Tuesday, November 11, 2008

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 We settled on writing a letter to diocesan council, carboned-copied to the Bishop asking that the study be rescinded.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.

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