Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who'd'a thunk it?

There were, as I recall, something like 27 of us in my graduating class from Trinity. At least one is deceased. A couple were never ordained (at least some of whom had never sought to be). A few of us, including me, ceased active ministry, at least for a time.

I was the first of our class to be ordained a priest. John Gibaut was the first deacon. He's since gone on to be a member of two Inter-Anglican Standing Commissions and a Director of the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission.

I was a little surprised that Michael Bird was the first (and so far only) of our class to become a bishop. Not that Micheal wasn't a fine fellow. It's just that Michael never displayed the kind of political hunger that often marks those who aspire to such things.

Yet Michael is not just the first of our lot to get the pointy hat. He also turns out to be something of a trailblazer, having bucked the Wndsor moratoria by authorizing the blessing of same sex unions beginning this September.

(Perhaps it has something to do with our class. Another of our classmates has been an on and off cause célèbre along with her partner. As deacons, they were suspended from ministry in the 1980s as a result of their relationship. The priest that blessed their marriage a few years ago was admonished. And so it goes.)

The Anglican Journal covers +Michael's actions here and some of the reactions to it here. The approved liturgy for such blessings can be found here. (The issue aside, I don't much care for the liturgy. I find it precious in the extreme, trying way too hard to be modern and relevant. In gvstibvs, non est dispvtandem.)

"The" issue isn't going away, no matter how much +Rowan Cantuar may wish it would. Perhaps it is imprudent of Canada's two Michaels (+Ingham of New Westminster and +Bird of Niagara) to push forward as they have - with Ottawa and Montreal likely to follow sooner than later. But I fail to see how it would be any better to pretend that such blessings don't happen. My coreligionists in England are playing at that game (nudge-nudge, wink-wink). Perhaps +Rowan can tell us how such internal dishonesty is working.

Better to have the issue out in the open. Let us argue it out. Let us rail and rant. But let us not pretend such blessing haven't been happening for at least a generation or two.


Tim Chesterton said...

Having read the liturgy, I concur with your assessment. I especially liked the comment on 'Thinking Anglicans' by Billy D:

Personally, I believe that the Niagara Rite is part of a secret homophobic plot to keep gay people from seeking to have our relationships validated in a Church ceremony. When no right-thinking, God-fearing, tasteful gay couple show up to ask for this awful, badly written, tacky ceremony to be performed over them, the dastardly gay-hating Bishop of Niagara will use it as proof that we don't really want SSBs, and try to ban them altogether.

Because that's the only scenario where relasing this laughably bad bit of liturgy makes sense.

Most of the gay Anglicans I know are far too orthodox in their theology to be attracted by all the pop-psychology-speak in this liturgy. I'm guessing they want something that really feels like a traditional church blessing, not something that feels like a cross between an insipid liturgical chant and a camp-fire kumbaya session. If this is the best liturgy we can produce in one of Canada's 'trail-blazing dioceses', I'm gonna fight tooth and nail against any suggestion of a revision of the BAS!!!

But as for the issue itself, I have real problems with Niagara's actions. The best Anglican theologians in Canada, from across the liturgical spectrum, concluded that SSBs are a doctrinal issue. The constitution and canons of General Synod are clear that only General Synod has the authority to make doctrinal changes in the ACC. If dioceses and their bishops are going to go ahead and do what they want anyway, why not just be honest, abolish General Synod and tell the world the truth - that we have, not a national church, but a sovereignty-association of independent dioceses?

Malcolm+ said...

I don't know if I'd go as far as Billy D, but his critique and yours do serve to hit the nail on the head.

That said, the apparent dearth of good liturgists in Niagara doesn't necessarily mean the drought extends through the whole of the Canadian Church. And the longer the BAS stands, the more likely it is to become ingrained to the point of being unalterable (at least without a fight.

On your other point, I concede you have a very strong point about process. The distinction you former bishop's committee made, in which the previous General Synod concurred between "doctrine" and "core doctrine in the sense of cfredal" might arguably provide some wriggle room - but that's a very weak straw from which to build a bridge.

Tim, I particularly wanted to credit your line: "Most of the gay Anglicans I know are far too orthodox in their theology . . ." One of the things I like about your approach to this issue is that you don't make that leap of logic that anyone who supports LGBTQ inclusion is trying to gut the Nicene Creed.

Seeker said...

Hey - the liturgy isn't that bad. I see there are a number of choices for each section, and there seems to be something to suit most people, from the Kumbaya crowd (some people like that stuff) to the more serious. No doubt it won't please the BCP die-hards, but then I don't think Cramner had this in mind either.

I think it is a brave first attempt.

akinto said...


there were two clergy who were admonished for that service. The parish priest was one. +Ted Scott was the other one. He read the nuptial blessing. Read the intro to his autobiography.

Nic e blog, BTW.