Despite resistance from some of its members, it’s inevitable that the Anglican Church of Canada will eventually grant “authentic equality” to its LGBTQ* members, staff gathered for a special service for the victims of the Orlando massacre at national office heard Thursday, June 23.
When it comes to change, “it seems we cannot live without our hierarchical, top-down history of waiting, sometimes with baited breath, for word-permission-from on episcopal high,” said Canon Douglas Graydon, director of chaplaincies for the diocese of Toronto and associate priest at St. John’s Church, West Toronto, in a sermon delivered for the service. “We cling to history and tradition as if we’re clinging to a lifejacket.”
The debate around the church’s position toward gay people, including controversy around same-sex marriage, “sadly, is not over,” he said.
Yet, Graydon continued, “if we continue to bring such concerns and experiences as these into our worship, our worship will inspire us, I believe, to strive towards transformational action…for we will change. We will be transformed, however un-Anglican that might be, or feel.”
Thursday’s service, held at the national office’s Chapel of the Holy Apostles, was also intended as an offering of prayers for peace and safety for gay pride events in Toronto, scheduled for the entire month of June. It began with a brief welcome by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, echoing some of the wording used in his June 14 call for prayers in the wake of the Orlando shootings. There was a moment of silence, and then the dozen or so staff solemnly lit 49 candles during the singing of “Here, O Lord, Your Servants Gather,” a hymn that mentions hope in darkness and calls for help from God in a time of strife. Bible readings included Sirach 48:1-14, which praises the prophet Elias, and Matthew 6:7-15, in which Jesus gives instruction on prayer and fasting.
Participants also sang O Healing River, an entreaty for healing water from heaven to “wash the blood from off the sand”; From the Falter of Breath, an assurance of help from the Holy Spirit even in “the dimming of light, through the darkness of night“; and Let There Be Light, which asks God to “open our hearts to wonder/perish the way of terror.”
After the communion, Archdeacon and principal secretary to the primate Paul Feheley, who led the music, played the piano and sang, Goodness is Stronger Than Evil, the words of which were written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa.
After his voice broke briefly as he began his sermon, Graydon explained he had been greatly moved not only by the service, but also by the international response to the Orlando shootings.
“As a gay man, it’s been a bit overwhelming…the beginning of this service caught me a little bit off guard,” he said. “It’s hugely grounding for me, as a married gay cleric, to a wonderful husband, that this sacred space has been created in my church, and so I thank you.”
In a statement on the website of St. John’s Church, West Toronto, Graydon describes himself as “one of a very few married clergy in this Diocese who enjoy the rights and privileges of a civil marriage but who wait still for the blessings of a sacramental marriage in our church.”
The Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod is slated to vote on changing its marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriages when it meets July 7-12 in Richmond Hill, Ont.
* LGBTQ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer