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.

1 comment:

shawn + said...

Thoughts on "the middle", that commendable and innocent group of the faithful who are presented as being baffled and battered by the "extremes" of liberal and conservative on either side, who are pulling the beloved communion apart. Hmmm... I guess I'm not that convinced. In my experience (and I have done this myself, on many different issues), many people who claim to be "caught in the middle" or who "embrace the via media" sometimes use this as an excuse not to engage the real issues. The issues are either too painful or too complex to grasp in one quick glance, so the claim is made that anyone who actually has an opinion on any given matter, especially if it is a strong opinion, is called "extreme". Now, don't get me wrong. I want a church where there is room for a multitude of different perspectives. I want a church where there really is space for real disagreement. But as someone who has come to a decision via a long process of reflection, prayer, experience, and discernment, I get a little annoyed at being labelled "extreme", just because I have an informed conviction on the matter, a conviction which also leads me to action. Perhaps there might be a better way to envision the matter than a tug of war contest between the right and the left with the middle innocently caught in between. Because actually, lets face it, if the middle stands for the maintenance of the status quo (the shadow side of the via media), then the middle actually has already chosen a "side" by default, n'est'ce pas?