Sunday, 3 August 2008

Inclusive Communion

Activity at Lambeth is all very well, but where do we go from here? Well, the groups represented in the Inclusive Church group put our heads together towards the end of our time in Canterbury, and realised that we needed to keep moving, building on the work done here. We came up with this:
_____________________

Press Release
2 August 2008

LGBT ANGLICANS RECOMMIT TO MUTUAL SUPPORT AND GLOBAL MISSION

CANTERBURY, UK — Leaders of seven lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Anglican organizations met yesterday as the Lambeth Conference drew to a close.

We recommitted ourselves to the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life and ministry of the churches of the Anglican Communion.

We promised to redouble our efforts to work for the human rights of LGBT people around the world that they might live free of violence and discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We resolved to develop and distribute additional educational resources for church leaders and civil authorities related to theology and sexuality issues.

We pledged to continue promoting and supporting the Anglican Communion Listening Process.

We recommitted ourselves to supporting each other's intra-provincial work and to helping our LGBT Anglican sisters and brothers around the world develop ministries of support and witness.

We agreed to form an umbrella organization named "Inclusive Communion" to facilitate our cooperative efforts.

We planned to convene a worldwide summit of LGBT Anglicans in the near future to build on the cooperative ministry and witness begun during this Lambeth Conference.

We invite other LGBT Anglican organizations to join us in this mission and to affiliate with Inclusive Communion by sending an email message to add@inclusivecommunion.net

Changing Attitude Nigeria: Davis Mac-Iyalla
Changing Attitude: Colin Coward & Max Manin
Claiming the Blessing: Cynthia Black
Integrity Canada: Steve Schuh & Chris Ambidge
Integrity Uganda: Christopher Senyonjo
IntegrityUSA: Caro Hall & John Clinton Bradley
Other Sheep East Africa: Michael Kimindu

posted by Chris

Pictures of Us



Class Picture of [most of] the Inclusive Church folks at Lambeth


With the Canadians identified: back row - Chris, Neil and Steve; next row - Ron; front row - Bob.
Photo credit: Cynthia Black (front row, right hand end - blue lanyard, she's Press)


The 5 Integrity Canada people, at our last meeting Friday night
before: Bob, Neil, Ron, Steve; behind: Chris

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig (well, maybe not that fast, 10am UK time to 11pm Toronto time), and I've now got some photos of us ready to post, to put faces to the writing.

Steve mentioned the Friday evening party at St Stephen's parish hall, for those of us who were supporting/staffing the Inclusive Church initiative, and most of us were able to be there. While there, a "class photo" was taken, and that's above (with a key to help you find the Canajuns).

After that party, the five of us adjourned to the Beverlie (the pub 100 metres away) to do some initial reflection amongst ourselves on our presence, as Canadians, at the 2008 Lambeth Conference. We also began thinking of the next steps once we get back to the Great White North. I'm spozed to write up some of the notes, and we'll do some conference call consulting, and get back to you all.

As I key this in, the final service is underway in Canterbury Cathedral. I'm not sure what the bishops did on the last couple of days. A few further reactions and reporting will appear soon - even though we've dispersed from Canterbury physically, the conference isn't quite finished.

Chris

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Wrapping up

On Friday evening many of those gathered in Canterbury as part of the LGBT Anglican witness gathered for a "drinks party" and BBQ before many of our number had to leave for home. It's been a very full two weeks, and we had much to celebrate, not the least being many new friendships and a developing network of LGBT Anglicans around the world.

The bishops are continuing to meet through Sunday in bible study, indaba, and hearing sessions as they finalize the reflections document that is intended to be (so we hear) the primary product for their conference. There are also several more press briefings, so anything could still happen. The general feeling, however, is that it's too late for any significant effort to derail or abort the process.

Since our accommodation was only booked through today, most of the Canadian team is heading to the train station in the next few hours. We'll be breaking-down the Marketplace stall this evening, and I'll stick around through Monday to report any late-breaking developments. The prayers and well-wishes of Integrity friends at home are still most welcome ... we have sensed your support and encouragement from the start and are so thankful for them! Thank you!

Steve Schuh

Friday, 1 August 2008

Rivers of Bishops

The ubiquity and interchangeableness of the bishops swarming the fields of Kent University in their matching florid mauve shirts remind me for all the world of the oompah-loompahs from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This reminiscence first came to mind as Steve Schuh, Bob Webster, and I waited to talk to Canadian bishops as they left their Thursday indaba groups. As we stood in the foyer of the Keynes Building, where the bishops were meeting, all of a sudden they started flooding from their rooms - ripples of purple streaming through the hallways like salmon on their way to their spawning grounds.

All joking aside, the three of us had excellent conversations with a dozen of our bishops, as well as a couple of Americans. Obviously, I won't repeat the discussions here or they'll never talk to me (frankly) again; but I think it is fair to characterise their dispositions as positive. The bishops genuinely seem to be making an effort, by and large, to listen to one another - to be patient, tolerant, and forebearing. The feedback I have heard from my American and British colleagues has confirmed the impression left by our own bishops. This Lambeth Conference may be one of those rarest of international Anglican gatherings - one in which everyone leaves feeling warm and fuzzy.

Thursday evening, I went to a talk given by Dr. Richard Burridge, Dean of King's College, London. He gave an excellent presentation comparing and contrasting the debates over slavery, apartheid, and sexuality in the Christian community. His argument was not that these debates were interchangeable, but rather that the same strategies and claims with respect to biblical authority by both sides have been used in all three instances. Specifically, those who argued in defence of slavery and apartheid relied on clear biblical texts and solid exegesis in defence of their positions, and accused their opponents of undermining the authority of the bible through adopting secular innovations.

The discussion following the presentation was equally illuminating. The first audience member to speak, a bishop from India, pointed out that even discussing sexuality in his culture was taboo. Given this, he asked what "the west" was "prepared to sacrifice" in order to respond to realities such as this. The most cogent and moving responses actually came from another audience member, likewise an Indian bishop, who said that perhaps the real problem was the taboo in discussing sexuality, especially given the largely undiscussed problem of the abuse and exploitation of girls and women in that country. He challenged his colleagues to take the lead in breaking the taboo. Another audience member, a priest from Uganda, talked of his courageous ministry to gays and lesbians in Kampala; for which he was removed from his parish post. He identified the problem as one of theological education in Africa, and challenged North Americans and Europeans to offer themselves as educators of those seeking a deeper understanding of the scriptures in the poorer nations of the world.

As I prepare to pack my bags and leave Canterbury, I am grateful to Integrity Canada for the unparalleled opportunity to be at an important international Anglican gathering at this vital time in our Communion (come to think of it, it always seems to be a vital time for important meetings in our Communion!). I take back with me a renewed energy and focus for full inclusion, in the context of a truly comprehensive Anglican Church.

Neil Fernyhough

Sex Day At Lambeth

Yesterday, 31 July, was "sex day" at Lambeth: the bishops finally got to talk about the sexuality issues. The question for discussion in the Indaba groups was phrased carefully (here I'm paraphrasing) "how have the current questions about human sexuality affected your ministry as a bishop" -- not leading directly to the duelling biblical quotes, but rather asking for reflections on their ministry as Bishops.

Integrity people have spoken to many bishops since the Indaba discussions, and the consensus is positive. The discussions were difficult, but respectful; and opposing points-of-view were heard. And by "heard", I mean really listened to, not "spoken into the room, not necessarily picked up by others".

There are still differences of opinion and perspective, of course; but I think, among the bishops participating, there is greater understanding of their own "side", and greater appreciation of other "sides".

One bishop from Canada described to me his own group discussion: they were going around the circle, either speaking or pass-ing; and then one bishop from India somewhere, sitting next to my friend, spoke (without the "turn" coming around the circle to him), very strongly and very conservatively, how he could not accept ordination of women, and and and; quoting scripture at length (in case the other bishops hadn't heard those verses). The around-the-circle contributions continued, and then it came to my Canadian friend's turn. He spoke his bit, from the inclusive angle that Integrity would appreciate, and then his (USA) neighbour (and person next to the Indian bishop) spoke, building on the statement of my friend. After the end of the Indaba discussion, this same Indian bishop came to the two North Americans "thank you, I have heard what you have been saying". He may have said "agree", I can't remember. Either way, it's evidence that the bishops are listening to each other, and that was the whole point.

There will be no motions and resolutions coming out of this Lambeth. So, 1998 resolution I.10 won't be slammed at us again (at least, not with the force of a resolution). And that can only be good.

Today's issue is going to be the Windsor Continuation Group (ie pushing of the Covenant) in the Indaba groups, and that might not be good. But yesterday's sex discussions seems to have gone well, I think.

Chris

Lambeth Drama - part 2

Bob reported that, at the first performance of Seven Passages, a number of people got up and walked out mid-performance.

Well, there is a happy follow-up. Last night, at the second performance, three of those people came back and sat through the whole performance.

The Spirit moves in a mysterious way, her wonders to perform.

Chris, who just got this information from Cynthia, who was at both performances

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Lambeth Drama

Last night one of the Drama events presented was called 'Seven Passages' based on the clobber verses in the bible and the words of over 100 people who were interviewed about their 'passages' in coming to terms with their sexuality as Gay or Lesbian Christians. 7 young actors did a wonderful job of portraying the struggles, joys and sorrows of these issues. Both the writing and the acting were spot on and identified every stage of my, and I'm sure most G/L Christians, journey toward wholeness in Christ.

Unfortunately, about half way through, 6 people who appeared to be from Africa walked out. I asked the actors and writer after the play how that affected them and they said of course it was hurtful but was also the first time it had ever happened in all the times they've produced it. Sad, but as it has been said here, if you're not prepared to listen you can't have a conversation.

Today is the sex talk day for the bishops so we will undoubtedly be hearing considerable comment about that. so far the little that has trickled out has been positive.

Thank you all for your prayers, and don't stop now!

Blessings,
Bob

Costly Generosity

An article from today's Lambeth Witness from Neil and Steve:

In his second presidential address, Archbishop Rowan Williams called people on differing sides of the current debate to a place of “mutual generosity” rooted in their shared commitment to Jesus Christ. The cost of this generosity for the “not so traditional believer,” he stated, might be bearing up under “accusations of sacrificing the needs of an oppressed group for the sake of a false or delusional unity.”

In Canada, the Archbishop’s imagined accusations are not hypothetical but real and immediate. The cost of compromise is abandonment of ministry that is already taking place.

It seems that the Archbishop is asking parishes in the Diocese of New Westminster that currently offer canonically-authorised blessings of same-sex relationships to withdraw from that ministry. Several other Canadian dioceses are also very near to concluding their synodical processes and stand poised to affirm blessings; the Archbishop is asking these dioceses to cease and desist.

In other words, the hand of pastoral care currently being extended in good faith to Canadian LGBT Christians is to be snatched back. The Archbishop is suggesting that the entire Canadian church abandon its decades-long process of pastoral discernment which, ironically, was encouraged by Lambeth Conferences since 1978.

This costly generosity might seem reasonable – as it apparently does for Archbishop Rowan – if one fails to connect the actions of progressive bishops with the needs of people in their care. What was missing from the Archbishop’s address was any reflection on the actual needs of LGBT Christians. He seems to understand the sympathetic convictions of bishops who wish to move forward, but he seems not to understand that their actions are connected to real people with real needs.

It is reported that clergy in some other provinces bless same-sex unions regularly, though quietly (sometimes) and unofficially. Their unholy hypocrisy will now be rewarded – any moratorium will not apply to them. The Canadian Church, which has been honest and transparent about its process and intentions, will now bear the brunt of the Communion’s displeasure, the target of such retrograde attitudes as are maintained by the WCG report.

Canadians therefore wait with hope for words of encouragement from the Lambeth Conference concerning the pastoral care of LGBT Christians. The generosity that some are asking for is unreasonably expensive – what they are asking for is the sacrifice of our integrity.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The Other Gay Bishop


Chris and Bishop Terry Brown, at the Inclusive Church display

I just ran across this in another blog, but having posted here about Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita, I thought our readers would be interested too. Terry was for years Asia-Pacific person for the (Canadian) Primate's World Relief and Development Fund.

[From Bishop Alan Wilson's blog
http://bishopalan.blogspot.com/2008/07/wisdom-of-solomons.html ]


Still searching for the pick of original voices to inform our thinking, I came across an engaging and interesting contribtion by Terry Brown, Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, to the Hearing on Lambeth Reflections Draft, yesterday. This province has seen martyrs this century, seven Melanesian brothers killed by a sectarian warlord in 2003. This province has a consistent and honourable record of Christian witness and maryrdom, going back to Bishop Patteson. +Terry says:

== == == ==

I was confirmed in The Episcopal Church, by a black bishop of Massachusetts. I was made deacon and ordained a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada, in the diocese of Fredericton, a Loyalist diocese, by a bishop whose ancestors ran away from the American Revolution because they distrusted liberalism, political and otherwise.

I was consecrated a bishop in the Church of the Province of Melanesia, a global south diocese, where all the Millennium Development Goals score about 3 out of 10, even though we are great dancers.

And to make matters worse, my own sexuality is "dodgy". I live in and am a part of all four worlds -- The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church of Melanesia and the pained world of gay and lesbian laity, deacons, priests and bishops. Yet I am a bishop of a diocese that is full of life and has had much growth. In my last 12 years as bishop, I have confirmed 10,000 candidates. The diocese is deeply involved in evangelism, education, medical work, liturgy and peace and reconciliation.

My life as a bishop in all four worlds is possible only because of my faith in Jesus Christ. I had a conversion experience in which I felt deeply loved by God. That, the Eucharist, the life of Christian friendship and community, and Scripture, have sustained me through thick and thin.

From my perspective, do I have any suggestions for the text of the final Reflection?

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.” There are many other competing kingdoms, do not bow to them.

As much as is in you, try to maintain communion and friendship with all, whether inside or outside the church, however deep the disagreement.

Reject the Puritan option. We are Anglicans, not Puritans.

Exercise restraint and urge others to do so, whether locally or globally. Not everything has to be said or written about.

Be very careful in using typologies to classify people, theologies and churches. We are all the children of God, redeemed, with all of creation, by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

If you have not done so, accept all the gay and lesbian people in your midst, in all their complexity, pain and celebration.

Finally, let the conversations (even debate) continue. Television has finally come to the Solomon Islands, so we now have the privilege of seeing BBC interview both Gene Robinson and Greg Venables. In our case, I do not think the church will thereby collapse. But in other situations, that may not be the case, and the endless talking to the media of both may be destructive. That is my final suggestion -- remember that whatever you say publicly in this wired age, will go to every corner of the world. Honesty and prudence are both Christian virtues. We need to learn to balance them.

== == == == end == == == ==

posted by Chris

More on Dr Jenny Te Paa


Jenny Te Paa, Caro Hall, Neil, Bob, in the nave of St Stephen's, Canterbury

The 4pm "Alongside at Lambeth" presentations (as organised by the Inclusive Church chaplain, Caro Hall of Integrity USA) in St Stephen's have been one of the best events for those of us on the Lambeth fringes. There's usually ten or so people at 4pm, but the numbers tend to grow in the next few minutes, and today we ended up with just under 30 people for Dr Jenny Te Paa.

Neil has already summarised a lot of what was good in Jenny's presentation. I wanted to add (along with the photo) my favourite line from her this afternoon: "we need to get rid of the cultural cringe". This is where one individual is talking to someone from a different culture, and they say something that you find outrageous, or just plain wrong. There is a certain tendency to cringe away from calling their statement for what they are, and just make non-committal conversational noises, "oh how interesting" or something like that. She urged us, if we hear something that is at odds with our perception of the world, to call the statement for what it is, and not cringe away. "That is your truth", she said. "You don't want to be nasty or hurtful or boorish, but do speak from your own perceptions, and don't be afraid to contradict people." Cultural cringe has certainly happened in the West with some vociferous bishops, and we need to stop it.

Or to quote Stephen Bates from a couple of years ago, at that point Religion Editor of the Guardian: "why is it that no-one has told Peter Akinola that he's a bigot. Is it because he's black?"

So: No.More.Cultural.Cringing.

Chris Ambidge





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"End the madness!"

The ups and downs of the past several days in Canterbury have been almost nauseatingly abrupt, like a midway ride out of control. First came the intense anger and disappointment of the Windsor Continuation Group report; about which we reported on below. Then came the Archbishop of Canterbury's second presidential address, which offered real reasons for hope and understanding. Today, further reflection on the address - what wasn't said, as well as what was - has led to renewed anxieties about the future of pastoral care for Canadian LGBT Christians.

Whether or not these anxieties are shared by Canadian bishops here is a matter of speculation, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were. After all, Dr. Williams' comments explicitly painted the issue as one of "sexual ethics," pointedly avoiding any mention of the extra-provincial incursions, which are acting like a knife attempting to cut parishes out of their home dioceses. He also made a point of reiterating his support for an Anglican covenant - and it is more and more apparant that his notion of a covenant is one which includes punishments for those dioceses and provinces which refuse to toe some extra-provincial doctrinal line.

Today I heard an address by Dr. Jenny Te Pa, a former member of the Lambeth Commission, which produced the Windsor Report. About the Windsor Continuation Group, she described their recommendations as coming "out of left field," and asked, "How can you continue something and not even be in conversation with the people who started it?" And about the whole debate in general, she characterised it as not being about sexuality at all, but about "who gets to be the pope of the Anglican Communion." She stressed that the best way to confront "bully bishops" was to "call their bluff," otherwise what she called the Communion's current "tribal politics" would continue.

Perhaps what resonated most with me from Dr. Te Pa's remarks was her obvious exasperation and sorrow over the amount of energy and resources that have been poured into this debate, diverting us from the real mission and ministry of the Church, and thus undermining our credibility in the world. "We just need to end the madness," she said of this protracted debate. "Let's just agree we're all God's children, our baptisms are all valid, and get on with it!" I, too, am often sick at heart with the way our Church has enabled parochial (and I use that in both senses of the word) insularity; and a substitution of power politics for real ministry. There have been times I've been tempted to say, "I don't want to be a member of this debating club anymore," and find some other outlet for my energy and time in what remaining years God may grant me.

The fact is, though, that what we are talking about is not, indeed sexuality - nor even who wants to be the pope of the Anglican Communion. What we struggle and strive for is the full inclusion of the most vulnerable, the most outcast, the most oppressed. Not simply gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people - but the woman beaten, raped, and outcast from her community; the child dying from a disease that could be cured by a simple drug; the religious or political minority imprisoned and tortured. If we sacrifice one person because of who they are, what they experience, or what they believe, we are defying the teachings and commission of Jesus; and making unclean what God has made clean.

Neil Fernyhough

Affirming Anglican Identity

The following is the text of an article printed in The Lambeth Witness, the daily newsletter of the Inclusive Church Network.

AFFIRMING ANGLICAN IDENTITY - A CANADIAN PERSPECTIVE

The coming together of inclusive Anglican groups in Canterbury has been an amazing testimony to the cooperation that has emerged in pursuit of a shared goal. That goal includes the specific concerns about full inclusion, but now also includes a broader concern – one which has been feeding the crisis in our Communion. That concern is the attack on the orthodox and comprehensive tradition of Anglicanism by those seeking to remake our Communion into a confessional church.

It has been encouraging to see the emergence of organisations – Inclusive Church in the UK and the Chicago Consultation in the US - dedicated to addressing this wider, systemic issue. Last October, about fifty Canadian Anglicans came together for a conference called The Widening Circle. From that event has emerged a similar movement in my own country, taking its name from the conference. We identified our goals as affirming and reclaiming the comprehensive, inclusive tradition of our branch of the Christian faith; asserting the autonomy of national churches with respect to doctrine and discipline; and resisting a narrow and exclusive version of Anglicanism, expressed in my country primarily as opposition to the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the life of the church.

We have been clear from the start that our movement does not consider itself factional. Indeed, we feel the Anglican Communion needs to move beyond factionalism in order to be truly inclusive of those who consider themselves conservative or liberal, catholic or evangelical, traditional or progressive. To say that Anglicanism is comprehensive means just that: we contain within our church the multitude of the human response to God; and it is that diversity which we celebrate and affirm.

Neil Fernyhough

Fruits of Generous Listening: ABC's 2nd Address

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s second presidential address, delivered Tuesday, has been receiving a lot of press, much of it confused.

While LGBT people are appropriately wary of ++Rowan’s enthusiasm for “council and Covenant” and the entrenchment that seems to be developing around the Windsor moratoria, his address does seem to reflect that he has been listening to our concerns … in part.

Absent, importantly, is an adequate appreciation for the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian couples. He consequently underestimates the difficult position in which the Canadian Church now finds itself.

For the record, here is the response of the Inclusive Church Network, of which Integrity Canada is a part. Aside from a few commas, my contribution was the cheeky title. :)

Steve Schuh


FRUITS OF GENEROUS LISTENING

Asking the bishops gathered at Lambeth Conference, “Where is Lambeth ’08 going to speak from?” the Archbishop of Canterbury answered his own question in his second presidential address delivered Tuesday, July 29 – advocating a discipline of mutual generosity and a call to speak “from the centre,” which he defined as “from the heart of our identity as Anglicans.”

We are much encouraged by this address by the Archbishop. The Inclusive Church Network applauds the recognition that those described as “the not so traditional believers” hold a theological position faithful to both our shared Anglican identity and our Christian witness. Despite extraordinary pressure to expel or expunge our witness from the Anglican Communion, today’s acknowledgment by the Archbishop of the validity and faithfulness of that witness is a source of deep encouragement.

We recognize that there are also faithful Anglicans who hold positions in opposition to our understandings of how we live out our lives of witness to the saving grace of God in Christ Jesus made present in our lives, our vocations, and our relationships. Our witness here at Lambeth Conference has been grounded in our deep desire to build relationships with our Anglican brothers and sisters across the differences that challenge us as we come together for mission and ministry.

We remain convinced that those differences need not inevitably lead to divisions and that the bonds of mutual affection that have knit the global Anglican Communion together are strong enough to include all God’s beloved at the banquet table.

We continue to pray for our bishops as they journey through these final days of the Lambeth Conference, that their witness to the world might be one of inclusion and compassion as we proclaim together God’s justice and live God’s love. § -The Inclusive Church Network

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

optimism and pessimism


Chris and Bob with Bishop Barry Clarke of Montreal


Steve and the Canadian bishop of Saskatoon


Ron and Bishop Terry Brown of Malaita


Steve and Bishop Dennis Drainville, co-adjutor bishop of Quebec

Steve and I were staffing the Marketplace display for Inclusive Church in the afternoon, while the second half of the African voices presentation were taking place. The bishops had the afternoon off, so the traffic was reasonably brisk. [not all these photos were today]

Generally speaking, there are three types of visitors: those who respond in kind when you greet them with "good afternoon", and who slow down, or not, but don't really engage with the display staff. This is hardly surprising, there is a LOT of material in the Marketplace, and the bishops have more programming than they can possibly attend. Then there are those who come by, somehow see the dread words gay or lesbian, or who actually figger out what "Inclusive Church" means. Their eyes get real big, and they either say hello in a rather strangled way and scuttle past, or they pass by on the other side. One of the Canadian bishop's wives did precisely that this afternoon.

Then there are those who talk to us at length. We've been fortunate to talk to several bishops (not always at the display). I've heard comments both gloomy and positive: one bishop thinks that people are not prepared to make many concessions and is waiting for something nasty and directive to emerge. Another bishop finds his Indaba group discussions to be not bad, that while there was some crankiness about the structure set up for discussions, they're prepared [now] to go along with it, and listen carefully to others of different viewpoints. Bishop Brown of Malaita was at the 1998 Conference, and says that while he could wish for better discussions, the atmosphere is so much less tense and hostile this year than ten years ago, it has to be a better conference.

Which Way Africa?


Chris Ambidge described beautifully the "African Voices" afternoon we had today in Canterbury.


But, in the spirit of the event, let me share with you the words of one Nigerian lesbian, Rose Ngeri (who is sharing the cottage next door here at the Ebury Hotel). This is her picture. These are the words she read.


Which Way Africa?


The Lambeth Conference is, to me, a place where you meet Bishops and people from all walks of life to share different views about lots of things we see and hear.


I gather that LGB T are welcomed in the House of God by some people... yet, denied the right of place in the same House of God by others.


Please, our African spiritual fathers, let us have a place in our churches. Remember, we were born of your fathers, mothers, sisters, aunties, cousins and nieces.


Our mothers did not ask for this group of children. Ratehr it is the content of the man deposited in the woman that came out the same way it is made by God.


African leaders keep passing laws against LGBT. Please, if I may ask, what crime have we committed?


Mothers, will you fold your arms and let your children die through torture? Why can't you ask them what crime your children have committed before they kill more of your children?


How long should we keep quiet about issues like this.


Which way Africa?

Dancing African Witnesses


The African drummers


The dancers - Mai, Davis, Rose and Queen
(with Ron, Cameron and Chris holding the flag behind)


Mai and Queen dancing

There have been claims by certain folks (the ones I've heard most are mostly bishops) that there just aren't any LGBTI people in Africa, that it's a Western perversion imported by the Europeans. This afternoon at Lambeth there were two events designed to demonstrate the incorrectness of that assertion.

There were two parts to African Voices: first of all there was African Drumming and Dancing on the lawn outside Eliot College, and second a panel discussion at Keynes College. The latter was a time for people from Africa to tell their story, as LGBTI people from various places in Africa. Unfortunately, I was on duty at the display, so could only stay for part of that event. The Dancing, on the other hand, got my full attention.

Location, we're told, is everything, and somehow I was standing in the right part of the field to be asked, along with Ron and Cameron, to hold a big rainbow flag as background to the dancing. As soon as the drummers started, walking towards the greensward, crowds started to gather. Davis and Queen and Rose and Mai, and later Stephen, were moving to the drums, and all sorts of people watched.

From my position behind the flag, I had a great view of the audience - about a hundred of them at any time (with lots of purple lanyards [bishops]), and a couple of hundred overall during the festivities. Most of the audience were really enjoying the happy dancing; some others (clearly from the global south) were watching with what my Glaswegian mama would call a "cold sausage under the nose" expression. Well, tough. Yes, these ARE homo-Africans, and they're proud and having a good time. (Those recoiling faces were exactly the people who needed to get the message, and there it was, right in front of their faces)

After the dancing was over, the drummers led the parade to Keynes college, and much of the crowd followed. There, six men and women told their stories and and responded to the audience.

Before I left, Davis Mac-Iyalla (the first speaker on the panel) pointed out that his native language, Kalabari, there are words for gays and lesbians. These are not western imports, they pre-date contact with Europeans. The actual "foreign import" here is Christianity.

A revealing afternoon.

Chris the flag-bearer

Sober second thoughts

Last night ended with me sweltering in bed from the oppressively hot, humid air which had hung over Canterbury for several days. Suddenly, as I lay in the dark, the sound of thunder rumbled outside. There were flashes of lightning which lit up my room, and then a heavy rain came crashing down. The breeze floating through my open window turned suddenly cool and refreshing, and I drifted off to sleep, feeling a hitherto rather rare sense of calm and ease.

I awoke to read Bishop Michael's statement on the Windsor Continuing Group paper, and Steve's commentary, and realised that the sky was not the only place where the tension of the atmosphere had broken. The recommendations of the WCG discussion paper are not going to happen. Bishop Michael is not the only bishop present here for whom the suggestions are a non-starter. As a starting point for discussion, they represent perhaps an extreme position which will be "bargained down," but as a proposal for adoption they cannot stand.

Then this afternoon, we read Archbishop Rowan Williams' second presidential address, which is available here: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/daily/news.cfm/2008/7/29/ACNS4487. It offered hope and encouragement to many of us here that we are, indeed, being heard.

There is nothing like the clear, fresh air after a summer thunderstorm.

Neil Fernyhough


Monday, 28 July 2008

Discussion Starters: WCG's "Preliminary Observations"

Although the WCG's "preliminary observations" are creating a bit of a stir in Lambeth's otherwise calm sea, there is really little reason to get too worked up about them. The notes are basically abstracts of comments made in the bishop's indaba groups, shaped to suggest a way forward. They have absolutely no authority, nor do they represent a singular proposal. They're just conversation starters, so you might say they've been successful!

In terms of process, it's kind of like sausage-making. Comments from the bishop's discussion today about their comments on version 2 will be collated with further conversation from the indaba groups later this week, then reprocessed into a third version of an actual report which will be sent to the Anglican Consultative Counsel next spring. So there is lots of time for comment and critique, and from what we're hearing so far, there's lots and lots of critique.

In other words, this so-called bomb is really just a firecracker -- it's made a little noise, and we'll soon move on. Nothing much to see here.

Still, the Inclusive Church Network, of which Integrity Canada is a part, will be making a statement in the morning -- nothing hysterical, just ensuring the LGBT voice is heard above the din of the professional fear-mongers. Integrity friends now have a little context to put it all in proper perspective.

Steve Schuh

Bishop Michael Ingham on the WCG Notes

Remarks by Bishop Michael Ingham
At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing
Lambeth Conference
July 29, 2008

I came to this conference hoping to take back to the Diocese I serve something of value with respect to the difficulties facing our Communion. Unfortunately, the document handed out today is a non-starter where I live.

Let me give four reasons.

1. The Windsor Report is just that – a report. It is not yet an agreed policy within the Communion. It is not yet a doctrine. Some of our Provinces have responded to it, some have not, and many of the responses raise critical questions that have not so far been addressed. And yet the Windsor Report is being introduced today as an agreed benchmark from which it is assumed we can move forward. This is not so.

2. The document we have today is punitive in tone, setting out penalties and the like, instead of inviting us into deeper communion with one another through mutual understanding in the Body of Christ. Furthermore, it entrenches the principle of outside interventions. The suggestion of a Pastoral Forum in fact institutionalizes external incursions into the life of our churches.

3. It seeks to impose a singular uniformity upon the complex diversity of our Communion. I quite understand that in some parts of the Anglican Communion homosexuality is subject to criminal law and cultural prohibition. However, I live in a country where homosexual people enjoy the same rights and responsibilities under the law as every other citizen. To discriminate against homosexual people, as this document suggests, is no more acceptable in than to discriminate against women, black people or Jews. If this becomes the position of the Communion, it will put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of having to support and defend irrational prejudice and bigotry in the eyes of our nation.

We already live with a good deal of diverse practice across the Anglican Communion – in the ordination of women, the re-marriage of divorced persons, and the admission of the baptized and unconfirmed to Communion. Why can we not live with a similar diversity in this matter too?

4. It ignores reality. Whatever this document says, illegal incursions will continue. We have heard already how they continue to happen even in places that maintain the traditional position of the Church on homosexuality. And furthermore, gay and lesbian people will not go away, nor will they be healed, because they are not sick. It is the church that is suffering from blindness and prejudice, and it is we who need to repent and be healed.

To conclude, this document will not invite us into mutual dialogue and a search for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is an old-world institutional response to a new-world reality in which people are being set free from hatred and violence. It will not do to impose a rigid uniformity on a body so diverse as this Communion. The document will further divide us if it attempts to do so

The sublime and the ridiculous

Yesterday was Sunday - and as I headed down the hill from my residence here, I was seranaded by the church bells of the 900 year old St. Stephen's, Hackington, where I joined faithful from around the world for a Eucharist celebrated by Bishop Bruce of Ontario. Afterward, Steve Schuh and I spent a pleasant afternoon at Herne Bay walking along the beach, eating ice cream, and wandering around the ruins of a Norman church...built on the ruins of a Roman fort. It was sublime. Then came today.

The third part of the Windsor Continuation Group's "preliminary observations" (pointedly, according to the ACNS website, not a report) was released this afternoon, to great sensation.

The text of the full report is here: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2008/7/28/ACNS4480

There are two notable points for discussion for bishops to chew over. The first is that any blessing of same-sex unions or ordination and consecration of individuals in same-sex relationships be subject to absolute moratorium. The consequences of this suggestion, if accepted, would be that the eight parishes of the Diocese of New Westminster currently authorised to bless same-sex unions would no longer be able to do so; and that movements towards blessing the civil marriages of same-sex couples elsewhere in Canada would likewise grind to a halt. Gay or lesbian postulants for ordination in committed relationships would either have to ignore God's calling, or practice unholy hypocrisy by pretending to be unattached.

The second recommendation is that some mechanism be devised to provide pastoral care for those parishes which are now under extra-provincial jurisdiction, pending reconciliation with their provinces. Legal action would cease, and their assets would be held in trust. In essence, this regularizes the illegal actions of schismatic parishes. Although the document does reaffirm the moratorium on cross-border interventions, unlike the situation with respect to LGBT Anglicans, it does not make the banning of such interventions retroactive.

The document concludes by recommending the formation of a Pastoral Forum, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which would (amongst other things) "offer guidance on what response and any diminishment of standing within the Communion might be appropriate where any of the three moratoria are broken."

The stance of the discussion paper is clear: TEC, the Anglican Church of Canada, and others will need to decide between the inclusion of all God's children, or diminishment of our standing in the Communion. My hope and prayer is that the bishops will see these recommendations for what they are: exclusionary of LGBT Christians; enabling of schismatic movements; and empowering of a Curia-like structure for determining what sort of doctrine and discipline provinces of the Communion may adopt.

Ridiculous.

Neil Fernyhough

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Time for Worship


Sanctuary of St.Martin Church Canterbury




standing in the doorway of St. Martin's church Canterbury





Saturday night we were invited by a coalition of 17 groups working in conjunction with Inclusive Church to an event called 'Strangers to Friends' an inclusive Eucharist and Party. The Eucharist was celebrated by Archbishop Carlos Touché-Porter, the Primate of Mexico. It was an interesting service in a lecture theatre, with wonderful graphics projected on the wall which related to the various segments of the service. Music was provided by a keyboard and a cantor with a bell like soprano voice, who led us through the responses and a couple of new hymns. Simply done and simply powerful. The preacher was The Rev. Canon Lucy Winkett the canon precentor at St. Pauls Cathedral, London. She spoke movingly about the power of faith to address the greed and pain of the world. Archbishop Carlos presided in a wonderfully gentle way with a palpably loving authority.

Following the reception and the book launch of Inclusive Church's most recent book [whose title I will pass on as soon as I remember it] Chris, Ron, Niel and I went looking for dinner. We had been on duty at the display till just before the service. We found a lovely restaurant called the Weaver's Inn on the High Street, beside the 'river' Stour. Several Bishops happened to be there and Bp. Colin Johnson of Toronto came over to speak to us. He shared that His Indaba Group was making good progress and sharing well. He is hopeful for the process this week which is supposed to end with a statement around the Windsor Report and the Covenant.

Sunday [being he Lord's day after all] is a day off for the Lambeth participants, so we of the marketplace also have a free day. Chris and I decided to visit St. Martin's parish, which, you may have noticed from earlier comments, is the oldest continuous parish in England. It was a lovely said service, quiet and meditative, and the people of the congregation were wonderfully welcoming. The rector Noelle invited the visiting primate of the Korean Church to come forward for an interview during the sermon time. He had a Korean Nun, Sister Catherine, to interpret for him. It became a gentle reflection on the church bells which rang at St. Martin's and the way he was drawn into the church in Korea because of the Bells which attracted an 11 year old boy, curious about what was happening in that building. There were 6 bishops at the service including Jim Cowan and his wife from Victoria. All in all a delightful and blessed space to reconnect with the presence of Christ.

Extraordinary Encounters (Number 2)




It is Sunday evening. We Canadians have used the day for worship, for relaxation, and for socializing. Steve and Neil travelled to Whistable on the North Sea coast for the final day of their Oyster Festival. We other three relaxed over tea, scones and clotted cream.


Our "Sunday" began yesterday evening at a Eucharist hosted by the Inclusive Church Network, which was very well attended (they had arranged catering for the post-Eucharist party for 150; apprently, the count at the beginning of the Eucharist was 151). The celebrant for this inclusive Eucharist was Archbishop Carlos Touché-Porter of the Iglesia anglicana de Mexico.


Did you know that there were Anglicans in Mexico? Our Mexican Church may be small, but it is one of the fastest growing in the world, attracting Roman Catholics disenchanted with the hard-hearted doctrinal statements which continue to emanate from the Vatican.


Archbishop Touché-Porter is trying to organize an international Anglican coalition which he refers to as the "Global Centre" (as compared with the "Global South" under the putative leadership of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola). This coalition incorporates Anglican Provinces such as Brazil, South India, Sri Lanka and Central America. The growth potential of these churches would be lost if this Lambeth Conference should decide that we need to become a confessional church, or that we need international canon law. Archbishop Touché-Porter led an inspring worship.


During the party which followed the Eucharist was a book-launch for the Inclusive Church's most recent publication. Another remarkable Anglican took the lead: Archbishop Idris Jones, Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. He had this to say from the lobby staircase at Keynes College: "Some in the Communion are calling for a "New Reformation". So be it, but let it be a new Reformation, not a re-hash of the Reformation of 300 years ago. Let us find a New Reformation which unlocks the Gospel for a new generation, and for a changed and changing world!"


My most moving experience of the week was, however, the Friday afternoon discussion organized by Inclusive Church and hosted at St Stephen's Parish. The Very Reverend Rowan Smith is Dean of the Cathedral in Capetown, South Africa. Before speaking, he passed around a small, green identity card. On it was a (much younger) photograph of him, in a clerical collar, his name, and this notation: "Cape Coloured". Until 1994, this card determined where he could travel, where he could reside, and who he would be permitted to marry.


With remarkable grace, he told the story of the end of apartheid, and his own experience as a gay man in the Church of Southern Africa. He did not focus on bitterness. He shared the story of reconciation.


He spoke of the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and his personal relationship with its Chair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. But he stressed that an essential part of the Commission was something called "The Listening Process".


At Lambeth 1998, the bishops promised we gay, lesbian and transgendered believers a "Listening Process". In 1988 and in 1978 the called on the Anglican Provinces to listen to our experience.


We are still waiting

Saturday, 26 July 2008

On the fringe

Tucked at the back of the Lambeth Conference programme and event guide, following sixty-five pages of official events, there are listings of what are called "fringe events." These are stand-alone evening programs, sponsored by the many exhibitors here at the conference. As far as I can tell, one of the main purposes of these events is to attract the attention and interest of the bishops, media, and other movers and shakers so that the agendas of these interest groups might be advanced.

It is through these events, the display stalls in the marketplace, and personal encounters that the interest groups present at Lambeth - including Integrity - try to get their message out. To what extent we are successful, or whether we are talking into a metaphorical echo chamber is a matter of some fervid discussion. Certainly, the reactions we have gotten from our encounters with others, both at the stall and around the precincts of the university, indicate that the size of our receptive audience is considerably larger than those who refuse to hear.

There are notable exceptions, however. For instance, as Bob mentioned in an earlier post, copies of The Lambeth Witness have been removed and our newsstands vandalised. Another incident occurred yesterday, during my shift at the stall. A man hurrying along suddenly stopped, looked at our display, and then glanced up to see the names of the stall's sponsors (in this case, Integrity and Changing Attitude). The man's face reddened, and as I offered a cheery, "Good morning!" he said, "Changing Attitude? What attitude are you trying to change?" I tried to introduce him to the Rev'd Colin Coward of CA, but the man interrupted saying, "Are you pretend priests? Pretend homosexual priests?" Then noticing the rainbow ribbons we were wearing, he added, "Why are you perverting a children's symbol - the rainbow?" He then stomped off.

There are encounters in which you know the person is not interested in conversation. This man's questions were rhetorical, coming from a place of deep anger or shame. He was here to vent, and having done so, he left. My response in these instances is to shrug my shoulders, and let it slide off. But Colin was not going to let him get away with the verbal abuse. He leapt up and followed the man. Placing his hand on the man's shoulder, he said he wanted to assure him of his prayers for the man in his distress. "Get your filthy homosexual hands off me!" the man replied, and disappeared into the crowd.

It is hard to guage how widespread this sentiment is at this conference. As I said, our encounters have been generally positive. But how many people silently pass our stall, sharing the opinions of this man, but too polite or shy to voice them? I'm hoping few, but it is hard to tell whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Anglicans are still truly on the fringe at events like the Lambeth Conference, or whether we have entered the mainstream. Certainly for GLBT people from Nigeria - who are represented here - the mainstream is a long way away. For Canadians, the journey is well on the way to fulfilment. The positive and negative reactions - both of which have in many cases been surprising - represent the more ambivalent quality of diversity within our Communion.

Neil Fernyhough

Listening ... or not

Although it has been rightly lamented that few of the Lambeth Conference events are open to the public (or even to anyone other than bishops), it was my singular privilege to present a short paper at one of the bishops-only workshops, or “self-select sessions,” on Tuesday afternoon.

The invitation came from Canon Philip Groves from the Anglican Communion Office. Canon Groves is responsible for monitoring the Communion’s listening process (such as it is) and for providing resources to equip Anglicans to listen and dialogue on issues of sexuality. It is hoped that the just-published book, The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality, will be a major contribution to this effort.

The third chapter of the book includes a lengthy discussion on Anglican methods of biblical interpretation. To illustrate how people who share a commitment to the authority of scripture and who use a similar method of interpretation might nevertheless come to different conclusions, the book includes a summary statement of the traditional understanding of the “witness of scripture” on the topic of homosexuality, as well as an alternative view, which is my contribution to the book (and re-published in the current Integrator here).

This was also to be the substance of Tuesday’s workshop and the reason for my invitation to this closed event.

Unfortunately, the workshop did not go as smoothly as we had hoped. About 40 bishops had settled in after a last minute room change, but after several minutes of introduction, some voiced frustration with the organization of the session and asked to hear more from Dr. Richard Burridge, Dean of King’s College (London) and the session’s named “subject matter expert.” Eventually the guest assigned to present the traditional view was invited to speak – though his material was interesting, it was considerably off-topic and added to the confusion. The facilitator improvised the missing material, and as I was approaching the lectern to present the alternative view, he quickly introduced me as being from Canada, a graduate of Regent College, and gay.

The “g-word” immediately prompted a snort from the back row and one of the bishops noisily gathered his things and left the room.

I paused, then nervously began my presentation, making it through without further interruption. Dr. Burridge then tried to bring the pieces together. The questions that ended the session, however, suggested that the point of the exercise had been largely lost in the confusion, frustration, and tension of the previous 90 minutes.

Even so, in a redeeming expression of pastoral care, at least six bishops approached me individually – or stopped me as I left the building – to thank me and apologize for their colleague who, ironically, had demonstrated how far the listening process has yet to go.

These bishops also demonstrated how far we have already come. Obviously the listening process has been engaged unevenly across the Communion, and some are ill-equipped for the task. But where we listen, respect, and care for one another – even, or especially, when we disagree – then we are becoming a church worthy of Him who demonstrated His great love for us and who calls us to love one another.

Steve Schuh

Friday, 25 July 2008

Heroes, Heroines, and Remarkable Encounters



One of the things I most enjoy when attending Diocesan Synod, or General Synod, is the opportunity simply to meet people. This Lambeth Conference is no different, except that the encounters can be even more extraordinary.

I had the opportunity to have long chats with many people today, both supporters and non-supporters -- Archbishop Terry Buckle of the Yukon, Percy Coffin from Western Newfoundland, John Chane of the Diocese of Washington DC, Deva Devamina from the Province of South India, and GodfreyMdimiMhogola of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania.

Three encounters I would like to write about this evening.

Following this morning's Bible study, I attended the Fringe event hosted by the International Anglican Women's Network, focussing on theological education. Frankly, I was only trying to fill in some time. But there I was introduced to Jenny Te Paa of New Zealand. I was stammering for words, for she is one of my heroes. She spoke passionately not only about the need for more spaces in our seminaries for women seeking ordination, but about the importance of theological training for the laity, for women, for aboriginal peoples, for gays and lesbians, for all of us who find ourselves on the margins of the Church, so that we might "speak truth to power". I wanted to stand and cheer (but being a good and proper Anglican, of course I did not)!

At the same time as this was happening, a group called "Sibyls" was meeting in another venue. This was the witness of five trangendered Anglicans. This can be a difficult issue, even in civil society, but the event was reportedly well attended. The participants were a bit disappointed that only five bishops were in the assembly; but apparently, in a moment of grace appreciated by all, at the close of the session Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts offered a blessing for all the panelists.

Most of my encounters with bishops occurred, of course, during my shift at the Integrity booth. I was pleased to meet and to chat with my former bishop, Peter Coffin (now Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Armed Forces). He mentioned that he had read that a Ugandan bishop was among our delegation. "Yes," I replied, "would you like to meet him?"


Retired bishop Christopher Senyonjo of West Buganda, Uganda, was excommunicated by his archbishop after establishing a ministry for gay and lesbian believers in his country. Peter Coffin knew the story. Peter also explained that he had travelled to Uganda in April, and had dined with Archbishop Orombi. They had a most interesting conversation. I took no notes.


Notes from Bob

I guess it's time for me to get on line.

One of the upsetting things going on is that someone is vandalizing the daily newsletter display boxes put out by our group. So we have started posting lurkers to watch what's going on. there seems to be one constant in the person of a 'very patrician' looking woman with graying upswept hair. Frustrating, but not surprising. there are always those who are trying to shut down our witness in the faith of Christ.
I met my bishop Don and later his wife Nancy. They have both been facing bizarre notions from people about what homosexuals do, including buying people. Don told me about one Bishop who really struggled with the whole issue and was saying, what do I do with all this? How am I to deal with it all. I can't imagine how difficult it would be for an African Bishop to be open at all to new ideas about the issue when he would be attacked himself at home. Nancy has had some major set to's with a powerful African Woman who really has been sold a bill of goods by the GAFCON group. I told Nancy to offer her a conversation with me if she is interested in meeting a real live homosexual.

Anyway, we continue to witness as quietly and gently as we can. There was an introduction of a new film called 'Voices of Witness: Africa' testifying to the reality of GLBT presence in Africa. Powerful testimony from very vulnerable people, a couple of whom were present for a panel. It's all we can do...keep putting the truth out there and hope people will be open enough to the spirit to recognize the truth.

Blessings all,
Bob

Some Canterbury Observations

Some random Canterbury observations:


  • There is no observable recycling program in Canterbury. Everything goes into bins (if you can find them)

  • Parts of Canterbury remind me for all the world of towns in southern Ontario. The red brick houses look the same, along with the tidy gardens (hollyhocks and buddelia are favoured - oddly, I've seen no Canterbury bells). Like towns in southern Ontario, the landscape is green and hilly, with a lot of leafy trees overhanging shady brooks (referred to here as rivers).

  • The water tastes odd, so I've taken to drinking bottled water. I mark the days by the 1.5 litre empty bottles I accumulate along the top of the shelf in my unit.
  • The age of structures amaze me. Yesterday, I was in a building built in 589.

  • Healthy breakfasts seem hard to obtain (I've almost bought out all the yoghurt at the local corner store); but the sandwiches are endlessly creative.

  • Coffee shops and late-night stores are as rare as albino crows.

Having said all that, Canterbury is an amazing city. Yesterday, the five representatives of Integrity Canada present here - Chris Ambidge, Ron Chaplin, Steve Schuh, Bob Webster, and me - took advantage of the bishops' visit to London to go on a walking tour of the old city. We visited the oldest parish church in England, St. Martin's, which has been in continuous use for over 1400 years. It began as the chapel of Queen Bertha of Kent in the sixth century, who herself built it on the remains of a pagan or Roman shrine dating back at least two hundred years earlier. Standing in the ancient cemetery, I sensed a merging of antiquity and continuity, making real for me that we are "surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," joining with us in praise and supplication to the source of love and life and redemption.

Bertha's Christianity inspired Pope Gregory to send a delegation of monks, under the leadership of Bishop Augustine, to Christianize the Kentish people - and it is for this reason that Canterbury became the genesis and locus of English Christianity. From this humble stone church, the origins of the Anglican Communion can be traced. It is a must see for any pilgrim to this town.

Our next stop was the remains of the Abbey of St. Augustine. Originally an enormous complex - one of many religious houses in the city - it was dismantled by order of Henry VIII as part of the dissolution of the monasteries. I was struck by how many of these ruins exist throughout Britain, having not been utterly destroyed and built over - testament perhaps to a silent acknowledgement of the sanctity of these places.

After a walk around the city walls, built over several centuries of an agglomeration of granite, flintstone, brick, and lime, I returned with my colleagues to the great cathedral, for a more leisurely and comprehensive tour of its precincts. We topped off the day with a traditional English tea; and the rather more prosaic activity of watching a movie ("Wall-e" - somewhat dark, but entertaining).

All in all, this was definitely my most exhausting day in Canterbury...and it didn't involve the Lambeth Conference at all! I will have more to report on that tomorrow.


Neil Fernyhough

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Some American neighbours




I know at least a few people might be interested in these pictures of people who pass by our booth (or "stall" in the Queen's English) in the Marketplace. One shows yours truly with the Rt. Rev. Katherine Schiori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the United States, who passed by on Tuesday. The second shows me between Bishop Thom Ely of Vermont and his wife, Ann.




Ron Chaplin

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Feline advantage

Two of the presenters on Monday on Care-Full Listening were Sissi (who is American) and Janet (who was born in England, in Derby). They took us through a listening exercise, modelling a process for us: when someone tells their story. They divided the audience into three groups - one listening for facts, another for feelings, the third listening for principles or issues. It worked quite well in how we were then able to absorb and process (and really listen to) Janet's story, and I may well use it in future.

However, I'm blogging about it to tell the story to you. Janet and Sissi are a lesbian couple, and have been together for 21 years. Sissi lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, and they got a civil union in 2000, as soon as it was possible. They have found a very supportive community in their parish home at the Episcopal church in Brattleboro. The fly in this ointment is Janet's nationality. She has done all sorts of different work visas, and the like, and now all she can do is come as a visitor. That's a 90day maximum visit, and then she must be outside the country for longer than her time inside. She is out as a lesbian everywhere -- except in the immigration hall, because they can deny entry, and they can deport her for 10 years. That's not a risk she can take, and so it's a very interrupted relationship that they have.

The biggest irony is that they are a two-pet household; a dog and a cat. The cat, like Janet, was born in Derby. The cat has all the appropriate papers and shots, and can travel between the UK and the US and stay for as long as desired. But Janet can't. If either Sissi or Janet were male, they could live together permanently in Vermont. Heck, if Janet was a cat she could live in Brattleboro.

As you can imagine, this is a hurtful, unsettling, unfair story. But it's one that the immigration rules have created.

Chris

Nose pressed against the glass

Like many other synods, the life of the Outsider is definitely from outside. The bishops come and see us when they can, and other hangers-on come by the display, and some conversations take place. But that's a small cross-section. To some extent, you feel (let's not generalise: *I* feel) as if my nose is pressed up against the outside of the window-glass. The bishops are meeting in plenary, in Indaba groups, in bible study, and the overlap with us isn't large. I was going to say "sequestered", but that's too strong. But thou-shalt-not go anywhere without your ID badge (and lanyard). The Lambeth organisers are quite antsy about potential disruptions and demonstrations. This means you need to sign up for various events beforehand, and get checked off a list as you enter. I have to show my ID to get in to the Franciscan centre at 10am for a Eucharist (this is the one for the workers - about twenty people show up). I understand why they feel the need to put such a tight lid on things - thank you, Peter Tatchell (*). But it is frustrating.

There are other venues to interact, of course: fringe events that we can get to, and sitting around Rutherford college where we might see more purple-shirted traffic. As he reminded me, coming here is work. We shouldn't be pining that we can't be in the plenary halls, but (like a political convention) working the halls. I'm staffing the display as I key this in, but when my shift is done at 1pm, I'll go do that.

(*) he said ironically. Peter Tatchell is a UK gay activist who has less than no time for the church, and who has invaded Lambeth Palace garden events, and interrupted George Carey preaching an Easter sermon at Canterbury Cathedral. That sort of action is NOT helpful for those of us trying to work inside the church for inclusion - it is positively repellent [well if THAT's the way those dreadful homos are, I want nothing to do with them] for those in positions of power and capable of effective change. It also prompts hyper-caution among organisers, and makes it that much more difficult for us here at Lambeth to actually interact with the conference participants.

Chris at the marketplace display

Getting Into It

Day Three in Canterbury and I am (ostensibly) on the job! After a sleepless night on a torturous bed, my first priority was finding a new place to lay my head. Fortunately, the occupant upstairs was leaving, and - like Goldilocks - I was overjoyed to find a bed that was just right.

Despite getting just two or three hours of sleep, I found the haze of jetlag lifting, and the world seeming a little less surreal. After Morning Prayer with others from the Inclusive Church Network, I returned to my new room for a lie down, only to find that I overnapped for my first offcially scheduled duty, namely, to help staff the stall in what is called "the Marketplace."

The Marketplace is located about a ten minute walk away from the large, blue, twin-peaked tent in which the bishops are meeting. It is, as I wrote yesterday, truly a cross-section of the stunning diversity of Anglicanism. For instance, just a few steps away from the stall shared by Integrity, Changing Attitude, and (thanks to a few leaflets left by me on the table) The Widening Circle, is a stall dedicated to "helping" gays and lesbians change their sexual orientation.

I ran up the hill from my residence, sweat streaming off my face from the sudden slap of humidity, and entered the Kent University precincts. Suddenly, to my surprise, I stumbled into a field of purple. The bishops were seated at picnic tables and on the grass, enjoying their lunch. As I scurried along, I found myself just five feet away from a party including a rather shaggy, bearded, professorial-looking bishop. Yes, it was the Archbishop of Canterbury himself - and he and his cohort were blocking my route!

At the stall, I was happy to see a trickle of purple lanyards - indicative of bishops and their spouses - stop to chat. One African bishop picked up our handbill for the "Voices of Witness" film that Integrity USA will show this evening. I spoke with Davis Mac-Iyalla, a courageous Nigerian who has faced death threats, beatings, and imprisonment for standing up for gay and lesbian rights in his homeland. I also spoke with the Right Rev'd Christopher Senyonjo, retired Bishop of West Buganda in Uganda, who was deprived of his ministry for his stand in defence of gays and lesbians in his country.

These two men are witnesses to the incomparable role that the Church can play in advancing the mission of social justice. The courage and bravery of African gays and lesbians and their allies impresses me beyond measure. Their presence here at Lambeth demonstrates the claim that homosexuality either does not exist in Africa or is a foreign influence is a lie. Indeed, as I write, there are seven Africans seated in our communications centre, waiting for our nightly debriefing.
Tomorrow, the bishops are off to London - and so am I. Hopefully after a full, restful sleep.

Neil Fernyhough

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Chance encounters



One of the wonderful experiences here is the conversations you have along the walkways of the university campus. I, for example, this morning, sat down between the main dining hall and the "Big Top" (where the bishops' plenary sessions are held) and had a wonderful conversation with Mary Arreak, wife of Benjamin, suffragan bishop of the Arctic (resident in Kuujjak, Quebec). We managed to find a point in common, namely, the effort to get treatment for HIV-positive people in their part of the diocese.




Who should stroll along but Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury? So I sprung to my feet as he said "hello" to introduce him to Mary.




About an hour later returning to the Marketplace, I had a great conversation along the pathway with our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz. He agreed to pose for a photograph, showing him in all his "primatial splendour". (Well, at least the baseball cap was purple!)




Till next time,




Ron

Alongside at St Stephen's parish

Our reception by St Stephen’s parish has been better-than-wonderful. The hospitality is exemplary. [I’m told that the formal name is “St Stephen’s Hackington”, but “St Stephen’s Canterbury” is less ambiguous.] Not only have we been granted use of their parish hall, but we’re in the parish church daily: there is a programme at 4pm, followed by evening prayer at 5pm.

The 4pm event is part of a programme called “Alongside at Lambeth”, and its creation was positively inspired. I’ve staffed many many synod displays, both diocesan and general, and I know that at every event there will come idle times of boredom and isolation. The Important People are doing what they’re off doing, and the hangers-on and those below the salt are left with not much to do, and not much feeling of being part of the event. Inclusive Church (spearheaded by the Rev Caro Hall) have come up with programmes for us white-lanyard exhibitors – and anyone else who wants to join in.

Every business day, there is bible study (near the Marketplace, where our displays are) at 11, on the same passages the bishops are following in their studies. There are buzz groups at noon if there are subjects that spark discussion. And at 4pm (you knew I’d get back here eventually) there are speakers at St Stephen’s. Yesterday, we had three speakers, on Care-full Listening. Today, [Canada’s own] Eric Beresford talked on Communion for Creation: Co-operation fo rthe sake of God's Earth. Tomorrow it’s Youth Inc - why is it so scary?. It all gives us something to mentally and spiritually engage with, along the same discussion lines (if not in the same venue) as the bishops.

Yesterday, between the presentation and evening worship, Justin (the rector of St Stephens) spoke to us, and with great glee took us to the sanctuary.

Up on the north wall was a funerary tablet – there are several, and anyone who’s been in an older English church will recognise the kind of marble carved stone in memory of someone who died on XXX at the age of YYY. The text of the tablet is quite conventional in many ways, but in other ways, it’s very different:

<><><><><>
[in the original, the text is in BLOCK CAPS throughout. The two names, which I've put in CAPS here, are in larger face type. The last paragraph is no larger, but I've bolded it coz it's important]

on the south side of this chancel
and within the rails lie the remains of
MR WILLIAM BUNCE
of Camberwell, Surrey, son of the
Revd John Bunce, formerly vicar of this parish
for more than half a century
and of
MR WILLIAM CARTER
also of Camberwell, and a native
of the city of Lichfield.
The former died August XXIInd, MDCCCXXXI [22 August 1831]
aged LXXVI [76] years
and the latter, September IIth, MDCCCXXXVI [2 September 1836]
aged LXXXIII [83] years
they had lived in a course of uninterrupted
friendship for sixty years, and in the
grave they are not divided

<><><><><><><>

William and William are buried in the same grave, under the floor of the sanctuary. (Mr Bunce’s dad, former vicar, is buried in the centre aisle).

There it is: tangible evidence of a same-sex couple, who lived together for sixty years, and were buried in the same grave. In 1836.

St Stephens has been supporting us for over 170 years. That increases the sense that it’s just RIGHT that we should be here at St Stephens. It’s home.

Chris on Tuesday afternoon

My first days in Canterbury

I practically fell out of the cab at St. Stephen's Parish Hall, I was so spent from seventeen hours of travel from Sechelt, BC to Canterbury, England. My energy levels were already seriously depleted from months of medical challenges; and at Canterbury East Station, I almost had the completely novel experience of passing out in public. I literally crammed a tuna sandwich down my maw in the desperate hope that it would keep me conscious.

Thus my introduction to Canterbury.

Wonderful angels took me in hand, sitting me down, listening to my tale of Kafkaesque horror, and loading me and my luggage in a car to take me to my digs...with me seated in what I would usually assume is the driver's seat.

What I've discovered here is an energetic and committed team of Anglican Christians, upholding the progressive, orthodox message of the living Word, and working hard to ensure that it is heard at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.

The Communications Centre at St. Stephen's Hall is a beehive of lay and clergy from all over the world, working at laptops, folding and assembling newsletters, and organising "Fringe" activities for the edification of the hundreds of people associated with the conference. Up at Kent University, the bishops are sequestered in a tent that everyone agrees is reminiscent of the bigtop at the Cirque de Soleil. Nearby, another, more modest temporary structure, holds stalls for groups representative of the diversity of our Anglican Communion. One of these is shared by Inclusive Church, Integrity, and other allied groups. Here again can be found volunteers - not only from the UK and North America - but Kenyans, Ugandans, and others. It reminded me that ours is truly a global movement.

I had the day off, in respect of my jetlag and rather delicate condition. In fact, I almost didn't come, but I'm so glad that I did. Today, after enjoying Eucharist at the Franciscan Centre at the University of Kent, I walked the historic streets of Canterbury to our Mother Church, the Cathedral Church of Christ. I cannot describe the feeling of walking on stones that humble peasants and workers, pilgrims, and great kings and archbishops have trod for literally hundreds of years. I saw the tombs of Edward the Black Prince, entombed in 1376; Henry IV - the only monarch buried in the Cathedral; and many other notable (and forgotten) figures from history. It was particularly interesting to see a habited Anglican nun walking through the ruins of the Cathedral monastery, mostly demolished by order of Henry VIII.

More history came afterwards, as I joined others for a stimulating discussion on the environment and theology with Eric Beresford, followed by Evening Prayer in the chapel of St. Stephen's Church. Noting the worn stone outside, and the simple whitewashed walls inside, I asked a parishioner, "When was this church built?" "It was built by Archbishop Baldwin in 1096." "Oh," I said.

And so has marked my first two days in Canterbury.

Neil Fernyhough

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Beginning






Today, Monday, July 21, was the first "working day" of the conference. More about this later.

Yesterday was a remarkable day.

On Sunday morning, the bishops gathered to worship at the historic Cathedral Church of Christ in Canterbury. Apparently, as they disembarked their buses to enter the cathedral (and again when they left the cathedral), they had to march through a gauntlet of silent protesters carrying placards emblazoned with the "clobber passages" from Scripture so familiar to so many of us.

Maybe the protesters were on to something. It was, apparently, a remarkable worship service in many ways, with all the pomp and majesty which is one of the treasures of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. From our perspective, what was the most impressive was the sermon.

The invited homilist was the Rt. Rev. Duleep de Chickera, Bishop of Columbo, Sri Lanka. The gospel lection for Sunday was that passage from St Matthew where Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the weeds. Regarding the current crisis in the Communion, Bishop de Chickera had this to say: “if we attempt this game of uprooting the unrighteous then, my dear sisters and brothers, none of us will remain.” The challenge facing the Communion, he stated, was this: “Here is an insight of what the church is called to be: an inclusive communion, where there is space equally for everyone and anyone, regardless of colour, gender, ability or sexual orientation.” (To read or view all of this remarkable sermon, visit: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/daily/news.cfm/2008/7/20/ACNS4438)

Some of us, while travelling to Canterbury, feared that the authorities would try to sweep the sexuality issue under the carpet, to avoid it at all costs. Apparently, this is not to be.

"He hit the ball out of the park," said Bishop Michael Ingham of Vancouver when asked about the sermon. Bishop Michael was gathered on St Stephen's Hill on Sunday afternoon with 32 of his colleagues, along with 200 clergy and lay people gathered at an outside Eucharist to, for the first time ever at a Lambeth Conference, celebrate the ministry of gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

The celebrant was the head of Changing Attitudes UK, the Rev. Colin Coward; and the sermon was delivered by the Rev. Susan Russell, President of Integrity USA. Susan challenged everyone to: “commit ourselves to tell the truth about the very real gap that exists between the experiences, worldviews and theologies of many members of the Anglican Communion. It is equally to speak the truth that the gospel we share is stronger than the differences we acknowledge.”

Today, Monday July 21 was the first working day of the conference. The Marketplace, where our display is located, also opened today. But more about that tomorrow....

Ron

Chris Getting To Lambeth, part 1

Today is Monday, and I’ve been in Canterbury since Saturday – I’d better get caught up or the beginning never WILL get posted.

First of all, let me thank everyone who supported all of us to actually come here- this blog will form a partial report back to you, as things are happening. The generosity of our supporters is really very helpful to us, and humbling – that you’re prepared to put your money where our mouths are.

The trains are the best ways to get around the UK, but summer weekends are times to maintain the tracks, so the journeys are not as direct. I got to Victoria station Saturday morning, muttering darkly that the Tube is NOT friendly for people lugging 25kg of steamer trunk around (even with wheels). Well they were built over a century ago… Where was I? oh yes, Victoria Station. Taking care NOT to leave anything in a handbag at the left-luggage office, I went in search of the ticket office. En route I saw a gentleman in clerics, and he saw my Anglican Church of Canada sweatshirt, and introduced himself. Gerry Loweth, from Toronto. [cue “It’s a small world after all”].

Ticket in hand, I found Platform 2 (get in the rear 4 cars, Peter at the information desk said, so I did), and there found myself in brief conversation with a grandmother + grandchild. When I said I was going to Canterbury, she asked if I was going to Lambeth (turns out she works for the University of Kent), and then she asked me if I was a bishop. Smiling quietly (laughing out loud seemed a little rude), I assured her no, I was just a hanger-on, staff person for one of the displays in the marketplace.

Train to Haversham, and then we had to take a bus (track maintenance) to Canterbury East. While I was actually in the train, I managed to get in touch with Ron by mobile phone (feeling ever-so-technologically advanced), who reported that the hotel wouldn’t let us in yet, so come to ‘3C’. Thank heavens for taxis.

3C is the Canterbury Communications Centre, our staff room which in its everyday life is St Stephen’s parish hall. There’s a great U of tables, 20 net connections, printers, photocopiers (and a kitchen well supplied with tea – I have my priorities). Most of the afternoon (230-6) was taken up with staff meetings: the UK press and how to talk to them, and differences between England / UK / US; and then a volunteer orientation session. There are about 30 of us altogether, and by the end of the afternoon, I was more than ready to go to where my bed is.

Bob and I are roomies in a self-catering cottage for 4, our housemates are from the UK.

(more later – it’s 4pm and time for an Alongside Lambeth session at St Stephens)

Chris

Canadians in Kent

[initial post by Chris]

There are five members of Integrity Canada here in Canterbury at the Lambeth Conference. Ron Chaplin [Ottawa] arrived last Wednesday, Chris Ambidge [Toronto], Bob Webster [Winnipeg] and Steve Schuh [Vancouver] arrived on Saturday; and Neil Fernyhough [also Vancouver] just arrived half an hour ago. Neil immediately found a horizontal padded surface - he's been awake for 36 hours or so - but the rest of us are on UK time.

While Bob and Ron and I were tromping down the hill from the University of Kent (venue of most of the conference) to St Stephen's Parish Hall (the Inclusive Church / Integrity / Changing Attitude team office), I had the rather belated idea to create a blog that we could all post to as the inspiration and opportunity arose. So this is the initial post, more substantive stuff will be posted soon. I've told Ron it's his turn, but he may/may not get to it soon.

But we will get more material out soon. With any luck, we'll get photos posted as well. Talk to you soon

Chris