Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wondrously, Prayerfully made- the Montreal Decision

Old news by now perhaps- the vote at SynodMontreal on the blessing of civil marriages, what I’d like to share here are personal impressions of what can only be described as an incredible experience of God’s Spirit very much alive and working through the hearts of some pretty incredible men and women on a rainy Friday evening.

As a non-delegate, someone who once described himself as an alienated Anglican in an article published in the local diocesan paper, the decision to attend was an incremental conviction which stole over me. As I told one of my dearest who was there with us, if nothing else, I can quietly sit in a corner and do meta practice for all the conscientious suffering going on in the room. And of course- the evening was so much more than that....

Before anything else, it’s important to me that you know what an extraordinary person we’ve been given to be our Bishop in these times. +Barry is one of the most wondrously low-key, unaffected people I know. Following on the heels on his rather dynamic predecessor (understatement there), some people have mistakenly thought him to be a caretaker bishop, and the few grumbles which reached me, were encouraged to ‘just wait and see... Called, the man was called for a time and purpose.’ And in the meantime, +Barry has moved throughout his diocese and people with a pastoral grace which for me personally was awesome to behold, having been rather seriously manhandled in my past in the name of God.

Yes, there’s a very tenuous personal connection. My dear father who was a lifelong Church organist & a consummate musician in his time, counted Barry among his friends and a priest whose ministry he admired long before he become Bishop. Both of my parents treasured the friendship of Leslie’s parents, and of Leslie herself... Yes, there is a Leslie whose life and love informs, nourishes and supports everything +Barry does, and these two radiant beings haven’t faltered in their faith- even when Leslie was stricken cruelly within a few short years of their marriage, by a cruel and debilitating condition.

Friday evening began with a wonderful Holy Eucharist in the Cathedral- Anglicanism at its best. The central aisles of the Cathedral were literally packed, with an interesting overflow on both sides (including yours truly, arrived unaviodably late). My clear sense was a significant number more people were present to pray for our discussions that evening than would later fill Fulford Hall and the visitor’s gallery for the discussions. The liturgy began with a poem- Kate Compston’s ‘I Dream of a Church’ and all of you who know this work already will forgive me for repeating it here- it’s worth repeating

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s laughing
as she rocks in her rapture, enjoying her art;
she’s glad of her world, in its risking and growing;
‘tis the child she has born and hold close to her heart.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s weeping
as she crouches, wedged down by the sorrow she sees:
she cries for the hostile, the cold and no-hoping,
for she bears in herself our despair and dis-ease.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s dancing
as she moves like the wind and the wave and the fire:
a church that can pick up its skirts, pirouetting,
with the steps that can signal God’s deepest desire.

I dream of a church that joins in with God’s loving
as she bends to embrace the unlovely and lost,
a church that can free, by its sharing and daring,
the imprisoned and poor, and then shoulder the cost.

God, make us a church that joins in with your living,
as you cherish and challenge, rein in and release,
a church that is winsome, impassioned, inspiring;
lioness for your justice and lamb of your peace.

You don’t need me to blunder at trying to describe what, on so many levels was indescribable beyond the beautiful dance of ritual and faith carried out by +Barry and his priests in the sanctuary.

What made a deep and lasting impression on me was the incredible sense of family there was to this particular Eucharist. All of us present in a difficult, unsettling time and place, but each of part of the Anglican family, yearning to know God’s will in the issue which has been consuming so much time and energy through-out the Communion.
Two other Eucharists came to mind: Tanzania, when some Primates stormed from sanctuary in misogynist rage; and another Eucharist- the radiant, radical opposite of Tanzania: Montreal’s first OUTMass, and those of you who were there know of what I speak.
Sitting in my pew, so aware of the prayerful care embodied in those present, I couldn’t help but wish the Primates could have known the same thing- only one word for it- blessedness.

And no moment expresses the spirit very much alive in the Cathedral more that evening than the exchange of Christ’s peace. Not only did Bishop +Barry personally lead the clergy the full length of the Cathedral, stopping at each pew to meet eye-to-eye each occupant and share the peace of Christ; the congregants circulated in the aisles in a remarkable exercise of goodwill and connection which went on much longer than normal.
Patrick Wedd and the choir were earth-moving as usual- perhaps an unusual choice of words when they strive to be so heavenly, but it was all part of the feel to the evening- something gigantic was in process- something significant was happening.

Sitting in my pew after having received the blessed sacrament from yet another priest with associations with my family- the Rev Sinpo+ Han, I couldn’t help but tear up at the timeless beauty of so many hundred men and women of faith moving - each in their faith and need- to the Sacrament and back to their pews.

Dinner, thanks to the generosity of one of my dearest, Donald Boisvert PhD, was a wonderful time-out with Judy and Jeremy - both post-graduate students of Donald.

Then back to Fulford Hall, which is actually in the rather remarkable sky scraper complex which adjoins & underlays the Cathedral. Once again, the intense attentiveness- the prayerful attentiveness of most of those present in the hall was deeply moving, weaving its way through all the noisy chatter and speculation before +Barry called the room to order.

Scripture, prayers, a hymn... the gears of the evening kicked in as we moved through at least one motion, a memorial, a multi-part presentation by delegates to the recent National Synod. Of course gears and any mechanical metaphor soon fell away in the raw, trembling attentiveness of the moment as +Barry brought us into the sacredness of what was before us- Motion L.

Be it resolved that this Synod request that the Bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized; and hat the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.

Cannon Paul Jennings was so radiantly articulate when he spoke to the motion he was proposing, and he was only the first of many in the course of that evening.

Memory of course is a very personal and imperfect medium, but two over-riding impressions:

the deep articulate care and attentive grace of so many of the men and women who spoke for the motion, often literally moving me to tears of deep gratitude.

the surprising sadness and sympathy I felt for those I hae formerly called the bullies of the patriarchy, as the ineffectively mis-represented scripture and manhandled tradition. Perhaps the saddest was to see one individual, still in his twenties actually resort to Ecclesiastes injunction to wives to submit to their husbands as heads of the household and God’s representative- as if bore any relation to the lives God finds us living. No bullies in the room that night- only frightened brothers and sister, clinging desperately...

Earlier, at the end of his (slightly overlong) Bishop’s Charge +Barry firmly set the tone for the evening with a prayer by Betty Radford Turcott

Loving God, we strive to be your church in our world but we need to recognize that there is diversity in our midst. We have different ways to express our love for you in our worship. As your people we have different needs and expectations. Our hopes and our dreams, our backgrounds and our visions are not always the same. Grant that we may find and create ways to work together in community. Help us to hear each other in love. Help us to be open to the needs of others. Give us the will to find excitement in our individuality, harmony in our discord and unity in our diversity. Grant that all we do, we do out of love for you and for humankind.

The gracious caring in the room was remarkable, each testimony received in respectful silence- neither applause nor groaning and (audible) gnashing of teeth.
Only once, did +Barry have to intervene- to ask he room if he were to allow an individual to continue with their presentation- and he did- continue without even appreciating the good grace which had been granted him, childishly repeating the same offensive phrase which had interrupted proceedings initially.

So many wondrous men and women of faith touched me so deeply.

A gentleman clearly in his late seventies, speaking from the heart for the motion,

A theologian speaking simply but so powerfully of how it is in the startling newness and complexity of life where Christ most powerfully present.

Another priest speaking of her initial resistence and of her conviction that this was the only Christ-like thing to do.

A priest who brought the Sacrament to my father’s hospital bed, speaking of that first OUTMASS, the near-packed Cathedral resonating with lived faith.

Tim+ Smart’s sublime parable on hetero-socksuality.

There was one moment, when the testimonies went on and on, I literally ached with prayer for one brother or sister to stand and speak from the great awesome truth of being created a gay or lesbian child of God. And I have to admit it came from the most unexpected quarter- a man who literally moved me to tears- Archdeacon Canon Edward+ Symington, OGS who identified himself as ‘Christ’s Gay Eunuch’ being the only ordered priest in the diocese.

+Karen Chalk

The confident, unconditional smile of Letty+ James glimpsed ‘across a crowd room.’

Two speakers, right near the end just ‘capped the blessedness for me-‘ Judy Oatway, (remember that name) one of Donald’s theology students succinctly dismantled the arguments of the patriarchy in her usual ‘feisty’ directness. And Mark+ Rogers spoke for me when he spoke to the real issue; when he reminded the room that what is really at stake goes well beyond civil rights and had direct bearing on the lives and vocation of each and every Christian ie baptism,

Knowing there is no way I could possibly represent the testimony of the patriarchy, I won’t even try to. I would however mention three of their tactical manoeuvres- one to amend the motion (Failed); to have a written secret vote (Failed); and to vote by houses (Passed).

Once again, before the vote +Barry lead us in prayer and spoke from his heart before the actual vote.

The slightly raw, breathless openness in the room was unforgettable as our Bishop called each house to stand- for and against.

The marshals' care in counting and recounting each contingency was only a reflection of the seriousness of our undertaking.

Then back to our Bishop, who, once again speaking from his heart, reminded us

we are indeed the living Body of Christ, and we will continue to be nothing less after the outcome of that evening’s vote

that each and every one of us are essential to the life and welfare of that Body

that perhaps never before had he been so very deeply conscious of what extraordinary people we have in this diocese

Clergy 44-25 for the motion

Laity 59-32 for the motion.

Barely a sound in the room- hugs, some tears- whole conversations in eye contact.

+Barry, with great pastoral care, once again went over the significance (ie: the final decision and responsibility is his) and the context (ie. the request is for the blessing of civil marriages where one party is baptized), and assured us that nothing would be undertaken lightly, without much prayer and study, or without consulting with his fellow Canadian Bishops who meet in London ON next week.

Scripture, prayers and one last hymn- then out into the late evening downpour... Donald calling love to the three of us on the far side of the metro platform, the griminess of steep stairs up to street level, tumbling Judy into a cab to carry her home, the blessedness of my own tiny house and the unconditional enthusiasm of dear Willie, our late night walk in the downpour, very little sleep and a deeply grateful day of silence and practice Saturday, loving e-mails from two giants in the faith in response to the news- only one word for it all- blessedness.

Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ.
Amen, and again Amen

For God’s Greatest Blessing to God’s Greater Glory- unconditionally- always!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The week that was

Early Sunday morning (overcast and cool here in Montreal) I'd cast this morning's thoughts in the context of Susan+ Russel's musings on this morning's Gospel: Luke 17: 11-19 - the story of the tenth lepper.

Before anything else, I couldn't help but notice for the first time the symmetrical resonance between the fact it was the tenth leper who returned to thank the true source of his healing, and Kinsey's theory that we LGBT folk supposedly only represent 10 percent of humanity. I wonder if that's why he chose that figure- for its Biblical resonance.

Quite the week: who would have ever thought, the Dallas Reporter
would feature a photo story on dear +Gene, his parents Victor & Imogene, and Mark of course.

Having already enjoyed Elizabeth+ Kaeton's thoughts on International Coming-Out Day I couldn't help but wonder if +Gene's wonderful and delightfully human parents couldn't be nominated for something for their exemplary faith in and love of their radiant son. An award not so much for what I'm sure they'd insist was only the Christian thing to do, but to bring the comfort of their words and example to the thousands of other parents fearing they might be forced to chose between their faith community and their love of their LGBT sons or daughters.

How about Great Folks we all love, in the International Fellowship of Christ's Radiant Grace- of course they'd be in good company with Judy and Richard Shephard.

In that same spirit, I can't help but thinking on the larger day of grace when our Church gets over itself and steps far enough outside the straight-jacket of fear that it can own and ask forgiveness for its objectification and the suffering of so many Christian versions of the 'other'... Just imagine it: A specific Sunday every year when the Anglican Church (yeah the one known for full inclusion of all baptized and its radical hospitality) actually focuses the liturgy on the gifts of their Afro-Canadian, or the Japanese- Canadian, or the First Nations.... or dare I say it LGBT baptized, and giving thanks, celebrates a liturgy of healing and restoration.
Talk about energizing liturgy!

You didn't expect me to stop there, did you?

One day that same Radiant Church will step outside its hallowed walls on a regular basis to ask forgiveness and dialogue with our Jewish brethren. Standing outside the tyranny of inherited fear, it will become vocal in calling for an end to the objectification of our Muslim brothers and sisters and support the work of courageous Muslims like Irshad Manjee... Who knows we might even become known for our unconditional support for the people of Burma, our insistence for an end to the terror in Darfour and for being at the forefront of healing God's Creation.

Don't you dare accuse me of dreaming.

Our very unique structure and polity; our heritage of honoring Scripture, Tradition & the on-going work of God's Grace place us in such a very unique transformative time and space.

And then of course- and most thankfully- it isn't just us but the church of Jesus Christ, the radiant, resurrected son of the True and Living God alive & active in this process of transformation.

So no matter how uncouth the acrimony, how inept the bumbles, blunders and mis-steps; we are a church in motion- a church in process- though God's unfailing grace.

So that's why I still care, to answer the question of one shanga brother, and I refuse to settle for anything less- in the not-so-long-run of course.

'We are a people of hope'- to quote one radiant brother in faith- 'it's only a question of time'. (same source)

A point +Gene mentions- about being piqued at continual being referenced as the 'gay bishop': I can sure identify with that.

As long as I am identified primarily by but one detail of my divinely created
self-hood I am being objectified, rather than recognized as a living, vital human being and full member of the Church. And when this happens within the Church my relationship with the Divine is not only being devalued, but my faith practice, experience and the grace given are being devalued or dismissed- something no practicing Christian should countenance.

Need I state the obvious: There are no second-class Christians.

Yes, I am gay- among so many other things- but that is not only something Divinely included in my humanity, it is something I have, through God's grace, owned- again through God's grace. So it is something for me to choose to bring to the table- not something for others to reduce to a simplistic caricature of my life.

And then of course, there's the sad fact that the Church of all places, still has to resort to such handicapped terms to describe some of its most faithful members.

Sexuality is not an isolated feature of one's being.

Labeling an individual according to the repertoire of shared intimate acts in their life is not only insulting, it's a simplistic, artificial construct at the more desperate outer fringes of dualistic thinking. Or is this supposed to some sort of necessary standard; are we supposed to start referring to non-gay brothers and sisters according to the frequency and nature of their sexual intimacy also?

Personally, I have made a conscious decision to avoid the use of the word 'sexuality' because of it's implicit patriarchal objectification.

The real issue here- and the context for the Church's vocation is God's unfailing grace working in and through our lives- the concept is being- selfhood, to probably coin a phrase.

Sadly, the Church's insistence on 'sexuality' and the patriarchy's insistence on making the 'sexuality' of some of its baptized a make-or-break issue is a reflection of nothing less than just how alienated and frightened these same members are of their own vocations in Christ Jesus.

But to get back to this past week: Ottawa Synod, on Saturday voted 177 to 97 to ask their Bishop for permission for priests acting in good conscience to bless civil marriages and covenants of same-gender couples.

You might have heard my wild cheering when the news came in.

Of course the final decision of where this goes from there, rests with +John Chapman, and I'd ask your fraternal prayers for this brother who must be only to aware of the significance of this gigantic step is calming God's Greatest Blessing for God's Greatest Glory.

Of course, the patriarchy wasn't able to keep their mouths prayerfully shut, 'waiting on the Lord', in this instance either... and I quote from the Ottawa Citizen

Rev. Sinclair said that if the church passed the motion, "We are saying we are smarter than Jesus. We are saying Jesus was wrong and we are right."

Later he said he was "disappointed, but not surprised."

He predicted some Anglicans will leave over it, and he just hopes the farewells will be fond and not bitter or triumphant.

Pathetic isn't it how the patriarchy, in their desperation have to resort to mis-representing both Holy Scripture and our Lord's ministry on earth; when we all know Christ himself never spoke to same-sex love in Scripture? He was too busy embodying and witnessing to God unconditional love for Creation!


Monday, October 8, 2007

Amazing Grace!

It's Canadian Thanksgiving up here this week-end.
A rainy Thanksgiving Monday here in Montreal which brings out the green in everything in the garden- reminding us of just how much life there still is in the living- inspite of the more Fall like temperatures.

Yesterday, most of my very large family were once again blessed to get together at our dear Mam's for yet another incredible meal. Four wondrous generations who might not always agree on the finer points of all things, but who know the true blessedness of being together once again. My late Father, who gave so much of his life to glorifying God through his high standards for liturgical music might no longer be with us in body, but his spouse and three generations of their off-spring all joined hands, and once more sang thanks and praise in Mam's living room and dining room and out into the hall.

Afterwards, sitting n a quiet corner with one of my two wondrous Japanese-born great-nieces on my knee, I couldn't help but think of some of the angry voices within the Communion who are working so furiously to exclude themselves from the Communion. Holding precious Kioka, I thought of ++Peter specifically, and prayed that he'd be still long enough to get over himself.

And then this morning, back home once more in the blessed early morning silence of our tiny house, with my pup curled up at my feet, I logged on to such wondrous bounty.

First, (thanks to Susan+ Russel) the courageous witness of +Thomas Clark Ely, current Bishop of Vermont and a living blessing to the Church. This man of God literally took my breath away with a couple of his paragraphs cited on Susan+'s blog:

I regret that once again we made our gay and lesbian members the object of our discussion, something that by its very nature is a form of oppression. I ask for more than patience and forbearance from those so oppressed by our words and actions: I ask for forgiveness. I also ask for their continuing faithful and steadfast commitment to the mission and ministry of The Episcopal Church. Finally, I offer my apology to those who disagree and are deeply troubled by recent actions of the Episcopal Church for whom any of my words and actions have contributed to a sense of alienation or oppression. It is never my intention to treat others as objects or to act in anyway that fails to respect the human dignity of another.

I pledge to continue working for both the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons in the life of the Episcopal Church and for the full and dynamic participation of all members of the Episcopal Church in the mission and ministry of the Anglican Communion. Either one without the other would represent to me a failure on our part to live into the fullness of God’s saving grace, glory and hope for the world. I pray that you will join me in this work

A Bishop of our Church asking forgiveness of LGBT people and asking for our forbearance? Who can possibly doubt that God is alive and working wondrous things in the Communion in these seemingly difficult times?
The full text to +Thomas' extraordinary letter to his diocese can be found here

And if one radiant Bishop weren't enough, there's dear +Gene New Hampshire's letter to his people. +Gene is writing as he leaves on a three month sabatical after five years (already) in the Episcopate... Now in my dictionary, sabatical is supposed to be about rest and restoration, but what's this belove brother in Christ doing before he gets around to R&R? He's heading out to meet the Church in the south, to shsre in their work and ministry, to meet the street!

The Christ-filled radiance of this precious brother literally moves me to tears.

Then there's this Sunday's sermon by Cannon Elizabeth+ Kaeton, a radiant sister in Christ who never fails to bless this life and practice at least a couple of times every week. Can that sister preach!

And if that weren't wonder enough for one morning, there's the most incredible process going on at Father Jake Stops the World-another living blessing.
Start with Harry's original post (what a truly radiant brother there!) but you have to delve into the comments to get a real sense of the wonder that's unfolding... Talk about grace at work.... Starting with Harry and Wayne+ having the grace and courage to claim the blessedness of their life together within the Church... and then Harry met Richard, who shared him with ++Katherine... factor in the Great ++Katherine's passion for ministry, and now there's this wondrous work of grace taking form in a space Father Jake (a.k.a. Terry) made possible.

I won't say more- you want to read this!

Somehow 'thank-you' just doesn't quite cover it.