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
LIKE JACOB WRESTLING WITH THE ANGEL
Chris Ambidge reports on Toronto's special synod on same-sex blessings
Penelope Holeton writes to Toronto's Bishop Colin Johnson
TORONTO SYNOD QUOTES
A PRAYER FOR GRACE AND AN ACT OF COURAGE
Same-Sex Unions debate at Niagara's diocesan synod,
by the Rev Lillian Porter
THEY'RE (WE'RE) EVERYWHERE! - NEW INTEGRITY CHAPTERS
in the dioceses of Fredericton, Montreal and Saskatoon
A PLACE AT THE TABLE
Bill Morrison review's "A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality", by Stephen Bates.
A "WATERSHED STORY" FOR GAY ANGLICANS IN SASKATOON
HAPPY CHRISTMAS FROM INTEGRITY
by Chris Ambidge
In a much-anticipated special session on 27 November 2004, Toronto diocesan synod considered same-sex blessings, and decided to defer any decision on such blessings until after the Primate's Theological Commission gives an opinion on whether blessings would be doctrinal. The synod then passed a second motion echoing General Synod, affirming the integrity and sanctity of adult committed same-sex relationships.
It was very much like General Synod all over again - the body said they would not affirm the local option for same-sex blessings, but did affirm gay and lesbian couples (not just individuals).
A motion calling for New Westminster-style same sex blessings with local option went to synod in May 2003 (back before civil marriages were available in Ontario). Diocesan Council responded by proposing a process for the diocese to study the questions surrounding blessing of same-sex blessings for a year, and then return to a special synod in the fall of 2004. This was accepted by synod 2003, realising that General Synod would address the same questions in spring 2004. [see Integrator 2003-6 for an account of synod 2003].
In between the two Toronto synods came General Synod, which did not act definitively in one direction or another on blessings, and the Windsor report, which spoke of distress felt in other parts of the communion at North American actions around homosexuals. After the Windsor Report was published, a new motion was proposed to synod, saying that substantive decisions on same-sex blessings needed to wait for the Primate's Theological Commission (whose report is expected in 2006).
Unlike many other parts of the church, Toronto synod members had done their homework for this synod: day-long educational sessions were offered four times early in the spring, with more than 80% of synod members attending . There have also been many parish and deanery educational events across the diocese. For many who attended, there was a feeling that this was the time to decide the question, one way or the other. That turned out not to be the case.
The synod was in the context of a eucharist, and as Bishop Colin Johnson remarked, this was deliberate: people of all views meet at the altar and share the same bread, and are part of the one body.
In the morning, among the first orders of business were three proposed late-arrival motions - one from Canon Judy Rois and the Rev Gary van der Meer reaffirming the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships, and two taking a much more conservative view, explicitly limiting sex to man-and-wife. Synod voted to add the first to their agenda, but not the second two.
Synod then moved into Committee-of-the-Whole, a procedure that allowed members to talk to each other, expressing their views on the subject in general, without parliamentary rules restricting remarks narrowly to whatever motion was on the floor. This respectful, deeply felt exchange of feelings and thoughts took the rest of the morning.
In the afternoon, the motion to defer came to the floor. After extensive debate, it was voted on. A careful count of votes showed that it passed narrowly: 320 - 296 (52%). This meant that the substantive motion on blessings never made it to the floor, was never actually debated, having been delayed - again.
Next up was the van der Meer / Rois motion, affirming the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships. The principal arguments against this were twofold: that this would be insulting to other parts of the Anglican communion who are opposed, and that the word "sanctity" is theological, and causes confusion. The same arguments were heard in St Catharines when General Synod debated the same motion.
Just as at General Synod, amendments were proposed to take "sanctity" out of the text, and that failed (241-280 in this case). Also echoing St Catharines, the main motion then passed by a majority substantial enough not to be counted.
It should be no surprise then that Integrity's reactions are also essentially a replay of General Synod 2004. It is certainly good news that "integrity and sanctity" were reaffirmed. That says something very positive to LGB people in the diocese, both in the pews and outside the churches. But the actions of synod don't go nearly far enough. they had the chance to move on same-sex blessings, and didn't. It is particularly frustrating that this chance to debate and then say yea or nay was denied to this very well-prepared group of members. How long, O Lord, how long?
In my more cynical moments, my reaction is "justice delayed is justice denied". But I think a better biblical model is Jacob, wrestling with the Angel. Throughout the long night, we struggle. And we will not let go without a blessing.
Penelope Holeton writes to Toronto's Bishop Colin Johnson
28 November 2004
Dear Bishop Johnson,
At the Diocesan Synod of 2003, two motions were deferred to this year. In the meantime, the Diocese was asked to study and discuss the issue of blessing same sex unions.
Over the past twelve months many people from both sides of the issue have spent a great deal of time in the evenings and at week-ends, going out and participating in the discussions throughout this diocese.
I was therefore surprised and angry that another motion, to defer, was placed first on the Synod's Agenda. Although I did not necessarily expect the outcome to be other than it was, I feel that the 2003 decision of Synod was not followed. What does that say about all the hard work and commitment of so many leaders on both sides?
We are in danger of talking about this as an issue, and not realising that we're talking about real people whose lives are impacted by what we say here.
The Windsor report puts a very high value on unity for the Anglican Communion. But there is no genuine unity without justice, a justice that welcomes and includes gays and lesbians fully.
Good News for gay and lesbian people from today? There's the pastoral intent of the [integrity and sanctity] motion. And a number of the people who voted to defer wanted to do so only for a period of time, as opposed to wanting to stop the process and say NO. That's good news - not the best, not ideal news, but it should be construed positively
Bishop Colin Johnson
I'm glad that my motion passed, of course, but we're grasping for crumbs. The dogs at the table that Jesus referred to were pleased to get the crumbs that fell, but they would have been happier with bread.
Gary van der Meer
We've made a very tiny move. Many people don't grasp the issue. They're not people of bad will, but they don't grasp how very close to home and important it is for gay and lesbian people, and those who love them.
To say I'm disappointed would be an understatement. It's tragic that we didn't get to the blessing motion. We've missed an opportunity, and a lot of work has now gone under the waves, and not much to show for it.
We need to look in the wide context - this is very frustrating, but the church is moving in the right direction.
I'm tired of hearing that if we make a decision to affirm same-gender blessings that we're thumbing our noses at churches in the south. It seems to me that some dioceses and provinces in Africa and south Asia and south America have already thumbed their noses at us. So much for dialogue. Where is the spirit of reconciliation and hope that our Lord is seeking?
Archbishop Terry Finlay
Integrity/Toronto's chaplain is the Rev Lillian Porter. She is a priest of the diocese of Niagara, and was present at their diocesan synod on 12-13 November 2004. She sends this report to Integrator readers.
I arrived the Convention Centre Friday morning an hour late and a little frazzled after traffic tie-ups in downtown Hamilton. The worship had already started. I had been hoping to arrive early to help Ann set up the Integrity Niagara display. I did get there in time to support Integrity Niagara and staff the display. The first discussion on same-sex union motions was slated to begin at 10 in the morning.
Several people came by, stopping to chat and pick up literature, and as 11 drew near most of the delegates went back to their tables. I walked to the side where I could observe the proceedings. The preliminary discussion began with a call for honesty, mutual respect and reminder that there was to be no applause after speakers. The first resolution:
That any action around blessing same sex unions in the Diocese be put off until after General Synod 2007.
The lines at the microphones quickly formed and the discussion began. Those in favour of the resolution spoke about the possibility of schism in the Anglican Communion and their fear that the unity of the Communion would be compromised. Those opposed to the resolution spoke about Christ's love for those marginalized, the fact that idea of the unity of the Anglican Communion does not mean uniformity because different parts of the Communion do not ordain women, liturgies are different, and so forth. An attempt to amend the resolution failed, and after further discussion the original resolution was voted on. It was defeated 216 to 105. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The lunch break began and I returned to the Integrity table. Many were surprised to find me sitting there. I had a steady steam of people coming to pick up literature and chat. Most were supportive, several were not. I enjoyed being behind the table and engaging in discussion.
Saturday came, traffic was much better, and once again I sat at the Integrity table and engaged in conversations with people as they stopped and looked at the available literature. At 10:30 the discussion on same sex blessing resumed.
A second motion then came to the floor:
That this synod supports the Eames Commission and is committed to carrying out the recommendations of the Windsor Report.
I felt very tense during this discussion because if it passed it would mean that the next motion, calling for the Bishop to grant the local option, would not come to the floor. After some discussion this motion was tabled until Synod next year because most of the delegates had not read the report. Once again I breathed a sigh of relief.
The third motion then came to the floor:
That the Bishop grant clergy permission to exercise their discretion in blessing the relationship of gay or lesbian couples who have been married civilly, once they with their congregations have petitioned the Bishop for permission to be a "Blessing Community"
Once again long lines formed at the microphones. The discussion was honest and open with all sides able to speak what was in their hearts. Some spoke of their fear over the changes in the church. Others spoke of justice and the fact that God is the one who blesses. Others spoke about fear of defying scripture and God's wrath.
As the discussion continued I found myself becoming anxious and prayed that God would grant me the grace to be gracious and loving no matter what the outcome of the vote. At the end of the discussion Bishop Ralph called for a moment of silence for prayer. The vote was taken, and the motion passed 213 -106 -- a 66% majority.
After the vote Bishop Ralph spoke.
"As the bishop I hear the will of the house. I am inwardly torn. I would have voted with those in majority. The role of the bishop is unique in our tradition. I am the bishop for all people - and try to keep unity with the rest of the church. It is with certain personal pain - but it is my responsibility. I will not give my assent to this legislation. This is the first time the synod has voted on this issue. My expectation is that you go back to your parishes - and any parish that has not had the conversation about this - should be challenged. Parishes in our midst have not talked. I grieve with the gay and lesbian community. I am close to them and understand what my actions mean to them. I am the bishop of all in the diocese. I know that those who opposed also believe that they are doing so in concert with the Lord. I pray that we will continue to discuss this matter at synod. It will come back at next synod. I thank you for your honesty and clarity in this matter."
I was deeply moved by Bishop Ralph's words. That fact that he publicly stated that he was torn and would have voted with those in majority was a courageous act and I was very proud to have him as bishop. I was very heartened by the clear majority that supported the motion.
We do not know what the future will hold, but we do know that we are called to continue to work for justice and be loving to those who oppose us and hate us. May God give us grace and strength to continue the work of justice and may we be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit among us.
Just over a year ago, Integrity/ Niagara got together, and is flourishing. In retrospect, they started a trend. As we mentioned earlier, this spring saw the formation of Integrity/ Nova Scotia PEI. But wait ... there's more.
October saw the first meeting of Integrity/ Fredericton. Named for the diocese rather than the city, they've met twice already in Oromocto, and are hoping to increase from their current 28 members at their 19 December meeting.
Montreal has had Integrity chapters in the past -- one in the late 1970s- early 80s. A renewed chapter flourished in 1998 and 99, but went into abeyance with just "a candle in the window" maintained by one of the members. In November, Integrity/ Montreal came to life for a third time, with twenty people, mostly from the Cathedral, coming together for an inaugural meeting. The next meeting will be a (slightly delayed) Epiphany party in January.
The hat-trick is completed by our newest chapter in Saskatoon, whose initial meeting is 4 December [see story below for more details].
Cardinal Newman said that growth is the only evidence of life. By that metric, Integrity in Canada is fully alive!
New Chapter contacts:
firstname.lastname@example.org / (506) 357-8741 / Keith Howlett
email@example.com / (514) 843-6577 / Joyce Sanchez
firstname.lastname@example.org / (306) 242-5146 / Shawn Sanford Beck
More information on the Chapter contacts page of www.integritycanada.org
Stephen Bates, A Church at War: Anglicans and Homosexuality (London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2004 ISBN 1850434808). Reviewed by Bill Morrison
The day after I finished reading A Church at War I was at the Victoria house of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine presiding at the eucharist. The gospel reading was Jesus' parable of the guests at the banquet, all concerned about who is sitting where, who's ahead, who's behind, and who's got the seat we think we ought to have.
And it struck me that that is exactly what Guardian journalist Stephen Bates is describing in his romp through the last few decades of Anglican history.
The Anglo-Catholics were all camping it up in their rectories, secure in the knowledge that they had the pre-eminent place at the Church of England table. Until that terrible, pearl-clutching day when (shock, horror) the resolution to allow women to be ordained to the priesthood passed the General Synod. Only then did they realise that, while they weren't looking, the table had been moved and they were in a much lower place than they thought.
At the same moment the Evangelicals saw that there was a vacancy at the top of the table, and it was theirs for the taking. Oh, they too had lost on the vote to approve of women - but they knew they were going to lose that. Their sights were already set on the homosexual issue, and they knew that they could garner far more popular support for opposing the ordaining of gay priests and the blessing of gay unions than they could for opposing women - after all, a lot more members of the Church of England knew women than knew gay folk, and quite a few were even married to them.
The Evangelicals thought they spied someone else making for that seat of prominence - their worst nightmare, the highly organised and powerful "gay agenda lobby" that was intent on taking over the Church. And the gays (who were neither organised nor powerful, and had neither an agenda nor a lobby) feared that the only seat that would be left for them if the Evangelicals got to the head of the table would be somewhere outside the door, in that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(It is one of the points that comes across again and again in Stephen Bates' book that both "sides" in Church controversies see themselves as persecuted minorities, and their "opponents" as powerful and organised.)
Then there are the bishops from the developing world who claim that the bishops from the North have forfeited the right to seats of honour at the table, and must be "put in their place". Whether that place is at the foot of the table or outside the door with the poor beleaguered gays and lesbians they represent depends on the level of rhetoric espoused by the particular Primate you're listening to.
Missing from the table entirely seems to be the person we would expect to be sitting in the highest seat - Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Before he became Archbishop, Williams was an inspiring, creative, and profound writer and thinker with a gift for words and vibrant images with which to probe the mystery of the triune God and the life of grace. But now he seems capable only of vague warnings and bemoanings that trail off into inarticulate silence. This absence is the saddest aspect of the book, and of the Church in this present moment. It's as though he cannot say what he wants to say, because somehow he feels his office requires him to deny his convictions; at the same time he lacks the politician's facility for appearing to speak convincingly without really saying anything at all.
The book opens with background chapters on the muddled character of Anglicanism that has landed it in this muddy mess; the Biblical "clobber texts" and how they have been variously interpreted; interviews with a wide range of both "Evangelical" and gay Anglicans; a brief history of homosexuality in society and the Church; and the increasing polarisation of the Church between "liberal" and "conservative" understandings of theology, scripture and morality in the aftermath of the social and sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Then follow chapters on the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the appointment of Rowan Williams, the actions of the diocese of New Westminster and the episcopal nomination of Jeffrey John, and the election of Gene Robinson.
Bates (who is a Roman Catholic and is married to an Anglican Evangelical) is more-or-less even-handed in his identifying of fools and villains, finding plenty of both on both "sides" of the controversy; but it must be said that when it comes to the prize for villainy and general nastiness the Evangelicals win hands down. The usual suspects are there -- Emmanuel Kolini, Peter Jensen, Maurice Sinclair, Fred Phelps, and Peter Akinola ("Why has no one told Peter Akinola that he is a bigot? Is it just because he is black?"). Most of the players are English, and apart from what I learned about them in this book, their names, if not their tactics, were unfamiliar to me.
The prime villains/fools on "our side" are Jack Spong and Peter Tatchell. Spong's deeply offensive comments on illiterate and uneducated African bishops simply reinforced the anti-American feelings already present in the Communion and made the atmosphere at Lambeth 1998 truly poisonous. Tatchell's confrontational tactics did a lot of damage, especially when, just before the Lambeth Conference, he and his minions crashed a garden party being hosted by George Carey, swarmed the Archbishop, shouting in his face in a manner that made him fear for his personal safety. If this demonstration was intended to soften Carey's stony heart, it undoubtedly did exactly the opposite, and sent him to Lambeth determined to put the gays in their place once and for all.
Bates writes with the immediacy and verve of an excellent journalist, and the book is an absolute page-turner. It is filled with juicy details, and surprising bits of information that had me chortling or saying "really?" again and again. I recommend it highly to anyone who is interested in the history of the debate on sexuality in the Anglican Communion.
Back at St. John's House, Victoria, the other reading that day was a passage from Paul's letter to the church in Philippi. Paul, in prison, writes, "Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defence of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice."
It would seem that suspicion of the motives and faithfulness of others who proclaim Christ is nothing new. But what is truly astounding here is that the usually fractious Paul rises above all that to say that it doesn't matter what the other side's motives are. All that matters is that Christ is proclaimed.
With African bishops denouncing the North American church as Satanic, it seems increasingly unlikely that the leaders of our Communion can (or want to) rise above their fractiousness, or to rejoice that Christ is proclaimed in other places, in other ways than theirs. Stephen Bates -- and Rowan Williams -- come to much the same gloomy conclusion.
Gay and lesbian Anglicans and their friends in the Diocese of Saskatoon are witnesses to an amazing set of surprises that has led - by a strangely circuitous route - to the founding of a new Integrity ministry.
The first surprise came on the eve of the House of Bishops meeting in Saskatoon in late October when Bishop Rod Andrews cancelled the scheduled concert performance of two gay choirs. The Bridge City Chorus was to perform on 13 November at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Saskatoon with Regina's Prairie Pride Chorus.
The public concert had been arranged with cathedral staff several months in advance, and notice of its cancellation just two weeks before the event forced the choirs to scramble for other accommodation, which was found in a nearby United Church.
Newspapers reported that Bishop Andrews made the decision to cancel the event after receiving phone calls from concerned church members, and that it was his feeling that it was inappropriate to allow gay groups to use the church building while the Church itself is still debating the issue of homosexuality.
Ironically, the concert was entitled "Watershed Stories" a collection of personal life stories from gay choir members. The work was composed by David McIntrye, director of Prairie Pride, resident composer with the Regina Symphony Orchestra, and a longstanding Integrity friend. Observers noted that this was the kind of event a church interested in learning more about gay people should have encouraged rather than cancelled.
Choir members were shocked by the bishop's decision. Ken Vaughan of the Prairie Pride group remarked that they had used the cathedral in Regina for concerts without incident and stated, "It was my impression that the Anglican Church was fairly open-minded. I'm very saddened they took this step." He added, "This devalues the choirs and it devalues us as individuals."
Cathedral staff in Saskatoon were equally surprised, as was Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto: "Is Bishop Andrews asking lesbian and gay Anglicans in church choirs and indeed the pews to stop singing on Sunday mornings? Is he unaware that the Anglican Church of Canada has explicitly welcomed the presence of lesbians and gay men in the life of the church since General Synod 1995?"
In a letter of 8 November to Bishop Andrews, the chair of General Synod's Eco-Justice Committee, Kevin Arndt, wrote, "The published reports leave the impression that you have acted against those policies of the Anglican Church of Canada that disallow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In reply, we would appreciate from you a clarification, in a statement that can be shared publicly, of your position with regard to the policies of the Anglican Church of Canada."
For his part Bishop Andrews seemed genuinely taken aback by the reaction and responded with a pastoral letter on 9 November that included a few surprises of its own.
The letter outlined the circumstances behind the decision to cancel the concert. "The call came at a time when I had little opportunity to consult, gather information, or to meet with the people concerned," Bishop Andrews wrote. "In considering alternatives, I felt the best thing to do would be to ask for time to consult with the diocesan family, to make opportunity for the opposing factions to meet and discuss. I made the decision before all the information had been given to me. It was naive of me to think that we would be allowed to do this as a diocese in a calm, non-public way, and the storm erupted. "
Significantly, the letter continued:
"I apologise to the members of the two Gay Pride Choirs for the hurt they have felt, and to members of the gay and lesbian community for hurt caused to them. I apologise to the members of St. John's Cathedral for the way they have been caught up in this unfortunate matter. ... I appeal for understanding within the various factions in our diocese. I ask those who wanted the concert to go forward and are hurt by the cancellation to be considerate of those who had great reservations about this use of the Cathedral. If you are of a liberal mind, please try to be patient with the conservative members. They find it very difficult to deal with all they read and hear these days about the sexuality debate in the Anglican Church."
Because the question about the appropriate use of consecrated space was unresolved in the Diocese, the bishop's letter also announced that a conference and fundraising event sponsored by Essentials Canada, a conservative church group, were also being relocated.
And Bishop Andrews finished his pastoral letter with yet another surprise:
"For some time, I have considered encouraging the establishment of a Saskatoon branch of Integrity, a gathering place for gay and lesbian Anglicans. I presided at the Eucharist, preached, and met for discussion with the Vancouver branch of Integrity, and I could see how much that gathering meant for the participants. One of our clergy has volunteered to facilitate this ... Please respect the privacy and rights of those who wish to become part of Integrity Saskatoon."
Following the media attention over events in Saskatoon, concert promoters were anticipating a sold-out show in their new venue. Many Anglicans were likewise hopeful that Bishop Andrews' apology would go a long way in overcoming the damage caused to their outreach to gay and lesbian communities by the concert cancellation.
And at the Cathedral of St John, the Rev Shawn Sanford Beck announced that the first Eucharist of the new Integrity ministry in Saskatoon will be on 4 December 2004. More information is available by phone at (306) 242-5146 or email at email@example.com.