Anglican Inclusion as Toronto Welcomes the Queen – and the “Queens”.

By a happy chance, the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Toronto on Saturday coincided with Toronto’s Pride parade later the same day.

Joining the crowd were two gay men, Randy Pierce and Kim Hutchinson, who had just met a week ago. The pair, who wore khaki shorts and short-sleeved dress shirts, had come to see the Queen.

“We’re here to see the real Queen and the other queens,” Mr. Pierce said, outlining the couple’s plans for Sunday. “We’ve got time to leave and change and put on our happy gear. We had to tone it down for the real Queen, and spice it up for the others.”

The synchronicity provided an opportunity for a timely and thoughtful reflection by Douglas Stoute, Dean of St James Cathedral, on the theme of inclusion in the church, in a sermon calling for the Anglican Church to hold a “respectful, inclusive dialogue with all God’s people”.

“The church is undergoing a rebirth,” the Very Reverend Stoute told the congregation. “It is at times destructive.” He noted that some in the Anglican church have sought to defend traditional biblical ideas of who belongs and who does not, a reference to a schism in the Anglican church over the blessing of same-sex unions.

“A church grounded by inclusiveness and openness is becoming more relevant,” he said.
“Polarization within Anglicanism is not new,” Rev. Stoute added, noting the 16th-century division between Catholicism and Protestantism and the 19th century dispute between high church and low church.

“Throughout history Anglicanism has sought to find a middle road,” he added. “It is a recognition that we do not have all the answers. It requires that we let go of pride and reach out to listen with open minds and open hearts.”

(Read more at National Post_)

This is timely on two counts. The Canadian church recently disappointed by fudging a decision on church blessing for same-sex partnerships. Last year, the proposal was passed by a comfortable majority, but failed nevertheless because the proposal needed separate majorities from each of laity, clergy and bishops  – and comfortable majorities in the first two groups sat alongside a narrow loss among the bishops. This year, early expectations were that a fresh vote would get the three separate majorities required. This did not happen. Although the atmosphere was reported to be more conciliatory, with an increased commitment to listening to each other, the fact remains that the church remains divided, and has failed to accept a decision on inclusion that has the support of a clear majority overall. The Canadian church would do well to take Dean Stoute’s words to heart.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, an announcement is expected later this week which will confirm the first openly gay Anglican bishop, joining the Episcopalians Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool in the US, and Eve Brunne in Sweden as the world’s first openly gay or lesbians selected for ordination as bishops. (There have been openly gay bishops before, but in the earlier cases, they were not open about their sexuality until after selection).

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Homosexuality and the Bible: Bishop Gene Robinson

Queer Catholics often have a tortured relationship with the Bible.  As Catholics, scripture has usually been less prominent in our faith formation than for other denominations. As lesbians, gay men or other sexual minorities, we are always conscious of the abuse of Scripture used as a weapon against us. Fortunately, there are others, including some who should be important role models, who see things rather differently.

 

From Mark 15, Book of Kells (Wiimedia Comons)

 

A year ago at this time, I was developing my ideas for what became this blog:  prepared during Advent, launched during the Christmas season. In this current season Advent season, I am naturally reflecting on what I have and have not achieved. One of the more important failures has been around Scripture. Right from the start, I planned to share with my readers some of the Good News of Scripture – good news that applies specifically to us as gay men and lesbians, but also the more important Bible messages of hope and joy that are relevant to us all.  It is far too easy to hit the roadblock of the clobber passages, and either turn back, or to spend endless time and energy trying to climb over them.  It is important to remove the blockage, but sometimes it is also important to simply walk around, and to enjoy the rest of the biblical landscape.  I have been seeing a lot of useful insights recently, form John McNeill and others, which shed useful insight into the situation of queer Catholics, but which also have a lot to say to the wider church about the nature of authority and the workings of the Holy Spirit.  I have a further commentary on John McNeil which should be ready for posting later today, but in the meantime, as a useful corrective to the common queer Catholic wariness of Scripture, I thought it could be useful to share with you some thoughts of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, renowned as the first openly gay man to be ordained as bishop in the Anglican Communion.

(These are extracts from his book “In the Eye of the Storm”)

I LOVE THE BIBLE”

I love the Bible. With no reservations, no holding back.

I grew up in a Bible-believing congregation of the Disciples of Christ Church. Every Sunday morning, from ten to eleven, every member of the church, young and old, went to Sunday School, and the study was always about Scripture. From eleven to twelve, we worshipped God, always from the perspective of scripture.

But the experience I had as a child that sealed my love for the bible was this: I heard God’s voice coming through those scriptures.  I’d already begun to wonder about my “difference” and the thought scared me to death. My church was using the words of scripture to say that people who were attracted to others of the same sex were despicable, an “abomination” in the eyes of God.  And yet – and here’s the miracle – I heard God saying to me the words God said to Jesus at his baptism:  “You are my son, the beloved.  With you I am well pleased. [“Luke 3:22”] Read the rest of this entry »