Thinking Anglicans

Fred Hiltz writes

Below the fold, there is the full text of a memorandum written to the Canadian House of Bishops in October 2008 by the Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

Part of this text was quoted in the statement issued by the Canadian House of Bishops on 31 October.

Reflection by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

At the recent Lambeth Conference, the blessing of same-sex unions was discerned in a variety of venues – hearings, self-select sessions, and Indaba groups. Indaba is an African word meaning “a gathering for purposeful conversation among equals.” In groups of 30-40, bishops spoke with one another and endeavoured in a spirit of mutual respect to listen to each other. This venue proved to be the most helpful in engaging in conversation over this contentious issue. All who entered into the spirit of indaba and willingly gave themselves to the conversation was moved by the experience. As we listened to one another we recognized that “the issue of homosexual relations is as sensitive as it is because it conflicts with the long tradition of Christian moral teaching. For some, the new teaching cannot be acceptable on biblical grounds as they consider all homosexual activity as intrinsically sinful.” (para 111, Indaba Reflections) We learned that “the whole issue of homosexual relations is also highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue.” (para 112, ibid) We learned of the struggle for some to refrain from proceeding with authorizing blessings, convinced as they are through a conscientious discernment of God’s will in this matter, that it is a matter of gospel imperative. We learned of the struggle of so many to equate blessings with marriage.

It was abundantly clear that these matters have been under discussion for over 30 years in some places and in other places it is a more recent conversation.

“The issue of homosexuality has challenged us in our churches on what it means to be a Communion.” (para 116, ibid) We reflected on the fundamental nature of the Church as relational: she is related to God, her members are related to each other, and our churches are related in a community of independent, participatory relationships.” (David Hamid) We discussed the nature of provincial autonomy and the principle of consulting with one another over significant matters of faith and order. We recognized the different politics of our churches and how they can produce misunderstandings and confusions that need to be addressed.” (para 102, ibid) We noted that “we need to acknowledge that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and that each part of the Communion, when it acts, must do so in the knowledge of what it means for the whole.” (para 102, ibid) We were convinced that an important way of “deepening our communion is (a) in the development of person to person relationships, (b) in diocesan partnerships and © in recovering our sense of belonging and mutual affection.”(para 102, ibid)

The outcome of discussions at the Lambeth Conference was agreement on the part of the majority of bishops present that, in accord with The Windsor Report, there be continuing moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination of persons living in same-gender unions to the episcopate, and on cross-provincial interventions. In the Indaba Reflections document we read that, “If The Windsor Report is to be honoured, all three moratoria must be applied consistently.” (para 145, ibid)

Therein lies a significant challenge. The Archbishop of Canterbury recognized this in a letter he issued to all of the bishops of the Communion following the Lambeth Conference. He wrote, “A strong majority of bishops present agreed that moratoria on same-sex blessings and cross-provincial interceptions were necessary but they were aware of the conscientious difficulties this posed for some, and there needs to be a greater clarity about the exact expectations and what can be realistically implemented. How far the intensified sense of belonging together will help mutual restraint in such matters remains to be seen.” At the conference the Archbishop spoke of “a season of gracious restraint” to allow some space and time for conversation to continue.

I come to this meeting of the House of Bishop mindful of our Provincial context and the call for authorization of public rites for the blessings of same sex-unions in a number of our dioceses. I am mindful of the place of the Anglican Church of Canada in our worldwide Communion.

I trust the House of Bishops will support my call for respect for due process through the General Synod in this matter. In 2007, General Synod concurred with the opinion of the St. Michael Report (produced by the Primate’s Theological Commission) that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine. It is not creedal in nature but nonetheless it is doctrine. The same General Synod called for further work by the Primate’s Theological Commission in determining if this matter of blessings is a Spirit-led development of doctrine. Out of respect for the General Synod I believe we have a responsibility with the whole Church to await the opinion of the Commission. It is likely that an opinion will be forthcoming well in advance of General Synod in 2010. I believe that deliberations over this opinion across the church will have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.

As you can appreciate I am living with the tension of a call to honour gracious restraint and support of a call for bishops to act now in giving consent to the authorizing of public rites for blessing same sex unions. I am appealing for gracious restraint in this matter. I make this appeal out of respect for my brother and sister bishops who represent a diversity of perspectives on this issue; out of respect for due process through General Synod; and continuing Communion-wide conversation including going the Primates’ Meeting in February 2009 and to the Anglican Consultative Council in May 2009. I recognize that for some of you this appeal will be viewed as wise pastoral leadership on my part. Others will see it as a lack of bold prophetic leadership. I ask for your prayers.

Out of respect for those who would have us act now, I would encourage diocesan bishops to appoint a commission to consider what constitutes responsible pastoral care for gay and lesbian members of our Church asking for blessings of their committed monogamous lifelong relationships. I recognize that in some dioceses the work of the commission may include the drafting of a rite for public blessings. The Commission should be encouraged to do a thorough review of work done in this regard by other dioceses in Canada, and in other parts of the Communion.

In the meantime I want to draw your attention to two documents set out by the House of Bishops. One is called Shared Episcopal Ministry approved in the fall of 2004 and the other is Pastoral Generosity approved in the spring of 2007. That document in part reads:

“We are committed, as bishops in Canada, to develop the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teaching of the church. We offer the following examples of possible pastoral responses:

  • When a civilly married gay or lesbian couple seeks our church’s reception of their civil marriage and asks their parish’s recognition, it may be possible with their bishop’s knowledge and permission, to celebrate a Eucharist with the couple, including appropriate intercessory prayers, but not including a nuptial blessing.
  • When a gay or lesbian married or committed couple seeks to hold a reception or celebration in a church for their life in Christ, again intercessory prayers for their mutual fidelity, the deepening of their discipleship and for their baptismal ministry may be offered, not including the exchange of vows and/or a nuptial blessing.

To those who experience these pastoral statements and possible pastoral provisions as inadequate or insufficient, we recognize that they are less than the blessing of same sex unions or marriage. However it is the discernment of the majority of the House of Bishops that as of today the doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit further action.”

I would encourage bishops to incorporate this provision along with Shared Episcopal Ministry into a Bishop’s Guideline, accompanied by a pastoral letter commending it for use in parishes where such provisions may be appropriate.

I take this stance deeply conscious of the burden of responsibility I hold as Primate, as a member of the House of Bishops, as President of the General Synod, as a participant in the Lambeth Conference, 2008 and as a Primate in the Anglican Communion. I do not believe that any of us should move ahead too quickly so soon after a call for gracious restraint from the Archbishop of Canterbury, without continuing consultation with our House of Bishops, without continuing discernment within our dioceses and without respect for due process through the deliberations of General Synod.

Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for gracious restraint. I remain committed to addressing this issue within the Communion.

I ask for your prayers as we steadfastly seek to discern the mind and heart of Christ for the wholesome care of all members of his Body, the Church. Please know dear friends of my own deep hope that though we may never come to consensus over this matter of the blessing of same-sex unions, we will seek the capacity to live with difference in a manner that is marked by grace and generosity of spirit, one toward another. I remain absolutely convinced that this matter ought not to be a communion-breaking issue, for as the Archbishop of Canterbury has said, “of the tensions that assail us, the wider life of the Communion is broader and richer than these matters alone.” (para 2, ibid)

October, 2008

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Ford ElmsFather Ron SmithAndrew InnesErika BakerColin Coward Recent comment authors
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Columba Gilliss
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Columba Gilliss

In the third pararaph the word is polities — not politics.
This time spelling does matter.

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

I would be interested to know what “called to account” ( in the penultimate paragraph ) might mean?

drdanfee
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drdanfee

A casual blog reader deeply sympathizes with the vexed position in which the Canadian Anglican churches, Hiltz, and other bishops and believers now find themselves. Culture changes have outdistanced believers yet again. Think flat earth, solar system, disease vs demon possession models for the Black Plague, modern lending practices, contraception and divorce and remarriage, modern parenting and adoption practices, slave-holding traditions, status of women. Are we still surprised? – really? – that believers are still back in the past, grimly holding on to all their negative expectations for queer folks? The restraint part is fairly clear in Hiltz’ remarks. Hold… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Perry Butler: Let me just throw out a suggestion. Perhaps it might mean, in language something like that of the Windsor Report, that Primates who organize and sanction cross-border interventions would be named and asked to consider whether they ought not to withdraw themselves voluntarily for a time from the meetings of the Anglican Communion. This much I know: It would be very difficult for me to serve on a secular committee with persons who were openly working to destroy the organization I represented, especially if the methods they were using went against all accepted practice. So I don’t know… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for gracious restraint. I remain committed to addressing this issue within the Communion.” – Bishop Fred Hiltz – The Canadian Anglican Primate’s call for restraint in further action on same-sex blessings has to be seen in the light of the re-Asserters’ determination not to abide by the moratorium on inter-Provincial border-crossings. While it is seemly for… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Now that the juggernaut of conservative realignment is rolling along, does anybody really believe that any church showing restraint or outright new banning of all queer folks (the surface brief of the realignment dissents and border crossings) – would really slow down or cease? I predict, not. The conservative campaign has gone too far by now, said too many dodgy and mean things about nearly everybody else in global Anglican big tents, to slow down or back off or stop altogether. The heady smell of new church life powers is electric and stinky in all the Anglican air. No oxygen… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

I predict YES to drdanfee’s question on provinces rolling back on gay issues. Though I think this is not so much a prediction – rather an observation of what is actually happening on the ground NOW. There has been a significant change since Lambeth in several member Churches including my own here in Wales. Since before the Dromantine Williams has believed it necessary that gay people should be firmly pushed back in the closet, indeed since he refused to consecrate Jeffrey John the message has been pretty clear that there is no place for self respecting gay people in the… Read more »

Leonardo Ricardo
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It is outrageous that no one has yet called the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, and Southern Cone to account for their cross-border incursions, and it is high time to do it.¨ UGANDA, don´t forget Uganda…Uganda where the Archbishop Orombi not only crosses over lots of borders (think Diocese of Los Angeles TEC and a pending California Supreme Court ruling) but publicly demonizes LGBT Anglicans/others at home in Uganda…no need to worry about BLESSING any LGBT Christian in Uganda or even giving a small ¨listen¨…it´s more like worrying about the general safety and well being of LGBT Anglicans, at home,… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

It is likely that an opinion will be forthcoming well in advance of General Synod in 2010. I believe that deliberations over this opinion across the church will have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.

If this “season of gracious restraint” was understood to TERMINATE (the “restraint” part) in 2010, then I could understand (if not enjoy) ++Hiltz’s call (Outside of New Westminster, of course. Rollback is out of the question)…

…but without such a DEADLINE, no deal!

Göran Koch-Swahne
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I’m with Charlotte, (as usual ;=)

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

drdanfee: Spot on. “Gracious restraint” might work as an ethical concept if the community whose pastoral needs are being sacrificed had assented for it themselves. However, this is not the case: this is straight Christian leaders deciding to graciously keep their gay fellow church members locked in the closet, without asking whether they consent to it. This at the root of how the issue has been handled at Anglican Communion level: a group of straight old men graciously decides on behalf of everyone else to restrain gay fellow Christians, who are not allowed to even be present when all the… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“We learned that “the whole issue of homosexual relations is also highly sensitive because there are very strong affirmations and denials in different cultures across the world which are reflected in contrasting civil provisions for same-sex marriage to criminal action against homosexuals. In some parts of the Communion, homosexual relations are a taboo while in others they have become a human rights issue.” – Bishop Fred Hiltz – HOB Meeting 30/10/08 I think Bishop Fred has hit the nail on the head here – for all of us – on the issue of contextual theology. Are the differences in cultural… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

The problem, as I see it, Father Ron, is that the conservative evangelicals never let knowledge affect their theology. How can they be, for example, creationists if they let knowledge affect their beliefs?

They reject any knowledge that conflicts with their established theology.

Cheryl Va.
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Martin suggested that “there will be some heavy horse trading going on to entice the African and Asian Provinces to one or t’other.” That is the saddest thing. There are some for whom victory is gaining/retaining the largest possible communion with the most offices in the most countries and dioceses. The juggernaut to build bureacractic edifices will continue, with senior power players using whatever means seem appropriate. God is not interested in who has the biggest edifice. God is interested in who has the most righteous theology. Righteousness is not measured by size or form, it is measured by attributes:… Read more »

Charlotte
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Charlotte

Martin Reynolds: Thanks for giving voice to what many of us have been feeling. I want to say that this sort of thing is going on in other regions also and not only in the Church. Recloseting is in the air. In the US, California voters passed a referendum taking away gay and lesbian people’s marriage rights at the same time that they voted for Barack Obama. These so-called “Defense of Marriage” amendments were passed in a number of other states as well; perhaps no one was surprised that Florida passed one, but California was a shock. President-Elect Obama’s style… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Martin “Though I think this is not so much a prediction – rather an observation of what is actually happening on the ground NOW.” I can see this happening, but I don’t understand what it means. The gay issue isn’t going away, we are not going away. There may be an attempt to recloset us, but this will only be successful if we play ball. It is increasing acceptance in society and in the church that has accelerated and intensified the hate campaign. It seems to be a phenomenon that happens towards the end of every new major social development.… Read more »

Andrew Innes
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Since before the Dromantine Williams has believed it necessary that gay people should be firmly pushed back in the closet, Martin: I believe that you are correct. I believe Bishop Harries said as much 2 years ago. As I am discovering,there is a place beyond anger….beyond words too, a hollow place, a place of great sadness.This where I am now on this subject. I feel very sad for Rowan Williams, the sadness beyond anger. He knows in his heart what his knowledge and experience tell him…what is right… and yet…silently….he goes along with the majority. And it is this silence… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Thanks Charlotte – but it was journalist Marites N. Sison reporting the views of her Primate that first made me rethink and see the obvious. I missed the signs of how this issue had regressed even though I was sometimes “at the centre” of the events themselves. Her report didn’t mention gay people as being excluded because they were “in a sexual relationship” or “in a celibate partnership” – No, the exclusion as she understood it post Lambeth and as she believed her Primate saw it was against any openly gay person. I quizzed Marites N Sison on the phone… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
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Martin Reynolds

Andrew you ask what I know of this. I have already said elsewhere that as I listened to Rowan’s ideas several years ago I realised that he would have few allies, but I can scarcely have thought then that they would not include myself. I believe that as the hate poured out against Jeffrey, Rowan first saw this as justification for his long held views, then when Pakistani bishops rang him assuring him that their flock would be killed on the streets if he went ahead with this consecration – things started to change. I don’t think he quite expected… Read more »

Perry Butler
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Perry Butler

Yes Charlotte, but do you think they will be asked to leave? Would they do so? Surely its more likely the communion will simply fragment alas. In the short term all i can see is polarisation and fragmentation.

Colin Coward
Guest

Martin wrote: … if it was now the case that no self respecting gay person could expect preferment in “the Church” as envisaged by Rowan Williams post Lambeth 2008 … Self-respecting is the key phrase here. Gay people have been appointed as cathedral canons and deans in the past 3 years in England and at least one gay man has been consecrated as a bishop and attended Lambeth, with the other closetted and/or married gay bishops in England. The majority of lesbian and gay priests I know survive in the church by living on a spectrum of somewhere between closetted… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

And meanwhile as the Anglican Communion pushes the homosexuals back into their closets, heterosexual immorality continues unabated, with no fault divorces and re-marraige…serial polygamy.

Furthermore St Paul is happily re-interpreted and Womens ordination is now the norm within the Anglican Communion.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“Are the hidden majority of lesbian and gay members of the CofE lacking in self-respect?” Colin, I ask myself the same thing, as it relates directly to me. I’m not out in my parish in a way that would be acceptable to many liberals here. I AM out here though, so who am I really kidding? Most people have a computer these days, after all, even at stodgy old St. Mike’s. But when the time came for me to go back to Church, I couldn’t contemplate going anywhere else than St. Mike’s. I care deeply for the parish, it is… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“And meanwhile as the Anglican Communion pushes the homosexuals back into their closets, heterosexual immorality continues unabated, with no fault divorces and re-marraige…serial polygamy.” Robert Ian Williams (R.C.) Once again, Robert criticises the Anglican Church’s problems with homosexuality, without even hinting that this is also a very real problems for his own contstituency in the Roman Catholic Church. The only difference there, of course, is that the RC Church has suffered so much pecuniary damage because of paedophile activity among its priests (not, repeat, not necessarily homosexual activity as such) that it is now considering specific psychological testing of future… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ford “All I know is that I do not want to do anything that would endanger what is for me just as much a sanctuary from the tumults of the world as it is for anyone else there” I know how you feel! And I was astonished when I came out in my parish, how genuine that sanctuary was, and how it managed to embrace me and my partner. I needen’t have feared. What concerns me slightly is whether that which you experience as a sanctuary for “anyone” is experienced in the same way by other not out people in… Read more »

Colin Coward
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Ford and Erika, The dilemmas you each write about worry and puzzle me too. The world I live in is a world of paradox, mystery and challenge. One of the mysteries is how people with different personality types from me can be so arrogantly certain they are right, and I am wrong as a gay man who is not celibate. I feel accepted with my partner in my parish church in Devizes. I couldn’t be in the closet there even if I wanted to be. For the majority of the congregation the fact that we are there as a gay… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

Ford,

God bless you for your latest post!

Andrew Innes
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Andrew Innes

Simon, or perhaps, Ford, Martin and Colin:

Many of these “conversations” are private, in a way, although conducted in a very public forum.

We are in the early stages of planning to show “The Bible tells me so”, here at our parish in Southern Ontario. If the opportunity presented itself, I thought I might quote a few passages from the above exchange of views, which express better than I can, the fears and challenges that many gay people face in coming out to their parish. Is this OK or is there some unwritten understanding that what’s said here, stays here?

Colin Coward
Guest

Andrew, my understanding is that this is a public forum. I’m writing comments to Ford and Erika that I hope will be read more widely.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

I’ve been thinking about Erika’s and Colin’s posts, and I’m not sure I can do them justice yet. What young people? We have two problems: one is that most young people here consider the Church to be an irrelevant, hypocritical institution. It’s amazing how many deeply spiritual young people you meet for whom the actions of the Church have made “God” a dirty word, and who cannot even imagine Christianity filling any kind of Spiritual need. I have friends who can’t even go to Church without getting frustrated and angry and walking out half way through. This current nonsense is,… Read more »

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Andrew

You didn’t address me in your post, but I have commented on this widely over the last 2 years on TA. You are of course welcome to use anything from me you find in the TA archives.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ford I hear what you’re saying, and if there are no young people in the church the situation is not quite as pressing as it is in other places. I agree with what you say about rights, but that doesn’t really help, because “me first” can apply as a motivator for any response. If I didn’t know you better I could, for example, think that you believe your right to peaceful and meaningful worship to be more important than your responsibility towards gay people in your community. Unless everyone always puts the others first, we still have to make our… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
Guest

Andrew Some of us deliberately write here because it is a public forum (and one that can’t be edited after the fact) (Thank you to the TA hosts for this site and their integrity). That means that things that normally go unspoken are said. It also means the cruel things that souls say (but later claim they didn’t) are out in the open. TA has played a pivotal role in the last few years for including in the debates the “scripts” and strategies that conservatives have used to repress and insult GLBTs, women and others. It has enabled souls to… Read more »

Colin Coward
Guest

This thread is going way off topic, but what the heck! Thanks to Fred Hiltz whose reflection started off a train of ideas, and to Martin whose post set me thinking. If only it were practical, Ford, for many of us to meet face to face over a pint to chat at length and with love and honesty, with conservatives as well as with those I feel closer to. My analysis agrees with yours. The conservatives have no answer to the spiritual search that people in the UK are making. Neither do liberals. Conservatives believe with integrity that their system… Read more »

Andrew Innes
Guest
Andrew Innes

A suggestion…… members of the C of E and AC of C, who have retired might seriously think about coming out, if they haven’t already done so.

One of the delightful things about retirement is that it frees one up to take risks,(non-financial ones!). So retired clergy and laity, speak up and to speak out!

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

I pick up on the thought, expressed elsewhere by someone on this thread, that ‘closet’ gays have to be allowed their own integrity – sometimes for reasons that would otherwise compromise their their own familial relationships. While it should always be a matter of openness to one’s nearest and dearest, one’s orientation may not always be best declared to all and sundry. This may sound selfish to those who have no problems about the possibile effects on other people within their own sphere of influence. But for beneficed clergy, for instance, where open-ness about their sexual orientation might be detrimental… Read more »

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Fr Ron
I hope you didn’t feel that I was trying to force people into outing themselves regardless of the consequences this may have for them or those close to them, or those they are responsible for.

Nor is it a selfish “me me me” imposition on the parish when someone does decide they need to be open, again for their own sake and for the sake they feel responsible for.

There are very very good reasons for coming out, just as there are for remaining closeted.
We should indeed respect every individual’s integrity here.

Andrew Innes
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Andrew Innes

Father Ron: Obviously, context is very important. In my own context,(a town in Southern Ontario with a sizeable Arts community), to remain “invisible”, at a time in the life of our church when it is making a sincere attempt to understand, to “listen”, would, I think, be an act of cowardice, particularly when my personal safety and economic security are not at risk. My candour may be seen as offensive to some (because it represents a moral position with which they do not agree) but, in my judgement, at this time and in this place, that is a conversation that… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

Erika, Andrew, Colin Ford, and others on this site who have so wonderfully expressed their own integrity in disclosing their sexual orientation; may I thank you sincerely for your honesty and lack of guile. My earlier post on this issue was not meant in any way to criticise your stand – only to beg your indulgence for those who feel they are not yet able to commit to the same degree of self-disclosure. (This does not mean, of course, that they will escape the suspicions of some who will make their own conclusions). I feel that there is much to… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“My earlier post on this issue was not meant in any way to criticise your stand” Speaking for myself, I didn’t take it that way. I have little time for people who forget how hard it was and how screwed up your mind gets when you are closeted. How, among all the stuff you have to figure out when you are a teenager, there is one thing you HAVE to deal with on your own, and it simply CANNOT ever be known by anyone else, there is no room for error, if anyone finds out, that’s it, you might as… Read more »