Thursday, 31 July 2008
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!
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
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
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
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?"
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.
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.
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. :)
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
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.
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
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.
Monday, 28 July 2008
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.
At the Windsor Continuation Group Hearing
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 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.
Sunday, 27 July 2008
Sanctuary of St.Martin Church Canterbury
standing in the doorway of St. Martin's church Canterbury
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.
Saturday, 26 July 2008
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.
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.
Friday, 25 July 2008
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?"
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.
- 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.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
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.
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
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.
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
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]
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
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.
Monday, 21 July 2008
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)
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