Letters to the editor, September 2019

Published September 8, 2019

Letters are subject to editing.

Letters that appeared in the September edition of the Anglican Journal

‘Three generations gone’ after vote

As we awaited a statement from the House of Bishops, I wanted you to know both my children (21 and 23 years of age) spoke to me after the vote and stated they will not be returning to our church. They were already very fringe Anglicans, so this was the nail in the coffin.

My mother is a 78-year-old archdeacon who cannot believe we failed to affirm many of her parishioners once again, and my 79-year-old father, a cradle Anglican, walked away a while ago and will not return after this decision. Three generations of Anglicans gone or damaged. It’s important that the national House of Bishops understands what this vote has done. Not the laity, not the clergy. The house.

No statement of unity can fix this. And to be honest, I do not particularly care what is said at this point unless it affirms our LGBTQ2 family. It won’t get my family back to our church.

As prolocutor of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, I have to ask myself if I can be part of an institution that excludes. One that says some of my family, my youth and many of my friends don’t count. Some rise up to continue the fight for equality, others have given up and faded away. I’m not sure which I am yet.

There was an ability to offer choice, breadth and diversity of opinions while being together. It was not taken. The vote was “no.” The vote was to hold hostages. And that vote makes me question who and what we are.

Laura Walton
Nottawa, Ont. (diocese of Toronto)

Quick dissension invites anarchy

As regrettable as the defeat of the marriage canon measure is to most Canadian Anglicans, the vote was conducted correctly by the rules of synod. No doubt the issue will be revisited and a more positive outcome will emerge in due time. What puzzles me is how quickly some diocesan bishops announced that they would allow or continue to permit same-sex marriage in church in defiance of the canons. Most organizations have rules in order to conduct business in an orderly and democratic way. To act differently is to invite anarchy.

Not everyone agrees with every article in their respective rule book. But does that give licence to disregard that with which one does not agree? I would hate to think that the church would devolve into an organization that offers only à la carte rules: if you don’t like this one, try that one!

David B. Collins
Victoria, B.C.

Acts of grace keep us faithful and proud

Sunday, July 14, was tough for my husband, the Rev. Tom Decker, and me. We were scheduled to serve at St. James’ in Kingston, the parish church where we volunteer. Tom was the celebrant at mass; I was the lay reader.

We drove to church that morning still feeling very upset over the decision by General Synod to deny the validity of our marriage. We felt like frauds going to worship with this denomination that continues to reject the legitimacy of our love. But, we were blessed by the overwhelming show of love and concern from our parish, including Fr. Don Ford, who acknowledged the pain of the vote in his homily, as well as a married lesbian in the congregation who said how proud she was to see Tom and me serving that day. Several said that they loved my “extra gay” shoes that I wore below my alb as my act of silent protest! ?

These acts of grace reminded us that we have a place in the church, even while a minority of our church family wrestles with this fact. Tom and I remain faithful and proud Anglicans, and we hope our presence and witness will one day help the church to reflect the radical, inclusive love of Christ.

Maurice Tomlinson and the Rev. Tom Decker
Kingston, Ont.

Bishops heeded God’s will

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the courageous 14 bishops who voted against the resolution to amend the marriage canon. They listened respectfully and, in the end, stood firm and chose to lead, faithfully, in the way of the cross.

The numbers made clear how many wanted this change to happen. If ever a synodical vote exemplified the words of our Lord on Gethsemane, “Not my will but yours,” this is it. It remains to see what tactics will now be employed to avoid the suffering, by those who are determined to have their own way.

The Rev. Michelle Ferguson
Sturgeon Falls, Ont.

Letters that did not appear in print (received in June and July of 2019)

Let us follow Fred Hiltz’s advice

Our church, my church, your church, was blessed to have Archbishop Fred Hiltz as a wise and godly primate. This became so evident at the 2019 General Synod, when with brave wisdom he said: “Our children are crying. And many of you are crying, for a variety of reasons. So I think it’s time to adjourn. It’s time to leave this hall in silence. It’s time for you to go and do what you need to do—to cry, or to gather with delegates from your own diocese; to gather with friends, to gather in circles of prayer, just to try and be attentive to one another.” May we pay respect to his work by following his advice.

Bill Holmes
White Rock, B.C.

A solution for Lambeth?

When love and respect fails, logic steps in to solve the problem.

We need but one unmarried bishop to step up to the plate and marry another unmarried bishop of the same sex.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will then be forced to ban either both bishops, or neither bishop.

Whichever decision he takes, the way forward will be clear.

If “love of” means “to want to be of service to,” most unmarried bishops, of either sex, ought to be able to express their love of the church in this logical and spiritual manner.

Chris Greaves
Bonavista, N.L.

Thank you

Then-primate Fred Hiltz’s letter in the June edition of the Anglican Journal can surely be responded to in many ways. The very best one can really say is “THANK YOU!”—and God be praised.

A lesson in patience and understanding, of pastoral care and engagement is what we have seen during the years of Archbishop Fred Hiltz’s primacy.

I’m sure the events surrounding the election of the primate’s successor will be emotional, probably in the extreme, and he will again demonstrate, by his approach to this, the incredible and faithful person that he is.

The Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion have been blessed by his time and the responsibility he has lived out during his time as primate.

No doubt there will be further ministry for him, but surely not until he and his family have enjoyed some rest from their labours.

The Rev. Ray Fletcher
Telkwa, B.C.

Open letters sent during and after General Synod

The Good Samaritan

How appropriate that the gospel reading on the Sunday following the narrow defeat of the amendment to the marriage canon in the House of Bishops was Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable a priest and a Levite pass by a beaten man lying on the side of the road. They did so because the law, scripture and “correct” doctrine forbade them from having contact with a dead or a dying person. I am sure that they felt they were obeying God when they passed by the poor man.

Yet it is the Samaritan, a foreigner and an outsider, not the priest and the Levite, who Jesus upholds as the model of faith we are called to follow. The Samaritan transcends convention and offers the man the assistance he needs in act of unconditional love. The parable reminds us that religious authorities and leaders can and do err and that the law of the love of God and neighbour transcends entrenched beliefs and practices. Jesus is clear that it is only when we love our neighbours as ourselves, respecting the dignity of all persons, that we inherit eternal life. I wonder what lessons those bishops who voted against the motion to amend the marriage canon took away from this gospel?

The Rev. Dr. Norman Knowles
Calgary, Alberta

A final nail in the coffin

I write to you as a concerned member of the Anglican church.

I’m writing to voice my profound disappointment and sadness in the Anglican Church of Canada for rejecting same-sex marriage. I’m particularly disappointed in the bishops, who rejected the voice of the laity and clergy who wisely support same-sex marriage.

Anglican churches are already viewed by many as irrelevant in modern Canadian society. Surely this vote will put the final nail in the coffin of many a church struggling to keep its doors open as it is.

Members of my family have already left the church due to its closed-minded and outdated views. You will now probably lose me, and many others who no doubt feel like I do.

The banner on your website says, “The Anglican Church Welcomes You.” Well, this vote sends the message that it only welcomes you if

I implore you then, to reverse the vote against same-sex marriage, and to show Canada and the world that you are an institution of the present and future, and not the past—or indeed that is what you will quickly become.

Paul Newman
Toronto, Ont.

The harrowing pain of people

It is perhaps very late to write this, but I must write. I am a priest in a diverse inner-city church in Toronto, and since Friday night I have been dealing with grief, confusion and anger in my community over the failure of the amendment to the marriage canon due to a tiny number of votes in the House of Bishops only.
Those who have expressed their pain to me include Caribbean elders who, in many cases, have been devoting their lives to the Anglican church since before I was born. They are profoundly faithful people who love the church, love the Scriptures and love Jesus. Their faith and dedication put me to shame. They cannot understand why the national church seems to be rejecting some people who simply want acknowledgement of their covenanted, faithful love, especially when the amendment contained abundant protections for those who, in conscience, cannot approve same-sex/same-gender marriages.
My young vocational deacon, whose personal commitment to street ministry among the most vulnerable is astonishing, is near to despair and barely hanging on.
Some people in the community have expressed that they are done with the Anglican church for good. My own missional outreach here has been seriously impaired.
To the House of Bishops: you were all the room when the vote was announced. You heard the youth delegates wailing in pain. This is not the pain of theological disagreement. This is not the response of self-will or personal indulgence. This is the harrowing pain of people who believe that the church they love is erasing their very existence.
We have been here before. We have committed atrocities in the name of Jesus, because we could not separate our narrow worldviews from the true and lifegiving demands of the gospel. The beautiful apology for spiritual harm to the Indigenous community speaks to that. We are in a similar moment now, and we must recognize that.
The mind of the church as whole is clear. A very large majority of the laity—the people of the Body of Christ—voted in favour of the change. A large majority of the clergy voted in favour. Even the House of Bishops voted in the majority to approve. A handful of bishops should not be able to block the will of people of God because of procedural details. A handful of bishops should not be allowed to inflict further spiritual harm on the LGBTQ2S+ community, and all those who love them.
In sorrow and in hope,
The Rev. Maggie Helwig
Toronto, Ont.

Should I wear my collar?

It has been suggested that we share our stories and concerns with the bishops and that this is one way to do so.

I wish to share the journey of my father, Glenn Ash. He is a 92-year-old priest and a strong advocate for same-sex marriage. His journey took a number of years. It started out with my mom’s boss, who was gay. There was a knowledge of this in their community of Peace River, but as long as it wasn’t in their face they were OK with it. My father grew up in a time when the thought of two men having sex literally sat ill in his gut. I remember back in 1980 talking with my father, and that conversation started my own journey to the acceptance of full equality both within society and within the church. He spoke to me about the conflict within him. His gut churned at the thought of same-sex relationships. But in his training, he had come to understand that we are created in God’s image. For him that meant we were created to be in relationship. Academically, my father felt it was wrong to deny the need for a physical expression of this need. But still his gut stopped him.

Over time, through me, he became a member of Integrity. For him, at first, it was a matter of justice (my father is a canon emeritus because of his work in social justice). Gradually he became more comfortable. The turning point for him was one night when he listened to the story of one of the men. The man told the story of his partner’s mother. She was fully against same-sex relationships. And yet she graciously welcomed her son’s partner into her life and her home. As the man spoke of his love for his partner, my father’s heart was opened fully.

Recently dad’s church marched at the gay pride parade in Saskatoon. My father was deeply hurt when they refused to allow him to march (he had done so in the past but both his physical and mental health are of concern). It was up to me to help him find a way forward. I arranged for two of my children to take him and my sister (they both have Alzheimer’s now) to the parade. I sat down with dad and told him it was just as important for the people in the parade to see a 92-year-old priest sitting there on the side supporting them. Actually more people would see his support that way. He looked at me with hope in his eyes and eagerness in his voice–“Do you think I should wear my collar?”

I haven’t spoken to my father about the failure in the House of Bishop’s over this move toward full inclusion. Nor do I look forward to the pain this will bring to him. My father is not cradle Anglican. He was Baptist before embracing the Anglican Church. At one time he was known to say that if there was one Christian among Anglicans, he would be vastly surprised. I tease him by telling him he only became Anglican to convert us heathens. He talks about the Anglican church as the church of his heart. The failure of the amendment will break that heart.

The Rev. Ann Marie Nicklin
Edgerton, Man.

I hope you can share my story

I’m a gay P.K.—child of a priest. My father was ordained in the diocese of Ontario and served faithfully there for many years, well into his retirement. He also served the national church for a few years and was up in the far forth (the dew line is what I believe he called it) for a short time before I was born.

Since watching the General Synod 2019 live feed on my computer screen, well into the wee hours on Friday July 12, I’ve been dealing with a great deal of emotions that range from sorrow, anger, confusion and despair. It was truly very painful to watch the results on the screen.

In my youth I’d always thought it would be amazing to be married in the Anglican church.

I’d hope to see a day where my dad would be able to celebrate my marriage—unfortunately he passed away many years before a vote on same-sex marriage would even be considered. I was proud of him. Only after he’d passed away did I learn that was eager and supportive of starting a chapter of Integrity (Proud Anglicans) for LGBT. If there was one thing I know about my dad, it was that he was proud of his three gay sons.

Growing up in various parish’s around the diocese of Ontario, all of my family life pretty much revolved around the Anglican church. As a child of someone who committed their life to God and the church, you really get a ring-side seat on what it means to be a Christian. There were a few times my dad would struggle or be upset by what was happening in the church—mostly, he tried not to let it show. If he were alive today, I like to think this would be one of those few occasions he would be upset. Anger was an emotion that didn’t come easily to him.

A few years ago when I got married, it was a celebration which I like to think was filled with much love, joy, respect and laughter. It was away from the church and remained a secular event. I hope that someday everyone in the Anglican church can see and feel the incredible beauty, peace and love that I did on that day when looking out at everyone celebrating. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. There was so much love in that room. I firmly believe that God would never want to forbid that incredible love from any of his children.

This is a time for more than just words. Our actions must show both the entire Anglican church, as well as the wider world what “being Anglican” is really about.

Bruce Staples 

No path for welcoming your people

I am a proud member of the Church of the Redeemer’s congregation in Toronto. I serve regularly during the 11:15 a.m. service and have grown to love the community and support shown by the church in the few short years that I have been attending.

I start by thanking the bishops and clergy who have stood up and shown pride and love in their leadership during this trying time that the LGBTQ2S+ community and the church community at large is suffering through.

I have nothing but respect for the compassion and support many bishops and clergy showed this weekend. This is not an indictment on them.

I am writing simply because I do not know where to send my words and feel like there is no place for my voice in this church.

I am not a proud Anglican today.

I am, however, so very proud of Bishop Kevin Roberts, Bishop Andrew Asbil and the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, to name a few, for leading our diocese and the Anglican church across Canada with so much love, respect and grace.

But I am not proud to be Anglican today.

I am speechless with pride at the leadership of our youth and lifelong Anglicans alike. Namely Chris Ambidge and Lyds Keesmaat-Walsh.

But I am not proud to be Anglican today.

When the votes of 14 bishops outweigh the voice of the people, I have no faith in the institution of the Anglican church.

Added together equally among the three groups of votes, the overall number of “Yes” votes was over 70% approval for the motion. And yet because the House of Bishops could not form a majority of 66%, the voices of the laity and clergy are effectively thrown out?

I do not accept this.

Bishops do not fill the pews every week, and bishops do not feed the poor at our common table. The institution of the House of Bishops has shown itself to be woefully out of touch with the youth of today and the current social progress and justice movements around the world.

Of course I know this vote does not slam the door on same-sex marriage entirely. but it is an incredible failing of an already failing institution to lead the way forward for religious communities across the globe.

The damage done to the queer community and the heart of the Anglican community by this weekend’s vote is unfathomable. I doubt very much we have even started to understand the pain we have inflicted on those already marginalized or the division that we have now sown among congregations across the country. Those of us who are not ourselves queer but hold those in our lives who are dear to our hearts will not be silent and will not be complicit. The sacrament of marriage and the love of God belongs to all those who seek it. Not to those precious few that a collection of powerful men have deemed worthy. The Bible and the Scripture so many Anglicans cling to as literal dogma has been passed down, specifically selected and translated (often badly), over 2,000 years by mostly powerful white men.

It is not the word of God. It is the story of God, just as every other religion on the planet has their stories, and it is up to us to interpret them and, Lord willing, actually act upon them in compassionate and loving ways to make the world a better place for all of God’s children. This includes every one, of every sexuality, gender identity, race, creed, religion or skin colour. God does not hate any of their children, and just because you tell yourself you love the queer community, your actions speak volumes.

There is no form of Jesus Christ that I have encountered in the gospel that would deny the sacrament of marriage to anyone willing and able to make that commitment before God.

I will no longer be participating in the sacrament of communion at my church until all members of the Anglican Church of Canada may officially and equally partake in all of the holy sacraments. I will also no longer be donating any money to the church that does not directly go towards the common table or other charitable works. I also feel called to stop my participation in service as a lay person. Even though I know the Church of the Redeemer is open and welcoming, we are, at the at the end of the day, a part of a whole.

I must speak up.

I am not gay, transgender, bisexual, queer, two-spirited or gender non-binary, but I am furious and heartbroken for my siblings in Christ.

I have been asked multiple times since my first joining the congregation by both laity and clergy, “How do we get young people into the church?” I have never had a good answer for them, but I know emphatically that this is not it.

Fourteen bishops have managed to drive the progress of the church back decades, and all of their cries of fear for the future of the church will be undoubtably founded if they continue on in this manner.

Headlines will read: “Anglican Church of Canada votes no on same-sex marriage.”

They will not say that 80% of the laity voted yes.

They will not say that over 70% of the clergy voted yes.

They will not say that my church proudly wrapped the pride flag around the font during our wedding ceremony to let everyone know that yes, they are indeed welcome.

And they most certainly will not say that my church respected my partner’s pronouns during our ceremony.

The headlines will reaffirm belief that the church is bigoted—wrapped in ancient traditions and unable to navigate the modern world. The headlines will be so wrong in many ways, but ultimately very right.

My heart is full of love for those bishops and clergy who stood with us on Friday. I pray for all of you who may need a shoulder to lean on to find one. I pray for all those who voted nay to find it in their hearts to accept that which they do not understand.

Trevor Koteff
Toronto, Ont.

There is suffering in life

“They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.”

I love LGBTQ people, and I should because the Lord has commanded it. I have encountered these people as coworkers, I have had them for customers, I have had them working as suppliers for me. A good friend of mine whose wedding I flew to attend in Toronto was LGBTQ, and while I was in the hospital from a line-of-duty injury, one of the peace officers who is LGBTQ has become a good friend of mine. I have a great deal of empathy for individuals who identify in this way. I believe that sexuality is an important, driving force that is almost impossible to overcome. Even the apostle Paul acknowledges a burning passion.

Our lives are full of sin in different ways; if we are truly honest with ourselves and with each other we can acknowledge this. I frankly don’t care what sins my brothers and sisters are struggling with (though I am empathetic)—I am just trying to work out and work through the sin which pervades my own life.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is a good thing because without patience and longsuffering, forgiveness would be difficult to achieve. And if there is no forgiveness, we have no business bearing the name of Christ in our religion. I wonder if some of the leaders in the Anglican church understand that self-denial is what Jesus meant when he said that to follow him an individual must “deny himself.”

Frankly, any person in a relationship of any kind knows that self-sacrifice is a prerequisite for it to be anything other than egocentric. So the people who prefer to say that they are in a relationship with God and not a religion should know better. God says what he says in his word, and the traditional interpretation of Scripture in the Anglican communion has not changed, despite our own desire to make Scripture speak differently on the subject. There is a difference between absorbing what Scripture has to say and contorting Scripture to fit your perspective.

The fact that there is suffering in life shouldn’t be news to Christians or anyone in general. My mother was diagnosed with ALS and is currently unable to get around unaided, write or speak; less than a month after her diagnosis, I fell off a roof fighting a fire and was hospitalized for two and a half weeks and spent a month in a wheel chair. Now as I am still rehabilitating, my mother is declining into hospice care—and yet we both believe that “He also preserves me in such a way that, without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head.”

Frankly, I would like to see a little more faith demonstrated by the leadership of our church and less squabbling that people have been done wrong. It’s time for the church to finally act with some maturity.

Christopher Morton
Three Hills, Alta.


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