Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Well at least Canada is talking and studying, however painstakingly and however slowly. And sending letters back and forth to/from twins in Africa, now there is a local dialogue process for you.

Meanwhile of course life, love, parenting, work, witness, worship, service go on. Tikkun olam. Canadian gay folks are in a curious position for the time being. They are asked to participate more equally in the general life of local citizen communities without hindrances; and they are technically invited to also participate honestly in the general life of at least some local Candian parishes. However, their invitation to belong and participate sacramentally is quite vexed for the time being. Only in the most rightwing parishes may we expect that other believers will boldly join in prayers against their love, work, parenting, and overall success in life as gay people. Given how many of those most extreme parishes say they have left Canada, perhaps that lessens some of those tensions and conflicts - except of course that the leave-takers are still trying to appropriate property or money that no longer belongs to them.

Archbishop Hiltz is correct when he says that only some believers will feel regret at hindering the committed gay couples (and children in those families?). After all, hindering them is supposedly our finest legacy doctrine and revelation, so why stop now?

It's moving. It's all so deeply shot through with great sadness, except for those hinderers probably. On a more practical note, nice to get some clues from speakers and votes as to which local parish is not all torches or pitchforks for temporary gay visitors (and their children) who might happen to be going to Canada any time soon.

What honest, honest commissions and working groups. Honest enough to admit that workable Canadian agreement or consensus has not been able to be reached, even though (as Ingham marks it) the start of talk and study, way back to 1969 in Canada. My hunch? Traditionalists spent most of those past decades trying to dim down, avoid, and sidestep knowing and working through the sea changes taking place in wider society.

As if they could put up curtains to hide any of the Candian gay couples making commitments, especially after equal marriage was legal. Alas. Lord have mercy.

In USA we are celebarting the fortieth anniversary of New York's famous Stonewall Inn riots. Lotta change for only forty years or so. Lotta change. Thank goodness, thank God.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 2 June 2009 at 9:17pm BST

"4. The Plaintiffs have left the Diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada in order to have episcopal oversight from bishops outside of the Anglican Church of Canada. Eventually, they hope to establish an entirely new church, which they hope will become a new Province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Whether or not that plan will succeed will not be known for many years."

- A.N.i.C. Case for the Plaintiff -

Not being a member of the Legal fraternity, I am wondering what claim the dissidents (A.N.i.C.) could possibly entertain for alienating the property of the Anglican Church of Canada - on the basis of this clause (4) alone.

Surely, if the property belongs to the Anglican Church of Canada, and A.N.i.C. has voluntarily moved out of that jusrisdiction and fellowship, it cannot claim any legal right to the property. I know the Law can be mighty convoluted in its application, but is there some way in which ANiC can convince a High Court judge that they now actually own the property of the Anglican Church Canada from which they have separated themselves?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 2 June 2009 at 11:54pm BST

"Like a mighty TORTOISE moves the Church of God..." (w/ apologies to tortoises!)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: when it comes to an enlightened nation like Canada, "rendering unto Caesar" represents the more GODLY option, than rendering unto the Church!

Lord have mercy...

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 at 7:54pm BST

The ANiC crowd are claiming that they are the legitimate Anglican body in Canada, by virtue of the ACoC having allegedly strayed from the Solemn Declaration of the first General Synod in 1893. Rather a stretch, since the ACoC is still in communion with Canterbury, and ANiC is not.

I have been in the Canadian church for 7 years now (a transplant from the diocese of Massachusetts), and in that time have come to value the openness of discussion and deliberateness of action. In TEC, and in Massachusetts in particular, there was a lot of pushing the envelope, and a lot going on without any official sanction, plenty of parishes blessing same-sex couples, without any authorized rite or approval of convention or the bishop. Some samples of rites that I have seen were theologically questionable or just plain shallow.

In Canada, by contrast, though the discussion has been painfully slow, there is real theological discussion going on. When Canada does get around to blessing same-sex marriages, it will not be a simple neutralizing of genders in the marriage rite, but (I hope) something that really expresses a new theology of love, relationships and covenant (as an example, compare the early proposals for New Westminster with the authorized rite).

And yes, traditionalists have been trying to stall, avoid, and ignore the process. I'm in a parish now where it was not even talked about until last year (no surprise, the previous incumbent was also anti-WO). But for the most part, those who are going to leave have left, except in the conservative dioceses.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Wednesday, 3 June 2009 at 10:33pm BST

"CoGS commended the Galilee Report to the Church for study but noted that more work is required to clarify distinctions between blessing and a nuptial blessing, as well as among marriage, the blessing of a civil marriage and the blessing of a union. CoGS also asked for more information on the “theological significance of blessing the civil marriage of a same-sex couple.”
- Anglican Journal -

Herein, I believe is the crux of the whole matter of the Church's recognition of same-sex unions. Early on in the Communion's discussion on this subject, I personally was inclined to believe that the 'Sacrament of Marriage' ought to be reserved for the union of a male and a female - as had been the tradition in the Church up until now. At the same time, I could not see why, when the State is happy to allow a Civil Union between partners of the same sex, the Church should not be able to add its formal blessing to a committed same-sex partnership. Ideally, this would have involved, like in some European countries, both a civil and a religious ceremony - but without a particular formal 'Nuptial Blessing', such as is given to partners of the opposite sex.

In trying to justify my stance, I had to think about: what is the difference between a 'Nuptial Blessing' & a simple 'Blessing of a Relationship' and I have found this the most difficult question to resolve - except in terms of the presumed ability of a male/female relationship to produce children. However, not all male-female marriages are capable of producing children, so that this caveat against a 'Nuptial Blessing' no longer can be considered credible for the state of marriage.

I suppose what the Canadian General Synod will have to look at is this important question of what constitutes a 'marriage relationship' in terms of the Church, as compared with what is considered to be a similar relationship by the State. Are these mutually exclusive? And if so, is there a uniquely 'spiritual' difference?

If, in Law, the two are the same; what difference is there between the two situations (opposite-sex or same-sex partnerships) that merits the Church's reluctance to 'marry' a same-sex couple?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Friday, 5 June 2009 at 12:50am BST

"However, not all male-female marriages are capable of producing children, so that this caveat against a 'Nuptial Blessing' no longer can be considered credible for the state of marriage."

I'm not sure I agree with this. I think there is something unique in a procreative realtionship, and the potential for it, realized or not whether for personal or biological reasons, that makes it a sharing or a representing in some sense of the Creative power that belongs to God alone. So I DO believe a same sex relationship is different in that sense. But why do we insist on seeing the word "different" as meaning "unequal"? Speaking of particular cases, there are lots of specific heterosexual relationships that have procreated, yet in most other ways are inferior to specific loving supportive gay ones. The answer that "everybody does" is no answer at all. To quote my mother, "Just because everybody else jumped over the wharf, would you do it too?" It's the same as the conservatives' ridiculous claim that calling a same sex relationship a marriage somehow "devalues" heterosexual marriage. Why should recognizing the uniqueness of a heterosexual couple's ability to procreate devalue my relationship? I do not feel devalued that God called my rector to priesthood and not me. Why should I feel devalued because He called my neighbours to a procreative relationship and me to one where that is impossible? Simply because it says my neighbours are somehow called to a different relationship with God's creative power than I am? But why is that different relationship in any way SUPERIOR to mine? Because their relationship is called sacramental and mine isn't? Well, bread and wine are also sacramental. Am I supposed to feel devalued because God didn't make me a piece of bread? I have my calling in the ecclesia, they have theirs. Does the hand say to the foot "I have no need of you"? And there is still a certain insecurity in this, an unspoken assumption that heterosexuals get to decide what's superior in relationships and what isn't. If we didn't think their judgement of what constitutes a "proper" relationship was important, we wouldn't be trying so hard to get them to say our relationships are as valid as theirs.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 5 June 2009 at 2:57pm BST

"I think there is something unique in a procreative relationship, and the potential for it, realized or not whether for personal or biological reasons,"

Ford, please explain how there can be a potential for a procreative relationship if one or both of a couple are by definition biologically infertile.

This sounds to me like one of those idealistic statements without any basis in science.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 5 June 2009 at 10:46pm BST

"Why should recognizing the uniqueness of a heterosexual couple's ability to procreate devalue my relationship? I do not feel devalued that God called my rector to priesthood and not me. Why should I feel devalued because He called my neighbours to a procreative relationship and me to one where that is impossible?" - Ford Elms -

Ford, in no way am I suggesting that a committed heterosexual relationship (whether marriage or not) is 'superior' to that of a committed same-sex couple.

It might help you to understand where I'm coming from when I tell you I believe that a marriage begins when two people make a lifelong commitment to one another - when it is legally contracted by the state or by the Church. What happens with a Church wedding is that the Church adds a Blessing to a relationship that has already been agreed to and attested to by the couple.

A Roman Catholic priest once agreed with me that the marriage actually takes place when the instruments of the marriage (i.e. the couple themselves) agree to their life-long commitment. What the Church does is affirm the marriage by adding a blessing.

In my experience, a celebration of the Eucharist is an ideal recognition of God's presence in a marriage when it is specifically offered at the ceremony. Why should this not be acceptable for the blessing of two people who love one another and have committeed themselves to a monogamous life-long partnership in the presence of their sisters and brothers in their Church family?

For me, now, the gender of the partners in this relationship should not matter. What matters is the mutual intention of fidelity and care for one another. So you see, Ford, I do not disciminate against your own situation. Nor would I wish to.

I am reminded of Jesus who, when told that his mother and brothers were outside waiting for him, said "Who is my mother, who are my brothers?" and stretching out his hand to his disciples, he said "Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven; s/he is my brother and sister and mother". Herein, Jesus is enunciating something very powerful about intimate human relationships - something not necessarily involving the process of procreation, but perhaps infinitely more important: ae equal relationship of loving concern for one another, irrespective of gender, which mirrors the love existing between Jesus and his Father.

Whatever loving relationships exist, and in whatever construct - provided they are equal in regard for each other's needs and within the parameters of faithfulness and truth - they would appear to meet the criteria of what Jesus speaks of here. Where two people love one another and wish to commit themselves to one another, why would the Church not wish to bless them?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 6 June 2009 at 12:17am BST

There is much reflection on the Declaration of 1893, setting out the doctrinal position of the Church of England in Canada.

However where were these ANIC churches when the denomination allowed divorce and re-marriage and female ordination?

They accepted them both .. indeed they have female priests and re-married divorcees.

That seems to be the Achilles heel of their argument.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 10 June 2009 at 11:15pm BST

"This sounds to me like one of those idealistic statements without any basis in science"

Erika, and Fr. Ron,

I really don't understand marriage as sacrament. It doesn't seem to fit with the others. I doesn't make sense to marry people who can't reproduce if we see reproduction as central to the sacrament, but we do marry them. Which pretty much puts paid to the conservative argument IMNSHO. I know, Sarah got pregnant in her 90s. Well, God can make descendants for Abraham out of stones too. If we marry the elderly because there is STILL the chance of reproduction by Divine Intervention a la Sarah, then maybe we should make the giving of a couple of rocks an integral part of the blessing of a gay union, then gay couples can live in the same hope of God's intervention as the recently married elderly. But what's wrong with being idealistic? Isn't our whole religion idealistic? We hope in faith for the perfection of Creation. Isn't that idealistic? Isn't religion about following ideals, however imperfectly? But, the creation of a life is something I will never experience. And I do believe it is a sharing in the creative nature of God that I will never have. But that doesn't make me less, just different. "Can the hand say to the foot, I have no need of thee?" My relationship is NOT less just because it isn't defined in heterosexual terms, neither is it less because it will never result in the conception of a child. But that doesn't mean there isn't something important in the conception of a child, it doesn't mean that those who do don't have something I don't. My point is that people and relationships can be different, even to the point of one being scaramental and the other not, and still NOT be in a relatioinship of "superior/inferior".

And, Fr. Ron, you are, in a way, implying the superiority of a heterosexual relationship, albeit unintentionally. Why are gay people fighting for our relationships to be called "marriage", if not because we believe that "marriage" which has pretty much always been defined as a heterosexual institution, is superior? So, the way we define heterosexual relationships is, by definition, held up as normative and something for gay people to strive for. If we didn't think a marriage, traditionally a heterosexual institution, wasn't superior, we wouldn't get so bent out of shape demanding our relationships be called marriages.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 12 June 2009 at 9:16pm BST

OK, so let's continue to call 90 year old heterosexuals potentially procreative, whereas 25 year old gays are not and their relationships are therefore somehow different before God.

That still leaves me with the problem WHAT I shall call my relationship.

It's not a partnership - I have those in business.
It's more than a soul-friendship, it's more than romantic love, it's more than sexual love. It's more than a long term business contract to stay living together in the same house.
It assumes, in the daily reality of my life, the same responsibilities a heterosexual marriage with children has.

It is lived between two people who have as much faith as any other Christian heterosexual couple I know and who would like to celebrate their union putting God firmly at its centre, not just privately but as openly, publicly and joyously as any heterosexual couple.

So - it looks like a marriage, it sounds like a marriage, it feels like a marriage.

You say I must not call is a marriage, that God does not bless it like a marriage (let's not forget that priests don't bless relationships, they asks God's blesings upon them).
And yet you say it is not intrinsically inferior to a marriage, so you do not mean any value judgement.

Tell me what I can call it, so that it encompasses 100% precisely the same meaning that the word "Christian marrige" does, and tell me how it can be celebrated in public with God firmly in its centre.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 13 June 2009 at 10:28am BST

"Tell me what I can call it, so that it encompasses 100% precisely the same meaning that the word "Christian marrige" does"

We don't have a word for it yet, because we haven't needed one up till now. And why does it have to encompass "100% precisely" the meaning of heterosexual marriage? I am not in a heterosexual relationship. For one thing, the lower social acceptance of gay relationships means we have pressures on us that heteros don't have. I am proud of the way that we have weathered those pressures, so I'm not going to pretend they don't exist, which I would be doing if I said my relationship was no different than a straight one. But even if we had full social acceptance, there would still be differences in the dynamic between two people of the same sex and two people of the opposite sex. The small things of our lives are different as well. Not only that, but we will not reproduce. That brings a set of positives and negatives to our lives that are pretty much the opposite of what having children brings to straight couples. Even childless straight couples. We will never have to endure the vaguely judgemental pseudosympathy that childless heteros get from their fellow straights when they fail to reproduce. The Heterosexual Imperative makes straights quite cruel to those heteros who fail to live up to it. Just ask any childless woman.

My relationship is not a heterosexual one, and I strongly resent the implication that it is only REALLY valid if it is publically claimed to be "just like the straight people". It isn't, I don't want it to be, and I see no reason to call it something it is not just because the English language hasn't yet invented a term for what it is.

And why do we have to "publically celebrate" any relationship, gay or straight? Seriously. I'm happy for my straight and gay friends who find joy in that, but I don't understand it. I don't think that validating relationships is what the Sacrament of Matrimony is about, despite the fact that this is precisely the way heteros have used it for most of its history. But I am lukewarm at best on the whole idea of marriage in Church. I think it is just one more crowd control method devised by the Imperial Church. I am all for legally defining our rights and responsibilities in relationships the same way we do for heteros. But I honestly don't get the whole hullaballoo about marriage in the Church. I bought into the 60s mantra: "Why do I need a piece of paper to say my relationship is valid?" I think it still applies now. No disrespect to your relationship, Erika, I can see quite clearly what it means to you and the joy you find in it. And I appreciate the importance of the public celebration of that to you. I don't begrudge it to you, but it holds no attraction for me. Besides, the public celebration of your relationship is not the same thing as the name you give to your relationship.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 19 June 2009 at 1:56pm BST

that something has no attraction to you is not a valid reason in itself to reject the possibility for everyone else.

There are many of us who do have children, although you personally do not.
Gay couples use artificial insemination, surrogacy, adoption, or get together after they've had children in heterosexual relationships.
Just because you and your partner are determined never to have children together does not mean that all gay couples are in the same bracket.
It is estimated that between 8 and 10 million children in the US alone are being raised by same sex parents - and those are only the adoption statistics.

As we see on the Adoption thread here, it really is not productive to pretend that those couples aren't doing the same kind of parenting heterosexual couples are doing.

My partner and I parent my children, just as my ex-husband and his wife parent her daughter. There is not the slightest difference in the 2 families. Well, there is, their daughter is a university and requires much less hands-on parenting.

There is no question of saying that your relationship is only valid if it’s a marriage, or if it is like a heterosexual one.

But my relationship actually IS exactly like a heterosexual one. I know that for a fact, because I’ve experienced both sides. And I will not allow you to insist that you know better.

And just as you don’t want to get married (you share that with millions of co-habiting straight couples, by the way) and no-one forces you to, I would like to get married without anyone feeling they have the right to stop me.

Your reasons for stopping me are as personal and as biased as those of anti-gay campaigners. And neither has anything to do with the reality of my life. Your concerns are yours, they are valid, you have the right not to get married.
But please don’t impose your views on me or those like me who are clearly loudly asking for the right to be married.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 19 June 2009 at 11:54pm BST

"Your reasons for stopping me are as personal and as biased as those of anti-gay campaigners."

I don't have any reasons for stopping you, because I am not trying to stop you. I thought I'd been quite clear on that.

"please don’t impose your views on me or those like me who are clearly loudly asking for the right to be married."

I'm not imposing my views on you. I am sincerely happy that you are happy in your relationship.

Where did I give you the impression that I am somehow trying to stop gay people getting married, or imposing my views on you? I'm no more opposed to gay marriage than I am to straight people getting married, and I'm not opposed to that, either, I just don't think that the public, formal affiirmation of people's relationships is much to get excited about, that's all. Sorry, but I can be a bit radical about this on times. I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about, and honestly, I think it's far more about societal control of people's sexual behaviour than anything else. That's why conservatives get so bent out of shape about gay marriage. For them, getting married is largely about providing an acceptable venue for sexual activity. Since there cannot be an acceptable venue for gay sexual behaviour in their eyes, marrying gay people opens up a huge can of worms. But, if you want to get married, fine by me, you don't need my approval. I don't think more highly or less of it than I do of a heterosexual marriage. But, tell me where expressing my admittedly low view of marriage in general constitutes my trying to stop you getting married?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Saturday, 20 June 2009 at 5:28pm BST

In that case, I have misunderstood you and I apologise.

I thought your thoughts on gay marriage were more than personal views that allowed other people to feel differently, but that if, say, there was a vote on allowing gay marriage tomorrow, your feelings against it would be so strong that you would vote against it.
I'm sorry I got that so wrong.

You know, sometimes I think I'm not really arguing from a gay point of view at all, in fact, I often don't understand it.

I have grown up always knowing I was bisexual and my life choices had put me firmly into the conventional heterosexual stream of society. Much of the difficulties of gay life - actual and philosophical, I have never had to live with in my formative years, and now I live in a very tolerant society with a very supportive family and amazing friends

By the time my life changed I was old enough to have formed a very different security and sense of self than I sometimes sense among those who have been on the margins all their lives.

I have never had to wrestle with the question of what marriage means, and therefore, to me it is simply transferable to my current relationship, because to me, it is of exactly the same quality as everything I have known before.

I am recognising there are many deep emotions and views I do not deeply understand, and I apologise if I sometimes sound rather dogmatic about my own way of experiencing life.

Posted by: Erika BAker on Saturday, 20 June 2009 at 9:28pm BST

"By the time my life changed I was old enough to have formed a very different security and sense of self than I sometimes sense among those who have been on the margins all their lives."

Erika, no offence taken. We both have things that set us off, look at how I get when someone uses an Evangelical catch phrase! Thing is, I am something like you in that I consider myself peripheral to "gay culture". I got heavily involved in the folk arts and cultural preservation here quite early in my life. I keep saying that by the time I came out, I already had a community and an identity, so I didn't need to buy in to what I consider on some level to be a gay pseudoidentity. It's why I react so strongly against the idea of some sort of uniform "gay culture". To me, "Gay Culture" is really just a part of mass market American pop culture, and I've spent most of my adult life fighting against the destruction that that culture exacts on smaller cultures like the one I grew up in. So, for me, so called "gay culture" is really part of what is destroying my ethnic identity, and I don't identify with it at all. They're just another crowd of Americans telling me my ethnic identity is not worthy of respect. What's worse, when I react negatively to that, I am accused of not being "gay enough", or of internalized self loathing, or some such. Not only that, but I have felt a lot more rejection from gay society because of my "ethnocutlural politics" to coin a phrse, than I have ever felt from the "folk", though "nationalist" might be a better word, community for being gay.

But that also raises issues for me about what it means to be a part of the group, how one identifies one'sself, how to define pride in one's own ethnic identity without being racist or chauvinistic about it, that sort of thing. So, for me, being gay is what I am, it probably has more to do with my selfdefinition than I am willing to admit, but what most people find out about me first is that I'm a Newfoundlander, the sexuality thing comes much later, if at all, and then it's on the lines of "Oh, you didn't know that? Well, I am." The forces that have driven me to work for the preservation of what is left of our ethnic identity inform my attitude towards my sexuality in some respects. I don't see why we should seek to define ourselves by other people's standards, whether that be an ethnic definition, or one of our sexuality. That's why the whole business of "marriage" as title sets me off. If the word is so important to straights, let 'em have it, AFAIAC. I don't want to be part of a club that doesn't want me as a member.

"I apologise if I sometimes sound rather dogmatic about my own way of experiencing life."

And I don't ???? I'm a Libra, which supposedly means I think myself average, as just like everybody else. Also a child of a teacher, and she is a very confident, not at all withdrawn or self effacing woman. So, I'm pretty much set up to consider my experience of life is the "real one" and everybody just isn't as clear eyed as I am at recognizing that. So, if I don't want to get married, why should anyone else? It's a battle to climb down off that some times.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 22 June 2009 at 2:06pm BST
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