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
NOTES FROM A NOTTINGHAM OUTSIDER
Suzanne Lawson reports from the Nottingham Anglican Consultative Council
AND NO DRUM ROLLS, EITHER
General Synod can bring in same-sex blessings without a long delay for a new canon, writes Paul Jennings, one of the authors of the St Michael Report
LIGHT, NIGHT AND A WEDDING
Bill Morrison reports from Nova Scotia, with a same-sex wedding; and from New Brunswick and Integrity's chapter there
PLANTING THE SEEDS OF INTEGRITY
Integrity/Toronto is celebrating 30 years, with much to celebrate, and much still to do.
AKINOLA TAKES AIM AT CHURCH OF ENGLAND
Nigerian reaction to English civil unions spells trouble ahead, says Chris Ambidge
reports from the Nottingham Anglican Consultative Council
We were, not participating members, but members not participating. We sat as observers, as visitors, set apart from the others and not speaking a word! It was a plunge experience in being marginalized.
We were physically separated from the registered members, by several rows in a lecture theatre during sessions, and in set-apart rows in churches for the worship services. We felt we had to ask permission to attend events, trying to be mindful of our roles, and we missed several because they were for registered members only. We were viewed as different; the church press took pictures of us in our separateness. Some members found it difficult to talk with us and so walked by without noticing us. When there was discussion about matters pertaining to our role, we were excluded from the room, standing off by ourselves waiting and waiting for results. Not fun, having people talk about you when you are not there!
So my first new understanding was to begin to grasp (just a little, mind you) the sense of marginalization gays and lesbians have felt for centuries. To be on the edges, to not be there when decisions are made about your role. I think I've usually been sensitive about that, but now am truly aware of how that can feel. And it makes me try to understand others who either are marginalized or feel that they are. I hope to keep on my toes in holding that awareness.
In our roles as listeners, real listeners, we tried to engage in informal talk with others, mostly asking for their opinions, their concerns. Listening when you are not trying to convince a group or an individual is a different kettle of fish from the listening we most often do. Of course, we were not quiet about where we as individual Canadian Anglicans stood, or where our church was in its conversations about homosexuality and homosexual relationships, but that was not our primary task. Indeed, if it had been, we would not have had the rich conversations we did have.
We also had to listen in the sessions to other provinces relating their current positions on homosexuality, some of which were indeed hard for us to hear. While many provinces said "we are not of one mind in our province on this topic" (a position we Canadians can understand well) many took the opportunity to tell stories about how our actions and particularly the actions of ECUSA in ordaining Gene Robinson as bishop, had hurt their evangelism efforts, had made them laughing stocks in public streets, had cost them loss of people in their congregations and parochial schools. Those were not stories I had heard before and it was hard to hear them.
What did I learn from listening?
Now, near Sherwood Forest one expects to encounter forces of darkness. We did. There were clearly operatives there prompting, aiding, and providing words for some of the members. Text messaging is alive and well in the ACC, as is speech-writing and strategizing with these non-members. There was a noticeable presence of the groups that would wish to become the "true" representatives of our churches in the Communion, should we be ousted completely. We are silly to ignore this kind of manipulation, but how and when to name it, and how to respond, is a challenge that will take some careful strategizing indeed on our part.
I'm convinced that we achieve little by demonizing the "opposition". It doesn't feel like Christian behaviour, and, what's more, it doesn't even work! However, we need to be in touch with what we are up against, not simply on the issue of homosexuality, but about Communion, about being together as Christian Anglicans in the kind of church that has allowed us to understand and somehow respect each other even when we disagree.
As you can tell, I'm an active and somewhat outspoken advocate for the full acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church we love. I've been a member of Integrity for years. So, personally I will not change my mind about what I'll support and how I experience the work of the Spirit in our church on this topic.
At the same time, I'm what you might call "an organization woman", someone who has had a life as a senior bureaucrat, even an "ecclesiocrat"! So I must also be thinking and praying about what we can do to keep moving our church with as much togetherness and collaboration as we can. Although it is often deeply painful for many, holding in balance those of differing views and helping them understand each other is, in the long run, vital to the future of the church. I think the leaders of Integrity over the years have shown that commitment so amazingly to others who have not been nearly as committed to listening, discussing, moving at a pace that is acceptable to most. You have "modelled the model" to others.
What should be done now?
I think this is what I must do, this is what we must do as a church. But, where do you find your particular role now as members of the GLBT Anglican community? I cannot presume to tell you, because I do not know. Except that I need to say you have been a beacon, a sign, for many of us in the church we share, of clarity, of prophesy, and of patience. It may have to continue for a while longer as this Anglican mess tries to sort itself out.
I'm left with the vision of the final reception/party in Nottingham Castle (which we could attend because the Bishop of Southwell invited us). When you see the representatives of the whole Anglican Communion in funny little Robin Hood caps, lined up for food, it's an invitation to continue to be among them, silly as we all looked. We may not be able always to have Communion together, but we can be ridiculous together. That counts for something in times like these.
General Synod can bring in same-sex blessings without long delay of an new canon, says one of the St Michael Report's authors
Thank you for your balanced and thoughtful article on the St. Michael Report. As part of the Theological Commission that drafted it, I found both your approval and your concerns useful in trying to understand where the Report is going from here, and how it may be helpful or unhelpful to the Church.
I do, however, have one major concern with the piece: it tends to reinforce the widely-held misapprehension that the Report implies that same- sex blessings must be treated as a matter of canon (and would thus require a two-thirds vote by orders at two consecutive General Synods).
This is an interpretation that I consider disastrous for the Church, and I am disappointed to see it further disseminated in Integrator.
The history of this interpretation of the Report is quite troubling. It arose, I believe, from a written opinion the Chancellor presented to the Council of General Synod at its May meeting, at the same time the Report was presented. The Chancellor finds that, should General Synod accept our opinion that same-sex blessings are a matter of doctrine, the most appropriate way to deal with it would be through canonical change.
But the Chancellor also makes it clear that he is expressing an opinion, and not a formal ruling. His report makes it clear that the question is considerably differentiated and open to opinion: the Declaration of Principles says that doctrinal matters are to be settled by General Synod, and canons on doctrinal matters need a 2/3 majority vote by houses at two General Synods to pass; but it does not state that all doctrinal matters must be handled by canon. As your article mentions, General Synod has in the past dealt with significant doctrinal matters by resolution rather than by canon: the approval of the Book of Alternative Services, the ordination of women, and, one might add, the admission of children to Holy Communion.
In the event, it will be General Synod (should it accept the St. Michael Report's finding) that must determine, by a simple majority vote, whether to require a canonical change on this issue.
Unfortunately, this differentiated opinion of the Chancellor was taken up by a number of sources and passed on as a simple, absolute fact. The press report that appeared on the National Church website stated categorically that this would be the consequence of the Report being adopted by General Synod. This has since been corrected (at my insistence), but the damage has been done: this press report was circulated to the dioceses together with the St. Michael Report, and in many cases I suspect it, and not the Report itself, is what got read. Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster, unfortunately, has also been a vehicle for this misinformation, as in some of his public statements (such as the one you quoted) he accepts and promulgates the view that this will now have to be a canonical matter.
To set the record straight:
1. The St. Michael Report nowhere suggests that same-sex blessings should be dealt with by a change in the canons. We quite intentionally did not make that statement.
2. Nor is that implied by our decision. The constitution of General Synod (the Declaration of Principles) does not say that doctrinal matters must be canonical. General Synod has dealt with other doctrinal matters by simple resolution. The decision on which path to follow is a second decision, separate from the determination of whether or not the issue is doctrinal, which General Synod will make for itself.
3. The Commission was quite conscious of its mandate and vocation as a "theological" commission. Our opinion that same-sex blessings are doctrinal is a theological, not a canonical opinion. We consider the issue to be doctrinal in that it is connected with a number of fundamental Christian teachings, and that any change we might make has to take place in the context of a common theological reflection on these connections.
4. The Commission's call for "intentional, deep, prayerful listening" is an attempt to move the discussion beyond rhetorical manipulation and power struggles to an open and common discernment. Any attempt to reduce the Report's finding to a political tool (such as by "raising the bar" through procedural manoeuvring) is profoundly counter to the intention and spirit of the Report.
5. The Report is clear that any action on this matter should be accompanied by theological reflection and discernment. It also states that action does not necessarily follow a completed process of discernment; but that action and reflection often occur simultaneously (para. 12). Therefore, one cannot use the Report's finding to justify an indefinite delay on any movement on same-sex blessings until some future day when all things will be clear.
None of this is to imply that the Report is anywhere near perfect. It is a consensus document, not the Report that any one member of the Commission would have liked to have written. However, I hope I have made it clear that some of the assumptions made about the Report's implications are unwarranted and ignore some of the careful distinctions we have attempted to make.
In particular, I hope that we can begin to put the brakes on the rumour that the Report implies that same-sex blessings should be handled as a canonical matter.
Canon Paul Jennings
Director of Pastoral Studies
Montreal Diocesan Theological College
|In June, Integrator associate editor Bill Morrison spent some time in the Maritimes.
Here are a couple of reflections from his travel diary.
When I arrived at the home of Lt. Commander the Rev. David Greenwood, chaplain to 14 Wing at CFB Greenwood in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, David was on the phone. He was being interviewed, Cynthia told me, by CBC Halifax, about "the wedding."
The wedding in question was that of Sgt. Gerald Frampton and Warrant Officer Paul De Serres, the first same-sex couple to be married in a Canadian Forces chapel. The wedding had taken place in early May, but it was only now, in mid-June, that the press had got wind of it. The story made a small flurry on newscasts across Canada, and quickly disappeared. It obviously didn't generate much interest.
I was in the Maritimes for the Anglican Editors Association annual conference in Halifax, and had taken a few days to tour the area. David and Cynthia were old friends from when they lived in Victoria, and I arranged to spend a night with them.
When we were talking about my pending visit, David wondered if, as associate editor of Integrator, I would be interested in meeting the couple. It was the first I had heard of the wedding. Of course I would be very interested. As it turned out one of the men had been transferred to another base the day I arrived, and the other was out on a search and rescue mission, so I did not meet them.
But I heard a lot about the wedding. When the couple approached David to talk about being married, the Canadian Forces chaplaincy already had guidelines in place for responding to such a request: "All people who come to the chaplains and the chapels of the Canadian Forces, without exception, are to be accorded respect and dignity. In the specific case of a same-sex couple coming to ... request a blessing of their partnership/marriage this fundamental respect is to be assumed."
The respect David accorded Sgt Frampton and W/O De Serres was, it must be said, a wholeheartedly supportive respect, the dignity enthusiastic. David was totally involved in every aspect of the wedding, except the actual conduct of the service which he, as an Anglican priest, was not able to do. A local United Church minister presided at the service, for which the couple's children "stood up" with their fathers as the official witnesses, read the scripture, and led the prayers. David prepared the service, read the Gospel, preached the sermon, and led the rehearsal.
This included the traditional Anglican practice of the officiant wrapping the stole around the couple's joined hands with the words "I declare them to be married." This was unfamiliar to the United Church minister, and when there was an awkward pause at that moment during the actual service, David moved forward to see what the problem was. It wasn't a problem. The two men were in tears, overwhelmed, as they said later, to be there, kneeling, with those words just said over them, a holy moment.
I HAD COME BACK to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick. The whole crossing of the Bay of Fundy from Saint John to Digby had been in dense fog; but I drove off the ferry directly into brilliant sunshine. And indeed, coming to Nova Scotia from New Brunswick was like escaping from night and coming back to the light.
I stayed with my friends Ana and David Watts in Fredericton, and visited the fledgling Integrity chapter. This was just after the Fredericton diocesan synod, deep in denial and denunciation of homosexual orientation and love, had debased itself by resuscitating the word "sodomy." The Integrity chapter had wisely decided to maintain its "low profile" stance; and Ana, who edits the New Brunswick Anglican, was facing more calls to suppress any mention of Integrity events.
Integrity Fredericton happened to be having a BBQ the day I was there, a delightful if somewhat shell-shocked group of people who were wonderfully hospitable, a little incredulous that there were really were parts of the Anglican Church of Canada that weren't homophobic.
The fog lifted in Nova Scotia. It wasn't only the wedding at CFB Greenwood, or the enthusiasm with which David greeted the opportunity and the delight he took in telling the story. The B&B where the Greenwoods put me up is owned by a gay couple, one of whom is warden in his local Anglican church. There were stories of ministries to persons with AIDS, and of gay folk being welcomed and their ministries affirmed in churches all over the province.
It remains to be seen if New Brunswick's joining most of the rest of Canada in recognising same sex marriage will kindle any light in the ecclesiastical darkness there.
The Integrity movement got started in 1974, when Louie Crew began a newsletter for gay and lesbian Episcopalians in the US. Next year, there was a convention in Chicago for those interested. Six people from Canada, not knowing each other, went there independently and met at the conference. They decided to form a Canadian chapter, and it was in the parish hall of St James' Cathedral Chicago that Integrity/Toronto was founded. The first meetings were in the autumn of 1975.
That was thirty years ago. Integrity has worked for three decades for full inclusion of lesbian/gay/bi/trans people in the Anglican church, and to proclaim the good news within the LGBT community. Much progress has been made towards greater inclusion, both in the church and in secular society, since 1975. There's still a lot of work to do.
On October 17 Integrity will be celebrating the past thirty years, and looking forward to the future. The Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, will be celebrant and preacher at our anniversary celebrations.
If you can be present, please join the cloud of witnesses at the Church of the Redeemer. If you cannot be with us in body, please join us in prayer. Send greetings by way of email or regular mail (Box 873 Station F Toronto M4Y 2N9) and we'll circulate them at the church on October 17.
Glory to God, who has brought us this far, and will be with us as we continue our work.
By Chris Ambidge
The Church of England's policy on homosexuals in the church was articulated in Issues in Human Sexuality in 1991. This document, from the English house of bishops, rather grudgingly acknowledges that stable same-sex relationships are acceptable for lay people, but they are not for the clergy.
"...while the same standards apply to all, the Church does not want to exclude from its fellowship those lay people of gay or lesbian orientation who, in conscience, were unable to accept that a life of sexual abstinence was required of them and instead chose to enter into a faithful, committed relationship."
Nevertheless, because of "the distinctive nature of their calling, status and consecration" the clergy "cannot claim the liberty to enter into sexually active homophile relationships".
A number of people thought that this double standard, asking the clergy to be somehow "more moral" than the laity, was logically and morally untenable. In July 2002, Rowan Williams, at that point Archbishop of Wales, said as much: "If the Church's mind is that homosexual behaviour is intrinsically sinful, then it is intrinsically sinful for everyone. It is that unwillingness to come clean that can't last. It is a contradiction."
However, that double standard continues to be Church of England policy to this day, and it is now coming back to haunt them.
Just as in Canada, secular society in the UK is moving faster than the churches. Legislation was passed by the Westminster parliament last year, and on 5 December 2005, the Civil Partnerships Act will come into force. This legislation allows for same-sex couples to register as such and claim many of the benefits that accrue to married couples. What will this mean for the Church of England, where there are more than a few clergy with same-sex partners? The Civil Partnerships Act applies to them, and the CofE, as state church, is even less able to dodge the implications of the law than other denominations.
Their House of Bishops came up with a pastoral statement in July 2005 dealing with the Act. It reaffirmed approval of the opposite-sex definition of marriage, and said it would be inappropriate for clergy to bless those who register a civil partnership. While lay people can be in civil partnerships (probably-but not necessarily-sexual in nature), can be in the pews, and can even have their children baptised, what to do with clergy who register same-sex civil partnerships? The policy from 1991 for clergy continues, and so they need to assure their bishops that the relationship is not sexual in nature. Priests can have partners of the same gender, but they can't have sex with them.
Many were incredulous or amused by this statement, though it is the logical product of the 1991 policy, and the 2005 legislation. Several gay priests in England have said that they will register their partnerships, and have no intention of giving the assurances that the House of Bishops want.
The statement has not gone unnoticed outside the UK either. Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria, has been particularly scathing. He says that the Church of England is clearly endorsing homosexual relationships, and dismisses as ludicrous the asked-for assurances that the partnerships are not sexual in nature. He then goes on to suggest that the Church of England, like the Anglican churches in North America, should be expelled from the Anglican Communion for this un-biblical behaviour.
Leaving aside the paradox of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the first "instrument of unity" in the Anglican Communion being out of communion with himself as Primate of All England, this looks like a line in the sand that Nigeria is drawing. With an Act of Parliament coming into force, and priests about to take advantage of it on one hand; and the Global South behind their mouthpiece Archbishop Akinola on the other, Lambeth appears to be in an untenable position.
It remains to be seen what will happen come December. One observer in ECUSA wryly observed that it will be amusing to see the fireworks, where it's someone other than a North American church being the pyrotechnics. Perhaps it is time that the Church of England did feel the heat -- Canada has been pilloried for the sum total of 17 same-sex blessings in New Westminster, while hundreds have been happening quietly in England, not drawing the ire of the Global South.
The Anglican Communion may be unable to deal with this latest division, and rend asunder. Archbishop Akinola has recently published his views on homosexuals in the church -- they're not surprising, but he is explicit in saying that his view of homosexuality being sinful and incompatible with Christianity is not negotiable. The legislation in the UK is likewise not going to change. As positions crystallise, those negotiating and hoping for dialogue are left with less and less room to move, and dialogue becomes less and less possible. Fasten your seatbelts, this bumpy is going to get even bumpier.