INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity/Toronto
copyright 2005 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
SUDDENLY, WE'RE DOCTRINE
Primate's Theological Commission reports, says blessing of unions is doctrinal
by Chris Ambidge
Council of General Synod will send only observers to Anglican Consultative Council
by Chris Ambidge
68 Welcoming parishes, listed on updated website
CHURCH, IT IS TIME FOR US TO MOVE ON
a sermon by the Rev Michael Hopkins
CANADIAN BISHOPS PUT ON THE BRAKES
partial moratorium on future blessings
A DROMATINE DIARY (part 1 of 2)
a reflection by Archdeacon Paul Feheley, who was at Dromatine for the Primates' meeting
The regular spring meeting of the Council of General Synod was held in Mississauga in early May. With two items of particular interest to Integrity people on their agenda, the April issue of Integrator was delayed to provide coverage of the meeting.
Those two items were:
- first, deciding if and how the Anglican Church of Canada would send representation to the (world-wide) Anglican Consultative Council, to be held in Nottingham this summer; and,
- second, receiving the report of the Primate's Theological Commission.
Primate's Theological Commission reports a year ahead of schedule, says blessing of unions is a doctrinal matter
by Chris Ambidge
The 2004 General Synod referred the question of the doctrinal status of the blessing of same sex unions to the Primate's Theological Commission. The Commission brought the "St. Michael's Report" (named for the Oakville convent of the Sisters of the Church where the commission met) to CoGS in May, a year ahead of schedule.
The Commission, chaired by Victoria Matthews, the bishop of Edmonton, says the blessing of same sex unions is analogous to marriage, and thus a matter of doctrine. Doctrine, they noted, is a broad term, encompassing both credal (or "core") doctrines (Incarnation, Trinity, and the like) and less significant teachings; the blessing of same sex unions, they said, is not a credal matter, and should not be a communion-breaking issue. Any proposed blessing, they said, should be understood in a way consistent with the theology of marriage.
While the question of the Canadian representation at the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting this summer was the issue that brought secular media attention to CoGS, the St Michael's Report is of considerably more importance to Canadian lesbians and gays. It has implications for Integrity's work over the next decade. If General Synod in 2007 accepts the Report's opinion that the blessing of same sex unions is a matter of doctrine, then blessings would have to cease until General Synod gives its permission for them. Such permission could take many years.
Canons relating to doctrine require a two-thirds majority in all three orders at each of two General Synods. This would seem to make the blessing of same sex unions a matter of greater import for the church than other major doctrinal decisions: for example, decisions to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate or to adopt the Book of Alternative Services required only a simple majority vote to change. The BAS - how we pray, and thus seemingly doctrine - was approved at only one Synod.
Bishop Matthews acknowledged this higher standard, saying that the commission wanted to "raise the theological bar" for any changes that the church might make.
The report also says that discussion of the blessing of same sex unions should take place in a broader discussion of human sexuality. And it says that that discussion must be carried out "in a manner that is deeply respectful of the dignity and integrity of the gay and lesbian members of our church."
There has been mixed response from lesbian and gay Anglicans, and our supporters. The call for deep respect for us is good to hear: for too long, parts of the church have been disrespectful in talking about (rather than with) us; and the report is clear that such treatment is inappropriate. On the other hand, we are facing (yet) more discussion and (yet) further study, and (yet) further legislative delay, with no action on the horizon. Some parts of the church -- Toronto, New Westminster, Ottawa, Niagara, among others -- have been working on this for many years. On the other hand, CoGS has directed all dioceses to study the St Michael's Report. That includes those parts of the country who have ignored the issue for those same many years. Perhaps this direction will put paid to the plea of "we need more time to study the question" heard repeatedly in 2004.
Bishop Michael Ingham, of New Westminster, points out that "bar" is precisely the right word: the bar is being set higher for gays and lesbians than it was for others in the church. Demanding a higher standard of approval for the blessing of same sex unions than that for the other doctrinal decisions certainly looks like institutional homophobia masquerading in the language of "deep respect", he says.
Others prefer to take a long-term perspective: one hundred years from now, in Canada, all of these couplings will probably be "marriage", whether between opposite- or same-sex couples. Many same-sex couples who come to New Westminster parishes for blessing now have already been married at City Hall. In that case, they muse, why not work on changing Canon XXI (on Marriage) now?
Canon Bill Morrison of Victoria suggests that yes, in the long run, this is a doctrinal matter that needs to be considered within the broad context of human sexuality and relationships and a reworking of the marriage canon. "In 1998 the issue was the blessing of same sex relationships," he says, "but the context has changed. In 2005 the issue in Canada is marriage.
"We need, however, to maintain the clear distinction between blessings and marriage. The problem with the St. Michael's Report is that it tends to conflate the two. The doctrinal issue is marriage, and whether the first and defining paragraph of Canon XXI can be taken to encompass persons of the same sex. Blessings ought to be seen as a non-doctrinal, local matter developed as a pastoral response to the emerging Canadian context. So we should let General Synod study the doctrinal matter, and allow dioceses to make decisions about blessings as a response to the needs of ministry in their context. Unless and until marriage is open to same-sex couples, then New Westminster-style blessings meet a very definite pastoral need for same-sex couples who want to celebrate their union in the context of their faith community.
"To deny them this avenue means marginalising gay and lesbian Anglicans in Canada for decades. To stop at blessings and not do the work required to rework the doctrine of marriage to include same-sex marriages is to leave them as second-class members for ever."
Council of General Synod to send only observers to Anglican Consultative Council; will initiate conversations on the place of lesbians and gays in the church first called for at Lambeth 1978
By Chris Ambidge
The Primates, meeting at Dromatine in February, requested that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church USA consider withdrawing from meetings of the (international) Anglican Consultative Council for three years. This would entail not attending one meeting of the council, scheduled for Nottingham this summer. The decisions for whether to withdraw, or to send members, rest with the Council of General Synod in Canada, and in the States with the Executive Council of ECUSA.
The withdrawal of North American members of ACCouncil was demanded by Primates from the "global south" at Dromatine, as a sign that the churches in Canada and the US acknowledged the great distress that had been caused by blessing of same-sex couples and the ordination of Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. The Anglican world then awaited the North American decisions.
In mid-April, the ECUSA Executive Council decided that their members would attend the ACCouncil meetings as observers - neither speaking nor voting in the debates, but being present to hear the other council members. ECUSA also accepted the invitation to make a presentation at a special hearing on their recent actions.
At the beginning of May, CoGS met in Mississauga to make the decision for the Canadian church. They wanted to consult widely, so heard from their own standing committees - Eco-Justice, and Faith Worship and Ministry. They heard from Indigenous voices and from ECUSA and Lutheran partners, and they invited presentations from Essentials (representing the conservative viewpoint), and from Integrity.
Long-time Integrity members (and veterans of several General Synods) Ron Chaplin (of Ottawa) and Patti Brace (of Algoma) spoke for Integrity. They spoke of our own ministries, as lesbian and gay members of the Anglican church, and asked CoGS for a sign to us, as well as a sign to the Global South.
The full text of their presentation is available online at
The day after the presentations, CoGS considered several options. They too accepted the invitation to make a Canadian presentation to ACCouncil, along with the ECUSA spokespeople. The option of not sending representatives to Nottingham at all was never on the table: the choice was whether they would participate fully, claiming seats with voice and vote, or whether they would go to observe only.
In the event, council voted 20-12 to send representatives to observe.
Some members felt that, out of pastoral concern for the rest of the Communion, we should send our members as observers only, not participants. Others felt that making such a concession was to admit that we'd done something wrong, when we haven't. They also warned that such a concession would set a precedent. They also spoke of the Canadian church's prophetic ministry, speaking words that others do not want to hear, telling of Canadian decisions made in good conscience for ministry to homosexual persons in the pews
One bishop present said afterwards that this action by Canada was as far as he could see us going, despite warnings from others that we may now face a future stream of demands for concessions. "We will not be bullied," the bishop said, "if they come back later with more demands, we're out of there."
Archdeacon Peter Zimmer, of Prince George BC, commented, "what bothers me is not the decision, which we made out of pastoral concern. My question is -- pastoral concern towards whom? We seem far more concerned with the sensibilities of people in the nameless 'global south' than by the pain experienced in our own churches and communities."
Personally, I'm not broken hearted about this decision. Clearly the conversation about the position of lesbians and gays in the church is one that the Anglican communion needs to have. The consultations in Nottingham are (finally!) a first step in the conversations first called for at Lambeth 1978, promises repeated in 1988 and 1998.
Canada is one of a very small handful of provinces that has actually done homework on the questions stirred up by gay and lesbian people in the church, and we have good information to share. My chief concern is that the Canadian message gets out, and if this is the best way for us to be heard, so be it. If Canada's presence at the ACCouncil as members claiming voice and vote was going to precipitate a hissy-fit, the first three days of the council meeting would be lost to the drama of a walk-out, and much less work done. I trust the wisdom of CoGS to collectively make this decision. There have been clear suggestions made that an out gay or lesbian person be one of our presenters at the consultation, and I hope that suggestion will be acted upon.
There is a growing number - 68 as of this May - of Anglican parishes who want it known that LGBT people are welcome in their pews, individually or as couples. The parishes stretch from Victoria to Halifax. You can find the list at our new website, with easy-to-remember URL:
If you can think of other parishes (yours, or somewhere else) that aren't listed yet, but should be, please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org (that's a new address, too) , and lets let people know about open doors from coast to coast.
A sermon by the Rev Michael Hopkins
Ours has been a Church in almost perpetual controversy and crisis. We have a long, long history of being outraged by one another. That we have been able—by and large—to stay together despite the outrage has been one of our principle glories. But this glory is fading quite rapidly, it seems to me. We are rapidly losing our capacity to be outraged by one another while at the same time remaining in communion. It is my sense that if we do not regain this capacity, the Anglican Communion as we know it is not long for this world.
And, reluctantly, with a very heavy heart, I am wondering out loud today if that isn’t all right. And more than wondering, I have a developing sense of urgency that we must move on because our current state of constant warfare is simply too costly.
Personally I do not know why it is so hard for us to say clearly and simply, “We disagree and we are not likely to agree in the near future. We are often outraged by one another. Our communion with one another is deeply impaired and even deeply flawed. We do not know how to fix it. But we believe Jesus wants us to stay together and so we’re going to stay together and do as much as we can together.”
There are those, however, who seem driven by a need for purity of belief on the issues that divide us. Co-existence is not an option for them. “Guilt by association” is the sentence they impose on themselves and the rest of us. They will not rest until they have either changed our minds or broken up this family we call Anglican.
We respond with attempts to placate, give space and time, and accommodate their pain and disagreement. Our House of Bishops has gone so far as to suspend effectively all elections to the episcopate until the next General Convention, and to declare a personal moratorium among themselves concerning the blessing of same-sex unions. Blessings can go on, they tell us, but without episcopal authority, relegating them to the level of other things I bless without “episcopal authority,” like animals on St. Francis Day. We must at least appear reticent.
This fools no one. Conservatives know it is a ruse and it will not appease them. There will be no appeasing them short of their total victory. They have elevated this argument to the level of the Holy Trinity. There is no compromise they can accept.
We gay and lesbian people, in the meantime, continue to suffer through the constant suggestion from all sides that we are “the problem.” An Anglican Communion official said to me in January in London, “We are asking lesbian and gay people in the Church to wait for your full inclusion.” It was, at least, candid.
The time for reticence is rapidly coming to a close. The time for reality is upon us. Church, it is time for us to move on.
For years I, among many others, have been accused of being among those who have an agenda of the acceptance of the legitimacy of homosexuality. Guilty as charged. I am absolutely guilty of promoting the acceptance of the Christian lifestyle lived among all people, including homosexual ones. I have the agenda of the church approving and blessing same-sex love and commitment. I have the agenda of the Church proclaiming that sexual orientation is not a bar to Holy Spirit inspired ministry.
“Do you have the agenda of overturning centuries of Christian teaching about homosexuality, what the Bible says about homosexuals?” Pat Buchanan once asked me in a TV interview. I said something wonderfully nuanced. I should have simply said, “Absolutely.” The Bible and the Church have both been wrong. The Holy Spirit is teaching this to us. Jesus said she would do things like this and we shouldn’t be surprised when she does.
This Diocese, among many others—so many others I may just as well say “this Church”—needs so badly to turn our energy to the healing of our cities, to profound and prophetic action regarding the racism and classism that deny the God-given dignity of millions of our fellow citizens in the richest nation on earth. It is a scandal of monumental—dare I say biblical—proportions what we have allowed to happen on our watch while we have been fiddling with what we imagine to be people’s sex lives. Think of the resources of time, energy and money this church has spent trying to figure out if John Clinton Bradley and I are a danger to the future of the Church and all humankind while the fox of the rich has been raiding the hen house of the poor at will. Oh, that we could summon the same level of outrage about the children who have no health insurance. Oh, that we could convene with such spectacular regularity, special meetings of primates and bishops to speak the Church’s word about the global war on the poor.
This Diocese—with its gracious history of working toward the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in its life—needs to take the lead and say unequivocally that we are over this argument. Not all of us agree. Some of are even outraged by what the majority believes. We accept that as the way we must cling to each other in Christ. But as a Body we believe that neither the Scriptures nor the Tradition of the Church can be used to justify continued discrimination against lesbian and gay people, and there is plenty of precedence in both for us to say the Spirit has led us to this place. Gay and lesbian persons are among us as equal ministers, including in their relationships of commitment. We believe that Jesus has brought us to this place in the power of the Holy Spirit and we are not going back.
It is time for us either to call a truce, in which we remain truly outraged by one another but unable to let go for the common cause of Christ, or it is time for us to let go of one another so that the war may cease. If schism would be a scandal to the world and a betrayal of the Gospel, it is no more so than this current state of open warfare. We are now a scandal and betrayers of the Gospel. We cannot be any more so. The casualties are too great a cost to bear.
My own prayer is that we can remain in mission together even if we are not in communion. And my suspicion is that if we continue in mission together, communion will return. But communion is not going to return by playing the games we are playing with one another now. Perhaps the conservatives are right. We do need to repent. We need to repent of our lack of clarity, about clearly saying where we stand and acting with equal clarity. The truth will set you free, Jesus promises us. It is time for this Diocese and the Episcopal Church to tell the truth and not be ashamed of it. This Church is open to all. There will be no outcasts. We honour and empower faith, hope, and love wherever we find it. We will not hide as shameful things that are not.
If we cannot live with being outraged by one another, than Church, it is time to move on.
The House of Bishops met (with a number of US bishops, particularly from regions bordering Canada) at the end of April 2005. At the end of that meeting, the Canadian bishops issued a statement in response to the Primates writing from Dromatine. The Canadian bishops said, in part:
"On the matter of a moratorium on the authorization of public rites for the blessing of same sex unions, we commit ourselves neither to encourage nor to initiate the use of such rites until General Synod has made a decision on the matter."
This presumably can be interpreted to mean that no new initiatives to bless same-sex unions. Blessings in New Westminster are not new, and Bishop Ingham is very clear that any decision on any moratorium, as requested by the Dromatine communiqué, rests with his diocesan synod.
(The Synod of New Westminster met May 13-14, and decided to place a moratorium on new parishes joining the eight parishes which already bless same-sex unions. There has been no moratorium imposed on the eight parishes, who will be able to continue their ministry to gay / lesbian couples.)
The House of Bishops also went on to reiterate the affirmation of gay and lesbian people in the church, giving thanks for their contribution to the life and witness of the church. In this they were echoing resolutions of General Synod dating back to 1995, and the Dromatine statement when it anathematises victimisation or diminishment of homosexuals.
|In this first of a two part article Archdeacon Paul Feheley, the Primate’s Principal Secretary shares some of his personal reflections on the recently held Primates’ meeting in Northern Ireland|
Charles Dickens begins his book, “A Tale of Two Cites” with the words:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of…”
If those words were true about the French Revolution, they are also most certainly true about the Anglican Communion in the year 2005.
I had the privilege of accompanying our Primate Archbishop Andrew Hutchison to Ireland for the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion held from February 21-25 in Dromantine, Northern Ireland. It was my first visit to Ireland and as the plane was landing in Belfast one could not help but appreciate the beauty of God in creation exhibited by the rolling hills and patchwork quilts of green space. Our meeting place was a Georgian country house on 300 acres of parkland that had been converted into a modern and well-equipped Roman Catholic retreat centre. It is an hour outside of Belfast and the setting includes picturesque woodlands and a pond with a black swan. The Irish are very gracious people and our host Archbishop Robin Eames and his staff were full of Christian love and charity as we arrived and settled in for our week’s work.
The official communiqué talks about the Primates time together as “characterised by generosity of spirit, and a readiness to respect one another’s integrity, with Christian charity and abundant goodwill”. There is truth in that statement, but the road to get there took a number of twists and turns.
There is no doubt that people came with different expectations. Some surely thought this was the end of the Primates’ meetings and probably the Anglican Communion. Would we last all week or would some walk out long before Friday?
In the midst of this tense beginning came a difficult moment when it was announced that some of the Primates would not attend the daily Eucharist.
I must confess that this left me somewhat stunned. I could not understand then (nor do I now) how any Christian can choose not to share in the greatest gift that God has given us- the gift of his very self in bread and wine. How many Christians over the centuries have been prevented from receiving Communion because of war violence or many other reasons and yet here were people, Bishops and Archbishops in the Church of God choosing to stay away. Their argument was centred on the idea that unity of doctrine preceded unity of worship. I could not help but think about two things.
The first was that magnificent passage from The Shape of the Liturgy by Dom Gregory Dix, a liturgical scholar of the Anglican Benedictine Abbey of Nashdom who in the final chapter reflects on Jesus' words "do this in remembrance of me" and asks the haunting question, "Was ever a command so obeyed?"
The second were the Eucharists that I have celebrated over the years for Integrity. We know that we don’t agree but always realised that there is something far more significant than what you or I think on the issue of same sex blessings. It is to see one another as our Beloved’s beloved and to centre our lives around the Lord’s Table that God may feed and teach us.
The community was able to come together for Morning Prayer and Bible Study led by Archbishop Rowan Williams. The Monday and Tuesday sessions were on the Lenten theme of the Three Temptations of Christ. These were extraordinarily well done and left us with many questions to think and ponder as he looked at issues of temptation and power.
After some work on the agenda the formal part of the meetings began and staff were not allowed to attend the sessions. We also ate our meals separately in a dining area adjacent to the larger eating area.
The conversations on Monday and Tuesday were terse, awkward, and at times full of rancour with both sides determined and content with the rightness of their position. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa rightly pointed out: “At the beginning of the meeting I was dismayed to have the impression that many colleagues had come with their minds made up. Positions were entrenched and irreconcilable.”
It was clear that we were in need of a fresh wind from the Spirit and a combination of things occurred to create a way forward. The only time we left Dromantine was on the Tuesday evening when we travelled to Armagh for a service of Evensong with the Bishops of the Church of Ireland, the Roman Catholic Primate of Ireland, and a large gathered community. Archbishop Williams in a wonderful address based on Exodus 19 developed the theme “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests” and stressed the need for friendship, peace and godly love among Christians. The liturgy was followed by a meal that was full of joy, laughter and much conversation.
Had the Archbishops words been heard? Did the Bible study questions begin to take heart? Would there be enough space that the Holy Spirit could enter and breathe new life into the meeting? That is what all of us were asking as the bus rolled into the Retreat Centre with many heading for bed and a few going for a night-cap. One person however found space to be quiet and spent most of the night in prayers and dialogue with God. As the dawn approached on Wednesday a light emerged that brought the hope that Jesus so often spoke about to a circumstance of desperate need.
[to be continued in our next issue]