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
CHANGING ATTITUDE NIGERIA
a report on two thousand courageous Nigerian Anglican gays and lesbians, just forming a new group
"DEEPEST AND DARKEST" NO MORE
Greg Smith reports on the first year of Integrity / London
NOT JUST WORDS ON PAPER
Bill Morrison reflects on the meaning of same-sex unions for couples in different countries
book review by Bill Morrison
In November, a very courageous group of people called Changing Attitude Nigeria brought together 800 Nigerian gays, lesbians and their friends for their first-ever national conference. This gathering gave the lie to Primate Peter Akinola's oft-stated assertion that there are no homosexuals in Nigeria, and none of them are members of the Anglican church.
"I have not heard of the group, but if there is any such group in this country … they are inconsequential," said another Nigerian archbishop. Even in a country as populous as Nigeria, an organisation with 2000 enrolled is hardly "inconsequential". In light of such a gathering, even Peter Akinola must be embarrassed to continue in his assertions that homosexuality does not exist in his country or his church.
Akinola has often said that homosexuality is a European import to Africa. However, CAN's director Davis MacIyalla said that most members of the meeting were born into the Nigerian Anglican church, and that some of their parents held responsible positions in the church. Mr MacIyalla is quoted in a CAN press release as saying "we are creating a group of lesbian and gay members of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, lay and ordained. We are also prepared to be open and visible within the church with the aim of meeting together to develop ideas, aims and objectives."
This is a courageous act in a country where homosexuality is subject to criminal prosecution, and church leaders refuse to admit that there are any homosexual people with a claim on their pastoral ministry or protection.
"Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are called by God to express their sexuality in living, faithful and committed relationships," said Mr MacIyalla. "Therefore the Church should stop colluding with cultural repression and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in all parts of the world."
We can only hope and pray that the leadership of the Anglican Church in Nigeria can stop denying reality long enough to hear what their own people are saying. After all, this would only be in keeping with the call of the Lambeth Conference 1998 for dialogue between church leadership and gay and lesbian church members.
by Greg Smith
Those of us who find our spiritual home in the Anglican Church of south-western Ontario have heard the rumours: “Deepest, Darkest Huron”. It is a designation for our diocese that has probably been around since the first Irish Anglicans settled in the area and sometimes it has been well-founded. And so, it may come as somewhat of a surprise for some to hear about two recent “happenings”, which may be an indication that we are learning to dance in the darkness and that hope begins again.
In October, as one of the steering group for Integrity London, I was invited to address the weekly community gathering of the Faculty of Theology at Huron University College, which is part of the University of Western Ontario. Having spent many years in and around this faculty, I approached the task with a certain trepidation. Faculties of theology can be places of extremely strong opinions, shored up by a little bit of learning. They are not always nice to people. After presiding at the chapel Eucharist, I gathered with the community over lunch in the “Great Hall”. Then it was time for the program. I took a deep breath and began to tell my story and the reasons for Integrity London now. At the conclusion I was heartened to be thanked with enthusiastic applause and some very good and insightful questions, most of which reflected a sincere desire to begin to foster a different kind of Church, where individuals do not have to keep secrets or disguise themselves. There were one or two who offered to pray for me – without further elaboration – and I will choose to take that as an offer of good will and charity. Further to the event, several individuals from the faculty signed on to the contact list and the Bishop Hallam Theological Society also sent along a contribution to the work of Integrity London. It was another demonstration of how much we tend to literalise the mythologies about ourselves. “Deepest, darkest Huron” is perhaps a metaphor for something waiting to come into the light.
At the December gathering of Integrity London, Bishop Bob Bennett, suffragan Bishop of Huron was our guest. Bishop Bob had asked to come as a guest celebrant for the Eucharist and we extended that by asking him to be the program as well. The steering committee designed a process to evoke statements that individuals would want to say to the Church about themselves. Thirty members of Integrity London were present, representing persons from five worshipping communities in the city and a cross-section of gay, lesbian, straight and transgendered people as young as twenty and as old as sixty-something. There were many good and honest things spoken and heard. One memorable message was that our spirituality is not dependent upon or limited by the Church; that we do not seek or need the Church’s “permission” to be who we are; but we are here and engaged because of what we believe the Church can be and become. It is the moments of genuine inclusion and honouring of persons and integrity that have touched and nurtured us in specific places over the years. It was a call for everyone in the Church to come to the place of our common fragile humanity as the place where God is. We used the wisdom of the “talking stick” to enable the conversation and Bishop Bob sat and listened until it was time for some closing remarks. During the closing we committed among ourselves to become the resource for deeper and authentic conversation in our part of the Church.
Here have been two more points of light. Many would not have expected their possibility, yet they are now a present reality. Perhaps we are heading on our way to “Deepest and darkest” no more!
by Bill Morrison
In all the hype that surrounds the issue of gay marriage and, in Great Britain, same-sex civil partnerships, we need to keep foremost in the awareness of ourselves that this is not a matter of some conceptual "gay agenda", but rather the real lives of real people.
For instance, the teary-eyed couple married in the chapel of CFB Greenwood last May, about whom we wrote in Integrator 2005-4.
For instance, the couple pictured on the cover of the most recent issue of the American Voice of Integrity, who are kneeling at the altar of the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City, having their union of 50 years blessed.
For instance, the first couple to register their civil partnership in England. Because one of the partners was gravely ill and not expected to live until registration ceremonies were regularly available on 21 December, they were allowed, in a rare act of bureaucratic compassion, to have their ceremony on 5 December, the day the legislation came into effect. Within 24 hours, Matthew Roche, who had held on determinedly until the ceremony was over, was dead.
After his partner died, Chris Cramp was interviewed by The Independent.
" 'Over our seven-year relationship we had always discussed marriage. We knew the law was changing at the end of the year. Then, on the 16 November, he said he'd always wanted to get married and that we ought to do it.' [Matthew had been ill since April, and in October was diagnosed with bile-duct cancer.]
" 'He knew he was very ill by then. We knew there was a possibility that Matthew might not have made it to 5 December, so we had a blessing of our commitment to each other in the hospice chapel two weeks before that. It was wonderful.' …
" In spite of the blessing ceremony in November, both men desperately wanted to go through formal proceedings as well before Matthew's health failed him. But the situation looked bleak a week before the date.
" 'He continued to rapidly deteriorate, and he went through a time when he began repeating things for a while. But he was very strong-willed and extremely determined. He was holding on for us. He kept saying to me: "I want to make it." By this time, he was losing more weight and was very weak. …'
" 'I began having doubts about whether he'd make it. Of course, I was hoping he would, mainly because I knew it was his dream. But Matthew was weak and I was worried about what he could take.'
"Matthew's determination didn't waver. …Chris said the 20-minute ceremony left Matthew and himself 'ecstatic'. …
" 'It was not to prove any more love for each other but it was a final commitment, in our own eyes and our families. It was so much more important to us than the signing of a form,' he said. …
" 'For Matthew, it couldn't have been any better. After a brilliant and historic day when we saw ourselves on TV, I switched the light off and I thanked him for making the day so special and thanked him for sharing his life with me, and we both said how much we loved each other and we kissed each other a few times, before we went to sleep. The next morning, he would not wake up.' "
Let the world hear this: we are real people, these are real lives, full of real love and commitment and sacrifice and tragedy --- and blessing.
Book review by Bill Morrison
At a clergy gathering a few years ago the topic of discussion had turned (surprise, surprise) to homosexuals, more specifically whether homosexuals should be ordained. During a break, I said to a group of people around the coffee pot that perhaps we were asking the wrong question. Perhaps, I said, the question should be: How do we deal with the fact that quite a large percentage of those God calls to ordained ministry seem to be gay men and lesbians. One of my colleagues said, with great conviction, “I don’t believe that God does that.” I turned and walked away, and remarked to another colleague who happened to be walking with me, “It’s odd to be told that you don’t exist.”
But gay men and lesbians, it seems, are called to ordained ministry in percentages much higher than their presence in the general population. In Disclosures: Conversations Gay and Spiritual (London: Darton, Longman and Todd; Boston: Cowley Publications, 2005), editor Michael Ford presents interviews he did with 26 such persons. Some of the stories will make you mad, some will make you cry, some will make you cry for joy. All deal, in one way or another, with what the editor several times refers to as “the wound of homosexuality.” I would rather have had more of the blessing of homosexuality: the blessing it brings to individuals, and to the churches within which those individuals minister.
Although the introduction claims that the book is ecumenical in scope, all but two or three of those interviewed are Anglicans or Roman Catholics. The editor suggests that he set out to interview people “on both sides of the Atlantic”; but I was not surprised to find, yet again, that that means “Britain and the United States.” One gets used to the way British and American authors think that theirs are the only Anglican churches in the northern hemisphere: but it still irks.
(Oh, there is one Canadian interviewed — but he has spent his entire ordained ministry in England. Oh, and there diocese of New Westminster gets mentioned — a couple of sentences in nine pages about the Diocese of New Hampshire and the impact events there have had on the Communion.)
This kind of overlooking Canada is something we get used to, as I said. But it is totally unforgivable in a book published in 2005, with an introduction that deals at length with the civil partnership legislation in Great Britain and the various attempts to legalize gay marriage in the United States, that there is not one word about Canada, the only English-speaking north Atlantic country where same-sex marriage has been legalized, and recognized as a constitutional right.
Still, for those who share Michael Ford’s sense that “The connection between ‘being gay’ and ‘feeling called’ is particularly intriguing and mysterious” will find the stories recorded in this book good reading.