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Some same sex blessing history

July 16, 2012

I wrote recently some personal thoughts on how those who do not approve of same sex blessing might consider responding in a positive way just the same. When I wrote that post I had not read about the US Episcopal convention and the authorization of a same sex blessing rite in the United States. I have just finished reading Amanda’s well researched and informative post on this topic and would like to respond.

I was a long term member of the congregation which initiated the dissent against the same sex blessing in the diocese of New Westminster in Canada. I was closely involved and originally in great sympathy with the clergy, including Dr. Packer, who attended the same congregation. However, as I became more informed, and watched from close hand how things came to pass, my views shifted, and I found that I could no longer remain in sympathy with the group protesting same sex blessing. Here are a few of my thoughts.

First, the clergy who resisted same sex blessing held views that were at odds with the Anglican Church of Canada when they first came into the diocese. The Anglican Church of Canada had ordained women since the 1970’s. The first woman ordained in the Anglican Church worldwide was ordained during the second world war in China – Li Tim Oi. The Anglican Church of Canada followed in a worthy tradition of ordaining women who were already recognized spiritual leaders. I respected this position, although at that time I was not an advocate of inclusive ordination.

The clergy who later resisted same sex blessing, had already expressed their views to the bishop that a woman should not be in a position of authority within the diocese. They held these views concerning women prior to coming to Canada and yet willingly as Anglicans immigrated here and accepted positions in the ACC, knowing that they were at odds with the ACC position on the ordination of women. There was already a sense of broken fellowship from their original dissent on this issue. I could not feel that it was appropriate to have Dr. Packer, in effect, protest the ordination of Li Tim Oi and the many women who followed.

Second, the translators of both the Today’s New International Version and the English Standard Version were in our community. Dr. Packer, in our congregation, signed a statement that the TNIV was not a trustworthy Bible. This also was, in my view, a cause for broken fellowship. The ESV was proposed as the new pew Bible in the church, although I do not know whether action was ever taken on that. The ACC of Canada had been using the NRSV, but those clergy who resisted same sex blessing, also did not believe that an inclusive Bible was an appropriate vehicle of worship. This is the second way that the clergy were at odds with the ACC in general.

From my own background in biblical languages, and translation history, I was well aware that the KJV and Luther’s Bible included the phrase “children of God,” and I could not believe that the phrase “sons of God” was more efficacious language for the salvation of women. I was not able to assent to this point, and felt at odds with the clergy on this.

Third, I had a growing concern about the sermons on the submission of wives. I inquired about whether there were any resources for abused wives, and I was told that there were none, since there were no abused wives in our congregation – that was not our demographic. However, I knew for a fact that this was not so, there were, and that in a congregation close to a thousand in membership, it was likely. I felt that this was negligent on the part of the clergy and lead to unnecessary suffering on the part of certain individuals.

In continuing to investigate the attitude of the clergy regarding women, I found that they were committed followers of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I was surprised to learn that their basic go to manual on matters relating to women was written by Piper and Grudem. There was also a public association with Bruce Ware. I could not agree with this theology. And yet, I need to add that many of these views on women were expressed by the clergy only with some reticence. This is only my opinion, but I felt that the clergy knew that the ACC, the diocese and the congregation, did not have the same commitment to end the ordination of women that the clergy had. Unity coalesced around resistance to same sex blessing. For the clergy this was part of their broader belief in the restricted function of women. For the congregation – I am not so sure.

Fourth, the dissenting clergy were not forced to officiate for same sex blessings, but only to tolerate the fact that it was happening in other congregations. From my perspective, they made a choice to leave the ACC based on a complex foundation of views that were at odds with the ACC. I attended the service of licensing with the Southern Cone, as a friend. I strongly believe that it was a choice for these clergy to leave the ACC, a church which they had never been in solid agreement with.

Fifth, I am not entirely certain that it was a useful way to spend money for the congregation to sue the diocese for the property. The whole thing is a bit of a mess, and I do not feel that the clergy who dissented on same sex blessing have the moral high ground. I don’t know if there is a moral high ground considering all the details.

In the end, I felt that knowing what I did, I could not go along with the dissenting clergy even though I had originally supported them. I considered them as friends. But I don’t agree with the way they have handled many issues and I had to respond to that. It’s not easy, but I needed to withdraw and deal with the disappointment that I experienced, that this church which I considered home, had not been in accord with the diocese and fellow Anglicans on the matter of women, and Bible versions. In view of this, I reassessed my views on same sex blessing. My strong reaction was that even if I had continued to dissent from this (which I didn’t) but even if I had, nothing could convince me to stay in a congregation where the politics regarding women, and regarding Bible translation, were in my view, very inappropriate and not examples of Christian conduct.

Finally, I have since been attending a local Anglican church which has been recognized by the city for a strong Neighbourhood ministry with street people. I have not regretted my decision to leave my former church. I am also relieved to read of the recent decision of the Episcopal Church.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. jay permalink
    July 17, 2012 6:12 am

    Blessing sexual unions is certainly a strange task religion has taken upon itself. I guess it is holistic to bless all what we may do, but the focus on blessing sexual unions in my is a bit overboard. While sexual union has a purpose in bonding humans with each other thanks to a wonderful chemical called oxytocin, I am not sure what religious communities are actually trying to accomplish. The blessing of those who are caretakers of children is perhaps the real goal and since sexual union often results in the creation of children, this is probably the real concern. While I don’t know if it is really necessary for the church to bless sexual unions of any kind, the church certainly does well in blessing those who undertake the raising of children whether they be single or a multiple number of adults cooperating in the responsibility. As we study sexuality, it seems to become more and more apparent that human sexuality is indeed very complex. It is a bit odd that religion and society in general seems to be convinced that polyamory is unacceptable while monoamory is ideal. At the same time society has readily accepted serial polyamory in the form of monoamory as a very reasonable option if not ideal. I would rather we focus on the rights of each and every individual and accept people at that level than to try to categorize them into groups and perhaps the church in general would be better to stop being so authoritarian.

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