#GS2010 Day 8: “Full” Inclusion for Gays and Lesbians

I feel the winds of God today
Today my sail I lift
Tho heavy oft with drenching spray
and torn with many a rift…

We have been singing this hymn throughout our synod. Today I feel free to lift my sail and embark into the stormy sea.

We have been part of a long, tentative process over the past 5 days. We have gathered in discussion groups with the goal of listening to one another on the issue of blessing same sex unions*. I heard different voices but nothing was “for” and “against”. We spoke from our experience and our experiences are heard.

I don’t know if anyone was as surprised as I was when, after a very, very, VERY long day yesterday, the recorders of our conversation announced they had a pastoral statement from our conversations. A common mind? Doubtful! I feared it was a compromise that said nothing. As the mover to adopt the statement, The Ven. Peter Hobbs, said today, “We seem to be a church that has embraced relentless incrementalism”.

And yet, we have. I was stunned at the people who have violently opposed my position who said they could live with this.

We are a body that, above all else, are committed to maintain community. When we are divided, our mission is impaired, and while this justice issue is important, it is one of many on which we speak and act. We can not jeopardize our voice and action on the environment, gender equality, refugees, natural disasters, education, children’s health, aboriginal issues etc. by being further divided. Nor could we be silent and say that where we are right now is ok, or even united.

Many said the way to maintain unity, maintain our voice, maintain our action, was to do nothing on same sex blessings at this time. That’s what the Anglican Communion has tried to bully us into doing. We rejected that.

I thought of my friends in Antigonish, and of my brother through all this debate. I know this is not enough for you. All I can ask is to look at me, what I have tried to do with you, and see that as a sign of the possibility for my church.

For those who need a crash course in how we work, we are a communion made up of regions called dioceses. There are 3o dioceses in Canada, each headed by a bishop (some with some assistant bishops). Dioceses make their own decisions on some things, with assent of their bishops, and many in Canada have moved to bless same sex unions. This has made some in our worldwide Communion angry at the Anglican Church of Canada. Basically, this statement says that, as a national body, we will respect the dioceses’ efforts to be as generous as possible, and those who can not be generous in the same way.

I am dismayed that completely void in this debate was the voice of bisexual and transgendered people. Maybe because we are speaking specifically of relationship, I don’t know. We even had a lengthy debate on whether or not to include so called ex-gays in a related motion, but nothing about the experience of bisexual and transgendered people. I know it is inadequate that all I can say is, “Maybe next time”.

* We do not speak of same sex marriage…yet. Many dioceses are moving towards offering a nuptial blessing to those who have celebrated a civil union. Same sex marriage would require changing our canons, a process which takes many many years, even if we agree at first reading. We are responding in the most expedient way.


8 thoughts on “#GS2010 Day 8: “Full” Inclusion for Gays and Lesbians

  1. Megan

    Dawn – I have been listening to the live streaming this morning while doing work in my office on campus… and I am struggling… I absolutely hear you on the importance of community. I heard the voices of so many that spoke of the generous spirit present at synod, and how different this was from previous gatherings. And I firmly believe the Anglican approach which says that the Spirit is actually present in such gatherings, and that only those present can discern what that means… BUT I am not so convinced that this is good news. I sit here on campus and think of all those I minister to and with in this place, and I cannot see that this will be good news for many of them… I want to think otherwise. But I also sit in a diocese that voted resoundingly in favour of blessing of same-sex unions two synods ago, and has now stepped back as the national church figures out what to do – and I am frustrated, and saddened…

  2. theflagsofdawn

    I hear ya. I am not looking forward to untangling Anglican thought, nuance and governance…again.

    This letter, I believe, affirms what your diocese has done, and would tell you to carry on. This letter IS local option. We heard that in the debate and no one objected.

  3. Ben

    The statement affirms sex same blessings at Diocesan level. It’s essentially local option, but very carefully expressed. It is fine if dioceses bless same sex unions, it’s also ok if some don’t. This is masked in the statement but it’s there.

  4. Megan

    Thanks for this clarification – that was not clear from the conversation I listened to – or my reading of the statement – but that’s the disadvantage of not actually being there… I hope and pray that my bishop heard the statement in the same spirit.

  5. Hello, Dawn. Was it explicitly stated in debate that this allowed local options? I am so sorry I had to leave and wasnt’ there to hear it myself. Nothing on the website actually states this, though one could certainly interpret the statement that way.

  6. theflagsofdawn

    Yes, local option was named. In fact, there was a motion to strike this paragraph.

    “We acknowledge diverse pastoral practices as dioceses respond to their own missional contexts. We accept the continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral responses. We recognize that these different approaches raise difficulties and challenges. When one acts there are implications for all. There can be no imposition of a decision or action, but rather we are challenged to live together sharing in the mission of Christ entrusted to us, accepting that different local contexts call at times for different local discernment, decision and action.”

    That last sentence especially honours what many dioceses have already done or said, and opens the door for other dioceses to respond to their local pastoral needs as they see fit. I haven’t heard another interpretation from anyone who was there…yet.

  7. Michelle Bull

    Wow!! That is truly amazing.
    Charles asked me to speak on general synod this Sunday, though I wasnt’ a delegate, and of course, I need to talk about this. I really wish I”d been there to hear the debate, which isn’t on the website that I can find. I’d love to go back and listen to a recording of it, but I could only find live stream for what was happening at any given time, not the past. Maybe it’s there, but surfing the web isn’t one of my best points.
    The thing I find most hopeful is that there seems to be an idea that although we dont’ agree and probably will never agree, we can get on with our ministry without undermining each other, still loving each other and working together. Hallelujah!

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