Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Reflection

(The following is what I wrote for the Christmas supplement in the local paper - The Independant)

I think of our Christmas Eve service at St. Paul’s. We start by lighting the Advent candles, which we have been lighting one by one over the last 4 weeks. And then we light the Christ candle, which in St. Paul’s case because we have a wreath that only allows for four candles, is the Paschal candle. We move into the service proper, which includes the Gospel reading from John 1:1-14 read from the King James translation of the Bible. We celebrate the Eucharist, which is truly a family event this night. And finally, we light our candles and stand in the candle light singing Silent Night. It is one of my favourite services of the year.

The above are all traditions – traditions that set this night apart from all others. We will have come through a time, four weeks, of preparing for this special night. Somehow, following the traditions of the years past make this night one of even more significance. The keeping of these traditions reminds us that the coming of the Christ child was not just for those who lived two thousand years ago, nor is it just for those of us alive today. It is for all peoples throughout history.

When we think of the various carols that we sing we recognize that this event is not just for humans but for the cosmos as well. We sing about stars and angels, about humans and animals. We hear about angels visiting shepherds in the fields. This was surely not a very quiet event. I know, if an angel suddenly appeared and spoke to me in such a manner, my heart would be racing and I would be shaking in fear and anticipation. Certainly an angel chorus singing Glory to God in the highest and peace to all people on earth would not exactly be a hushed event.

Yet, the moment that stands out for me each Christmas Eve is the moment when I look out over the congregation and see the candles lit and hear each voice softly singing Silent Night. Somehow this defines Christmas for me. I think that it is the hush and reverence of the moment. We stand in quiet awe of the magnitude of this gift from God – this humble beginning of the Son of God entering into human lives in such an intimate way that quietly impacts all our hearts and lives. Knowing at Christmas what is to come from this birth we can do little more than stand in hushed expectation and celebration. Mere words cannot describe the moment and so we rely on our traditions to express what we think and feel this most special of nights – Silent night. Holy night. Son of God, love’s pure light.

Love and Prayers,Ann Marie +

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Embodied Thought

I have been reading a book by Carol P. Christ. I know, I know, it's not a "Christian" book. But it is about feminist spirituality and that is a key interest of mine. It is also part of a pet project about reframing things so that our faith can resonate more with women who are reclaiming a place for themselves in a world that is still dominated by patriarchal understandings (although we are making progress).

There is a section on embodied thought and that has struck a chord with some of what I have been thinking lately. According to Carol: "When we think through the body , we reflect upon the standpoints embedded in our life experiences, histories, values, judgments, and interests. Not presuming to speak universally or dispassionately, we acknowledge that our perspectives are finite and limited. Rather than being "subjective," "narrowly personal", "merely confessional," "self-referential," or "self-indulgent" (discrediting terms taken from the ethos of objectivity), embodied thinking enlarges experience through empathy." (from the book, Rebirth of the Goddess)

I was reading this on coffee row. The usual suspects were not present at the inbetween times and so I had the rare opportunity to pull out my book and do some reading as well as some reflecting. The following are some of the thoughts I had.

Embodied thinking allows for compassion and flexibility. It is not as rigid and is more open to dialogue, which then facilitates open and "polite" discussion. Because we don't have "pretend" (we can never be truly objective inspite of what others would have us believe about objectivity) that we are being objective or that our personal feelings and fears are not a part of what we believe, we are freer to express ourselves and also to better listen.

Coming quickly on the heels of that thought was - embodied thinking openly acknowledges our subjectivity and fallibility. This facilitates our being more open to challenge without being so defensive. We may end up with a more rounded and grounded sense of where we are on any given issue because we can more freely seek and assimilate information from outside sources that help inform and challenge any beliefs we may hold.

Following on the post below and a post on Father T. Listens to the World, I also reflected on the idea that embodied thinking evens the playing ground. There is a better ability for equality. We are meeting on equal ground rather than insisting that one side prove itself to the other in a system that is set up to favour the latter. In an ironic twist, this actually makes it easier to be more objective in one's thinking.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


The Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) had this to say:

Pluralist Speaks: Say it in 140

It speaks to what I see as one of the problems around discussing or dialoguing on the current issues in the Anglican Communion. I find the phrase, "closed hermeneutics fix the answer prior to any given question," particularly resonates with some of my struggles lately. There is a tendency to want to put the discussion within the traditional parameters, which do not utilize the growth of knowledge and methods of more recent years. When this happens the outcome is rather controlled.

I'm not sure where the balance is. I have struggled with this all my life. I have been a part of this diocese for 36 of my 48 years (4 of those years have been in the ordained ministry and 32 in lay ministry). It has been a relatively traditional diocese. I know my father, as a more liberal priest, was often almost a lone voice in the '70's. In more recent years we have moved closer to the centre. Because of my time spent here I do have an appreciation for tradition. I have always said that we need all spots on the spectrum as a system of checks and balances.

There's a problem in that as well. In a post below it was mentioned that since those of us who would bless same-sex marriages were bringing in something new we needed to defend it to the Church in order to change the status quo. I find that this often means that we also need to use traditional methods. Once we start branching out to some of the more recent ones ears are often closed to what we have to present.

In other words, the cards are stacked against us. It also provides a disconnect for those who have not kept their faith ties. They have become accustomed to more recent ways and understandings. They often cannot make the connection between what our traditional brothers and sisters are saying and what their experience and understanding are. I read a response from the Diocese of Westminster to the St. Michael's report. This response was by four people including Richard Legett and Sally McFague. As I read through it I realized that part of our problem was that our doctrines were not understood or articulated in a language that made sense to the average person today. Work seriously needs to be done in putting these into contemporary language. It is not that I necessarily believe that we must change those doctrines but rather that they need to be written so that most can understand what they are saying.

I first encountered this disconnect in the study guide that is mentioned a few posts below. One of the contributors used the 39 Articles as a reference point and printed some of those articles out. As they were written right out of the 1962 BCP in KJ English and cultural understanding of the words used, they would have been almost incomprehensible to the majority of my congregation. I realized that as much as some may value tradition and that part of that tradition is the language of the BCP, we foster a disconnect between the average person's faith life and the secular world. By fostering understandings that make faith seem poetic and set apart from the rest of our lives we are fostering a "Sunday" mentality - where we only need pay heed to our faith for an hour on Sunday mornings and then we can go out into the rest of the week until that hour the next Sunday.

I'm really not sure where I am going with this. It is something I have been pondering on for awhile. Once again, part of the problem is my difficulty with words. I know what the image is that I have in mind when I think about this but I struggle to get that image into words. I'm still working on it though because I think there is something important somewhere in that image even if I can't quite put my finger on it.

And how does this relate to what the Pluralist had to say. Maybe not at all but it was the Pluralists words that started the process of thinking on this once again. I think maybe it is that at times it is almost as though we are not speaking the same language. I often find - such as in the OT passages quoted as what some call "clobber verses" there is little relevance for the issue. There is no concept in them of the healthy, faithful relationships that we would bless (and there is no concept in them of homosexuality as that is a concept that didn't exist until the mid-1800's). For a number of people it is about the sex act that is spoken of in those passages and for a number of others the issue is about the goodness of the relationships we would bless. And the Church, especially the churches in the majority of the Anglican Communion, are insisting that we present our case in terms that do not reflect this difference.

I have talked to people who tell me that they are not necessarily against the approval of blessing of same-sex marriages but the Church has to put it in solid theological terms first. I keep thinking of the many papers I have read on the subject and thinking that we have presented our case in the many aspects already - we have offered biblical, theological, doctrinal etc. basis. It is not that we are being told that we are wrong but that we haven't done it. I wonder if it is because we aren't using the same methods or language. We just keep churning out more and more papers and avoiding the dialogue. Maybe it's because we can't find a common ground on which to start our dialogue in a language or terms that we all understand.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Saskatchewan Meteorite

I don't watch T.V. so I often play catch up with the news. This weekend I was at a college council meeting and someone mentioned the Saskatchewan Meteorite (or Alberta/Saskatchewan). I remember sitting in the living room of our house in Saskatoon about the time the meteor would have gone over. The room lit up a fair amount (we were sitting in semi-darkness waiting for Owen to get home from Regina so we could all go for supper). I don't know if that was because of a car or because of the meteor but the timing fits.

I was quite annoyed that I had not seen the meteor. I hate not to be in the thick of things. Oh well. Then I got to church on Sunday and the talk was about a video one of musicians had sent in to the news service. She lives on a farm and has a security camera on top of one of her outbuildings pointed at their fuel storage tanks (fuel theft is a real problem in the rural areas). The camera caught the meteorite. You can see the video here. You can read about it here.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Other Names Meme

I ran into this at Wounded Bird and thought it was cool.

1. WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names): Pearl Huntington
2. NASCAR NAME: (first name of your mother’s dad, father’s dad): Henry Sidney
3. STAR WARS NAME: (the first 2 letters of your last name, first 4 letters of your first name): Niannm
4. DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Purple Cat
5. SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you live): Biggar (I have no middle name)
6. SUPERHERO NAME: (2nd favorite color, favorite alcoholic drink, optionally add “THE” to the beginning): The Blue None (I am very allergic to any alcohol)
7. FLY NAME: (first 2 letters of 1st name, last 2 letters of your last name): Anni
8. GANGSTA NAME: (favorite ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Maple Walnut Gingersnap
9. ROCK STAR NAME: (current pet’s name, current street name): Beethoven Fourth
10. PORN NAME: (1st pet, street you grew up on): Jeff Tenth

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Monday, November 24, 2008


Water has major meaning in my spirituality. This summer we were able to visit some of my favourite water places. I would like to share them with you. These first four pictures are from Marysville Falls just outside of Kimberly.


This is one of my peaceful meditations pictures. I love the sense of peace it brings. I made a prayer card out this with the scripture passage - "Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest."

These next pictures are from Lundbreck Falls in Southern Alberta.

And last but not least - the Bow Falls from Banff.

Personality Type Indicator

When I was in seminary we used the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator. I actually come out as INFP - a feeler rather than a thinker. Interestingly enough my CPE supervisor never did succeed in getting me to say "I feel" rather than "I think."

Joe has a link on his blog that "typalyzes" blogs. I found the results interesting, especially in the light of the post below.

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications. They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality.

Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I will admit that I struggle with that second paragraph and will need to pray on what it may reveal about me. I don't generally get the impression, at least with my friends and parishioners, that I come across as arogant, imaptient and insensitive to people but I will certainly take the time to think and pray about the possibility and for improvement in that area.

What struck me as fairly accurate was the first paragraph, although I would say that there are edges to that.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Thinking in Words/Images

I have been reflecting this morning on a dialogue in the post below. I am struggling to put those thoughts into words. Part of the problem is that I don't think in words, I think in images. Unfortunately, those images are not necessarily visual. If they were, I could at least find the words to describe them.

I teach a prayer workshop for parish nursing. The first time I was asked, I was given an outline to follow. Fortunately, for me, I was also told that it was not set in stone. The outline relied very heavily on structured and worded prayer. This is definitely not my forte. I changed the outline to involve a number of forms of embodied prayer. I have found embodied prayer is the style better suited to my way of thinking - it does not require concrete words. I am able to use symbolic actions and images to form prayers that don't necessarily have words.

I was somewhat nervous the first time I presented the workshop. It was very well received. The next time I presented the workshop, there were people there who came partly because they had heard about the first one. One of the things I explain is my difficulty with words - that I think in images - and thus a fair portion of the workshop is centred around styles of prayer that accommodate that. A number of people came up to me and were so thankful because they have the same way of thinking and are so relieved to have things put in a context to which they can relate.

This leads me to the reason for this post. In the comments for the post below, there is a comment about looking at the words and the meanings of the words as written as the defining way to interpret the various scripture passages - especially the ones that are considered to speak to same-sex relationships. I disagree with this method on two grounds.

The first ground is that it sets rigid parameters for interpreting the discussion. To insist on the words only is to limit and box God. I will grant you that language is originally a gift from God. However, it is very human in its make up and thus limited in its scope and understanding. To use words alone is to box God in. To insist on words alone is - to some extent- to insist on being able to control God's revelation. It is - to the same extent - to insist on controlling things so that the outcome is always the same. It does not always allow for the working of the Holy Spirit.

When I read a scripture passage I see images. I don't just see the words in black and white but rather images around those words. I see the culture in which they were written - although I will admit that the image is limited to what I have learned about the culture. I see the possible intent or motivation behind those words. I also see the culture of today and the message the words may have for that culture. For me, this is a much more wholistic approach to reading the scriptures.

I am not being innovative here. I believe the ancient Hebrews better understood the limitations of mere words. Their words did not have single meaning. Rather they were words that promoted thinking in images. Take the word "Shalom" for example. We all know that it means so much more than merely "peace." It brings to mind an image of what that peace is like - wholeness, harmony, justice, righteousness etc.

There is another facet to focusing exclusively on the words. I used to have a real problem with the BCP. A few years ago I would have called it "worm theology" along with some of my contemporaries. The spiritual damage that was done to me was immense and it took years of healing before I was spiritually able to embrace my faith. Actually, the problem with the BCP was not the theology per se but the tendency to think of only the words rather than the images they were meant to convey. When I took my second liturgy class at seminary I was given a real gift. The prof was able to convey the images the words were meant to give and I grew to love most of those images. Where I had problems with the images, I was better able to understand because I was able to see the words in the context and culture in which they were written and thus able to lose a fair amount of my negativity toward them. I now quite enjoy the BCP. The most dramatic of changes came around the Prayer of Humble access which is now fairly central as an expression of my theology where before it was one of the prayers that caused the most harm to my spirituality.

For those who may think that my refusal to engage in dialogue using words alone as terms of reference is a further revelation of my arrogant attitude, my willfulness, my blindness, my being deceived or whatever other term they want to give it, I will only say this in my defense. God gave me the gift of being able to think in images. I realize that any gift as a dual edge, one can use it in service to God or in service against God. One must always be very careful of the way that the gift is being used. Thus, the gift needs to be used surrounded by prayer and meditation. I strive to do that. Now who am I to listen to - human or God? I sincerely pray that it is God to whom I am listening and I tend to believe that because the use of the gift is surrounded by prayer and meditation that it is God to whom I am listening. If that means going against the flow, going against certain cultural expectations, then so be it. I am certainly in good company including that of my Lord and Saviour.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Journey - Stage Four

I am the current Chaplain of Integrity/Saskatoon . I see that role as one of pastoral support and sacramental ministry. Integrity met to discuss what we should do to facilitate dialogue. We came up with the idea of a workshop. I attended the planning meetings but my role was not to direct but rather to be a pastoral presence and a link to the wider diocese.

We chose a young woman who is an ordained deacon in a local United Church. She had done a study session, which a member of Integrity had attended. The young woman was contacted and the group met with her to plan the workshop. During one meeting, I was sitting beside this woman.

I maybe need to explain that I am very much down at the hetero end of the sexuality scale. Most of my homosexual friends were male so I knew that I did not feel threatened in the least by them. I wasn't so sure when it came to females.

At this one meeting we were all sitting their talking. At one point, I realized that the young woman had her arm laying along the back of my chair. Now, if this was a man, I might have felt uncomfortable. And as I mentioned above, I wasn't sure how I would feel in close contact with a woman. Some level of my brain registered that her arm was there and that I was not worried or uncomfortable at all.

I will also admit that I have been uncomfortable with physical expressions of love/affection between homosexuals (but then overt seriously sexual expressions on the part of heterosexuals also bother me). I have discovered over the past year that this discomfort is lessening.

And so I continue on my journey. For me key points have been:
1. My conversation with my father that started this journey
2. My realization that the idea of same-sex relationships did not bother me
3. My study of scripture
4. My prayer/conversations with God on my internship
5. My realization that my support did not rely on the genetic/choice debate
6. My research and presentation to diocesan council
7. My realization that I am becoming totally at ease with physical expressions and with lesbians

As I write this, I am very conscious that I am a heterosexual person with no first hand experience of what it like living as a gay in a hetero world. I have been honest about my questions and where I stand. Usually, I might write with more of an eye to the correct language or with concern as to how my words and attitudes might come across to someone who is gay. I haven't done this here as I think it is important that I be bluntly honest about how my journey has come about. If what I have said rubs people on the raw, I apologize and regret what it is that may hurt but I cannot change what I have said for it is my experience.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

My Journey - Stage Three

During my first year of ordained ministry there was an incident in our diocese that brought the issue of same sex relationships to the surface. As a result a chapter of Integrity was formed in this diocese. The chaplain was my very good friend, Shawn Sanford Beck. Shawn and I had gone through CPE together which gave us a fairly strong bond as well as the fact that we were two liberals in a diocese that was considered fairly conservative.

Integrity would meet for eucharist at the cathedral and then go for coffee at a near by restaurant. This was the first time that I really began to get to know same sex couples. What I saw and experienced brought a whole new dimension to my support.

At the same time, a study on the issue had been mandated by diocesan council. The report was published and as a member of council I was one of the first to receive a copy. I was horrified and disgusted after the first few pages and initially set it aside. I approached the bishop and learned that nothing would be done about the study. I was told that, if I was concerned about the fact that little was done to even attempt to present two different views, it would be up to the priest or study leader to present a more balanced point of view. It would stand as it was. I then approached some of my liberal friends in the priesthood. They too, would do little other than make sure it was not used in their parishes. Basically, they file thirteened it but would do little else.

I then spoke to Shawn about it. He had not seen a copy. He was able to get a copy and he brought it up at an Integrity meeting. Some of the other members also received copies and were deeply disturbed and hurt by what was written. Those of us who felt something needed to be done met together to discuss our options. We settled on writing a letter to diocesan council, carboned-copied to the Bishop asking that the study be rescinded. Members of Integrity were invited to attend and speak to the issue. I was no longer on council at the time. I also felt that those who this study directly affected needed to speak.

I think the next thing that happened is that the motion to rescind had a tie vote and the bishop decided to table it for the time being. Integrity was then asked to prepare a written response to the document. I went back to my research - binders full of it. I did not approach the issue from a biblical perspective this time as someone much more capable than myself was already doing so. This time I concentrated on the doctrine of marriage and the understanding of blessings. I used predominantly Anglican resources from the Anglican Church of Canada - papers by members of the Primate's Theological Commission. I also used Rowan Williams', "The Body's Grace", as well as Claiming the Blessing out of ECUSA (TEC now) and the Anglican Church of Canada's own presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council.

What I was learning convinced me even further. I looked at Jamie Howison's paper on the the purposes of marriage and the changes in understanding based on a study of the 1962 BCP and the Book of Alternative Services - "Thinking Faithfully About Sex and Marriage." I read another paper by Paul Jennings - "The Grace of Eros," and Gary Thorne's, "Friendship and Marriage." (Sorry, my link to this paper no longer works.) Another document I used was the Anglican Church of Canada's "Marriage: An Exploration of Marriage in Church and Society."

I will grant you that my final presentation was not balanced in its approach but then I figured that the opposing point of view had already been presented in the Study Guide (which I figured should have been called the Position Paper - literally). I should note that I do respect and appreciate the time the authors of the study guide put into the document. But I could not in good conscience support the one-sided approach (although someone who is in the know and liberal said that it was a better study than a number that he had seen - I would hate to see some of those others).

Diocesan Council did rescind the guide but felt that something should still be done. The bishop thought it might be best to open dialogue between all people. He approached Integrity for their assistance and Integrity agreed to come up with something.

My Journey - Stage Two

Most of my first year for seminary was taken by correspondence. After four years I arrived on campus. This is where I really began to hear arguments both for and against same sex relationships. I, of course, argued vehemently for them. Most of what I heard against did nothing to convince me differently and I learned more about what lay behind the reasoning of those who supported.

On internship, my supervisor mentor was as much against same sex relationships as I was for them. We found a way forward without letting the issue harm our ministry together. I did ask to borrow one of her books which spoke against such relationships on a biblical basis. I will admit to not being able to finish the book although I did read it half the way through. The approach to interpretation in the book and the approach I had come to adopt at seminary were too different. I found no common ground on which I could base either an agreement or disagreement.

During my internship, I really questioned my stance on the issue. My supervisor/mentor was so much against (although not rabid about it). This caused me to question my own stance. To get to the parish where I was interning was a 45 minute drive on fairly open highway. I was able to spend a fair amount of that time in prayer and meditation. One day I gave my confusion over to God. What I recieved back was two touchstones. One was - does the relationship do any harm? The second was - does the relationship promote the work of the kingdom?

Up to this time I had not really come to know any same sex couples, so the matter was still fairly academic for me. I did know one gay couple from my church. I watched them and their love for each other but in all honesty they were an oddity for me at the time. I was fascinated because they were different, but, although I talked with them, I never really tried to get to know them.

I finished seminary and went into parish ministry. Without having to keep up with my theological studies on a structured basis, I now found time to study human sexuality more seriously. I pulled articles off the Internet from reliable sources. Admittedly the majority of these were pro same sex relationships but I did pull a number off that spoke against them. I also started a more serious feminist study of women in religion especially Christianity.

As I read more and more about the feminine and traditional understandings and experience, the more I discovered how deep seated was the attitude toward anything that threatened the "masculine". Patriarchy had a strong hold on society and religion in general and Christianity in particular. And patriarchy in the church was often based on the thoughts of pagan philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. Those thoughts so went against my experience of being female that I couldn't believe that people still embraced them.

At the same time, there were occasions that I was having to defend being a female in ordained ministry. One gentleman mentioned that the Spirit would never call a woman to the ordained ministry. This was so contrary to my experience that I continued to question tradition. If tradition is wrong on the issue of the feminine, could not tradition also be wrong in the whole area of human sexuality.

This idea of fear of the feminine re-inforced what I had come to understand about the passages in the Bible in general and the passage in Leviticus in particular. As my feminist studies continued alongside my studies on human sexuality, I began to see more and more parallels and become more convinced that we were wrong in not accepting the "integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships" (as it was put by GS 2004).

My Journey - Stage One

I first started on my journey toward acceptance of same-sex relationships based on a struggle my father, an Anglican priest, had with the issue in the early 1980's. My father still identifies as a homophobe. But he is a homophobe with compassion. He recognizes that his problem with homosexuality is based on his conditioning by society rather than his Christian faith. Now there's a switch from those who believe that supporting same-sex relationships is caving into society.

I will say that when I look back, I don't believe that I ever had been taught that homosexuality was a sin. I remember in high school that we had a teacher everyone figured was gay. But we mostly made jokes about him and the Zodiac club. It was more an "ick" factor than anything.

I can't even remember the context around my conversation with my father. There had been a church meeting of some sort and something about sexuality must have come up. I remember Dad speaking about the struggle between his head and his gut. His head told him that human kind was created in God's image which meant that we were created to be in relationship. He struggled with denying the opportunity for that intimate relationship to a group of people. And yet his upbringing gave him a major reaction in his gut whenever he thought about two men in a relationship together.

I didn't think much more about this for a number of years. The conversation did remain with me and did provide a basis whenever same sex relationships was brought up. It wasn't until the mid-nineties at a bible study when the pastor spoke strongly against same sex relationships that I realized that I had come to a sort of acceptance of them based on my dad's struggle. The acceptance, however, was more academic or intellectual than anything else.

In the late-nineties I started seminary. My New Testament class opened my eyes further to the wonder of scripture and I encounter feminism interpretations for the first time. I think my first in-depth feminist study was on Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well.

But it was my Hebrew Scriptures class that really made the study of scripture come alive for me. I think this was because it had a bit more of a cross discipline approach. I have always loved history and had taken classes in Sociology. My approach to things is more anthropological although I will admit to never having taken any Anthropology on a formal basis. During this time I was struck by the understanding of procreation. When coupled with what I understood to be the attitude toward the feminine the prohibitions about same sex intercourse became much clearer.

Looking at Leviticus I noticed that prohibition against same sex intercourse was only directed toward males. This raised a question in my mind. When I further thought on it, I remembered that to be female was to be inferior. When one considers the sex act, one could see where it was believed that one male would have to play a female role or be in a female position. This would have been very demeaning. Add to that the understanding of procreation where it was believed that the male seed was a tiny perfectly formed human being. To plant this seed in anything other than a woman's womb was akin to murder.

Sodom and Gomorrah is said to be about hospitality. To me it is about violence. Yes, hospitality is part of it but the violence of what the men wanted to do stands out more. It is not same sex relations that the men want. It is to violently humiliate the guests by using them as women. The passage disturbs me even further when I consider that it would not have been as bad in the men's eyes had it been a woman who was so violently violated. I should mention that this interpretation is very much influenced now by the realization that the reason God caused the flood was the violence of humans. The humans did evil in the sight of God but the evil that is mentioned most pointedly and consistently is violence.

I was beginning to take ownership of my own stance on human sexuality.

I should also mentioned that my parents were instrumental in providing the lens through which I view scripture. My father is a Canon Emeritus based on his work in the area of Social Justice. My mother was every bit as much involved in that work as my father and certainly holds her own ideas on it. Each of them is a force to be reckoned with. They brought me up in a world of love and inclusion. This is not to say that I am free from racism and bigotry. I can't help my gut reactions that have been formed by the people and society around me. What I can do is not act on those reactions when I understand them to be wrong.

Most telling for me is the gospels where Jesus lifts up those who are oppressed because of the systems and religious misunderstandings of what it means to be fully human. The thing in the Hebrew scriptures (next to the story of Creation) that stands out most for me is God's continual reminder to the Israelites to remember that it is God that brought them out of slavery in Egypt and to respond by looking after the orphan, the widow, and the alien in the strange land. There are the calls through the prophets to do justice.

Then there is the gospels themselves which tell of Jesus ministering to the outcasts - those that the religious system based on the laws (a number of which are in Leviticus) had declared unclean, often for things that were innate or beyond their control. The over-riding commandment that Jesus gives us is the one to love. God loves us. Our response to the love is to love God and to love one another. In the BCP, the book with which I was brought up, I remember being told that on these two laws hang all the laws and the prophets. There is no commandment or law greater than these. This is the lens through which I read and interpret the scripture.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Celebration of Marriage

"The marriage of two people is a holy union. It begins with your desire to
form a lasting, life-long partnership with another in God’s love, and
continues throughout your lives as a process of intentional living and
growing together. In a marriage, each of you as an individual, and together
as a couple, gradually transform and mature in God’s presence and image.

A wedding, then, is a rite of passage, a sacred ritual that celebrates your
desire to enter into a life-long relationship. It symbolizes the ending of
former ways of life and other future possibilities, and establishes a particular
pathway into the future – one that you promise to travel together.

By uniting within the context of a faith community, you recognize that God
is active in the love you feel for one another, and you place your relationship
in God’s care. Your individual stories – and your story as a couple – are
celebrated in the context of the story of God and God’s ways with the
human community, as understood within a particular community of faith.

In a Christian marriage, your personal stories are seen in the light of God’s
action in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Christ’s unfolding
pattern in our lives is one of dying to self and rising to Christ, of
transformation, and of self-offering. A Christian relationship is the living
out of a self-giving way of being in community with one another, in the
larger context of the Christian community.

Through a wedding, you as a couple enter into a life-long commitment. You
make your vows before God and the gathered community of family, friends
and the Church, and receive the grace and blessing of God to help you
fulfill your vows. Your marriage is a sacrament – an outward and visible
expression of God’s grace in bringing you together and nurturing your love."

The above text comes from St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Washington. Now I will grant you that this is deliberately written so that it can be applied to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. But it does put forth what marriage is quite clearly. When one takes out the language of "male and female" we can see what marriage is at the heart of the sacrament (and I do believe it is a sacrament). Could someone please tell me why a same sex couple does not fit within the definition above?

Or failing that, can anyone tell me what is specific (other than procreation) to marriage being exclusive to male and female couples. I know the arguements from a scripture stand point. I have read them ad nauseum. They are at best inconclusive in the light current research and understandings available to us. Procreation is not an argument as we allow for marriage of male/female couples who are not or cannot have children.

If we believe, as Paul writes, that it is by the fruit we shall know God's blessings upon something, what stands in the way of a marriage that reflects the above?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Monday, October 06, 2008

Follow up

I was just over at "Telling Secrets", Elizabeth Kaeton's blog. She posted this article which speaks more strongly to what I was attempting to say below:

That the church's silence and inaction in North America is also taking its toll on people.

That, yes we need to be concerned that people may be dying because of what we do say on the issue of full inclusion but it should not silence us because silence also has consequences.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Rambling Thoughts #1

Wednesday was a clergy day for us. Our bishop and his wife gave a presentation on their time at Lambeth. It was interesting but didn't offer many new insights that hadn't already been discussed on the internet.

Toward the end there was a time for questions. Of course the same-sex issue came up (almost exclusively so). A comment was once again made about people dying in other countries because of the west's support for full inclusion. My response to that is that there are people in the west who suffering and dying because the Church does not speak out strongly enough for full inclusion. It has not done any where near the work necessary to bring about acceptance. My more conservative colleagues will tell us that is not the individual but the actions of which they disapprove. But yet, they do not speak for justice and compassion for the individual. The words they use and the images they provoke are ones that continue hostility and non-acceptance.

Yes, we need to be concerned about deaths in other countries - but let us not forget that some of the very people that speak about those deaths are also not speaking against the deaths of GLBTTs in their countries legal systems or from outside it. How many deaths would be prevented if they would speak out for love and acceptance? Yes, deaths are wrong (and it is horrific to think that something we are doing might be causing those deaths) - but so is standing by and doing nothing. The only way to ensure those deaths do not occur is to bring about change and acceptance on a world level and that means starting in our own countries to set the example.

Yes, those deaths are tragic but so is moving backward and forcing our friends back into the closet, back into a time with little rights. That in itself is death. Our friends have just as much claim to the abundant life promised in John 10:10b and in all the gospel. Stopping now is not going to bring about that life. So yes, my heart and prayers go out to those who may die because I, a simple rural Anglican priest, support the full inclusion of GLBTTs and I truly pray that my support does not bring about a single death - but to do nothing means that no progress will happen and other people will die - either by their own hands, or the hands of others, or through the lack of life by the denial of who they are as beloved children of God.

So, while we need to listen, we cannot be ruled by the actions of those who use violence to prevent change. Instead we need to continue to speak and educate so that eventually all may have life and live it without fear or guilt. For the Anglican Church of Canada to keep the staus quo or to move backward will not bring about life for either those Christians in other lands or for our GLBTT brothers and sisters here. It may be that we need to speak further a field to bring Jesus message of abundant life to all.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Last night we had our regular Integrity meeting. As we celebrated the eucharist, each of us administering to the other, I overheard one of our members say to the spouse, "Beloved, the body of Christ given for you." The beauty of that statement stopped me in my tracks for a few seconds.

While on holidays in August I received a phone call on my message manager which asked if I would consider presiding at a wedding in the middle of September. The short time meant that the couple could not take one of the weekend marriage preparation courses. I did the preparation with them.

The second question I ask a couple is, "why the church? Why not a marriage commissioner?" (The first is - Why marriage? Why not just live together?) We spend some time looking at Christian marriage and that is often referred to throughout the course.

I look at these two events and think about Sarah Palin's daughter and her upcoming marriage. Why is the daughter getting married. From the sounds of it - soley because she is pregnant.

I sit here shaking my head. Over ten years ago I read a right-wing magazine - not something I do often but this one was free and it had an article on teen-age dating trends. It spoke of serial monagamy bemoaning the fact that our teen-agers were having sex at such a young age. As this had currently become a huge issue in my own family, I read on. The article then put forth the idea that we should lower the age of consent for marriage so the children would not have sex outside of marriage.

They lost me at that point. My concern was about children having sex and their's was about children having sex outside of marriage. They were suggesting that children, who already showed a tendancy to serial monagamy, should get married. So what happens when the first flush of romance dies or that burst of lust is no longer. The marriage will end - but hey, the children at least did not have pre-marital sex.

I look at this way of thinking and I think of the complaint that if we allow GLBTTs to get married we will make a mockery of marriage or we will start the downfall of marriage.

Excuse me! The couple last night at eucharist is a same-sex couple and I would say their relationship is a beautiful example of what Christian marriage should be. It is clear that God is very present in their relationship and that the relationship has borne much fruit both within itself and for those who know and love them. One of the things I stress when teaching about Christian marriage is that outward flow of the gifts that God has given them in each other. I teach that marriage is a sacrament and we explore what sacrament means - an outward and visible sign of God's inward and visible grace. I can see that in spades in last night's couple. I can see it in the couple I recently did marriage prep with.

Now it may also be pressent in Sarah Palin's daughter and her fiance. I don't know them so I can't say that it is not. But the point is there is more danger of making a mockery of marriage or contributing to a downfall of it by getting married solely because one is pregnant. It is not to say that this particular marriage will not work out or that it will not be as beautiful example of Christian marriage - it may well be. I will admit to having my doubts based on the experience of many other teen-age marriages.

But this could show us that the problem is not about same-sex marriage per se but about same sex sex. Are we actually against two people committing to each other or are we against the idea of two people of the same-sex having sex?

Maybe I'm nit-picking.

On the way home, I started mentioning some of these thoughts to my husband. He asked the question - do people get as uptight about two women together as they do about two men? I don't think they do. There is a very real focus in the writings that abound on two males rather than two females. There is little mention of the non-sexual aspects of any relationship which actually form a larger portion of the relationship time.

From my conversations with various people and from the reading that I have been doing, I would say that the biblical basis and doctrinal basis are being used to mask an over-all discomfort with sex itself and even more - a society that still has not come to accept the equality of male and female. Sex should not occur outside of marriage and no man should take on a perceived female role.

A few years ago the Anglican Church of Canada passed a resolution saying the we recognize the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships. We have decided to look at the relationship as a whole and recognize that God is indeed present in many same-sex relationships just as God is indeed present in many opposite-sex relationships. We are not cheapening marriage. We are holding an ideal up. That ideal is not about legimating sex. It is about thinking seriously what it means to be in a relationship truly blessed by God. It is about what it means to be in a healthy committed relationship where the vows are taken because the couple recognizes God's presence and gift in their relationship. I have yet heard one couple - homosexual or heterosexual - tell me that they want to get married so they can have sex. Instead what I have heard is about committment and celebrating and acknowledging God's presence in their relationship. Indeed - it is about Christian marriage and all that it entails.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


My bishop and the bishop of the diocese south of us have blurred our boundaries as far as pastoral care of the region. I am the only Anglican priest on highway 14 between Saskatoon and the Alberta border. There are two priests on highway 7 between Saskatoon and the Alberta border. It is a large area for three priests to cover and when one is away it makes it difficult for those south of me to arrange for pastoral care coverage. I'm fortunate because I work closely with the Lutheran pastor and, if I am away, he automatically covers for me. The blurring of the boundaries means that we no longer have to go through our respective bishops to arrange for one of us to look after another's parish for things such as holidays, illness etc.

I was called to do a funeral in one of the communities south-west of me. Their priest was at a wedding in Ottawa. I had met the woman who had died a couple times in previous visits. With a bit of adjusting of time on their part, I was able to do the funeral. There were a few things that were different.

First of all, I couldn't do the interment because I had a previous important commitment here - a 60th anniversary and I was asked to bless the couple. Arrangements were made for the pastor of an evangelical denomination to do the interment. As I have been involved with that particular denomination before, just briefly when I attended a workshop of Natural Church Development they were sponsoring, I was very aware that they did not ordain women. As well, I was aware of the discomfort some of the pastors felt when having to work with me. I wasn't sure how the meeting with the family and the pastor would work. It went well. I behaved, but then nothing was said that made me have to bite my tongue in front of the family.

That was the first edge of this experience. The second was that the woman who had died had such a strong faith and had found so much that was life-giving in that faith (naturally) that she wanted everyone to have a chance to experience a closer relationship with God. She wanted the prayer of salvation at the end of the service. First of all, not being from the evangelical branch of Anglicanism, I had to ask which particular prayer of salvation. I told them that I could not do it at the end of the service but I could work my sermon around it and have it at the end of the sermon. That's a bit of a stretch for me but I, too, have found so much in my faith and do love to share it so that others might know it too.

I researched evangelical prayers of salvation and the theology behind them. In general I certainly had no problem with them. I discovered four basic elements behind them.
1. God's love for us
2. Our separation from God through sin
3. The cross as penalty for our sin
4. The restoration of our relationship with God through confession and prayer.

I have absolutely no problem with elements 1,2, and 4, but my theology of the cross is not one of penal substitution. I could not stand in the pupit and say that I believed that Jesus died on the cross as a penalty for my sin and mean what I knew was the intent behind the prayer with any integrity. I'm not sure which theory of the atonement I embrace but I do know it is not that one.

(Actually, I am reading The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality. What Ian Douglas has to say about the atonement may come closest to the way I understand it.

"The ultimate act of Jesus' self-giving participation in God's mission is his sacrifice upon the cross and the victory over death. The joining ofJesus' pain and suffering with our pain and suffering on the cross is where we are passionately connected with God, with one another and with all creation. On the cross is where this new relationship, this right relationship, with God and each other is effected. In Jesus' resurrection three days after the agony of the cross, we are given the promise of restored life in him. Jesus' atonement for the sins ofthe world is our 'at-one-ment': our "at-one-ment with God, and our 'at-one-ment' with each other through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus' death and resurrection we are given the means by which we become one with each other and with God. In the death and resurrection of Jesus the divisions between God and humanity are overcome, and the promise of reconciliation is made real."

I find even the above rather limiting as it only speaks to the cross and resurrection rather than the whole of the Incarnation and I see the 'at-one-ment' as taking place in the whole, not just part.)

Anyway, I did manage to find the words and thoughts to do an evangelizing sermon while speaking with full integrity to God, with the person who had died and with myself. I didn't do too badly, even my husband listened and learned (although he found the sermon a bit longish which it was compared to my usual funeral sermons.) The evangelical pastor read the eulogy and did the prayer of thanksgiving for the life of the person and read another gospel passage (John 3:1-17) just before I did the blessing and dismissal. All in all, the service went quite well and many people were touched by it.

The fun came at the luncheon afterwards. After most of the people had left, except for family, the pastor and I were talking. He touched on the current situation in the Anglican Communion. He told me about his time in Prince Albert (Diocese of Saskatchewan). He had met and worked with a number of the Anglican priests up there and found them to actually be more evangelical and conservative than he was. He would not have a problem with any of them preaching to his congregation. But those "liberal Anglicans" on the other hand...

I looked him in the eye, smiled sweetly and said: "Well you know, I am one of those "liberal Anglicans". If you were to invite me to preach in your church, your congregation would also find nothing to object to." He did not carry that conversation any farther. I wish he would have so we could once again find common ground in our service to God. Now, I am labelled in his mind as unfit to preach, as a teacher of a false gospel.

Labels - human-made, divisive, and limiting. "Liberal Anglican" does not really descibe the whole of who I am. Who knows what possibility for ministry and service could exist for me and the evangelical pastor. Certainly before that conversation at least one other person sensed possibilities. That labeling may have closed the door on that possibility. I realize that, in this case, geography plays more of a factor, but this conversation could have just as easily taken place here where I live. Certainly it is taking place in the world-wide Anglican Communion.

In general I don't have a problem with someone from elsewhere on the spectrum preaching to my congregation. I sincerely believe they need to hear from a wide range of understandings. I had a bishop from Tanzania speak to them 1 1/2 years ago. Now there was an evangelical sermon. As I listened I thought how good it was for my people (and the Lutherans and Presbyterians) to hear the message this man brought. I didn't worry about where our theology diverged. Actually, I can't even remember looking for points of divergence. And even had he preached something to which I took total exception, I would have embraced it as a chance to explore our faith more deeply in future conversations amongst ourselves.

But that isn't even the whole point. I have talked about the possibility of pulpit exchanges here among the ministerial. I am well aware that three of the eleven of us are from a more "liberal" background. If I were to end up in one of the more "traditional" congregations I am going to respect where they are at. I am going to respect that it is one time only proposition. I am not going to try and ferment trouble. We do have common ground and common understandings and this is where I would preach not in our theological differences.

I know that world-wide we have major differences. I know that they are important differences to all invovled. Just as I could not give up my stance for full-inclusion, I can respect that others cannot accept it. But why should this one factor determine whether or not we can journey and work together? Why are we making it the make or break proposition? Why are we, in the local church, letting the divisions at higher levels affect how we live and work together? Why am I considered unworthy because of something I have come to believe? I didn't come to that belief lightly but those who judged me have never asked me why I have come to believe as I do. Most of them don't want to hear. (Plus I grant you, it is a long, long story -pages and pages covering more than 20 years of study).

I know I am idealist but why can't we play nice like good little girls and boys?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Eye update

Thank you for your prayers. I have now been taken off the one set of drops which means I have my vision back in the affected eye. I found out the main problem with my vision was not with the disease but with this one set of drops. They were needed to keep the pupil dilated, which helped in the absorbtion of the other drops. I am no longer the one-eyed, purple-haired Anglican priest adding colour to our small community. I am tapering off the second set of drops and should be done some time next week. The specialist is very pleased with the improvement in my eye. I am praying that this is a one time only thing. If it is not, it means that there is an underlying problem with my auto-immune system.

But once again, thank you for your prayers.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Prayers, Please.

I have been diagnosed with Iritis. It's not life-threatening or even rare. It can, however, lead to vision loss. I have had some loss of vision but am hopeful it will come back with treatment. In the meantime I live in a very blurry world and my good eye (which used to be my weakest eye) is getting quite strained as I try to prepare worship and a sermon for Sunday.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Friday, July 04, 2008

Feminine Incarnation

The first hour or so of my work day is usually spent drinking coffee. I have about three different coffee shops that I tour weekly catching up on what is happening in the community as well as touching base with a number of people who are not formally attached to any denomination (as well as with some of the Roman Catholic women who feel a female priest might understand their concerns and issues more than a male one.)

Today I had a few interesting conversations with people from a variety of backgrounds. (Actually, most of them are men at 8:30/9:00 in the morning. The women tend to go for coffee around 10:00/10:30. In general, coffee row is segregated in the morning but not segregated at 3:00 in the afternoon. This would be a pattern started a number of years ago when lifestyles were different.) One of the people I had coffee with was a friend/parishioner that I had helped out and spent a bit of time with a month or so ago. He had had a letter from a mentor of his in response to an update on what was going on in his life. In the letter the mentor mention something about the 'woman' priest.

Now, it is interesting that the person who wrote the letter - a very well educated man - felt the need to distinquish 'woman' priest as opposed to just priest. (It is also interesting that the spelling and grammar in that whole sentence would have been edited in vivid red on any university paper.) Is there something about the fact that this particular priest is a woman. My guess is, that had I been a man, that he would not have written 'you man priest' (He wrote 'you woman priest' so the spelling/grammar mistake in the quotes is his and not mine.).

This comes at a time when I have been following discussions about female bishops in the UK. There is a letter/petition sent to ++Canterbury and ++York from priests and bishops suggesting that their consciences might compel them to walk away should women become bishops without allowing enshrined discrmination structures to protect those who believe women have no place in ordained ministry. I find all this negativity and questioning interesting.

Of course, when I read "woman" priest it got me on one of my feminist rants. My poor coffee partner has actually heard most of it before as it is a common theme when I talk about our hierarchal, patriarchal church. But today, I thought of something else. It is probably something that I have read somewhere but it finally came together for me this morning.

Part of the problem with accepting women priests is basing one's objections on tradition - looking to the writings of the early church fathers who negated Jesus' full inclusion of women and elevation of the feminine from the pits that men had placed it. It is based on a dualistic philosophy of masculine/feminine - and either/or proposition. The masculine is considered superior and postive. The feminine is considered inferior at best and negative at worst. The masculine celebrates the intellectual which is the vastly superior condition - mind over matter sort of thing. The feminine is seen as body and nature which is much inferior and to be dominated.

Embodiment is considered much less than the mind and to be avoided as much as possible. Anything that reminds us of our earthly ties is not to be practiced. But here there lies a conflict with the very faith we profess. What is the key event in our faith? The Incarnation! And what is the Incarnation if not embodiment? God chose the defining event of history to be feminine. Yes, Jesus was male. But the Incarnation was feminine!

So for those who believe that only males can be priests because of traditions that developed around misunderstood ideas of masculine and feminne - why did God chose a 'feminine' way to save creation? The Incarnation is not celebrated because of its male traits (ie - intellectual) but because of its feminine (ie - embodiment and relational).

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Integrity Saskatoon Blog

Integrity Saskatoon has started a blog.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Doctrine and Scripture

The next essay I read was Christopher Seitz's "A Reflection on Scripture and Theology in the Canadian Anglican Context." This brought to life some more beefs that I have. I know that I am being nit-picky and that I am missing the point of the paper. There's two reasons for this. 1. I get so tired of claims that are not really reflective of either stance and 2. I can't argue the point of the paper because it is beyond my learnings to do so. I will let someone better qualified argue the Acts passage.

I have to admit that my back went up when I read this: "The Church of the the late modern West is divided, and so the claims of one of its number (The Anglican Church of Canada) to be 'the Church' are themselves part of the cause of the problems we now must face."

I realize that I don't have a good handle on attitudes and words used in Eastern Canada but I have never heard the Anglican Church of Canada claim that it was 'the Church'. In my, admittedly, small group of revisionists (but ever growing) out here, we tend to feel that we are not examples or normative of 'the Church' but rather speaking prophetically to 'the Church'. There is also the understood notion that 'the Church' would be establishment and, in general, those of a liberal or progressive bent, as traditionally understood, do not see themselves as part of establishment but on the edges, pushing for change. We see ourselves more as 'voices in the wilderness" - right or wrong, modesty or self-aggrandizement. I am not at all sure where the basis is for the claim that we see ourselves as "the Church".

Seitz goes on to write:

"The fact that the other Churches (including the vast majority of Christians today and through time) have reached a clear decision about the matter in question, and base this on either scripture or received tradition or both, establishes the point."

See the post below for my concerns about received tradition. 'Received tradition' based on information that was not complete/even shown to be wrong by research in present times. They have not so much reached a clear decision as maintained the status quo - closing themselves off from current research and understandings of sexuality.

"The very fact that the Western text of Acts has a different set of proscriptions reveals at once that the analogy was imperfect once the Christian Church became largely severed from its Jewish roots, ..."

Here is an acknowledgement that somthing can be seem as imperfect when it is severed from its roots (or context or worldview etc.). Is that not what revisionists are trying to get across? Are we not trying, apparently rather ineptly, that what has been said about human sexuality is imperfect. We don't deny that the 7 clobber texts exists. That would be foolish. What we are saying is that they are imperfect as a basis for the current debate due to their context and the different context now.

Times and understandings change. Case in point is the use of the Sodom and Gomorrah passage as a clobber passage. Very few people with any credibility will point to this passage as a proof text anymore and yet the more traditional understanding saw it as speaking against homosexuality. Closer study, placing the passage in its proper context, has shown that is not about homosexuality but about power and hospitality.

And don't think I'm letting the implication above that the revisionists don't base their understandings on scripture slide.

"Then there is the related problem, moring to the second point, that the ruling given overthrows nothing at all. It is seen to be consistant with the prophets...At question was precisely not overthrowing but unholding the Law and the Prophets. Again, there was no possibility 'doctrine' being anything other than an appeal to the scriptures..."

We revisionists really do see full inclusion (including same-sex blessings) as consistant with the scriptures. We look at the full of the scriptures (we tend to suck at proof-texting) and from that we find that full inclusion is consistant with the teachings of Jesus.

Seitz is making a case against the use of Acts 15 as an example of doctrine changing. For all I know, he may have a valid point - this is definitey not an area I feel anywhere near capable of debating, hence the nit-picking.

"This [using the Acts passage as an example of doctrinal change and other incidents like it] demands of course a serious commitment to individual texs and discrete episodes ... and not to the comprehensive scope of scipture, which inheres with is claim to be scripture, and not discrete episodes in religious history."

Do you ever feel like you have entered the twilight zone. I felt this way with some of the statements that are made in this paper. The first was that the ACC claimed it was 'the Church'. The second is in the above quote. If anything, revisionists usually get critisized for taking a comprehensive look at scriptures not with a form of 'proof-texting.' We will deal with individual texts when we are presented with them - such as the 7 clobber passages - but in general we look at the whole of the gospel rather than individual events and interpret through that lens. And we get soundly critisized for that.

One of Seitz's arguements is that, at least in the Acts 15 passage, "the Holy Spirit spake in relationship to the dominical teaching remembered..." The implication being (or at least as I understand it) that this is not the case with same-sex blessings or at least with the revisionist understanding of the Holy Spirit in this case. But revisionists turly believe that the Holy Spirit is speaking for full inclusion and that this is a continuation of the Holy Spirit speaking to the love, compassion, and inclusion of those society sees as outcasts and sinners. We speak in general terms and use specifics to highlight or example what we mean.

I will admit to getting confused in this first paragraph of the conclusion. And my confusion just grows and grows as I read farther. There appears to be a statement that the revisionists give a central role to doctrine. And yet when I talk to those in the middle or on the reasserters side I find them saying that we need to have a good theological and doctrinal basis for same-sex blessings and that the lack of this is a significant weakness in the revisionists stance. And yet I seem to be reading that we are the ones with an obsession with doctrine. Once again, I am not an academic, so I could be reading this wrong.

But it does remind me of an incident in my family's past (you didn't think I could go a day without a family story did you?) We would quite often get transients at our door looking for money. In one such instance one came to our door asking for money for a bus ticket. This was at noon on the first day of school in the fall and things were at sixes and sevens around the house. My mother had a couple of quarters and that was it. She informed the man that she had no money. He started yelling that all the white man ever thought about was money. I did a double-take at that - who was the one that was asking for money (and who was known to threaten violence when he didn't receive it as shown in a prior incident).

I realize that I live in an upside down world out here. Often things are backwards of larger centres but some of the claims made in this paper make me shake my head. There are times when revisionists are being credited with things that I find opposite of my experience. It leaves me with a feeling of disconnection and confusion with the paper as a whole and a lack of focus on what is the underlying arguement centered around Acts 15.

I know, I know that I have been nit-picky but I have to get the nit-picking out of the way in order to be more clear headed to see the paper in its true intent.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie


I have just been reading come of the papers submitted to the Primate's Theological Commission dealing with the request from General Synod for more about the blessing of same-sex relationships. First, I will confess that I am biased and most people know in what direction (and if you don't already know, it will rapidly become clear.) I will agree on at least one thing though. I do believe, especially in Canada where same-sex couples can be married, that we need to look at this through the lens of marriage. If we were to bless same-sex relationships outside of marriage, we would, in all fairness, have to look at blessing opposite-sex relationships outside of marriage (with which I will also admit to not having a problem as long as they qualify under the criteria of adult, healthy, committed etc.)

My beef for awhile has been a falling back on the early church fathers and tradition. I have done a fair amount of reading by feminist authors (I know - quel surprise first, that I actually read anything through to the end and second, that I would read feminist authors.) It has become clear how shaky the ground was behind many of strictures against the feminine and women. To large extent it was based on Plato's understandings and the resulting world-view that the feminine is inferior to the masculine. This created structures and mind-sets of fear of being considered feminine or having traits of the feminine. I could go into this in way more depth, but unlike usual, I am not feeling particularly verbose today - too much time spent doing research on church programs.

Suffice it to say that many prohibitions were placed on women because of an assumption of the inferiority of the feminine (decided by a man or men) and a tradition of exlusion and, at various times, oppression ensued. Today, we have a better understanding of sexuality and have made a fair amount of headway - although we still have a long way to go before we embrace a wholistic understanding of human sexuality.

I have respect for the writers of these papers as academics and learned men. I struggle to interact on an academic level for I willingly acknowledge that I am more intuitive and experiential. I have only read two of the papers so far and will probably have to read them a few more times before I fully understand what they are presenting. However, there are a couple of points that come to mind, in general, as I am reading.

The first paper I read was "What Would John Henry Newman Do?" by Dr. George Sumner. (First of all, until I went to seminary I had never heard of John Henry Newman so I guess even knowing who he is now is a sign that something sunk in at Emmanuel.) Dr. Sumner speaks of Newman's proofs "that a particular proposal is in fact a true develpment of doctrine." One of these proofs is that of "chronic endurance". The saving facet of this proof is that Newman appears to have seen endurance as past, present, and future.

However, if we just concentrate on the past and present as the reasserters would have us do, we would run into the problem that I have as a feminist with the church's more traditional understanding of the role and capabilities of women. The traditons were based on a world view and understanding that has since been shown as being in severe error. As more and more information comes to light about human sexuality in general, and homosexuality in specific, we can see where what has been held in the past is no longer valid in the present. I guess time in the future will tell if endurance reaches into the future but gazing into my crystal ball I would suggest that the future will show that same-sex blessings are a true development of doctrine.

The problem being that most of us don't look to the future. We state that because the past has not allowed for it, neither should we, after all it is tradition. There isn't even an openess to the idea that the future might prove that same-sex blessings are consistent with established doctrines.

Dr. Sumner writes:

"With respect to chronic endurance, we should recall that, while the traditional view has only been found among a relatively small number of Christians for almost twenty centuries, the revised view has only been found among a relatively small number of Christians for two generations. Does this mean that the proposal could never pass the tests? No, but it does mean that it manifestly has not done so yet."

Ah, he does allow for the future changing. But it becomes clear that he is very doubtful that this is possible. I would say that he is a bit premature in this. Many things that we now accept have had a slow acceptance initially as they so often challenge the status quo and mind set. We may have twenty centuries and a majority of Christians who believe that same-sex blessings are not consistent with scripture or doctrine but those twenty centuries did not have the information or understandings that are available today. Are we to ignore new studies and information? Are we not to act because there has been a negative mind set for twenty centuries? (I will allow that same-sex blessings may not pass the endurance test but I am fairly confident that it will do so which makes me as set in my views as those who do not share them are in theirs. I just don't find it a valid arguement that past centuries have held a view as wrong when they did not have the information we have today, including even an concept of homosexuality.)

I should also state that I don't believe that just because something is new that we should embrace it full tilt. I do think that tradition is generally good and a solid criteria for judging something valid. In this particular case, I find that current studies and findings of human sexuality do not, in the main, support the foundations underlying the traditional view. And so we come full circle.

So, I see two things wrong with the arguement - 1. That the present traditions and doctrines are, at best, based on incomplete understandings of human sexuality and, at worst, downright false assumptions. 2. That we seem to forget that apsect of "chronic endurance" that reaches into the future, and focus on the past and present as the data on which we base our judgement of enduring.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Celebration and Thanksgiving

I was on holidays last week. I went up to a lake and camped for a week by myself. My family joined me for the weekend. I think I could have used another week but I am thankful for the one I had. (I get 4 weeks of holidays a year. I use up three of them in August and carry one week over "just in case". My vestry likes me to use that week up before I start into the next years holidays so I usually take the week in June.) These holidays were in between two events for which I want to offer up prayers of celebration and thanksgiving.

The first event was the graduation of my third child/second daughter. That was on June 14. (And yes, I was present at the Pride Parade. My picture was even in the paper but you have to know it was me. The camera focused on a gorgeous cross dresser and blurred the people behind but, if you know it's us, you can see my Dad and me in our clericals marching in the parade.) The family was all out. Because the class is so small, each grad is allowed 15 dinner tickets so most of those attending the grad were able to eat supper. Jay won the creativity award and the Credit Union bursary as well as receiving a certificate for graduating with more than 30 credits. She looked absolutely gorgeous and was constantly smiling. The youngest also got an award for most academically improved in grades 7-11. (That's two awards for him this year as he also received Air Cadet Rookie of the Year.) The after grad party went over safely - no major instances.

The second event was when my family was driving to join me at the lake. My older daughter phoned me to tell me they driving through Martinsville and would be at the lake in just over an hour. Just as we finished the conversation, I heard a piercing scream and the phone went dead. I tried phoning back imediately but was unable to get through. Frotunately, for my nerve's and imagination's sake, she phoned back relatively quickly. Someone had just t-boned them off an approach to the highway. All were okay including the people in the other car. For some miraculous reason, the van did not roll. My family only had scrapes, bumps and bruises. There was $19,000 worth of damage done to the van so it was totalled off but who cares. I could have lost 1/2 my family in one instant. I have been offering up prayers of thanksgiving ever since - every time I think about it or hear that scream in my head.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Pondering Separation

I have been thinking about Malcolm's comment on the post below. He brings up a concern that I shared when I first saw the idea a few months back. If we were to separate, even for a brief time, we give a free playing field to those who would work to change this church into a more narrow minded entity.

I vividly remember a certain week at seminary. We had a retired bishop from the States as a guest lecturer for a class on evangelism. Ash Wednesday also happened to fall in that same week. Three things stand in my mind about that week. First of all, the retired bishop, in a response to one of my direct questions, told me that he would never have considered me for the priesthood based on the fact that I have no management experience. I pointed out that I was in the process of raising four children and have been involved in numerous executive positions in a variety of community groups - President/Chair, Secretary, Treasurer etc. (Let me tell you that dealing with mothers about a dance recital or skating carnival is not an easy task - it requires many skills of management and diplomacy.) Anyhow, these experiences count for nothing apparently. In order for this bishop to accept me, I would have had to have a piece of paper to give value to my skills and learnings.

During one of the sessions we were discussing how to deal with issues. At least that is what we were suppose to be discussing. We divided into two groups of about 5. I was all set to give an example from my recent internship. My supervisor/mentor was quite conservative, which could have led to a few problems if any of our parishoners brought up the issue of human sexuality. She and I sat down to discuss how we would deal with this. Both of us realized that we were not going to change the other's beliefs on this topic. We agreed that if the issue came up, we would explain where we stood and leave it at that. No critisizing the other's stance. For us the more important work was to look after our people. Instead of focusing on the issue and letting it stress us and our relationship, we chose to focus on the tasks that we believed God was calling us to do in the parish. I shared this experience with my group, hoping it would lead to some discussion of how we work together with differences.

Instead, what the group focused on was my support for full inclusion of all people, in this case, specifically GLBTs. A discussion then followed about how the church should draw doctrinal lines and people who believed as I did placed outside.

Have I mentioned before that I am a feminist. I'm sure you would never have guessed unless I stated it outright. That Ash Wednesday, we had Imposition of Ashes in the evening. This was the winter after my internship so I had been somewhat out of college life and hadn't fully entered back into the life of the community - so many new people and being past Senior Stick (head of the Theological Students Society) I was trying to stay in the background, especially because there were decisions and things happening on TSS with which I was in a fair amount of disagreement. I looked up at the front and all of a sudden realized that all five of the ministers invovled with leading the service were male. This in spite of the fact that there were a number of capable females available.

I was not in a good space that week to begin with. But these three instances really had me questioning whether or not my call was in the Anglican Church in general and in my particular diocese to be more specific. I called up my Dad and we met at Timmy's (Mom was having a bridge night at their house). Dad did his best to help me deal with the feelings and questions these three instances had fostered. He kept pointing out to me that although I might have been somewhat isolated in my current situation there were others who thought as I did. He used the example of a diocese that I had lived in back in the mid-nineties, which had just elected a new bishop. That wasn't much help though as it did not give me the community support I needed then and there.

Shortly after that, I led a seminar in my Anglican Church and Soceity class. I had chosen the seminar on Anglicanism in other parts of the world. That was when I first realized the possibility for what is happening now. I read up on the African provinces and their growing influence with a theology and vision that did not mesh with mine. I remember speaking passionately about my concerns in that class. (I do get quite passionate which turns people off - they think that I am getting emotional - it's more that I get very intense about what it is I am speaking on). After class my prof suggested to me that I consider a call in another denomination. (I will admit to a bit of elitism in my response to that suggestion. I am a cradle Anglican - never lapsed and he came to the Anglican Church in his adulthood.) I think that he mistook the reason for my intensity in the class.

I went through a tough period of discernment that winter and spring. Was the Anglican Church the place for me? Was my sponsoring diocese the place for me? I chose to stay with both because I believed it was important for my voice to be heard. Not "my voice" specifically but the things I had to say. I knew that there were people who needed to know that they were not alone in their thinking, that needed to know that there are other possibilities and understandings within our faith, that needed someone to care and voice their concerns.

These instances and my reflections in the post below highlight a tension in my life in the church. I can see the benefit of not being so emeshed in our communities - in being able to stand back and objectively work together. It is possible as my supervisor/mentor and I proved. But I agree with Malcolm as well. If we leave we give free reign to those who would shape the church in the image they desire. I have remained in this church to be a voice for those who do not have a strong voice. When I considered leaving either this denomination or this diocese, I have always hesitated for who would then speak of the possiblities that are offered. (This particular way of thinking is a legacy from my Dad. He had burn out in the early '80s. He returned to ministry because he felt his particular voice was needed.)

So yes, separation might be healthy. But what do we stand to lose? Is there some other alternative that gives the benefit of stepping back without the loss of our voice in the wider community?

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Ecumenical Service

In 2005 Saskatchewan celebrated its 100th anniversary. The local Celebrate Saskatchewan committee approached ministerial about planning an ecumenical service to help mark the event. Ministerial agreed and a tradition was started.

The next year, ministerial was asked if it would host an ecumenical service on the Sunday of Community Days. Based on the response the year before at the Celebrate Saskatchewan service, we agreed. We don't wait to be asked any more. The ecumenical service is now part of the Community Days.

I love the ecumenical spirit in Biggar, both on ministerial and among the people. There is a sense of eagerness as we move toward one of our ecumenical events. It is amazing how we can come together to praise God. There is a sensitivity to our different ways of expressing our theology and our praise of God. This year our liturgy planning committee had representatives from the Anglican , the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Associated Gospel and the Seventh Day Adventist Churches. There is no discord in the planning with each of us being sensitive to the other without going overboard. Interesting enough this year we pulled in a lot of more traditional style resources from the Church of England and the ELCIC, although I offered a variety of samples. It is a real joy to work with people whose main aim is to praise God while fostering a sense of unity - especially after all the shenanigans going on in Anglican land.

Music is one of the resources we use to draw us together. We have a wonderful lead musician in the Roman Catholic music director. Her energy and enthusiasm as well as her knowledge of the local musical talent make our music ministry truly ecumenical. We sing a broad spectrum of pieces with a number of talented musicians.

This year was another wonderful service. It has me thinking about Mark Harris' recent post.

"Then BabyBlue wrote a note to that blog entry. You can read it HERE: She asks, "And what of charity for all, malice toward none? What if we all just agree to separate for a period?" Again, in the midst of all the mutterings, a gentle reality check. Early on in the development of the Covenant idea the Rev. Dr. Katherine Grieb, one of our two representatives on that group, suggested to the bishops that perhaps we ought to consider a time out. She said, "I suggest that we enter a five-year period of fasting from full participation in the Anglican Communion to give us all time to think and to listen more carefully to one another. I think we should engage in prayerful non-participation in global meetings (in Lambeth, in the Anglican Consultative Council, in other Communion committee meetings) or, if invited to do so, send observers who could comment, if asked, on the matter under discussion. We should continue on the local level to send money and people wherever they are wanted. (This is not about taking our marbles and going home.) We need to remain wholly engaged in the mission of the church, as closely tied as we are allowed to the See of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion as a whole. But we should absent ourselves from positions of leadership, stepping out of the room, so that the discussions of the Anglican Communion about itself can go on without spending any more time on our situation which has preoccupied it."

This past week I was with a good friend and suggested the same. Now this is not exactly what BabyBlue was asking for, but at least the idea that the Episcopal Church might "fast from full participation" was working at something of the same hope - that we might "step out of the room." Perhaps across the great divide we can do more than Dave Walker suggests, politely chuck used vegetables and rotten eggs at one another.

I do not believe BabyBlue's remedy is the answer, but there may be some other possibilities. More importantly, her remark triggers a conversation that we ought to take to heart. Are there ways to admit the separations and live with them for a while?"

At first when I heard this idea put forward, I was hesitant. Is not separation a sign of defeat? But as I reflect on what is suggested and my own experiences with the local ministerial, I begin to see some real value. I think that one of the reasons we are able to work so well on ministerial is our ability to separate ourselves. We can listen respectfully to each other and work together well because we are not trying to prove we are right by proving the other wrong. We are able to see our focus in fostering a sense of God's presence in our community and finding ways to help people express it and give thanks for it without falling into too much disagreement. We are able to let go and let others express themselves without censoring or critizing what they have said because we respect that they have the right to their beliefs.

The speaker today, by virtue of being our newest member, was the Seventh Day Adventist member. We worked together as a planning group to chose a theme and readings for our worship. He then put together his talk without further input from us. I may not have agreed with all that he said, although there wasn't much to disagree with, but I respect what he had to say because I know it comes from his faith and from his heart. Even had I found major disagreement with what he preached I would not have made an issue about it because I can respect his understanding of the scripture and the interpretation for how it should be lived out in our lives.

I think that this is all possible because I am not emeshed with him. I can hold myself separate. Maybe Anglicans worldwide to need to stand separate from each other in order to come together in common service to God. That separation will give us the chance to focus on other more important service to God such as feeding the hungry, and healing the sick, and working with God to bring about the kingdom. Maybe in that work we can find the unity that is so lacking right now.

I truly wish it could be done without separation for I believe we each have much to offer. But I begin to see that it is not possible to do so right now. There is too much history between us. Each of us feels we have too much at stake in what is happening. My experience with the ecumenical community here gives me hope that if we can separate and then work together on what is really important without our various polarizations coming into play, we might be able to work more fully together in the things that really matter - discernment of God's will for the restoration of creation and acting upon that discernment, each of us with our own understandings and skills without constantly trying to prove how right we are in our understandings and how wrong the other is. Maybe we could then truly celebrate our diversity and the wondrous gifts that God has given us, using those gifts to draw us together in praise and service.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie