Council of General Synod
6 May 2005

Presentation by Integrity Canada
Ron Chaplin and Patti Brace

Good afternoon.

First of all, allow me to thank Council of General Synod, on behalf of Integrity Canada and all of our supporters, for this invitation to participate in your discussions today. My name is Ron Chaplin. Many of you may recall that I am a member of General Synod from the Diocese of Ottawa. I am delighted to be accompanied today by Dr. Patti Brace, a longtime member of Integrity from the Diocese of Algoma.

Let me explain, before we begin, on whose behalf we speak to you today. Integrity Canada is an informal network of organizations and friends working toward the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada. We do this in many ways. Local chapters across Canada offer caring community where gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people, their extended families, friends and colleagues, can experience spiritual growth in Christian communities which are safe and nurturing. We are founded on a ministry of pastoral care, a ministry to persons who too often have been subject to discrimination and abuse, from society and from the church. Our local chapters are also actively engaged in the ministry of evangelization, spreading the Word of God to people who, for too long, have felt that the Good News was, for them, anything but.

We are engaged in a ministry of church-building. Our local chapters and informal networks offer support to Anglican parishes and dioceses seeking to become more affirming, inclusive and intentionally welcoming, not only to the gay and lesbian community but, by extension, to others who have too long been marginalized by the mainstream.

Finally, through our international and ecumenical partnerships, we support others who are committed to evangelization and inclusion in Anglican and Christian communities in many parts of the world.

Many different issues confront us this weekend. Archbishop Hutchison has acknowledged, both here today and recently in other fora, that our beloved church is in crisis. It is in crisis not only globally, but at the national and the local levels as well. Church leaders, parishes and individuals in many disparate parts of our church have declared that they are out of communion with this or that other group. Various people, all who call themselves Anglican, have been refusing to join with their brothers and sisters around the Eucharistic table of fellowship. This is, to say the least, alarming.

Let me preface our remarks by asking this very simple question: how can this be? Call me a simpleton, but I have always been taught, and fervently believe, that the Christ calls us all to be children of God. I know of no procedure, civil or otherwise, by which I can divorce a brother or a sister. We may have disagreements. In fact, we are bound to have disagreements, if we truly care for and love each other. Disagreements do not a crisis make, if we are truly bound by mutual affection and trust.

And yet, we of Integrity have known far, far too often, in civil society, in the Church, and too often in our own families, what it feels like to be cut off and disavowed. In many parts of our global community, gays and lesbians are subject to intense persecution, from the church and from the state. If there be but one message you recall from this brief presentation, let it be this: that you not cast off your gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, that instead we might all continue in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers, and in the proclamation of the Good News by our word and our example -- in other words, in our ministry.

This ministry is what we would like to discuss with you today. It is our Anglican tradition that discernment is the responsibility of the whole people of God, engaging all three orders of ministry — the episcopate, the ordained clergy and the laity, respecting the witness and ministry of each, and accommodating differences in geography, custom and culture. Authority flows neither from the top down, nor from the bottom up. Authority is instead vested in the community, that is, in the entire communion. It can be a messy business, especially when disagreements are profound. This is not a failing or a mistake; it is, quite the contrary, deliberate. Anglicanism, since at least the days of the Elizabethan Settlement, has been a Christian community which embraces complexity. This discernment process ensures that our communion, in its practices and in its doctrines, is truly authentic.

We would like to remind you that this principle is explicitly recognized in Resolution I.10 on Human Sexuality approved by the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 1998. Paragraph 3 of that Resolution states, We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons... There was nothing novel in this statement. It reiterates a commitment made by the bishops gathering at Lambeth in 1978 to encourage dialogue with homosexual persons, a commitment reaffirmed at the 1988 Lambeth Conference.

I think you will all understand that, within our particular community and ministry, it is a matter of great perplexity and consternation that a great fuss and bother had developed over Paragraph 5 of the 1998 resolution, which advises against the blessing of same-sex unions or ordaining persons in same gender unions, while we have seen precious little evidence, in the global communion, of any follow-up on Paragraph 3. We of Integrity ask you this question: are these simply empty words?

This leads directly to the question facing us this weekend, that is, the request from the Primates' meeting in February: that the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw its members from the Anglican Consultative Council for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference in the year 2008. In their communiqué, the Primates made clear that this was requested so that we in Canada might respond to the questions addressed to us in the Windsor Report, and consider our place within the Anglican Communion.

This has been asked of us as a sign that the Canadian Church acknowledge the significance of this issue to our global partners, and the need for a period of reflection and discernment. So be it. We of Integrity would be among the very last to deny the seriousness of the issue, or the need for dispassionate discernment. This discernment process, we might add, affects not only the Canadian church. It has been 27 years since the bishops gathered at Lambeth first committed themselves to a process of dialogue with gay and lesbian persons.

And yet, this request raises a number of inherent contradictions, on two different levels.

1. On the presenting issue of same-sex relationships and the church's ministry to gay and lesbian persons, the Primates in February asked that the Anglican Consultative Council, at its meeting next month, take positive steps to initiate the listening and study process mandated by the Lambeth Conferences of 1998, 1988 and 1978. It is beyond question that the Anglican Church of Canada has gone as far or farther in this process than any other province of the Anglican Communion. If the commitment made by the bishops at the Lambeth Conference of 1998 is genuine, why would the primates not want us to share our witness and our counsel in this regard?

2. Among the four Instruments Of Unity outlined in the Windsor Report, only the Anglican Consultative Council includes any order of ministry other than the episcopate. To inhibit the participation of the orders of clergy and laity in the global communion's discussion on the presenting issue calls into question one of the basic principles of discernment and of order within our Anglican tradition. We of Integrity do not feel that disagreements about questions of homosexuality and homosexual relationships should call into question fundamental principles about our common life together as Christian community. Quite the contrary, we pray that our tradition of discussion and discernment engaging all three orders of ministry be re-affirmed by the Canadian Church.

We also note that the Primates requested, at their February meeting, that representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada be invited to a hearing to explain our the thinking behind our recent actions on the questions of homosexual persons and our relationships. We do not know how these representatives will be selected. We pray that any delegation, reflecting the distinctive nature of the Anglican Consultative Council, include representatives from the clergy and the laity. Moreover, recognizing the declarations made by all Lambeth Conferences since 1978 to dialogue with homosexual persons, we would suggest that an openly gay or lesbian person or persons be part of this delegation. This would be a start!

Finally, we note that on your agenda this weekend is the request of the Primates that we in Canada impose a moratorium on public rites of blessings for same-sex unions. I can remind you that, a year ago, General Synod agreed, quite deliberately, not to put such a question, but decided instead to defer it until 2007. We of Integrity pray that no action will be taken to undermine the integrity of the process which is now underway, nor to interfere in processes already undertaken within individual Canadian dioceses. To undermine the efforts of those who have worked in good faith, according to our canons and agreed procedures, is to threaten the very bonds of trust which unite us.

By way of conclusion, let us share two thoughts with you. In a radio interview last week, Archbishop Hutchison explained how different communities within our worldwide communion were seeking, depending on their circumstances, either a declaration or a process or a sign. We of Integrity pray that you, in your deliberations this weekend, give us and our particular community just such a sign! We have heard the declarations since 1978. We have participated, locally and nationally, in good faith, in agreed processes. We pray that you, in your deliberations this weekend, give us a sign that our witness and our ministry might be upheld as a valued and integral part of our Anglican family!

And I cannot help but reflect, at this point in our common pilgrimage, on the words of a dear brother in Christ, the late Bishop of Rome. Over recent weeks, we have been reminded of these words of John Paul II, echoed by his successor: Be not afraid! For us, in the community of gay and lesbian believers, these words strike a chord. Almost all of we gay and lesbian believers, here in Canada and abroad, have had the experience of being victims of other persons' fears. Through faith, nurtured by pastoral ministry, and embracing the gifts of grace, many of us have found a pathway through this minefield of fear, this valley of death, to live and to love, to cherish our community and our communion, to commit ourselves to the path of forgiveness and reconciliation, as mandated by Jesus our Christ.

We share this prayer with you this afternoon. In the face of imminent crisis, be not afraid! May the Holy Spirit guide you in discerning what needs to be preserved, what needs to be changed, and what needs further discernment. Rest assured that you are surrounded and upheld by the prayers of the Integrity family as you proceed in your deliberations this weekend.

Thank you for your invitation, for your time, and for your consideration.

 

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