INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2004 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
SEEKING THE NEW CREATION
Embracing communion with "faithful Christian believers of differing conscience"
at General Synod 2004, by Don Meen
SCRIPTURE, DEBATE AND SURVIVAL
We will survive this dispute, by Ansley Tucker
TRAVELLING THROUGH ROUGH WATERS
the book Living Together in the Church shows a way through those waters
CONTINUING THE CONVERSATION
book review by Ron Chaplin
WORKING TOGETHER TO BREAK NEW GROUND
book review by the Ven Paul Feheley
ROOM TO BREATHE
Motion for consideration at General Synod 2004 shows pastoral concern
for both lesbigay Anglicans and those of conservative conscience, by Chris Ambidge
TEXT OF THE MOTION ON SAME-SEX UNIONS TO BE CONSIDERED BY GENERAL SYNOD
A NEW WEBSITE FOR INTEGRITY IN CANADA
WE TAKE JESUS SERIOUSLY TOO
by the Rev Daniel Brereton and the Rev Ann Turner
A CHAPTER IN ATLANTIC CANADA!
A TIME OF TRANSFORMATION -- A TIME OF INBREAKING
Don Meen sees changes afoot in the wind of the Holy Spirit
WHO IS IN, WHO IS OUT?
A reflection on inclusion, by BK Hipsher
Embracing communion with "faithful Christian believers of differing conscience" at General Synod 2004 by Don Meen
Our General Synod will soon decide if dioceses may allow the blessing of same-gender unions. Should this happen, the church's gay/lesbian members would see another institutional obstacle fall in their journey to full acceptance as equal children of God by the Canadian Anglican family of God. It should happen - for the good of both lesbian/gay Anglicans and of our Anglican church.
The multi-part resolution to be considered by Synod members is not a perfect solution, but it is the best way forward available to the church today. Sometimes the only way to discern what God is calling us to is to test out our discernment thus far, in action - and to be open to whatever corrective feedback the Spirit gives us. "Local option" is the best way we have now to enable this discernment. It evidences trust in the Holy Spirit's unfailing commitment to help us get it right. As bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee has said, applying Acts 5:39 to the issue, "If it is not of God, it will not stand; and if this is of God, this house of bishops will not be able to prevent it." I have confidence, born of so many signs of the Kingdom seen in the human liberation currently sweeping our land, that it will not only stand, but lead to greater flourishing of life for gay and lesbian couples as well as for their church. And we know from St. Iranaeus that "the glory of God is humankind fully alive!"
The Synod resolution urges us to a mature communion in the face of our differences of view. Will we commit, as Bishop Ingham has expressed it, "to embrace faithful Christian believers of differing conscience within the one Body of Christ"? Of this I wish I were more confident, because the furious response of some in the church has shown so little humility or generosity that I do not know if we can as a church rise gracefully to the occasion now, despite the promptings of the Holy One.
One of the means by which unity may be enabled is described in the resolution as "adequate" episcopal oversight and pastoral care for all, regardless of their perspective on blessing same-sex unions. But their adequacy will lie entirely in how balanced is their application. Will we see protection for gay/lesbian-affirming Anglicans in those dioceses where the leadership is non-affirming or even hostile? Or will we see the regrettable lopsidedness of respecting only those of "traditional conscience" in the matter, so evident in the unbalanced recommendations of bishop Victoria Matthews' Task Force on Alternative Episcopal Oversight?
As far as continued respectful dialogue and study are concerned, who would argue against them? Honest dialogue, however, requires a mutual intention to speak and to listen, a mutual desire to be understood and to understand. Experience has shown that there are those for whom this is neither the intention nor the desire. They do what they can, overtly or covertly, to undermine dialogue. Of course, we should have dialogue and study anyway, being wise to the tactics of those with unconstructive motivations and willing to challenge them should they emerge.
Dialogue and study should include listening to lesbian/gay Christians. It's not just that it's a nice thing to do for gays and lesbians. It's good for the church as a whole - critical, I'd say, as it tries to discern God's will. As Integrity Vancouver President Steve Schuh has so well expressed it: listening to gay Christians helps the church interpret the Bible correctly, appreciate our Anglican tradition and the diversity of our faith community, and ground the church's reasoning and "theology-making" in the real world (see www.integritycanada.org).
We are the strangers within the gates whose different-ness challenges the church to deep reflection on the "common wisdom" of today and yesterday, to counter-cultural life with ever fewer divisions in humanity of "them" vs. "us". Even the Lambeth conference seems to have recognised the importance of listening to gay/lesbian voices, though its recommendation to this effect has been known, in some circles, mysteriously yet conveniently, to disappear from the record!
One of the charisms of lesbians and gays, in both Anglican and other denominations, is our tenacious faithfulness. We refuse to accede to the church's grave error when it does not see God where God is present, when it views us as in some way intrinsically more sinful than the rest of humanity. We know in our hearts God's blessing, we recognise our Belovedness and the goodness of our intimate loving. We will not stop witnessing to the presence of God in our lives and love, to our society, families, friends and faith communities. We will not give up until we are heard and seen for Whose we are. We have staying power, by the power of the Holy Spirit!
By Ansley Tucker
Churches for generations have looked to scripture for guidance and precedent. Today we're facing a decision on actions which could be interpreted as moving away from scriptural precedent. A good model for that is the question of Gentile converts to the new Christian church, and the decisions reached in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. But the decision of the Council did not end the debate: after the decision to admit Gentiles, there were still disputes around eating idol-meat (in Corinthians), and the circumcision questions came back again in Galatians. And that church, with all its debates and disagreements, is the church that survived 2000 years. We will have debates and disagreements after General Synod speaks in 2004. And we will survive too.
In the last issue of Integrator, we told you of a forthcoming book from the Anglican Book Centre in Toronto. Living Together in the Church: Including Our Differences addresses the questions raised by same-sex blessings within the church, and asks how we can live together in the same church, even when we disagree.
To quote Toronto's Archbishop Terry Finlay, "The church is travelling through rough waters, but there is no other place I'd want to be. When we listen carefully to other persons speaking - not just to the words, but to the persons and to the contexts from which they come - we see both them and ourselves more clearly as children of God made in God's image. This book encourages the engaged and empathetic listening that builds bridges across our divisions."
As promised last time, here are two reviews of the book.
review by Ron Chaplin
Seldom has a publication been more timely. Living Together in the Church, just published by the Anglican Book Centre, is to be highly recommended to all travelling to meet as the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada at the end of May; and to all others who will be following the potentially heated debates on the blessing of same-sex unions and the election of a new Primate, and to the inevitable aftermath of whatever decisions are reached.
Edited by Greig Dunn and by Chris Ambidge (Co-Convener of the Toronto chapter of Integrity), this is a rich collection. It is rich not only its range of authors, who are of diverse backgrounds and fields of expertise and experience, but rich also in the range of topics covered. The reader is invited to ponder Scripture and our church heritage, to ponder both deeply personal experiences and the more impersonal realm of the social sciences, but most of all to ponder an essential question. What does it truly mean, as followers of the Christ, to be in communion with each other?
Those who seek polemic are bound to be disappointed. This book is not addressed to anyone, on any particular side of the debate about same-sex relationships, who has drawn a "line in the sand". It should, however, be of interest to all persons of good will who seek the path of reconciliation, who seek to resist injustice, oppression and exploitation, and seek instead to promote the dignity of all, discernment, and right relationship with each other.
Although covering diverse topics, there is one over-arching theme: that we in the church are called not only to tolerate, but to celebrate difference; and that those who hold different opinions are to be embraced as brothers and sisters in Christ.
The book is remarkable in the many ways it reaches this same conclusion. One of the most remarkable contributions is that of Saskatoon-based theologian Walter Deller, who examines the stories of the great Hebrew prophets Elijah and Elisha as recounted in the Books of Kings. Elijah is portrayed as the firebrand, impatient, single-minded, and vengeful, while Elisha, his heir is portrayed as the mentor, conciliatory, nurturing and discerning. Deller reaches this extraordinary conclusion: "[Scripture] suggests that the Elijahs and the Elishas may need each other to survive in the church and the age in which they are called to live, witness, and provide leadership." Moreover, "It is Elisha the gifted and successful one who knows that to live out his calling faithfully will require the extra gift of 'a double portion' of Elijah's spirit, and he is wise enough to ask for it."
After reading these words, I made myself a promise to never, ever again dismiss the zeal of my protagonists in this debate.
Kawuki Mukassa, a native of Uganda, makes this same point in a different way. "Honouring the discovery arising from one another's experience is vital for a more complete understanding of the Faith. It is impossible for any one of us to have all the answers because our experience of God is limited." This is precisely what it means to be church, rather than some kind of exclusive club.
Other papers in this collection remind us that our ecclesial heritage is not the treasure of only certain groups in the church. The majestic rhetoric of New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham's address to the Halfway to Lambeth Conference held in Manchester, England in 2003 is reprinted here [it also appeared in the March 2004 issue of Integrator]. Entitled "Reclaiming Christian Orthodoxy", it reminds us that the essentials of our faith are the treasure of all. Toronto theologian Sylvia Keesmaat reminds us to look at the account in the Acts of the Apostles about the Council of Jerusalem, and the mission to the Gentiles. There we will see that the Christian tradition has, from its very beginning, challenged both received tradition, and Scripture, in order to effectively proclaim the Gospel message. Again, the dominant message is about reconciliation, and the embrace of diversity.
Lest anyone be left with any misconception about what "embracing diversity" means, this book does not promote any kind of laissez-faire libertarianism. The challenges we face, as followers of the Christ, are everywhere underscored. We are challenged by references to Scripture, to tradition, and to experience to confront complacency and to resist evil, to be a people who embrace integrity in ourselves, in our social and intimate relationships, and with God. This is no "namby-pamby" vision of our calling.
There are more prosaic offerings as well, for those with a more practical mindset. Toronto Archbishop Terrence Finlay describes the process used in the Diocese of Toronto to promote dialogue. Margaret Marquardt, rector of the parish of St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage in the Diocese of New Westminster, describes the discernment process in her parish, the first in Canada licensed to perform public blessings of same-sex unions.
Vancouver-based clinical psychologist Don Meen calls into question many of the assumptions made in this debate. I was struck by one particular study he cited, comparing regular church-goers to the rest of the population. "Regular attendees," he remarks, "are less likely to have co-habited before marriage, had fewer sexual partners, were less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, to divorce or be juvenile delinquents, yet they are virtually as likely to be homosexual". This may be counterintuitive to some, but perhaps experience is explaining something to us.
The most remarkable contributions to this volume are personal testimonies, from people of diverse backgrounds, gay and straight, who speak of their experience with dialogue, of their experience of apartheid, or of economic exploitation in the developing world. The most remarkable of these is without doubt that of Peter Elliott, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, who shares his travails as a gay priest. I was moved to tears reading this account of his maturing in faith.
There is a second over-arching theme to this collection, which concerns not only reconciliation and dialogue, but also hope. Mario Ribas, an Anglican priest who is a native of Brazil makes a plea that the church come "out of the closet", that ours be an embodied faith which embraces the human struggle in all its ugliness and glory, to battle against injustice and oppression rather than gaze away and so be complicit with authoritarianism. This sentiment is expressed nowhere more eloquently than in the introduction by co-editor Greig Dunn: "It seems that God has given us the homosexuality issue as a gift to cause us to reflect on our interaction with Scripture and tradition, with one another, and with the world beyond the church."
Everything in this tome emboldens me, not to fear debate and divisiveness, but to engage all my brothers and sisters in Christ, without exception, in this debate and to focus, not narrowly, but on this question: what is the prophetic mission of the Anglican Church of Canada in the twenty-first century?
review by the Ven Paul Feheley
"True dialogue is not a life jacket when the boat is sinking. It is the boat itself and the very careful crafting required to hold it together when the storm of diversity inevitably crashes it about."
- CAROLYN SCHROCK-SHENK
Associate Professor of Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies
Goshen (Mennonite) College
When Chris Ambidge asked me to do a book review on "Living Together in the Church", I welcomed the opportunity. Chris and I have worked together for the last ten years in learning what it means to dialogue in Christian love and fellowship. I have found him to be a true friend and a pilgrim companion as we journey through our own diocese of Toronto and into Niagara and Montreal, sharing our story of dialogue and giving hope to a church that at times seems bent on self-destruction.
I have no claim as a literary scholar or judge, and so my 'book review' is more a personal reflection on the collection of essays and what arises from them than a critique of style, language, form or grammar.
I am not surprised that, as the church moves toward decision-making on the blessing of same-sex relationships, more books are appearing that encourage people to dialogue. Fidelity's The Homosexual Debate (Catherine Sider Hamilton, editor ABC, 2003) and The Divided Church (Hutcheson and Schriver, Intervarsity Press 1999) are two that contribute to this process. Living Together in the Church is an important work for dialogue, particularly for the Anglican Church of Canada. The authors are forthright, honest, passionate and very persuasive about the ways gays and lesbians are, should, and will be included in the life of the church.
There is one initial statement I don't quite agree with: Greig Dunn, in the introduction, and Archbishop Terence Finlay in his article both say that this issue is not a cause for division. I agree with that on a personal basis - regardless of the decision of our Synods, I am not leaving our church. I do know, however, that for some, the issue is church dividing. The General Synod motion that will come before us in June wisely changed the original wording so as not to include the words "church dividing". I do not believe we can name, or tell another person, what is or isn't fundamental to their belonging to our branch of Christ's church.
In the introduction, Greig poses a question that has been a significant part of my own thinking, prayer and meditation. "What is the gift that God, through the Holy Spirit, is giving us in this dialogue?" At times of crisis we too often lose sight of the work of the Holy Spirit - our "blinders" cause tunnel vision and we fail to see more important questions and observations. For example, in the midst of the Residential School Crisis, too many of us were only thinking about the monetary questions or the breakdown of our national church structure. I think the Holy Spirit's "gift" is a whole new understanding of First Nations people, their lives, their spirituality, faith, and quest for justice.
In the dialogue on same sex blessings and the place of gays and lesbians in the church, what is the gift that God has given us?
One of the gifts is the focus on scripture from Sylvia Keesmaat, Carroll Guen Hart and Walter Deller. I found myself challenged to rethink questions about biblical authority and to look again introspectively at my understanding of scripture. I have been a dialogue partner with Carroll, and found her essay very close to my heart. She reminded me that God at times pulls, and at other times, pushes me towards a new discernment and appreciation of scripture. The study of Elijah and Elisha was a new task for me under the banner of "Prophecy, Leadership and Communities in Crisis", for which I am very grateful. The realization that we need both styles of leadership, as Dr Deller indicated, is an important component of the dialogue process. How many of us would be engaged in this deep study of the scripture without the questions of gays and lesbians before us?
Another gift is the careful understanding of God's revelation to our church on this subject. I find myself trying to be collaborative in my thinking as I work towards as much common ground as is possible. Essays like that of Stephen Toope and Sister Thelma Ann McLeod SSJD, challenge my assumptions and help me to understand how people are (and are not) included and participate in the life of the church.
A third gift is in creating an open-minded attitude, acknowledging that I (or the essayists) could be wrong, and having a real concern for people who do not believe what I do. Christian love helps me to make certain that they are not either alienated or offended. Reading the book through conservative lenses, I found places where I did not agree, but never felt any sense of bitterness or harshness. Chris Ambidge often uses a phrase in our dialogue "my Beloved's beloved". I found myself both receiving that name and offering it to people like Peter Elliott, John Saynor, Margaret Marquart, the people of St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage Anglican Church and Rowan Q. Smith for their personal stories of their faith journeys.
There are a few things that I wish I had found in the book. An essay as part of the collection from a known conservative would have, I believe, been a helpful addition. In print, it would have shown what I know to be important - a willingness to listen to the other side. I would also like to have seen more clarity about the implication of our decisions - both in our diocese, at the national level, and within the Anglican Communion.
Bishop Jim Cruickshank was at one time Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver. He tells the story of opening the cathedral so that the prostitutes on the streets had a place to gather and talk as they faced a crisis as several of their number were being murdered. In telling the story, he faced significant criticism from those who wondered if the cathedral should be used for such a purpose. He justified his quite correct decision by saying that before each person walks an angel with a sign board that says "created in the image of God".
The essays of Eric Beresford and Archbishop Finlay challenge me to continue the dialogue, making certain that it is Christ-centred and filled with the Holy Spirit. All of those with whom we talk are created in the image of God - no one is excluded. It is always about being faithful, not about winning.
No one can be sure how our church will ultimately deal with all of the questions around inclusion, blessing and ordaining gay and lesbian people. What we can say with certainty is that as dialogue continues, and hearts, minds and souls are open, courage will be needed to trust in the Holy Spirit's guidance
The teamwork of dialogue moves the conversation away from win/lose, either/or. At least for the duration of the dialogue, adversaries become allies, working together to break new ground. Objections will still be raised; disagreement based on non-negotiable convictions will still hold firm, but the tone is different. That goal is changed from conquering to growing; from silencing to knowing; from telling to asking. Questions are employed as tools for probing, not weapons for stabbing. New possibilities are considered. As David Bohm says, we dialogue "so that creativity can be liberated".
- Joseph Phelps, in Conciliation Quarterly Vol. 15 No. 2
It is a privilege for me to write for the Integrator and to have had a chance to read Living Together in the Church . Thank you.
by Chris Ambidge
General Synod is the decision-making body of the Anglican Church of Canada, which meets every three years. Integrity has been present at General Synod since 1983 in Fredericton, and has had a fully-staffed display since 1989 in St John's Newfoundland. We'll be there again this year when General Synod meets in St Catharines Ontario.
The theme of Synod is "Behold, I make all things new", and that promise from Revelation certainly has resonances for Integrity members.
After a primacy of nearly 18 years, Archbishop Michael Peers has retired. Integrity gives thanks for his outstanding leadership and guidance to the church since 1986. General Synod will be electing a new Primate for the national church to succeed him. Whoever the new Primate may be, there will be many challenges ahead.
The General Synod will also be considering a multi-part motion on blessing same-sex unions. [See below] This motion speaks to the very core of Integrity's mission, we hope and pray that it will be passed, and will be working to that end.
The motion has five points. The first acknowledges that we disagree, but nonetheless we seek our common life, since our unity in Christ calls us into this communion in line without baptismal covenant. Points three and four of the motion speak about continuing the dialogue and educational efforts. Point four refers to respect for the different cultural contexts for various parts of the church, particularly for indigenous people and those of non-European backgrounds. Point five speaks of pastoral care being provided for members of the church. While it does not go into detail, it does speak about adequate episcopal oversight for people on all sides of the question.
Resolve number two is the guts of the motion. It does not change the policy or canons of the national church. If it is passed, the motion as written affirms the jurisdiction of the various dioceses across the country in the issue of blessing same-sex unions. It does not make extended claims about the blessing of same-sex unions, or change the policy of the national church.
New Westminster has already passed resolutions and is providing same-sex blessings. It is unclear if General Synod is legally able to pass a coercive motion forbidding such actions on the part of dioceses. For matters outside the specified jurisdiction of General Synod, and arguably this is not in that jurisdiction, diocesan and provincial synods must agree to such moves.
By leaving the decision at the diocesan level, the motion allows for dioceses, parishes and individuals for whom the question of same-sex blessings is very difficult, to distance themselves from the actions of others if they wish. It also allows dioceses where clear pastoral need has been established to proceed with blessings within established limits.
Canon Eric Beresford, consultant for Ethics and Interfaith Relations at the National Church Office, said to Integrator:
"It is important to look at a connection between resolves one and two of the motion. Resolve one mentions that we disagree on the issue, and also on that the significance of the issue itself. We are not agreed on whether this is contrary to the faith and teaching of the Anglican Church of Canada. Resolve two places the decision on same-sex blessings with the dioceses. I have said to bishops repeatedly that we disagree, we have done so for 30 years, and there is no evidence that we are about to find agreement. I was told long ago by a friend that a problem without a solution is not a problem. It is the state of affairs with which we have to work. The real issue is not how we resolve our disagreements, because there is no evidence that we will resolve them. The question is, is it worth living together with our disagreements, and if is worth living together, how do we propose to do that? It seems to me that this motion addresses itself to that question."
I agree with Canon Beresford's assessment. General Synod will come to grips with the disagreements and ways to move forward early next month. They may, of course, amend the motion. Integrity will be there, joining the councils of the church and advocating for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of their church. The next issue of Integrator will carry a full report on General Synod.
Be it resolved that this General Synod,
As the General Synod of the Anglican Church prepares to discuss the issue of same-sex unions at its upcoming meeting, Integrity Canada has launched a new website, www.IntegrityCanada.org, to better communicate the perspective of many of the Church's lesbian and gay members.
Integrity Canada has had a small website for the past three years, listing the chapters across the country and providing contact information for them. The newly launched site is much more comprehensive. The website links hundreds of articles, documents and testimonies giving voice to the gay and lesbian Anglicans and their friends who are asking the national Church to provide for the blessing of committed same-sex relationships within local parishes.
The impetus for the new and enlarged website has been General Synod session this spring, and the spadework has been done by the Vancouver chapter. Integrity Vancouver president, Steve Schuh, points out that synod members - both at the national and diocesan levels - will need much information about same-sex issues. Most importantly, "the voices of gay and lesbian people will need to be heard."
"We are also concerned that the proposed General Synod action would not prevent less hospitable dioceses from continuing to discriminate against lesbian and gay Anglicans, regardless of how 'undeniable' their pain and suffering is," Schuh said, referring to the single mention of the needs of gay and lesbian people in the recent report from Bishop Matthews' task force on dissenting minorities.
Dr. Donald Meen, past president of Integrity Vancouver, notes that, "These resolutions may well be the best way forward at this time. They permit dioceses that are ready to move ahead to do so without obligating those that are not. As our bishops have repeatedly told us, the Church is not of one mind on this issue."
Steve points out that "Anglicans are bound by our shared baptismal covenant to 'respect the dignity of every human being.' The tradition of the Church notwithstanding, we can no longer ignore the diversity of opinion among us. We must recognise and respect our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ whose well-reasoned, biblically-informed conscience leads them to affirm and celebrate committed same-sex relationships." The new website provides ample resources to assist them as they work within the church for blessings of those relationships.
by the Rev Daniel Brereton and the Rev Ann Turner
[this originally appeared as an Op-Ed in the Niagara Anglican]
We wish to respond to the Rev Haynes Hubbard's letter which appeared in January's edition of the Niagara Anglican. Like Mr. Hubbard we too are sinful people (at least we assume he is the 'sinful man' he is referring to in the beginning of his letter, though he never comes out, and says so). We too are guilty of all the sins he lists: pride, envy and anger. We do question why "self -esteem" should be listed by him as a "sin". It seems to us that low self-esteem - and the belief systems which perpetuate it - is responsible for a great deal of the self-destructive behaviour he so passionately opposes. It is a well documented tendency that people with low-self esteem project their feelings of shame, guilt and despondency onto others, and in doing so often champion systems of oppression and injustice which maintain division between themselves and those they hold responsible for their sense of low self-worth. Rene Girard's wonderful work on "scapegoating" speaks well to this human vice: the majority projecting their own shame or anger onto an individual or a minority, and then sacrificing them to protect the status quo. Jesus experienced this process first hand when sincere religious people condemned him for blasphemy, heresy and undermining the established order.
Mr Hubbard states that his parish is full of people who take Jesus seriously. They gather, they ask forgiveness, they are reborn, remade and rejuvenated. We have no doubt this is true and we praise God for it. We are also members of a community - several communities in fact - that gather, ask forgiveness, listen to scripture read and proclaimed, pray for the needs of the church and the world, share in the Eucharist and seek to serve others.
One such community to which we belong is Integrity/Niagara, a group of gay and lesbian Christians, their families, friends and supporters. They also take Jesus seriously; so seriously in fact that they remain devoted to his church (be it Anglican, Roman Catholic or whatever denomination they come from) despite the number of times they have felt unwelcome, rejected, hated and anything but blessed by its clergy and other members. Each and every member of Integrity is a sinner too, but let us be clear on what sin they are guilty of, or more to the point, what sin they are not guilty of.
It has become common amongst some church leaders to equate homosexuality with destructive behaviour like alcoholism. The argument goes that alcoholics are welcome to be part of our churches but we do not condone their alcoholism nor will we bless them for being alcoholics. In the same way, gay people are welcome in church but we will not bless their relationships in which, this presumably sinful behaviour is taking place. Our problem with this analogy (and others like it that equate homosexuality with gossip, drug addiction etc.) is that in the case of the alcoholic, identity stems from behaviour, while for the homosexual, behaviour flows from identity. One is not an alcoholic until one becomes addicted to alcohol. A person who was not alcoholic becomes so by engaging in certain behaviour. In the case of gay people however, their homosexual identity is not dependent on behaviour, nor is it something they "choose". A gay person is gay whether they engage in sexual activity or not. Prohibiting homosexual behaviour does not change the orientation of a person. Abstinence does not make a gay person straight. True, many homosexual people do not fully claim their identity as gay until sexual experience confirms this for them, but most gay people will tell you that they knew they were gay, or "different", long before they acted upon it.
The biblical authors, including Paul, assume that all people are born heterosexual and that for some sinful reason certain individuals choose to go against their natural (heterosexual) orientation and engage in homosexual behaviour. However the scientific community, and our own church have accepted that heterosexuality is NOT universal; and that for a significant number of people, homosexuality IS their natural sexual orientation. If this is true, then condemning people for behaviour which is a natural expression of their natural orientation is unjust and cruel. Religious and cultural prohibitions have certainly shamed many gay people into repressing and denying their sexuality but this is not the same as "curing" them. Indeed forcing gay people to live hidden lives of denial often leads to lifestyles which are dishonest, compartmentalised and ultimately destructive. Homosexuality is not a behaviour, it is a state of being. Homosexuality is not a lifestyle, it is a life. One doesn't DO homosexuality by choice. One IS homosexual by nature. The church already accepts this. Homosexuality is not an addiction.
If the church - in the light of new knowledge - accepts that homosexuals are naturally what God created them to be, how can it continue to deny them the same rights extended to all heterosexuals: to enter into committed, sexually intimate relationships? For those who are called to it, celibacy is a perfectly valid way of life and can be fulfilling, but why must it be the only option for homosexuals when most people - heterosexual and homosexual - are not called to a celibate life? It strikes us as ironic that the demand for homosexual celibacy most often comes from married heterosexuals who presumably enjoy sexual activity with their chosen partners, and all with the church's blessing.
Drinking alcohol is a perfectly acceptable social behaviour. It has never been considered particularly sinful except when it transgresses parameters that lead to destructive behaviour. Most people who drink alcohol do not regularly abuse it, and they are not labelled as alcoholics or "sinners" for enjoying a drink. Sexuality is the same. When sexuality leads to promiscuity, adultery or the exploitation of others it can be destructive, or we could say, sinful. The lack of social and spiritual support for committed gay relationships does encourage greater promiscuity in the gay community, however this is not behaviour which homosexual people are asking the church to bless. They are not even asking the church for the right to live in sacred relationships of covenant love. Legions of gay and lesbian people are already doing so. What they are asking for is that these relationships be recognised for what they already are - sacraments, not sin; the fulfilment of their God-given natures, not perversions of a nature that was never given to them in the first place.
What makes a union between two people "holy" is the way in which it incarnates and shares in the commitment, loyalty, forgiveness and self-giving love which God has for us. That has always been the primary purpose of marriage. Procreation has always been a secondary issue. If it wasn't then all childless couples and people who cannot naturally have children would be either refused marriage or would be considered to have second class relationships. It is not marriage which makes a relationship holy. It is holiness which makes a relationship marriage We have seen this holy love in same-gender unions. Same-sex unions do not destroy "family values"; they encourage them, unless of course we are narrowly defining what it means to be "family". Jesus himself widened the definition of family and challenged accepted gender roles. Why are we so afraid of doing the same?
With respect to Mr. Hubbard, gay people do not need the church to bless them in order to be what God calls them to be. The church however needs to bless and receive the blessing of its gay and lesbian members in order to fully become what it is called to be - the Body of Christ.
Integrity is very pleased to announce that our newest chapter has started up in Nova Scotia. They have had two worship services so far, and enthusiasm has been high. They have been meeting in various churches in and near Halifax.
Integrity/Nova Scotia members are not easily discouraged. The chapter's first meeting was very soon after "White Juan", the big winter storm that was almost as nasty as the hurricane last summer; but the group got together none-the-less. Their mailing address will be at the cathedral in Halifax, and as soon as the other contact details are finalised, they'll be posted on the Integrity Canada website:
Integrity members across the country are ever-so-glad to welcome Integrity/Nova Scotia into the Integrity family in Canada. With two new chapters - Niagara and Nova Scotia - in six months, there must be something in the air!
by Don Meen
My partner Kevin and I went to the Gay Games in New York in 1994 which happened to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion. You'll know from gay history that this event was seen as pivotal in the movement for gay liberation.
Back in 1969, a group of gay people, including drag queens, had finally had enough of police harassment and refused to put up with it anymore, so at one raid on a bar, they fought back instead. They barricaded the police in the Stonewall bar in New York, and the police had to call for reinforcements to get them out.
A quarter of a century later, there was a huge celebratory parade which included hundreds of thousands of gays, lesbians and friends marching through Manhattan. We followed an enormous rainbow flag, which was a full New York City street wide and a full block long. It was a marvellous event. Later we packed the Cathedral of St John the Divine for worship.
Kevin and I are Christians and we're always looking for signs of the kingdom. What amazed us then was how gay/lesbian liberation had progressed in only 25 years. Look at what's happened in the ten years since then - even more amazing. And we see this spreading all over the world! The pervasiveness of this movement, its power to free people in the face of hostility and violent retaliation confirms for us that we are in the midst of a work of the Holy Spirit.
Fr. Jacques Perotti, a leader in the gay Christian movement in France says at this time in human history we are experiencing un declic - a time of transformation in which, as he puts it, a positive gay and lesbian identity is emerging from the heart of the world. I say we're witnessing an inbreaking of the Reign of God in our time.
So, my response to the church moving forward to affirm the full humanity of gay and lesbian people is one of joy.
Some have insisted that we mute our joy so as not to offend, but I reject that. We should be joyful about this latest chapter in God's liberation of humanity.
Psychologist Kaczmierz Dabrowski has a theory of Positive Disintegration. He believes that before someone can integrate themselves at a higher level of maturity, they must "disintegrate" at their current level. I think this happens to institutions and societies, too. We in Canada and in the Anglican Church here are now dis-integrating in order to reintegrate a more mature level around issues of human equality and human sexuality.
But I recognise that dis-integrating is potentially an anxious experience, because it feels like things are falling apart, and some people worry it'll never be brought back together again. Other people are feeling a great sense of loss. I think that, too, is inevitable when things are changing. This is how I understand some of the anxiety and sadness we are seeing.
But some people are just plain angry - and I think they are feeling a sense of loss, too - but a loss of power. There are those who assign to themselves the authority to define what's right and good- and even what's true- for everyone else. We saw that here in BC when the provincial government expanded the legal meaning of the term "spouse" to include same-gender spouses. Certain church people insisted that they owned the word and its definition. We see the same thing these days over the word "marriage". And these folks are furious that anyone should try to usurp their power.
You may well have read Walter Wink's Engaging the Powers. He alerts us to the reaction of the Powers of this world to challenges to their authority - retaliation! Beefed-up attempts to dominate and control, often with violence.
By way of example: I know gay men from some African countries, who are courageously out about their sexuality, and who work for change in countries where homosexual activity is illegal. Some of those people are arrested. Some of those incarcerated get out - I know of some who flee their homeland as refugees. Others are probably not as lucky.
The ferocity of the retaliation is evidence for just how effective our challenge to yesterday's conventional wisdom and the Powers is. The Good News is that our God is a faithful God who won't let up until everyone is free, and gay and lesbian Christians won't let up either.
by BK Hipsher
Who is in and who is out? That's really the question. We can dress this pig up in anything we like, but in the end, all these are the same: the question of whether queer Anglicans are allowed at the communion table, whether they're tolerated as couples in congregations, whether they're required to be celibate as a condition of ordination, even whether lifelong committed legal marriages in Canada will be blessed by willing priests in supportive parishes in the Anglican Church of Canada (perhaps on the same Sunday that their pets are freely blessed) - ultimately, they're all the same question. And that question is, "who is in and who is out?"
Those who feel that the bible ordains a family configuration containing one man, one woman, possibly with children, can interpret Holy Scripture as sanctioning that pattern. On the other hand, I interpret the teachings of Jesus as not just accepting but celebrating our own unique incarnation of Christ in the world. The real question remains, who is allowed to make the rules. Who is allowed to forbid willing priests in supportive parishes from exercising their conscience - in the same way that those opposed to blessings want freedom of conscience?
While we can debate ad infinitum the scriptural references to homosexuality, the fact remains that societies in first century and earlier made no mention of the kind of committed same-sex marriages that are now legal in Canada. If these relationships existed, then they were surely not demonised in the same way some seek to do in our modern and post-modern minds. Shall we continue to hold up a scriptural reference of Sodom and Gomorrah forbidding homosexuality while promoting the rape of women as a biblical basis for morality? Let's move on.
Let us allow willing priests in supportive congregations the same conscience to sign legal Canadian marriage licenses and bless the unions of all couples while upholding the right of conscience for those who cannot reconcile their beliefs with current law. No one should be forced to give up their moral convictions. Neither should one group be allowed to dictate what those with different views are allowed to believe within the same family.
Let us turn our attention to feeding the hungry, both physically and spiritually. Let us return to visiting the sick and imprisoned, both those in hospital and jail and those imprisoned by the idea that God does not love them because they love a person of the same sex. Let us clothe the naked and insulate them from the cold winds of winter and the biting chill of exclusion from the church they love. Let us return to telling the Good News of Jesus Christ: that Good News is that God LOVES us and we are to do the same. We are to love God above all else, and the evidence of that is loving our neighbour as ourselves.
Who is in and who is out? I have stayed, sometimes quietly and now not so quietly, loving this Anglican way of worshipping the God I love so deeply. How long must I argue and bargain and plead and beg, just to be treated equally? How long until my conscience is respected and protected? How long until I am as equal a member of this church as those who disagree with me?