Harris was the first woman bishop in the worldwide Anglican Communion. Women are still not accepted as bishops, or even as priests, in many parts of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Peers said. "This is an issue that still exists but we live with that."
The Lambeth meeting in October will probably be behind closed doors. The Holy Spirit is known to be able to enter such chambers, and it is perhaps incumbent on us to trust that she will guide all of us in the days ahead.
It is five years since the last Lambeth conference -- where the situation of lesbigays in the Anglican churches around the world got extensive study by some bishops, and voted against by most. There are five years before the next Lambeth, and lesbigays will without doubt be on the agenda again. The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) in the UK is organising a "Halfway to Lambeth" conference 24-26 October at the University of Manchester.
It will come just after the meeting of the Primates, and just before the consecration of Gene Robinson as co-adjutor bishop of New Hampshire.
There are five keynote speakers: bishop-elect Robinson; Michael Ingham, bishop of New Westminster; Christopher Senteza, vice-president of Integrity Uganda; Mario Ribas, a gay priest from the Episcopal Church of Brazil; and Rowan Smith, a gay man and Dean of Cape Town.
Further information is available on the web: www.lgcm.org.uk/halfwaytolambeth
. Please hold the conference in your prayers, and look for coverage in upcoming
issues of Integrator.
by Anna Langenwalter
"It often happens at critical moments in history that ideas which have long held the field almost unchallenged are suddenly discovered, not to be wrong, but to be useless; then almost everyone can see they are absurd." -- R. W. Southern, historian
It seems to me, that in all the debate regarding same-sex unions, perhaps a voice from the under-thirty crowd should join the fray. I may make a fool of myself, but I intend to do so boldly. So I only hope that those older and wiser than myself will patiently bear any foolishness which follows.
For reasons which are too long to go into here, I recently found myself flipping through old issues of the journal Theology (an Anglican journal), and discovered a couple of interesting quotes. The first is from a Miss Escreet, who wrote:
"Some of us desire to see that proposal regularised because of our concern for the young men and women who, with a great desire for the truth, are finding the Church's methods of shewing it to them very far consonant with the world they live in."
This provoked the following response from one Margaret Reay:
"I cannot conceive of anything more likely to rend the growing unity within the Anglican Communion, and the whole cause of re-union generally."
Sound familiar? Now, both women were writing in 1936 about the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood, but I hope my point is clear -- there is nothing new under the sun. We (the Church) have been here before. The world did not end; the sky did not fall when numbers of women were finally ordained (forty years after this correspondence). And the Anglican Communion is still going strong, all dire predictions to the contrary. I think it's important to keep that in mind, as the debate surrounding same-sex unions grows louder, stronger, and perhaps nastier.
That said, I'll try to explain my take on this complex subject. One of my main concerns around this issue echoes that of Miss Escreet. I worry that by holding on to traditions which should be left in the history books, the 18-35 group (generally an under-represented demographic in church circles) will return in steadily fewer numbers to a church it feels is increasingly out of step with a more-tolerant society.
This is not to say that I think the church should be blown about by every trend and fad of popular culture. However, the movement to afford equality to the gay community (by which I of course mean gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, questioning, etc. people) is not a fad, but has nearly as long a history as the modern civil rights movement and second-wave feminism. The last two issues have been addressed, and continue to be tackled. The issue of equal treatment for gays in the church has also been addressed, but much less than its counterparts. Society, which not only has openly gay people in most of its segments but in which same-sex couples may now get married, can only become more open as time goes on. I fear that if the Church does not also begin to be more open and accepting, it will appear more and more narrow-minded to the very generations it hopes to tempt back into its pews.
Not that I'm threatening the Church with imminent death, but I think there is a point of disconnect between current Church policy and younger people's (both straight and not) perception of homosexuality, which I think the Church should pay attention to. (I should say right here though, that I don't pretend to speak for everyone in my generation, or those after me. But being a relative youngster, I do perhaps have a better idea of how the younger generations feel.) The point of disconnect is, I believe, the incomprehension of what exactly is the Big Deal? In terms of same-sex unions in particular, I would pose the question: Why is the Church in such a snit over people in love? (And I sincerely hope, lest the debate take an absolutely ludicrous turn, that those opposed to same-sex unions will at least admit that people in a same-sex relationship are in love.) Shouldn't the Church be celebrating? Last time I checked the news, it didn't seem to me that the world was so awash in love that anyone should be stemming the tide. Perhaps the Church least of all. I think an institution founded on the principle that "God so loved the world he gave his only Son" should celebrate and support love in whatever form. That love may take many forms: a person's love toward their neighbour (which we celebrate whenever we become involved with social justice issues); or a person's love for nature (which we celebrate on St. Francis' day, Harvest Thanksgiving, and so on); or two people's love for each other, be that parent and child, siblings, friends or lovers (of whatever gender).
I think it's dangerous for the Church to send the message that she does not care if an entire segment of her population falls into and out of intimate relationships, willy-nilly, without any recourse to the mechanisms within the Church to affirm, celebrate or support such relationships. And while that may not be the intention of the Church's unwillingness to recognise same-sex relationships, that is the message that I get, and that's on good days. The Church must realise (and act upon the realisation) that love is love is love, and all love is a gift from God and should be celebrated as such.
I know that there are people who disagree with this assessment, but I have yet to hear what I consider a convincing argument against homosexuality or same-sex relationships that doesn't smack of either knee-jerk reactions or circular arguments. Now, let's be honest, the argument made from the point of view of upholding the authority of the scriptures rings pretty hollow in a church which allows divorce, remarriage after divorce and the ordination of women. However, I think we're still a long way from the point where we have "ignored" the scriptures so much that they become meaningless, if such a thing is even possible. As for the argument of upholding tradition, yes, allowing a same-sex couple to marry has never been done in the Anglican Church. But then thirty years ago, the Church hadn't ordained women yet, either. Much has been made by some people about a "break from historical Christianity." Well, yes, but a break is not automatically bad: the Emperor Constantine's Edict of Toleration was a break from historical Christianity. Without breaks in historical Christianity, Christianity would be history. Change, when it advances the message of Christ's love, is a good thing, and I fully believe that celebrating and affirming the love two people have for each other can't do anything but advance the message of Christ's love.
As for the debate within the debate, that of marriage versus blessing, I say marriage. Simply put, my reasoning is that if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck... I've studied history long enough to know that separate but equal is virtually never "equal." And intimate relations are not dogs or houses which need blessing. They are powerful, and necessary to human life. They need the Church's recognition and deserve its sanctification. Anything less threatens to truly institutionalise second-class citizenship.
Apparently many people opposed to same-sex marriage are writing to their elected representatives to express that ire, but not as many in favour of amending the legislation to explicitly allow them have done so.
Integrity urges everyone to write to their MP, and to the Prime Minister, and to the Justice Minister, Martin Cauchon, to let their views be heard.
If you are writing a paper letter, the address is the same:
The Hon XXXXX, MP
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Or the Prime Minister:
The Rt Hon Jean Chretien
Prime Minister of Canada
Ottawa ON K1A 0A2.
Letters to MPs at their Ottawa address do not need a stamp.
If you are writing electronically, point your web browser to:
this will let you find your MP based on your postal code; and will give you fax and phone numbers, and email addresses.
Please send that letter this week.
by Andrew Asbil
At the river Jabbok, Genesis 32:22-32
... he stayed behind, alone. Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he struck Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. The man said, "Let me go, daylight is coming."
"I won't unless you bless me," Jacob answered.
"What is your name?" the man asked.
"Jacob," he answered.
The man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with people and you have won, so your name will be Israel."
"Jacob said, "Now tell me your name."
But he answered, "Why do you want to know my name?" Then he blessed Jacob.
Jacob said, "I have seen God face to face and lived."
The road to personal and spiritual transformation would be long and hard for Jacob. The once conniving crooked young man, who had usurped his elder brother's blessing, would suffer his share of hard knocks. Along the way he would learn to love, to honour, to pray, to seek forgiveness and to trust that God was guiding his feet. Jacob would also come to know that freedom would mean going home to face Esau.
When he was alone, Jacob wrestled with a "man". An angel? Himself? God? It is hard to know. We do know that he wrestled all night and, as the sun rose, casting light on the face of his opponent, the man demanded, "Let me go!"
Imagine that moment. Imagine how sore his muscles would have been. Imagine the lactic acid burn. Imagine Jacob's heart pounding with fear, with anger, with righteousness. Like playing in a triple overtime period in the playoffs, technique was giving in to pure tenacity. Jacob sought what he most desired ... a blessing , a taste of home, an authentic identity, a creative purpose, permission, approval, grace. And he would receive his blessing and a name, Israel.
The Church is wrestling. The Church is wrestling with herself, with the world, with God. After years of denial, silence and avoidance, behaviour that makes us all a little crooked, the Church is dealing with a love that dare not speak its name. For too long, gay and lesbian Christians have wrestled in the darkness pining for a blessing, a taste of home, authentic identity, creative purpose, grace. Day is breaking!
This time, the sun is rising in the west. With the break of day come words, chapter and verse, posturing, threats, pain, healing, hope, doubt, fear, anger, relief. Archbishops, Bishops, clergy, laity, wade in. Liberals wrestle with conservatives, gays with straight. Some in the middle plug their ears and close their eyes hoping that the whole matter will go away, afraid that we might just die. Ironically, if we stay here, we will die.
When the Church wrestled with the issue of remarriage for divorced people, we thought we would come apart at the seams. When we wrestled with the issue of the ordination of women, we though we would be finished. For a time we limped, but we didn't fall apart. We tasted a bit of home, we claimed authentic identity, creative purpose, grace. We became good. We were blessed.
Here we are once again. Some of us have been wrestling all night long. When day begins to break, when technique often gives into pure tenacity, we can say things that we regret, we can do things we are ashamed of, but we can also rise to the occasion and hold on for dear life. It is now that the church needs to claim the path travelled by the likes of Jacob: we need to pray, to honour, to forgive, to love and to trust that God is guiding our feet.
Day is breaking!
Toronto diocesan synod will next meet in late November. A motion is coming to the synod from Holy Trinity parish in Toronto that echoes the various motions which have passed in New Westminster in 1998, 2000 and 2001. It asks :"...that any parish may request permission from the bishop to be a parish designated to bless same-sex unions; and that the granting of such permission be at the discretion of the bishop." . The motion is making its way through the appropriate council meetings now. The Diocesan Council, as part of dealing with the same-sex blessings question, has also decided to establish a working group which will develop a process to help parishes discuss the issues.
Integrity will be at Synod, of course. Stay tuned.
Idea: A publication of the lives and experiences of GLBT Anglicans in Canada for distribution at General Synod next summer. (Working title: In the Pew Next to You). People can more easily be dismissive of LGBT people as an abstract idea or faceless group than they can of real people with real faces and names.
Needed: Said GLBT Anglicans willing to share some or all of the following information (up to 500 words)
Interested? Send responses to email@example.com or
In the Pew Next to You
c/o Integrity Toronto
Box 873 Station F
Toronto, ON M4Y 2N9
Feel free to share this request in newsletters, listserves, etc., the more GLBT Anglicans who have the chance to respond, the better.
Very long-time readers of Integrator may remember our reporting that on 19 August 1989, Sandy Tipper and his partner Cameron Atkison travelled to Rochester NY for a service of Holy Union in an Episcopal church there. The Rev Walt Lee-Syzmanski presided as Cam and Sandy exchanged vows and rings in the context of a eucharist. They travelled to Rochester because such a church blessing (or even a celebration of it in Ontario after-the-event in Rochester) was not available in an Anglican church in Canada.
Sandy and Cam marked their fourteenth anniversary, 19 August 2003, with a trip to North York City Hall to get married. Now that marriage is legal for same-sex couples in Ontario, they wanted to finish the process begun in Rochester in 1989. "What really counted happened fourteen years ago," Sandy said. "This is just finishing the paperwork."
Sandy served for many years on the executive of Integrity/Toronto in various capacities, and he and Cam met at an Integrity meeting. The rest of Integrity/Toronto wishes Cam and Sandy all the very best for their married life together; and hopes that it won't take another fourteen years before marriage and blessing is available for same-sex couples in churches in Canada.