The Anglican Church of Canada is hosting its General Synod – a meeting that happens once every three years – at Richmond Hill. I have been following the synod by live feed. Yesterday they were invited to consider a motion that would change the Marriage Canon in the Anglican Church to include the Marriage of Same Sex Couples. Our Primate, The Most Rev’d Fred Hiltz worked hard to assure safety and dignity for all who were present. Sadly, his best efforts were ignored by many speakers who rattled their gums at microphones about ‘peoples sinful choices’ and ‘how hard it is for me to vote against the motion,’ and how people who are gay should be ‘dealt with.’ My heart was breaking as I heard Anglican delegates to our national church’s governance meeting speaking about LGBTQ2S members of our church as less than human, quoting bits of scripture as if had the verse scrawled out by God’s hand onto the beautifully gold embossed bibles!
In our governance model, a change of the canons requires a 2/3 majority in all three houses: Bishops, Clergy, Lay and it requires that majority in two readings, in other words, it would be three years later before it could receive it’s final vote of approval. Last night our church voted overwhelmingly in favour of allowing Same Sex Marriages. Trouble is, it failed to achieve the 2/3 majority in one house — THE CLERGY! It failed by 1 vote. What have we done? What have we communicated to our LGBTQ2S members and to the world around us.
The theme of this Synod is “You are My Witnesses.” Well what have we borne witness to?
We have witnessed that Robert’s Rules of Order have been maintained, but the rule of human kindness has been shattered and the theology of Christian hospitality was invited to leave the room. We have witnessed the church forget the heart of it’s ministry – the baptismal covenant. Where was the commitment to the baptismal call to “respect the dignity of every human being?” We have witnessed a reliving of the Parabale of the Good Samaritan. In the wake of Sunday’s Gospel about the Good Samaritan, I could not help but yell in an aghast astonishment that once again the priest as crossed the road – this time to ignore the Queer in the ditch! We have witnessed a church that says they honour the sanctity of same sex relationships while they refuse to act to show what respect and honour look like, We cannot continue to say that we uphold the sanctity of Same Sex relationships while we continue to refuse those living in committed relationships the sacrament of marriage. We are talking out of both sides of our mouth.
Matters of human dignity and respect should not be decided by pushing the button of a clicker as if we are showing our approval of one candidate over the next. When the vulnerable suffer, we as a church are called to side with the vulnerable. That’s what the Gospel teaches us. God has a bias – and it’s not for the powerful, it’s not for the shareholders and sacred cows of the church. God chooses the side of those who have been marginalized. We need to be God’s Witnesses. Today people in my parish are making that very clear to me. The people of God are responded to this lack of compassion and telling those of us who are leaders that the church got this wrong. Now that gives me hope. It gives me hope because real change and real discipleship has always grown best when the people of God take seriously the call to bear witness.
So a memo to my Church:
The People of God have heard. They are heeding g the call to love and to bear witness. The people of God are witnessing that there can be a new way, an inclusive way, a loving way. You have not listened.You are ignoring those who are bearing witness to the Gospel.
Some of you are listening. Here is what we are witnessing today. In the wake of Monday’s terrible decision, some Bishops are taking a stand. There is nothing in the marriage canon that states that we cannot marry same sex couples. At the time of writing I can share that six diocese that represent about 80% of Anglicans in Canada have made clear that they will approve guidelines for marriage of Same Sex Couples in our churches. Our own bishops have committed to making Marriage available to Same Sex Couples. In their witness they wrote:
The chancellor of General Synod has indicated that the current marriage canon ‘does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage’. We are also aware that a diocesan bishop may exercise episcopal authority in authorizing liturgies to respond to pastoral needs within their dioceses, in the absence of any actions by the General Synod. We intend to authorize such liturgies once guidelines are in place.
Thank you +Bob and +Linda for responding quickly and declaring that we will move ahead with Same Sex marriages in the Diocese of Huron. [You can read their letter in full by clicking here]
Now is the time to bear witness! Now is the time! Now is the time for each Diocese to move forward with Marriage for Same Sex Couples. Now is the time! Now is the time for Bishops, Priest, Deacons, and Lay leaders alike to stand up and be heard. Now is the time! Now is the time to apologize to members of the LGBTQ2S communities! Now is the Time! Now is the time to repent and return to the Lord. Now is the Time! Now is the time confess to God that we have not done enough to be faithful to our Gay and Lesbian siblings! Now! Now! Now is the Time!
Harvey Milk declared that “Hope will never be silent.” As the blessing for Advent in the BAS reminds us we strive to be “Be steadfast in faith, joyful in hope, and untiring in love all the days of your life.” It stings today. But let us take the intensity if that feeling as a sure sign of the Holy Spirit that it is time for our church to move forward. It is time to extend the sacraments to all people. It’s time!
You are my witnesses, says the Lord,
my servant, whom I chose