Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Remembrance Musings

It’s been a while. I haven’t had the time or energy to write anything lately but today is a snow day. At least this morning is. I was supposed to be at a deanery meeting but decided the snow fall last night made traveling too treacherous. I did drive in worse conditions last Thursday but it was to a school Remembrance Day service about 30 miles north. I was very glad I didn’t have to drive further as it was packed snow and ice all the way.

I had spoken at this same school last year for Remembrance Day. Of course the weather was much better so there was more participation by the community than there was this year. It is a First Nations school just south of the reserve. I found it interesting that this service has O God Our Help in Ages Past and no restrictions on what the priest can say. The other school that I spoke at last year was just east of here. They asked that I not speak of anything religious. I did speak about Shalom. I’m not sure if that was enough not to get me invited back to speak this year or they rotate. I’m not even sure why they would get a priest to speak if they didn’t want anything religious. The teacher who asked me was so apologetic.

All told, I attended three Remembrance Day services this year (as I did last year). I realize that it is in remembrance but I always struggle with the idea that we mourn those who died in wars and conflicts and yet go on to have more wars and conflicts. We haven’t yet learned that violence is not the answer. My talk at the first school was along those lines. Yes we come together to honour all those who have sacrificed so much for freedom and peace – not only those who died but also those who survived with wounds whether physical, mental, or spiritual. But are we really honouring them the rest of the year when we continue to react to violence with violence.

And yet there is a part of me that questions what else would have stopped Hitler. What else would have stopped the Taliban? What else would have stopped Saddam Hussein. But then did we really try anything creative in any of those situations.

I’ve been looking up Walter Wink’s “third way”. He points out that there have been non violent revolutions. There were a number in South America in the early and mid 1900’s. There was Corazon Aquino. There was Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. There was Ghandi. We do have examples of situations that had the potential for major violence being defused because of the commitment and dedication of their main leaders. It can be done.

Wink uses a passage from Luke – the turn your cheek if someone hits you on the right cheek one. His interpretation is interesting. It is about being creative and non-violent in one’s response to oppression and imbalances of power.

We had a Remembrance/Peace Sunday here on November 5. I like to mark things in our church community before the event in hopes that I can give some food for thought in the days leading up to whatever event it is. I relied fairly strongly on Wink’s work. Whether or not it gave the congregation something to reflect on, it certainly gave me something on which to reflect.

So off I went to my three Remembrance Day services (I only participated in two of them, the third was the one in which my children participated). In only one was there the mention of working for peace outside of the areas that I participated. At the one my children did there was song that seemed to be saying that it was okay if a soldier died – I don’t think that was the intent of the words but that is the way I understood them. I think the intent was that the soldier was saying that he accepted that he might die and that was okay. But it still sat wrong with me.

At the first school, where I gave the talk, I mentioned that we do honour to the men and women involved in the various conflicts when we remember them on Remembrance Day but we don’t do them full honour as long as we keep turning to violent means to resolve our differences and problems. Interestingly enough, as I was waiting in the staff room for the service to start, two girls started fighting outside. I think it was mainly for show more than anything else. I do know that when I go to that school, the tension levels are fairly high. They never know how the children will react or behave. And this particular day it was mainly the children that the parents had brought themselves because they didn’t want to have to deal with them at home. They were attentive as I spoke about honouring our soldiers by looking for non-violent solutions but whether they were just choosing that moment to behave, I don’t know.

I always struggle on Remembrance Day. As I grow older, the more I struggle. We don’t seem to be doing much to be moving toward a world of Shalom and now to add into the mix of destruction of the earth and its inhabitants by war and conflict we can add destruction of the environment by everyday living. It’s a very depressing time of year for me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Ramblings

I find myself with a couple of minutes on hand before I go to lead our study of God of Our Mothers by M.R. Ritley (Morehouse Publishing, 2006). As I prepared for it I was reflecting on some of the things that have come up in previous studies. I though that since I hadn’t posted anything new for a while, I might share some of my recent “ramblings” with you.

Rambling 1

Why is knowledge of good and evil such a bad thing? I don’t know how many of you took the Sayers course and studied the play based on Faust. That question comes up there when Faustus asked to be returned to the state of innocence before the eating of the fruit. All hell breaks loose. So why is the knowledge of good and evil such a bad thing if such knowledge can prevent us doing evil. A few things came up.

Shawn, I think it was you a few years back, that suggested that maybe the reason Adam and Eve were not to eat of the fruit was that it was not yet ripe. That although there was the knowledge, there wasn’t the wisdom that would come with maturity (of the fruit).

Someone else has suggested that prior to the eating of the fruit, evil did not exist, that it was in disobedience that it began. But if it doesn’t exist, why have knowledge of it.

There is the idea of Adam and Eve’s awareness of their nakedness (is this why we have such a problem with the human body which is wonderful gift from God). But is this awareness not part of maturing?

In it all is my question – Did God really plan for us to remain as children?

Rambling 2

I have always struggled with the idea of original sin – probably natural considering my Pelagian tendencies. I found an interesting thought on Father Jake’s blog where he based his understanding on the writings of Irenaeus of Lyons. http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2004/06/human-progress.html (Sorry, I still haven’t figured out the link thingy yet). This idea of human progress really resonates with me. I got so excited about this that I looked up Against Heresies on the internet. Now I wish I had the time to read and understand it. But it doesn’t fit into my study schedule this year.

Is there really a valid base for Original Sin or is the idea a result of the influence of Augustine's life style before becoming a Christian? - and then grasped as a mechanism of control by the powers that be? This is a rambling I have been going over and over for a number of years - considering that some of the ideas that have resulted based on this concept did serious damage to my spirituality.

Rambling 3

The phrase, the God of our Fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob occurs a number of times (or phrases meaning that). I have always questioned Isaac being in there. He doesn’t seem to have much of a story – and indeed when we read the texts we see that Rebekah is the real strength.

Ritley brings up the interesting question of Isaac’s relationship with God, Abraham, and Sarah. I have always wondered how Isaac would have felt about nearly being sacrificed. How did that affect future relationships? When reading the text – Isaac seems to have a very close relationship with Sarah but not Abraham – I’m not sure I would get over my father’s willingness to sacrifice me either. And then, although the translation is not quite clear there are the couple of times that God is described as the “Fear of Isaac.” That makes complete sense to me. I wouldn’t exactly be comfortable around a god that wanted to test someone through bringing me to the point of being a sacrificial offering.

What I found interesting about the whole sacrifice story was that it was so out of place. Ritley suggests that it is from early sources. Why it is placed in there is anyone’s guess. I go with the idea that it’s a reminder to us, after Abraham’s relationship with God as a friend, that God cannot be tamed or pegged or contained. The story is jarring in that it does not really reflect a loving and compassionate God. But that very jarring serves to remind us not to take God for granted. It restores the balance between immanence and transcendence.

Well, I now used up most of my time so I best quit writing and focus on today’s study which is Leah and Rachel. I haven't had a lot of time to proof-read so I hope this isn't a case of post in haste, repent in leisure.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Panel of Reference Recommendations

The recommendations of the Panel of Reference regarding Diocese of New Westminster are out. I'm not going to comment on them specifically as there are sites that have already done so and who cover most of what I would say anyway. I will say that I share a concern with many about the reference to GS 2007. It is possible to interpret that the panel is expecting that GS 2007 will step back from the progress made regarding full inclusion of GLBT in the life and sacraments of the Church. What happens if that is not the case? I do, however, celebrate the affirmation that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Diocese of New Westminster are in communion with the Church of England. You can find the report at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/reference/docs/report_october.pdf(For those of you who are used a bit more sophistication in the use of links I apologize but I am just learning this thing.)

What I would like to comment on is the responses of two Primates from the "Global South". Of course we all know that I have a problem with political speak so I may miss a few things. You can find the responses which I am refering at http://www.standfirminfaith.com/index.php/site/article/1307/ . There are a few assumptions of which I question the validity.

The response by +Gomez states:

"The claim is not in relations to the Church of England but 'the Church of England throughout the world,' that is, the Communion. It is clear that many provinces are not in communion with the bishop of the diocese and so the Panel needs to make clear how they can fulfill their clear declaration to 'remain in communion with those whom they regard as faithful' as long as they are under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. The Panel seems to want to say there is no problem because parts of the Communion have not declared impaired communion with the diocese and even those who have not declared it with the parishes but (a) it is not clear how the Panel makes sense of this latter claim canonically or ecclesiologically and (b) if there is any doubt many of the Provinces will make clear that indeed "In order to continue in full communion... 'we cannot at present function in structural fellowship with Bishop Ingham and the Diocese of New Westminster. (AS 3.2.3)". This is a crucial stage in the Panel's whole argument and it is precarious to say the least. In paragraph 25, the Panel's response to the request for special arrangements given the current status of the Diocese and Province within the worldwide Anglican Communion. However one describes it, the situation is clear and unprecedented - the province of which they are part, as a result of the actions of the diocese of which they are part, are currently unable to participate in the Instruments of Commuion."

I question the questioning of the Panel's arguement. +Gomez appears to base it on the idea that the Diocese of New Westminster is currently unable to participate in the Instruments of Communion. In order to answer this I would include the Anglican Church of Canada in that statement as there are certain Instruments of Unity (Communion) that the dioceses do not participate in on an individual level but rather through the Anglican Church of Canada. Unless something has happened of which I am unaware we are still able to participate in/with all Instruments of Unity.

We are still in communion with the ABC (the Panel's report makes that clear). We are still attending Primates meetings. The indications are that we will be invited to Lambeth. Although we chose to respect the wishes of the last Primate's meeting and did not actively participate in the last Anglican Consultative Council, we are still able to participate if we so wish. I would say that this puts Gomez's arguement on shaky grounds.

Venables writes:

"Global South Primates are committed to working with Communion structures to implement the steps and solutions that the crisis requires. Unless there is a radical revision of the Panel's operation, it does not appear that it will offer solutions of adequate or appropriate substance."

Is he really saying that unless the Panel says what we (the Global South) wants it to say, we will not accept that what it has to recommend as valid? I find this interesting because it was on the request of the Primate's that the panel was set up in the first place. Now that it does not support what the Global South Primate's have proposed in the Kilgali communique, they find it lacking.

The item that both the Primate's fail to respond to is that of crossing boundaries. Once again I find that interesting especially given Venables sponsorship of the Diocese of Recife. What does concern me in light of +Gomez's response is his appointment as chair for a new Anglican covenant as well as his being one of the four "wise people" with whom the ABC consults.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Struggles with Blessings

On the ACC website is an article about retired archbishop, Terence Finlay. In the article he gives his reasons for officiating at a same sex wedding. I found it interesting that some of his reasoning is similar to mine as I have become more and more certain that this is a more than acceptable action.

I started out on my journey toward exploring the sanctity of same sex relationships back in the early ‘80’s. I remember my dad struggling with the issue and discussing it with me one day. He spoke about our being created with a need for relationship and that his struggle with it was recognizing that for some people this could only happen in a same sex relationship. But on the other hand, when he was growing up and well into his adulthood, this was something that was not appropriate. Dad still struggles with a certain tension over this issue – between what his head and heart says and what his gut reaction is. This was the conversation that has been the base of all my studying.

My first studies on the issue revolved around the biblical passages. Over time I have dealt with each passage that appears to prohibit sex between same sexes. In studying these passages I have gained more insight and a greater appreciation for the Bible but I have also come to understand that they do not prohibit committed adult same sex relationships.

My studies in my first year of ministry centered around this issue. I then expanded my study to the understand of blessing. I became involved with Integrity and was impressed with the loving relationships I saw there.

The article on Terry Finlay resonated deeply with me for he appears to be in the same space I am on the issue. He makes the statement that he “came to the conclusion that their love (the two women whose marriage he celebrated) was part of God’s divine love and it was appropriate that that be deeply blessed.” The only quibble I might have with that statement is that it is not up to us to decide it is appropriate. It is up to God. And we can see by the fruits of the relationship whether or not God has blessed it. This is reflected in another statement he makes.

“I’ll be quite clear that it wasn’t done as a publicity stunt to make waves. I married two people who love each other deeply; they care about the church and I believe their commitment has been blessed by God.”

This is where I have arrived on the issue. There are a number of relationships I see that I believe have been truly blessed by God regardless of whether or not the Church has pronounced any such blessing. I have seen such tenderness and love between a number of couples and it is these fruits that have convinced me beyond all doubt that God does truly bless same sex relationships. For if God did not, they would not be relationships which reflected blessing. That which is wrong or evil will not be good – by their fruits you shall know them.

Another statement also resonated. Archbishop Finlay said, “I think our church has waited a long time and has discussed this issue over and over and in this particular situation, time just ran out for me.” I think of a couple recently married that felt they could no longer wait for the church to catch up. They had faced the fact that time was running out when one of the couple was quite sick. The partner recovered but they were afraid that if they waited for the church to allow a blessing of their relationship, it might be too late. The Anglican church was central in their lives but they just couldn’t wait any longer.

While I have made it clear to any who ask that as much as I support same sex marriages, I have taken a vow of obedience to my bishop who has made it quite clear that there will be no blessings in this diocese. I also have to be concerned with the impact on my parish which would be torn over such an action. What struck me about the article is the road that Archbishop Finlay has traveled and how the space he is in speaks strongly to the space I am in.

There is great pain on both sides of the issue as we struggle to do what we believe is God’s will. There is pain on the part of those who wish for full acceptance of who they are and the expression of that in healthy relationships. There is the pain of those who sincerely believe it is wrong. There is the pain of those who struggle in the middle as they see the tension in their church and in the people around them. However this turns out it will truly be a baptism by fire, for no one will be untouched in some way.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Books

I'm about to order some books. I'm doing a few orders over the next couple of months - as the money becomes available. When I talk to various people they suggest such and such a book and it goes on my wish list. I think I'm up to about 75 books. What are you reading? What would you recommend to the rest of us? What new things have really struck you in your reading over the last little while?

"Sarah's Circle"

As Shawn mentioned in his comment, he and I could be called obsessed with what is happening in the WWAC. We have our favourite blogs and forums and e-mail each other when we see something we think the other will find interesting. We try to get together every once in a while for coffee to share our concerns.

I’m quite excited as we finally have arranged coffee for Tuesday. We haven’t really been able to talk all summer and so much has happened in the last few weeks on the international front.

As well, Shawn is coming out with his people for a service in two weeks. I attended a workshop which he and another member led this summer – a Sacred Circle.

It’s strange how circle keeps coming back to me in so many ways. I remember when I struggled with the idea of the Trinity as triangle. I thought it was too limiting. Although I now understand the Triangle thing better (due in part to the Sayers course), I still think that it cause us to be too limited when trying to discern and understand God. I still like the circle better.

When in the first year Spirituality class, I did my report on Maria Harris’ Dance of the Spirit: the Seven Stages of Women’s Spirituality. The book speaks about Sarah’s Circle in contrast to Jacob’s ladder. When I envision community and church, I see Sarah’s Circle – an ever growing circle of dance and celebration: a circle where people are reaching out and holding hands but willing to let go and embrace all who come seeking: a circle expanding and expanding, and if room should become limited then circles within circles within circles.

Harris points out in her book that Jacob’s Ladder is limiting, hierarchal, and competitive. I guess that is what I see in the church today when we see what is happening with the threat of schism – and in all honesty I find it on both sides of the issue that appears to be the breaking point.

I remember back in our Church and Society class – there were four of us and Bill. I had chosen to present the seminar on Anglicanism in other parts of the world thinking I could broaden my horizons. I guess I was kind of na├»ve for I think I was actually looking for something along the lines of spirituality rather than structure and doctrine. I don’t know if the three who took that class remember, but as I was presenting the seminar I nearly broke down. I had seen ahead to exactly what is happening now. It was the first time in all my years in the Anglican Church that I had really understood how strong the danger was that we would become a divided communion. I remember Bill questioning me as to whether the Anglican Church was where I really wanted to be.

The Anglican Church as representing a broad spectrum is where I want to be. The Anglican Church as Sarah’s Circle is the one I embrace. The Anglican Church which narrowly defines membership is not a place where I can safely explore and deepen my understanding of the Creator. The Anglican Church as a Jacob’s Ladder is not one that I can embrace or feel embraced.

I think back to our fellowship around that table in the Common Room. I miss it. There were days when it just kept growing and growing. It included all who came to eat or for fellowship regardless of who they were or what they believed – some of the best discussions were when the Rabbi was present with Colin – a gift from Colin that I treasure greatly. Our table fellowship in that room was a gift treasured by the students from the other colleges as well.

And Theology 401. When we moved to the Faculty Lounge for that we once again sat in a circle that was forever expanding. There were times that we were even layered as people sat on the arms of other peoples chairs. There was no concern over who we were, what we did, or what we believed. We talked with whoever was beside us. We may not have always agreed, and some of us may have rarely agreed, but we continued sitting in that circle.

My hope is that the WWAC adopt something along the lines of Sarah’s Circle rather than a Jacob’s Ladder. I firmly believe that we will be all the healthier and richer for it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Setting it up

A friend noticed the lack of Canadian Anglican Bloggers. He suggested that I start a blog where we could discuss things from a Canadian Anglican point of view. It's something I have thought about and prayed over. This is the beginning.

I attended seminary at Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon. One of my fondest memories was the way we gathered around a big round table at meals and common time. It might start out with a couple of people and continued to grow - the circle expanding ever outward.

We were a diverse group covering much of the spectrum. And yet, around the ever-growing circle we were able to talk and to listen to each other without acrimony or judgement. I tend to be fairly liberal and yet I count among some of my closest friends and confidants some of the more conservative of my fellow students.

I guess that is the vision I have for this blog. Respect, politeness but the freedom to speak our minds and to dialogue. We share a common faith however we choose to express it and a common love for serving God.