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.