INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity in Canada
copyright 2006 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
A CHURCH AT WAR
a report on the recent symposium on Anglicans, Homosexuality, and Social Justice,
by Chris Ambidge
INSIDERS AND OUTSIDERS
Reflections on the symposium by participant Brian MacIntyre
LIVING WITHIN THE PARADOX
a condensed version of Canon Douglas Graydon's presentation to the symposium
HOME, OR HOSTILE TERRITORY?
Patti Brace unexpectedly finds that sometimes home doesn't feel like somewhere she belongs
CANADIAN BISHOPS DISASSOCIATE THEMSELVES FROM ACTIONS OF THE NIGERIAN CHURCH
Support for repressive legislation pronounced "anathema"
A Church At War A symposium on Anglicans, Homosexuality and Social Justice
by Chris Ambidge
Integrity members and friends have watched the growing hostilities around the world with growing horror and distaste. While we'd prefer it to be otherwise, most would agree the Anglican Communion is headed for an internal state of war, if it's not there already.
Steven Bates, the religion editor of The Guardian newspaper in the UK, wrote a book entitled A Church at War [reviewed in Integrator 2004 -5-6]. The church of St Philip the Apostle in Toronto brought him to town as keynote speaker in a symposium of the same name on 5 and 6 May 2006. He was joined at the podium by Archbishop Terence Finlay and Canon Douglas Graydon; and by singer David Sereda.
[click photo for large picture]
Most organised discussions in the past have tended to have scriptural or theological takes on the issue, and been careful to bring opposing voices to the table. This symposium took a different approach: it was designed by St Philip's parish to be unapologetically in favour of inclusion, coming at the issue from a social justice perspective. This was a first since 2000, when Holy Trinity sponsored Loving Justice: celebrating queer holiness, and that felt refreshing. The speakers and the audience of 125, at the Church of the Redeemer, were uniformly in favour of inclusion.
Steve Bates spoke from the international angle: as an Englishman and as a Roman Catholic, has an outsider's viewpoint to Canadian Anglicans. He summarised the recent war of words (or more) between conservatives and liberals, the Global South and the more developed West. On the one side African and east Asian churches led by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria with evangelicals in the developed nations. On the other side are liberals in Canada (New Westminster and same-sex blessings, General Synod and "integrity and sanctity" of same-sex couples); America (with gay bishop Gene Robinson); and England (where gay Jeffrey John nearly became bishop, and where, it seems, hundreds of same sex blessings are performed in churches even though official pronouncements forbid them). Bates spoke of "the gay question" being the issue of choice for those evangelicals who want to have more influence in the church, because it unites their quite diverse constituencies, and will bring biblical influence to greater prominence. On the principle of "follow the money", he also talked of conservative forces being well organised and funded by far-right religious foundations.
An Ontario perspective came from Terence Finlay. Early in his episcopate, Jim Ferry's gay partner became the flashpoint for dispute. In retrospect, Finlay said, he got and acted on bad advice. The Bishop's Court trial was painful for all concerned. Ferry's challenge to the system, however, brought the gay question to the front of the agenda for the diocese and much of the national church. Finlay spoke of the ongoing discussions changing his own take on the question, with it moving from a pastoral issue to a justice concern. He related the real progress made in Toronto in building bridges between those of opposing viewpoints, and how he took those insights to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and later to the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission of bishops from all over the spectrum, which looked at how the church could deal with diversity of opinion.
Douglas Graydon, incumbent of St Philip's, brought a very personal perspective. He spoke as a gay priest, of the huge and damaging pressures brought upon people like him forced to live double lives, with sexuality and church lives kept in watertight compartments. He told of relationships that fail for him and others, under the strain of pretence; and on a happier note, of how his current partnership is supported and affirmed by his parish.
The presentations, and the question-and-answer periods afterwards, were times of risk and vulnerability for all concerned. None of us have come through the past years of struggle in the Church unscarred, and the re-telling of the stories – as well as the realisations of where we are today, and concern about where we may be tomorrow – are measures of the investment all participants have in the Church we love. Some may want to leave, and most are growing impatient.
Some spoke of wanting blessings, others of side-stepping that older target and aiming for marriage. Many felt wounded by being discounted, or rejected, by the institution or by individuals in the church. Suggestions were made for apologies, particularly in parallel to the apology made by Archbishop Peers on behalf of the Church for the Native School abuses.
In the question-and-answer periods, the discussions moved to the future. General Synod in 2007 is coming very soon, and participants were urged to organise and be intentional in bringing their message of inclusion to the discussions. As Steven Bates said, "it's up to you where the church in Canada goes.".
Several spoke on reclaiming the term "orthodox" from those who want to use sexuality as a litmus test. They see scriptural fidelity embodied in five or six proof-texts against homosexuals, while the participants see the whole of the biblical story of God's redemption for all.
One participant in the discussion summed up the mood of the conference well: "I’m troubled when people say, 'let's get out of communion and build new one where we’re not always the naughty children.' To that I say no, I'm not leaving. This is my church too. I'm here to stay because I believe we in Canada have a better understanding of the Anglican ethos than those who want to determine who is in and who is out. That decision is not up to us, that’s up to our Redeemer. This is my church: here I struggle, here I plant my soul, and I'm only leaving if I'm pushed out. I'm not going easily."
Insiders and Outsiders
participant Brian MacIntyre reflects on
the Church at War symposium
Most of the people at the conference were "insiders" -- people who have been working for inclusion for many years. Some were outsiders: Steven Bates is not Anglican, but Catholic. He let us know that he had no personal stake or great interest in the matter, it was merely something that had been assigned to him. This gave him a ‘neutral’ perspective – although it was clear which side of the debate he favoured. Then there was the singer/ songwriter David Sereda, one of whose messages was not to remain neutral, there being "no room for Mr In-Between."
What Steven Bates had to say wasn’t entirely new to readers of Integrator or who have been following the ongoing saga of Bishop Akinola, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the wickedly unrepentant churches of ECUSA and Canada. He doesn’t believe the crisis is really about gays, it is about a struggle for power between the conservative/ evangelicals and the liberals. Nor is it necessarily a division between the developing and the developed worlds, but rather wealthy American fundamentalists are provoking the schism for their own ends.
Retired bishop Terence Finlay’s address on Saturday morning proved to be rather more dramatic. He told his story: that of a moderately progressive cleric who, like many other people in the last few decades has become more accepting of lesbigays and more and more opposed to discrimination in any form against us. Except for one regrettable episode. In 1991, a priest in his diocese came out to him as a gay man, seeking his support in an unpleasant parish fracas that had been building up. Bishop Finlay did not know how to handle this situation, and as he puts it, took bad advice. He had Jim Ferry’s licence to serve as a priest suspended. He now regrets that. But that was then, and this is now. How far he has come since then is more important. Towards the end of the speech he informed us that he now supports not just blessings of same-sex unions but same-sex marriage, on the grounds of equality.
Jim Ferry was there, and, in response to Archbishop Finlay, voiced his complaint (as he, more than anyone else present, had a right to do). He was bothered by the inconsistent treatment of priests who came out to their bishop: others in committed relationships retained their licences and their ministry, while he had been suspended and lost his ministry, sentenced to fifteen years in "ecclesiastical prison," as he put it.
I do not recall Bishop Finlay’s answer to Jim’s question, let alone what the exact question was – I don’t think an adequate answer would have been possible.
The Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon of St. Philip's gave us a more positive coming-out story, which is either “luck of the draw” or a sign of genuine progress. It took him a long time to become aware of himself as a gay man, and longer still to be at ease expressing feelings. I was especially moved by his account of ministering to PWA’s at Casey House; how he spent so much time assuring them that God loved them just as they were – that he finally believed it to be true of himself. He had one long-term relationship come to an end, partly because he felt that the relationship had to be kept a secret. He promised himself that if he had to choose between another such relationship and the Church, he’d sacrifice the Church. Another such relationship did come – he was not forced to make the choice. His telling us this was good enough proof of that.
(I overheard a few of his parishioners talking about him after he’d done. “When he preaches, he always seems to be speaking directly to me.” “He’s never told us this much about himself, though.”)
The question-and-answer periods echoed the naturally enormous frustration over the perpetual deferral of full inclusiveness to the next synod or the one after that.
Someone in the audience rather astringently wondered why bishops only get radical after they retire. But that’s actually a good question, isn’t it? It isn’t the person so much as the position, and the position inherently favours either maintaining the status quo, or moving away from it at the speed of molasses. That may have to do with trying to satisfy everybody, or it may have to do with not wanting to alienate completely the people with the money –people perceived to be conservative - money the church as an institution needs to survive - I don’t know. .
I found myself leaving the conference quite impressed with what had gone on but uncertain how much useful had been accomplished. We were sent forth with admonitions to keep up the fight and with hopes that we’d been energised by the weekend to do so. I think I would have been more energised if there had been more focus on the present than on the past. What if they had engaged a gay Nigerian Christian in exile as guest speaker?
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Brian MacIntyre has been treasurer of Integrity/Toronto for years.
He is a member of St John's West Toronto
Living within the Paradox
by Douglas Graydon
This is part of my personal experience of living within a church which seems to be increasingly accepting of homosexual persons while also expressing increasing hostility to people like me.
There lies the paradox, the dysfunction, the secret which everyone has known for years: homosexual people have been a vital, productive and profoundly faithful dynamic within our community of faith, since, I hazard to guess, Jesus send disciples at Pentecost.
I pose the question. How long must we continue to hesitate in embracing who we already are, as a people of faith?
I live within the paradox of a national church where the Diocese of New Westminster has blessed same-sex unions; where the Diocese of the Arctic a human resource policy which prohibits the hiring of homosexual clergy or laity, (or even gay-supportive people); and where Toronto diocesan and General Synods have passed motions affirming the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships.
I live within the paradox of an international faith community’s witness where the 1998 Lambeth Conference passed a resolution upholding traditional understandings of human sexual expression and marriage, yet called upon all Anglican Christians to oppose homophobia and work towards the end of discrimination due to sexual orientation.
In that same resolution, Lambeth assured all baptised Anglicans (regardless of sexual orientation) full pastoral care and membership within the Anglican Church. And yet gay and lesbian people in Nigeria are marginalised and persecuted and the Church of Nigeria supports and promotes repressive government policies.
A few years ago I sat in this parish church, beside my partner, at a lecture given by Bishop Michael Ingham on the struggles in New Westminster around same-sex blessings. At question time, I introduced myself for the first time in a public church forum as a gay cleric and asked if I might ever experience within my working career the opportunity of having my relationship blessed by this, my beloved church.
Bp Ingham responded honestly that he felt I would never experience such a day. I fear he is right.
It took me only a moment to decide to jump up to the microphone. Getting to that day was a much longer journey.
I have always had an appreciation for the divinity of God seen in the beauty of creation which surrounds us. As I grew, I saw that same creative divine presence captured in the Eucharistic meal. I felt, well before I understood, that around the altar, in the Eucharist, all were welcome, all were important. No one was to be turned away.
In mid-teens, I was a shy young man and certainly not then part of the crowd. I did, however, experience acceptance and worthiness at the communion rail of my church: an experience and belief I hold onto to this day.
With nothing more than a feeling of comfort and "being at home" with God, I was ordained into this Diocese in 1982.
I did not realise that I was a homosexual person until well after my ordination to the priesthood. From that day on I began unknowingly - and later quite consciously - to split myself into two persons: that part of me which would try to understand myself as a gay man; and the other part of who I am, the priest who would hide from the church for the next 15 years of his life.
The early 1980s were scary times for me. Everywhere the church was struggling with wider interpretations and understandings of faith and sexuality, from women clergy to divorce. When it came to homosexuality though, the organised church was clear. Homosexuality was contrary to God's will, homosexuals were expected to remain celibate, and homosexual clerics beware!
Gay clergy hid. It was as simple as that. The message, implied and rarely spoken, was clear. If the church (and by this I mean my bishop) found out that I was gay, I might or would face being rejected as a priest.
I was living a life of two solitudes. I had constructed a wall of deception and secrecy between myself and the church, though finding support within a small but growing circle of gay friends.
The disconnect was profound. There was it seemed, insufficient love within the church, which would enable my heart to grow towards its fullest potential. At this time the church was an overwhelmingly toxic place for me to be.
So I fled and became a hospital chaplain, as opposed to a parish priest. Very soon, I found myself at Casey House, the HIV/AIDS hospice.
The tension of my self-imposed two solitudes meant that my partner of that time did not exist in the eyes of the church. Often he and I would part company several blocks away from the Cathedral where we would worship together. I would sit in a prayer desk as honorary assistant; he would be in the congregation as a Cathedral visitor.
By this time in my ministry, Terence (who was my bishop) and I were in a conflicted relationship. I was frustrated at the increasing hesitancy and hypocrisy of the church regarding the issue of homosexuality. Throughout the 1990s, my frustration increased as I watched my church struggling with this issue.
I found myself living within a faith community which on paper embraced gay and lesbian people and their partners as full and equal members of the Anglican Church, except if they wished to have their relationships blessed by the church and except if they were ordained. The inclusive welcoming Eucharistic experience of my youth was disappearing into the politics of a church increasingly concerned with its survival as an international communion.
Relationships collapse and end for many reasons. A contributing factor to the collapse of my first long-term relationship was the additional strain I consciously placed on the it by hiding from the church. I would sit with my fellow Anglicans and listen to stories of family life but when it was my turn, I would speak deceptively and effortlessly, referring unfailingly to “I” … never “we.”
Many homosexual persons become experts in deception like this, carrying within us several personae. Time, place and perceptions of personal safety determine how authentic we are, how open we can be.
As gay men and women fought for their place in the world, at the same time dying horrible deaths, I came to understand myself as worthwhile, as whole. Within the HIV/AIDS community I counselled people to understand they were loved by God for who they were. Over time, I began to believe the same about myself as well. But the weight of all those dyings, the weight of all that societal and faith-based inflicted pain catches up with you eventually.
In the late 90s I realised that the gulf which existed between my church, my faith and my witness as a Christian was so great; it seemed something had to go. And so I decided that, if necessary, what had to go was the church.
The collapse of my first long term relationship taught me that if I was going to have another relationship, if I was going to allow myself to love again, then I could not and would not hide who I was from the church. At the time of that decision, I was single and so it was an easy, almost naive decision to make.
Then I met my partner of now over ten years. That created a crisis of faith. He became the catalyst, which compelled me to choose. Would I choose a relationship or would I choose the church?
Despite my struggles, church is to me foundational as to whom I am, and the home of my faith. Church is, despite the struggles of this issue, where I feel most in harmony with this divinely ordered world we inhabit. It is within the framework of "church" that I feel I can live my faith most fully.
So I fundamentally reframed my world view. I placed my church and my role within it as a priest second to the promise of this new relationship. And I vowed never to hide again.
Since then I have struggled to be who I am within my faith community. Unlike my first relationship, my partner now sits acknowledged in the parish where I work. It causes me anxiety, but I try to talk about my life and share stories of our life with my bishops and colleagues.
For the gay cleric of today, this Diocese is a much more accepting and far less toxic place to be. That does not mean we are anywhere near a just and faithful resolution. Within our Anglican Church and this Diocese, it is still true that to be fully "known" as a homosexual person in the sanctuaries of our churches is to risk rejection. I believe this church community would not tolerate such a state of being for any other kind of person.
I cannot help but despair for the future of this my beloved church. The discord within our Anglican Communion is profound. We are not well as a family of faith. If we as a community cannot tend to the needs of the individual and uphold and celebrate the integrity of human persons, we will be unable to sustain ourselves as a family of God.
Are we, as a people of faith, willing to sacrifice our church, as we currently know it, in order to uphold and celebrate how God has created each and everyone of us? That is the social justice dynamic to this issue.
May we have the boldness of faith to live the witness Jesus desires of all of us.
+ + + +
The Rev Canon Douglas Graydon
is incumbent of the Church of St Philip the Apostle,
and Co-ordinator of Chaplaincy Services for the diocese of Toronto.
This is a portion of his address to the Church at War symposium.
It has been significantly condensed for space reasons.
Home, or Hostile Territory?
Patti Brace unexpectedly finds that sometimes
home doesn't feel like somewhere she belongs
Throughout the storms swirling around the Anglican communion over the past year, I’ve been aware of the fact that, while passionate about the issues and very angry at the actions of parts of our communion, my life teaching in Sudbury is fairly insulated from direct consequences of expressing my views on them. Last spring, I helped make a presentation to CoGS and said my bit on CBC radio without fear of reprisal by either church or state and with the support of my family and friends. In the process of adopting my son, I felt no hesitation about being clear about my sexual orientation with the social worker. When my son was baptised at the Easter Vigil last year in my home parish in the diocese of Niagara, it was a wonderful experience of welcoming in a church family.
As a family, we have been putting down roots in a parish in Sudbury, where I had been sporadically in attendance for the past few years. My son is happily ensconced in Sunday school, with his eye on a server’s alb as soon as he’s old enough, and I joined the choir, although not yet ACW or Mother’s Union. While I’m aware of parishioners with very different perspectives from mine, I trust that we, as Anglicans, can “do polite” reasonably well, not to mention the fact that my boy’s big brown eyes have won him more than a few fans. As well, in the past, I’ve spoken in fairly exposed situations and stood toe-to-toe with some pretty hostile folks and not felt overly threatened.
Then along came January 28th. It was the first confirmation service I’ve been at in Sudbury and the first time I’ve been in close proximity to bishop Ferris, of Algoma, who is quite clear in not wanting to increase inclusion of lesbigay people in the Anglican Church. I had previously only experienced him at a distance over a decade’s worth of General Synods. As I stood in the narthex with the rest of the choir, waiting for the clergy to materialise, I became aware of a rising tide of anxiety that didn’t seem to match the magnitude of the event–I’ve sung at bigger services in bigger places. It escalated when the tall, slightly stooped figure in the mitre loomed in the doorway and drew closer to greet some of the choir members. I found myself quietly backing out of our bishop's line of vision and slightly behind the person ahead of me, more than a little shocked to realise that what I was feeling was fear.
All through what should have been a joyful service, I was on edge, worried about what would be said in the homily, about being noticed in some way, about being on the other end of a stream of vituperation of the sort that I’ve witnessed before. Then I began to consider the messages my son will receive from on high about the value of the family he is working so hard to belong to. That afternoon, nothing was actually said in the service about homosexuals, but messages can certainly be transmitted by means subtler than words.
The whole experience was alienating and disevangelising...and that was without anything actually happening. It really shook my sense of rootedness in my church in ways that nothing else has, and was also a moment when I realised why my son was baptised “at home,” even though it’s a home I haven’t lived in for 20 years. Going by the old saw that “home is where they have to let you in,” this felt more like pitching a tent in the backyard and waiting to be tossed out for trespassing.
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Dr Patti Brace teaches at Laurentian University in Sudbury.
Since adopting her son, she's become a soccer mom
complete with the minivan and the dog.
She's staffed the Integrity display at General Synod several times since 1992.
Canadian bishops disassociate themselves from Nigerian church
Actions of the Church of Nigeria pronounced "anathema"
In March, Integrity wrote to the Primate and to Council of General Synod, asking them to say something about the abuse of human rights in Nigeria as it affects gays and lesbians there. Here is the text of a resolution passed unanimously by the House of Bishops at their regular spring meeting:
"The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada notes with grave concern legislation before the Nigerian parliament that would prohibit or severely restrict the freedom of speech, association, expression, and assembly of gay and lesbian persons in Nigeria. This legislation is inconsistent with the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that recognises these rights as derived from the inherent dignity of the human person.
"The Archbishop and Bishops are especially grieved by the strong and public support for this legislation given by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). Whereas Lambeth 1998 resolution I.10 called on churches to listen to the experience of homosexual persons, the proposed legislation criminalises civil and religious same-sex marriage as well as the public and private expression of same-sex affection, all public affiliation between gay persons, and even publicity, public support, and media reporting of the same. The proposed legislation, endorsed in an official communiqué of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria signed by its Primate, would make the very act of listening to homosexual persons impossible.
"The members of the House of Bishops are in full agreement with the Primates' statement from Dromantine in 2005, that 'The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us.' The Nigerian legislation, and its endorsement by the Church of Nigeria, is indeed anathema to us, and quite at odds with the grace and love given to all human beings in Jesus Christ.
"We therefore disassociate ourselves from the actions of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) that are inconsistent with the Commitments of its bishops made at Lambeth and Dromantine, and we call on Anglicans throughout the Communion to listen and respect the human rights of homosexual persons."
Integrity is pleased that the Canadian House of Bishops has issued so strong a statement, making it clear that they are not joining the rush to the moral low ground which the Church of Nigeria has so vociferously claimed on the issue of gays and lesbians.