#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.

#GS2010 Day 7: Honouring Indigenous Ministries

Today has been a long long long day. The pace is picking up as the no debate list dwindles and the new and more controversial matters start coming forward.

But before all that, we had a victorious afternoon of honouring the self-determined place of Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people in the Anglican Church of Canada. Three years ago we consecrated the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald as the National Indigenous Bishop. He is a bishop without a territory, but with a ministry to the indigenous people. Most of our motions have been procedural, but what we have done through these dry procedures is declaring that we stand beside our Indigenous sisters and brothers in their fight for national self-determination by recognizing their structures, Sacred Circle and adding their voice to the governing bodies of the Anglican Church of Canada.

In my diocese, the nation that is here, the Mik’maq, are largely Roman Catholic, so they are, with some exceptions, rare in Anglican pews. We have made connections with local reserves in some parishes. I do not have the opportunity to hear from our Indigenous peoples on what happens in the Anglican Church. I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to hear their wisdom, particularly being challenged to think in a different framework.

We also moved to make June 21 an official commemoration in our calendar as the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer. I look forward to opportunities to celebrate this, too.

#GS2010 Day 6: Called to risk mission

As we began our day on Tuesday, we sang one of my favourite hymns by John Bell, Will You Come and Follow Me? This line has been resonating with me since I sang it.

“Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?”

We then watched a performance by the theatre group, Roots Among the Rocks. This group of young people offer up stories that tell a story of our church, our passions, our joy, our history, our current life. So much of this play were lightening rods for me. They struck me and rippled into many areas of my life as a priest and child of God.

Of course, everyone was blown away. The house stood and applauded for longer than for anyone else. They called us to risk a faith walk that attracts and scares.

The irony is we then heard our feedback from our sexuality discernment a lot of caution and fear of causing controversy in the Communion. I hope that those who stood so quickly and were so obviously moved by the performance will return to their groups Wednesday morning carrying that courage and call to stand apart.

We also heard from Archbishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori. For a church whose mission was supposed to be in crisis because of disagreement, well, wow! They are doing a lot of amazing work!!

#GS2010 Social Media at General Synod

Another “group” I have been engaging with at General Synod are the people here and around the world following us online through the livestream, facebook and twitter. As one United Church friend wrote to me on facebook, “I’ve learned more about the ACC with your updates here and on Twitter than I have studying at (theological school)! Thank you!”

For more on how social media is adding a new discourse to our proceedings, check out Synod on Demand from Monday. The whole segment is good, but tune in about halfway through until the end if you are short on time.

#GS2010 Day 5: Discussion of the Day

Monday was a day greatly anticipated, whether with excitement or fear depends on the delegate.

Last week the Herald informed me that I would be debating same sex blessings. That’s not quite accurate…yet. We have been meeting most mornings with a galley group, a group of 6-10 people from across the orders and the country to do Bible study and have conversations. Three galley groups come together to form a discussion group and, on Monday, we had our first one. We were asked one question: What do you hope to see come out of this General Synod in regards to same sex blessings?

Respecting the confidentiality of our group, I will only say I was moved by the honesty, frankness yet overpowering spirit of respect and love that was in our group. On Tuesday a report was released compiling all of our conversations and presented back to General Synod.

In the meantime, I learned Monday evening that while the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion spoke to us and said he would not interfere in our processes, he has told the communion (through the press…nice!) that members of the Episcopal Church have been removed from key Communion committees and a letter has been sent to our House of Bishops asking if we have done anything that would warrant a similar response.

In an earlier post I expressed my mistrust of some Instruments of Communion up until this point. This has not helped. However, through my discussion and galley groups, my trust of my fellow Canadian Anglicans has increased immensely.

Discussion groups . The conversations are everywhere!

#GS2010 Day 4: Celebrating 300 years

We had a fantastic and wonderful celebration of our 300 years of continuing Anglican worship in Nova Scotia. I was so pleased to greet the bus with my parishioners from the Parish of Three Harbours and to have Elizabeth Abler from my parish as my server. I was one of 22 concelebrants with Bishop Sue. I greatly enjoyed feeling surrounded by the national church in our celebration, although in the physical space we surrounded them!

The service began with five historical vignettes of our history as a diocese. They were well written, funny, poignant and honest. I struggled with the first vignette, as did my husband who is an Acadien. The first service at Port Royal was to celebrate the conquering of the french by the English. That was how this celebration was introduced to me 5 years ago. When I pointed out the insensitivity of this, the phrase was subsequently dropped from the presentation.

So, the first thing we (and our aboriginal guests, I may add) saw was two soldiers joking about finding wood in this new land by stealing the ax from the local carpenter and then destroying his house. It was written in a spirit of comedy which I did not find particularly funny. The vignette ended with a story by one soldier about his father’s musket. It is not the musket that is important, but what you accomplish with it. Again, this was written in the spirit of looking forward to great accomplishments, and all I could think was, yeah, look at what was accomplished at the point of a musket.

Having said that, the most moving part of the service for me was the liturgical dance. About 21 people dressed in costumes representing wind, water, doves and fire. It was beautifully executed, and I am very proud of my friend Katherine Bourbonniere and her choreography.

As part of my saying goodbye, I was invited to be a concelebrant for this service. It was an honour to stand with some wonderful and supportive colleagues at the celebration. We have a good college of clergy. As we were lined up, we couldn’t all hear the hymn sing. Those closest to the doors started to sing and led the rest of us in singing in the hallway.

#GS2010 Day 4: Let the conversation begin

This morning, before we departed for the diocesan celebration, we began the process of “Sexuality Discernment”. We heard from the Primate’s Theological Commission, Faith Worship and Ministry, and the Primate. These groups and many others have spent the past triennium and then some trying to answer some fundamental questions our church has posed in regards to same-sex blessings.

There was nothing, I don’t think, that was supposed to be surprising. It was a way for us to frame our conversations in the context of what our church has already discerned.

It was obvious to me, from all the presentations, that these people have worked with great integrity, prayer, commitment and faithfulness. They were courageous enough to suspend their convictions and listen to one another for the good of the Church…for us. When they finished, I felt incredibly incredibly grateful. I could see they were tired, but also grateful for the growth they had experienced. I was grateful that they agreed to do this for us, for me. The National Church asked them to take on this huge task. They could have said no, this is too much. They did, in some instances, change the terms of reference, but they carried out the task faithfully.

From here, we will join with discussion groups of 15-20 to begin the conversation on Monday morning.