INTEGRATOR, the newsletter of Integrity in Canada
copyright 2007 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
BUMPY ROAD TO WINNIPEG
General Synod poised to make decisions against a backdrop of Communion unrest and agitation
by Chris Ambidge
STATUS QUO HEIGHTENS "CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE"
Anglican clergy have hard and personal choices to make about marrying members of the flock
by Steve Schuh
BISHOPS PROCLAIM GOOD NEWS IN JESUS CHRIST
from the US House of Bishops, spring 2007
DON'T TAKE THE BIBLE TOO LITERALLY
a very personal viewpoint, as recounted to Nancy Whitla of Toronto
DO NOT SEEK SALVATION FROM THE CHURCH
a quoteable quote
Bumpy road to Winnipeg
General Synod poised to make decisions against a backdrop of Communion unrest and agitation
by Chris Ambidge
There has been a lot of activity in Anglican circles around the world since the last issue of Integrator. We'll attempt to summarise them in this issue, and give a picture of the state of affairs as we prepare for General Synod in Winnipeg in late June.
This has been a very difficult issue of Integrator to put together. These are stressful times for the Anglican Communion, especially for those (like Integrity supporters) who want the church to change current policies, and move towards acceptance of its lesbian and gay members. There is a constant threat of schism hanging over all the discussions: if you change this, the church will break apart (and conversely, if you-liberal-types stop agitating for change, and leave the church as-is, it will stay together). Various events - like the Primates' meeting, the invitation list to Lambeth 2008, and indeed the actions of General Synod this summer , have all been seen as signs of impending schism. It isn't pleasant to sit under the sword of Damocles, and those threats - whether real, or drummed up by one party or another - do not make for the best atmosphere to make decisions in.
The Primates meet in Dar-es-Salaam
First off the block was the meeting of all the primates of the communion in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, in February. The communiqué which came out of this meeting drew a bead on the Episcopal Church USA. They proposed a "pastoral scheme", a method of giving alternative primatial oversight to those dioceses which could not accept the new presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori. The primates also called on the American church to state unequivocally that they would consecrate no further gay/lesbian bishops, or countenance any blessing of same-sex unions, and to make a statement to that effect by 30 September of this year. Unspecified "grave consequences" were threatened in the event of non-compliance to the primatial demands.
In so doing, the primates ventured into the governance of the Episcopal church: they proposed a "pastoral council", the majority of whom would be from outside the USA, who would provide a primatial vicar to substitute in some dioceses for the Presiding Bishop. This would be taking authority away from the General Convention and giving it to outsiders. The insistence that assurances be made that no further gay bishops be consecrated is likewise demanding decisions that only the General Convention can make. GC will not meet again until 2009.
The primates asserted that Lambeth 1998 resolution I.10 is the accepted teaching of the Anglican Communion, and called for all provinces to comply with the Windsor Report process. The primates made excuses for those in their number who go into the USA and Canada and perform episcopal acts - ordaining, supervising parishes - even though the Windsor report (and church councils as far back as Nicaea in the fourth century) call for bishops to remain in their own dioceses and not act uninvited in the dioceses of others.
The Primatial communiqué continues a recent trend that has seen the primates presuming to have authority, collectively, over the communion as a whole. This was seen at Dromantine, where they directed that the Canadian and American churches not attend the Anglican Consultative Council. At Dar-es-Salaam, they made demands of the Episcopal Church with a line-in-the-sand date of 30 September 2007. They make pronouncements about "core doctrine" and "teachings". The primates actually have no authority except as individuals, in their own provinces; but that doesn't seem to prevent them from throwing their weight around.
The actions by the primates was met with anger by Integrity supporters. Michael Hopkins of Integrity USA said "Jesus weeps, and so do I. If [this church] capitulates to these demands and sacrifices gay and lesbian people to the idol of the Instruments of Unity, it will have become the purveyor of an 'anti-Gospel' that will (and should) repel many." Others pointed out "the Primates are saying to the lesbian and gay members of the Body of Christ, 'we have no need of you'. That's not quite how St Paul said the Body functions."
Response of the American House of Bishops
The US House of Bishops met about a month after the Primates issued their communiqué. They rejected in no uncertain terms the "pastoral scheme" proposed to install a primatial vicar. They rejected the ongoing territorial incursions of non-American bishops into US dioceses. And they made an almost creedal statement of the gospel of inclusion that they believe the church is called to proclaim [see article 2007-2-3]. The American bishops were very clear in their commitment to the Anglican Communion, but went on to say that if their commitment to inclusion meant that other parts of the church "reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision."
That last sentence is significant: there has always been an assumption on what we might call the liberal side that everything must be done to maintain the unity of the Communion. This has given the "conservative" side the upper hand, using the threat of schism "if you don't mend your naughty ways." Up until now, such threats have been met with a liberal wringing of hands and, "Oh dear, we mustn't do anything to jeopardise unity". This landmark statement by the American bishops is the first time that threat has instead been answered by, "we don't want separation to happen, but if you really wish to go, then do so."
Meanwhile, back in the Great White North...
Meanwhile, back in Canada, preparations for General Synod continue. While the American church is most clearly in the cross-hairs of the primates' gun, the deadline of 30 September 2007 poses significant issues for us Canadians because, unlike the American General Convention, General Synod will meet well before this coming September. Any decisions made in Winnipeg about same-sex blessings will certainly attract international attention, and (if decided in a gay-positive way) will put the Canadian church downwind of the Primatial muckspreader.
At its March meeting, the Council of General Synod finalised the way that GS will discuss the question of same-sex blessings. The St Michael report from the Primate's Theological Commission , and the motion deferred by GS 2004 (which would give the dioceses local option to bless same-sex unions) have to come before GS 2007. The Council of General Synod, meeting in March, proposed a series of resolutions: (the numbers are from the GS convening circular)
- That this General Synod accept the conclusion of the Primate's Theological Commission's St. Michael Report that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being creedal. (A184)
- That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of The Anglican Church of Canada. (A186)
- That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions. (A187) [this is the motion deferred by GS 2004]
CoGS decided that the best way to proceed was by resolution, which can be accomplished in a single session of GS, as opposed to proposing changes to the canons, which takes at least two sessions of GS and requires a two-thirds majority in all three houses. The ordination of women, and the ratification of the Book of Alternative Services, for instance, were decided by resolution rather than by canon. However, to avoid potential problems of passage by 51%, there is a procedural resolution saying (echoing the actual procedure used in the Diocese of New Westminster) that motions A186 and A187 will pass only if they receive 60% majorities. The procedural decisions have met with opposition in subsequent discussions around the church.
The Canadian House of Bishops
March also saw the Canadian House of Bishops meeting in Niagara Falls. There was some discussion on gay questions, and some proposed a Pastoral Statement. Without enough agenda time to finalise a statement at the time, email discussions led to its release at the beginning of May.
The Statement expressed hope - but only hope - that individuals would not be denied communion, or children would not be denied baptism, because they or their parents were in a same-sex relationship. The bishops suggested intercessory prayers for same-sex civil marriages, but said that any kind of nuptial blessing was not permitted. They finished by saying they would ask this year's General Synod for reports and further study on the questions around same-sex unions, to come back to the 2010 session of General Synod.
Integrity has a great deal of difficulty with the Pastoral Statement. To express some weak "hope" that the sacraments will not be withheld - when bishops could in fact require that baptism and the Eucharist be open to LGBTs and their children, is insufficient "pastoral" care. As it stands, the statement is a slap in the face to lesbian and gay families, relegating us to second-class status in our own church.
To suggest that (yet) more study needs to happen, in time for GS 2010, is, at best, disingenuous. "The statement of the House of Bishops reflects precisely what is not required at this time in the Anglican Church of Canada," said Dr Donald Meen, former president of Integrity Vancouver, and a practising clinical psychologist. "Those who are genuinely interested in study of the issues around the place of gay and lesbian members of this Church have done the work over the past 30 years since the bishops first encouraged us to study this. We had a national study program over a decade ago and numerous diocesan taskforces and discussions. It is disingenuous to suggest that more study is needed."
Indeed, what is being presented as pastoral response seems more an attempt to derail GS debate on the matter, by saying that the bishops want a three-year delay.
To me, as a teacher, this request for delay sounds like the, "I need an extension because I haven't done my homework" excuse. Those who have not done their homework are trying to hold the rest of the church to ransom.
Colin Johnson, bishop of Toronto, a few days after the Pastoral Statement was issued by the House, clarified that in his diocese, no child would be denied baptism, and no adult denied communion based on homosexual orientation or activity. He went on to say, "This accords with the House of Bishops' statement that, 'It is inconsistent and unacceptable to deny baptism to children as a way of imposing discipline on the sexual behaviour of the parents.' " Other bishops were likewise in damage-control mode, clarifying the statement in their own contexts. Integrity believes that it would have been better for the statement not to have been released in the first place, and then damage would not have had to be controlled.
Invited and Outvited
In late May, the first invitations to the 2008 Lambeth Conference were issued. Gene Robinson, the openly gay and partnered bishop of New Hampshire, was pointedly not invited. That snub is shameful. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the person making the invitations, is clearly willing to sacrifice gay and lesbian people to appease the most strident conservative voices. The Lambeth Conference will certainly be talking about gay people in the church, and yet the Archbishop is deliberately excluding the openly gay voice. Once again, leaders in the church talking about gays and lesbians, not with us.
From the other direction, the bishops of Nigeria and Uganda have said that they will not attend if some are not invited too, or if other unacceptable-to-them bishops are at Lambeth.
If there is a silver lining to be found in the cloud, it is that the invitations come before the June meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada at which resolutions about homosexuality will be discussed.
"This certainly takes some of the pressure off the Canadian Church," said Steve Schuh, president of Integrity Vancouver. "We've been threatened for years with the possibility that Canadian bishops might not receive invitations to Lambeth if the Canadian Church failed to uphold the traditional discrimination against gay and lesbian people. The invitation announcement suggests that supporting same-sex unions - as has been done in Vancouver and many dioceses in the USA - is no bar to making the Lambeth Conference guest list."
General Synod delegates will still need to stand up against other bullying tactics and calls for delay if they want to allow parishes to bless covenanted same-sex unions, but now they can discuss same-sex unions and vote their conscience without the threat of exclusion from Lambeth hanging over their heads.
The Winnipeg Synod will have significant impact - no matter what it decides - on the lives of LGBT Anglicans in their church. Please keep the synod, and the Integrity representatives there, in your prayers.
Status quo heightens 'Crisis of Conscience'
by Steve Schuh
As gay-supportive Anglicans hold their breath for General Synod decisions in June - allowing local option for the blessing of same-sex unions and taking the first steps toward inclusive marriage - some Anglican clergy are already counting the cost of the Church's failure to move forward more quickly. They foretell the consequences should Synod decide for the status quo, or worse.
In Saskatoon in January, the Rev Shawn Sanford Beck advised his bishop that he is no longer willing to restrict his pastoral ministry to conform to an "unjust law" and that he would, if asked, bless same-sex unions and officiate at same-sex marriages. "I will no longer discriminate against homosexual people when it comes to the exercise of my priestly duties," the priest stated in an open letter.
Unlike recent cases in which a priest and archbishop quietly participated in same-sex marriage services and later had their license to marry temporarily suspended, Rev. Sanford Beck faced a more severe penalty for stating his intention publicly.
Saskatoon Bishop Rodney Andrews urged the priest to reconsider or lose his license to minister, not just to marry. Not willing to withdraw, Shawn lost his license and then his job as director of a downtown ministry serving aboriginal people. He cannot perform priestly duties without special permission, including within his role as chaplain to Integrity Saskatoon.
Shawn is undeterred, saying that he and his young family accept the consequences of his statement. "As a priest and leader in the church, my complicity in upholding our current law makes me at least partially responsible for the ongoing suffering of LGBTT Christians, and I can no longer take part in that. If my current action helps render visible that which has been made invisible, then I will be happy to bear the consequences. I too will stand 'outside the gate' where so many other queer Christians have been sent."
Like many Anglican clergy and parishes across the country, Sanford Beck is no longer willing to tolerate the Church's unequal treatment of homosexual people. Forced to comply with episcopal directives that prohibit same-sex unions and church canons that restrict marriage - rules many consider unjust, theologically unsound, and pastorally harmful - many Anglicans are finding themselves in a crisis of conscience.
Canon Joyce Sanchez of Montreal's Christ Church Cathedral is one of them. In 2004, shortly after General Synod delayed a decision on blessings for same-sex unions for at least another three years, Joyce was asked to marry a gay couple from the parish. "If it had been only a matter of personal choice I would have gladly presided at this wedding," she later reflected.
But what Joyce believed to be her pastoral duty toward this couple conflicted with the direction of her bishop, so she turned them away. "While I know that I made the only decision I could under the circumstances, I was very unhappy. I felt that I had betrayed my God, this couple, and myself."
Over several months, Joyce agonized over how she could reconcile her beliefs and pastoral commitments with the church's restrictions. She came to a decision in 2005 and announced it before her diocesan synod.
"My license to marry has come to symbolize, to me, the systemic discrimination against gay and lesbian people in our church," she said. "I have struggled with how to retain a sense of personal and pastoral integrity: How can I be faithful to the Good News in Christ as I understand it? How can I live out my baptismal covenant with sincerity? How can I remain true to my ordination vows? After much soul searching I could come to only one conclusion. I feel compelled to return my license to preside at weddings today."
Sanchez later asked her cathedral community to understand that she needed to surrender her license to marry, which had previously been a source of joy, so she could continue to offer other pastoral ministries with integrity. "I needed to return to a place where I could serve my God and our community with an open heart and a clear conscience," she explained.
Both Joyce and Shawn describe their decisions as being rooted in deeply-held theological and pastoral convictions about the inclusion of gay people in the Church. As a matter of personal conscience, they are unwilling to perpetuate discrimination on the Church's behalf.
Unfortunately, the options available to gay-supportive clergy are few, says the Rev Dr Richard Leggett of the Vancouver School of Theology. Clergy, he warns, "may publicly act contrary to the church's discipline and be subject to various sanctions, ranging from the removal of the license to officiate at marriages to the more serious sanction of removing one's license to officiate as a deacon or presbyter in the diocese."
Dr Leggett notes, however, that clergy have sometimes chosen to act quietly, offering private prayers of blessing for same-sex couples, either within the church or a couple's home. "Such private actions might only draw the bishop's censure or, in some cases, benign neglect," he says, echoing media reports that as many as 500 such services occur each year in the Church of England, often with the bishop's tacit approval.
Increasingly, however, gay and lesbian couples and their supportive parishes are offended by the duplicity of covert pastoral care, and many clergy, like Shawn Sanford Beck and Joyce Sanchez, believe their personal integrity, and that of the church, are on the line.
The current restrictions, they say, also hamper the Church's ability to evangelize.
"As a parish pastor with many wonderful gay friends in my congregation, with whom I and my family are very close, it all feels pretty disconnected," says Dean Peter Wall of Niagara, reflecting on the growing disparity between official church policy and public opinion. "It also feels hollow continuing to say supportive things and to preach supportive and inclusive things, and yet being part of a Church which seems incapable of walking the talk."
More than 10 years ago the same concern moved Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster to prohibit his clergy from offering private blessings of same-sex couples and to initiate discussion about a public rite instead. "The double standard in our church compromises our integrity and our credibility," he told a Toronto audience in 1996. "I would like to see us correct this situation for the sake of the Gospel itself."
Ironically, although Bishop Ingham authorized a blessing rite in New Westminster in 2003, the House of Bishops is enforcing a moratorium on public blessings elsewhere in Canada. In their April 2005 response to the Windsor Report, the bishops announced a commitment "neither to encourage nor to initiate the use" of public rites for the blessing of same-sex unions "until General Synod has made a decision on the matter." They have called on the Synod to make a clear statement about same-sex unions at its meeting this June.
It is unclear, however, how bishops will respond if General Synod rejects or further delays pending resolutions. In that event, says Dean Wall, "I think we are in heavy water indeed." The crisis of conscience would widen, and many clergy, parishes, and whole dioceses could be forced into action.
As with recent examples, some clergy would withdraw. "I will do all that I can to convince the Church to move towards the local option [for blessing same-sex unions] and the revision of the marriage canon," pledges Dr Leggett, who is also a member of the General Synod's Faith Worship and Ministry committee. But, he adds, "if the Church says 'no', then I will be required to consider whether I can, in conscience, continue to affirm my ordination promises. If I cannot affirm those promises, then I will retire from the active exercise of presbyteral ministry."
Shawn Sanford Beck suggests, however, that other clergy would be compelled by their conscience into acts of ecclesiastical civil disobedience. "Some of us, straight and gay, will no longer be able to abide the status quo, and we will simply cease to obey an unjust law."
"That reality," he adds, "needs to be part of our church's discernment."
+ + + +
Steve Schuh is President of Integrity Vancouver.
He is also a member of General Synod 2004 and 2007 for the diocese of New Westminster
Bishops Proclaim Good News in Jesus Christ
From the US House of Bishops, spring 2007
It is incumbent upon us as disciples to do our best to follow Jesus in the increasing experience of the leading of the Holy Spirit. We fully understand that others in the Communion believe the same, but we do not believe that Jesus leads us to break our relationships.
We proclaim the Gospel of what God has done and is doing in Christ, of the dignity of every human being, and of justice, compassion, and peace.
We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no male or female, no slave or free.
We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including women, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.
We proclaim the Gospel that in Christ all God's children, including gay and lesbian persons, are full and equal participants in the life of Christ's Church.
We proclaim the Gospel that stands against any violence, including violence done to women and children as well as those who are persecuted because of their differences, often in the name of God.
The Dar es Salaam Communiqué is distressingly silent on this subject. And, contrary to the way the Anglican Communion Network and the American Anglican Council have represented us,
We proclaim a Gospel that welcomes diversity of thought and encourages free and open theological debate as a way of seeking God's truth. If that means that others reject us and communion with us, as some have already done, we must with great regret and sorrow accept their decision.
[The full text of the US House of Bishops' resolutions is here.]
Don't Take The Bible Too Literally
One woman's very personal viewpoint, as recounted by permission by Nancy Whitla, Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto
I was visiting a parishioner who is very ill with cancer. She worked for a number of years as a teacher with First Nations people and was an Associate Bishops' Messenger, with First Nations people in the Diocese of Toronto, and as an active lay person all her life.
She has been very upset with the Bishops' Pastoral Statement of May 1, 2007, but particularly to learn that some children have been refused baptism in the Anglican Church of Canada. She told me that she had been born out-of-wedlock. She attended an Anglican Church as a child and was being prepared for confirmation when she realized that she had never been baptized. She asked her mother to arrange the baptism, and a sensitive Church school teacher priest helped her mother to overcome her fear of disapproval to allow the baptism and confirmation.
She said to me, "You know, I've served the Anglican Church in many ways all my life. If you take the Bible too literally, my mother would have been stoned to death, and I would not have survived."
DO NOT SEEK SALVATION FROM THE CHURCH
[a quoteable quote]
Do not seek salvation from the church, for she has none to give. Salvation comes only from our redeemer Jesus Christ. HIS love and concern you need never doubt. The love and concern of primates for me as a gay man in the church I profoundly doubt at this point.