Anglican anxiety in an age of same-sex marriage

From a Christian perspective, marrying two people of the same sex is either wrong or it isn’t. The latter case would mean the church and theologians have been mistaken for the last 2000 years and now, for some odd reason, they have finally seen the light; or, as I suspect, they are children of their times and all their high-minded pontificating is little more than chronological arrogance.

One might be tempted to conclude that whether same-sex marriage is right or wrong is the defining issue to be discussed at the next Anglican synod, the either/or – or as is fashionable to say in our computer infested age, the binary – decision that is uppermost in every bishop’s mind. But no! What is unsettling the equanimity of our bishops and primate is how we talk about the problem, not the problem itself.

The compulsion to discuss how to discuss, must surely be among the last symptoms exhibited by an organisation that has utterly lost its way, one that, on its last legs, exerts its last few gasps to explain to uninterested bystanders the precise quality of those gasps – just before the final death rattle overcomes it.

From here:

“My sense is that there’s a lingering kind of anxiety within the church about how we have a decent conversation about this matter at General Synod 2019,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal Monday, October 30.

A resolution to allow same-sex marriages in the church passed its first reading at General Synod in July 2016; a required second reading will go before General Synod in 2019.

Hiltz made the comments during an interview about the meeting October 23-27 of the House of Bishops in Niagara Falls, Ont.

A number of bishops expressed concerns, he said, about how same-sex conversations at the next General Synod could take place “in a way that doesn’t leave people feeling marginalized, isolated, pushed out—on either side.”

Many feel that the traditional legislative process that the synod follows encourages contention, he said.  “You basically either speak in favour or against. So immediately…you get some sense of the—in some respects—division in the house.”

Among the bishops, he said, there’s “a whole range of hopes and scenarios” about how conversation at synod might be guided.

Some bishops raised questions about the time limits imposed on General Synod members when debating, given the great importance many place on the issue of marriage.

There’s also anxiety among some in the church, Hiltz said, that the resolution, despite its conscience clause, doesn’t offer enough protection to those who oppose same-sex marriages—that if the resolution passes its second reading, would-be priests who are opposed will find it harder to get ordained or appointed.

A widespread concern, the primate said, has to do more generally with how those in favour and those opposed would be able to live together harmoniously afterward, whether the vote passes or fails.

An Earth Day prayer

Earth Day is almost upon us, so Fred Hiltz, Mark MacDonald and Susan Johnson have pooled the considerable resources of their little green brain cells to pray for it.

Jesus’ Resurrection has become a handy illustration of what really matters: spring is just around the corner!

As we celebrate this great mystery we recall how he helped us understand death and resurrection using the image of a seed planted and coming out of the earth as a new growth—budding, bursting, blooming, bearing beautiful fruit.


Our churches are committed to responsible stewardship of the earth.

That’s why the ACoC is demolishing so many of them.

The Carbon Pariah receives an honourable mention, even though the ACoC is using diesel fume spewing bulldozers to demolish its churches:

We recommend that you or your congregation get involved with the Faith Commuter Challenge, a creative way to reduce your carbon footprint and raise awareness of the impact of our actions

Naturally, we have muddled – twisted, really – wording to prompt right Gaia thinking: world – as in “for God so love the world” here seems to mean “earth” rather than “people”:

Through our Lenten Journey to Easter we have been reminded once again that Jesus offered his whole life and death for the love of the world

Speaking of God, Hiltz doesn’t, he refers to Creator instead, an Indigenous metaphysical replacement that Hiltz seems more comfortable with these days. Or perhaps he is referring to the process of Darwinian evolution.

Likewise, as far as I know, Father and Son have not made guest appearances in a Hilztian prayer for decades and, by the end of the prayer, the Holy Spirit has metamorphosed into “Spirit One”; who was Spirit Zero, I wonder?

Anglican Church of Canada: nothing good about Residential Schools

Read it all here:

Dear Senator Beyak:

Not only in the Red Chamber on Parliament Hill, but across the country, many people – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – were dismayed by your remarks. You said “I was disappointed in the TRC’s Report and that it didn’t focus on the good,” associated with Residential Schools. Had you, Senator, made these remarks within a discussion of the TRC’s Report, your comments might have been less shocking.

Senator Beyak, you are quite right in saying that for a small minority of survivors, their personal experiences of Residential School were “good”.  But in much greater numbers, the personal experiences of children who were housed in those schools were “bad” – very bad in fact. One only needs to have attended a local, regional or national event hosted by Canada’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission to know this. The Commissioners listened to the personal stories of thousands of students – of survivors – all of which bore witness to the horrific experience they had.

There are hundreds of students who went to Residential Schools administered by the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). They have told their stories at our church’s National Native Convocation and at Sacred Circle Gatherings. We have been rendered speechless by what we heard. We have hung our heads in shame and raised them with remorse over the pain our church inflicted upon those children.

There was nothing good about a federal government policy of forcibly removing children “from their evil surroundings”, housing them in schools with the intent of “killing the Indian in the child…and turning them into a civilized adult”. It was an attempt at cultural genocide, an attempt whose failure bears witness to the courage and resilience of those children and their communities. As elder Barney Williams of the Survivors’ Society has so often said, “We were all brave children.”

There was nothing good about practices of taking away children, removing their traditional dress, cutting their hair, taking away their name, confiscating their personal effects and giving them a number.

The letter from Fred Hiltz, Mark MacDonald and Michael Thompson continues in the same vein with more fervent breast-beating.

While it seems beyond dispute that there was abuse in the residential schools, what really seems to be bothering the authors of this letter is the underlying assumption of the day that the Christian, Western world view held by the government, teachers and missionaries involved in the schools was superior to that of the aboriginals. That was the real evil at work, that is what was at the root of the abuse.

The church has since seen the light and now holds the opposite opinion: Western traditions, Christendom, perhaps even Christianity itself, are inferior to just about any other culture so long as the culture is not grounded in Judeo-Christian beliefs.

For another perspective, this is worth a look:

On June 11, 2008, Stephen Harper issued an apology for the residential school system in Canada. He called it a “sad chapter in our history,” noting that its primary objectives “were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture … the government of Canada sincerely apologizes and asks the forgiveness of the aboriginal peoples of this country for failing them so profoundly. Nous le regrettons. We are sorry. Nimitataynan. Niminchinowesamin. Mamiattugut.”

The National Post has carried many stories about these schools before and since that apology. And every time we do, it is interesting to see that most of the letters we receive argue that the schools have been unfairly portrayed in the media.

That phenomenon was on display again this week, following the publication of last Saturday’s story, “4,000 Children died in residential schools; Truth commission.” As that story detailed, “commission officials expect that number to rise as researchers access much more complete files from Library and Archives Canada and elsewhere.”

Letter writers commenting on that story this week complained that the article lacked important historical context.

“Nice work, National Post, as you continue to dump on the charitable work accomplished by generations of selfless missionaries, physicians, nurses and teachers of the Canadian North,” wrote C. Lutz, of Haliburton, Ont. “[This story] heavily spins out a ‘physical and sexual abuse’ [narrative] as if 150,000 Indian and Inuit children had gained nothing good from taxpayer-provided white education. At least some of them learned enough English and French to, fluently, play the system and bite the hand that had fed them.”

“By today’s standards, 4,000 deaths out of a total of 150,000 students is shocking,” wrote Russel Williams of Georgeville, Que. “But given the period covered, 1870 to 1996, it may compare quite favourably with Canada at large, or Canadian aboriginal communities specifically, for the same period. One must bear in mind that much of this period predates immunization for smallpox, whooping cough, and diphtheria. It also predates penicillin for treatment of TB. Given the above, perhaps the statistic is not as alarming as it first might seem.”

“It was undoubtedly a terrible thing to be taken from your family, but in the early days, the reserves were impoverished and 90% of First Nations people were infected with tuberculosis,” added Michelle Stirling. “It is hard to say if the students got tuberculosis at the residential schools. And until the 1950s, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death of all Canadians.

“I am aware that some people will feel that I am defending the known cases of abuse and cruelty — I do not defend these,” Ms. Stirling continued. “My own father was the victim of the same [abuse] at the hands of his own white Anglo-Saxon teachers at his British boarding school. He used to have his left hand beaten black and blue and tied behind his back because he was left-handed.”

We also heard from a non-native who attended the St. Paul’s Indian Residential School in southern Alberta (the Blood/Kainai Reserve) for six years.

“When so many Canadians rely on publications like the National Post to stay informed on important issues, it is disappointing to see an article like that,” wrote Mark DeWolf of Halifax. “How does this figure compare to the number of First Nations children who died outside of the schools? Over 126 years and out of 150,000 students, the figure is perhaps not so surprising, given the deplorable health conditions on some reserves and high rates of communicable illness. More could and should have been done to ensure the health of these students, but let’s have responsible journalism, not emotional pandering to readers.”

Torturous times

I must admit, I have been listening to the news more in the last few weeks than I have for the last 8 years. Whatever one’s opinion of Donald Trump’s numerous and conspicuous character flaws, no-one can accuse him of being boring.

Now he has again brought up the fact that he condones torture in some circumstances. Below, there is a characteristically apologetic admission by a British MP that he not only agrees that torture is permissible but he, himself, used to be a torturer.

One of the arguments against torture is that it doesn’t work. Well, does it?

I can personally attest that it does. In 2009 someone whom I had regarded as a friend deliberately lured me into an Anglican church where Fred Hiltz was to deliver an address. At the half-way point, I was ready to confess all my sins of commission and omission to make it stop. Mercifully, before the end I had passed out.

I had secretly smuggled in a voice recorder; you can listen to Hiltz’s attempt to explain what he understands by the word “gospel” here. No-one will blame you if you can’t listen to it all.

What Advent is really all about

Global warming, of course. Fred Hiltz tells us so in the Anglican Church of Canada’s 2016 Advent meditations. To clinch the point, Hiltz invokes a few inspirational apophthegms attributed to Saint Suzuki:

As we consider God’s creation,there is an urgency of concern about the global environmental crisis.We can no longer deny the harsh realities of islands drowning as sealevels rise; of deserts expanding in the face of unchecked deforestation; of weather patterns changing and growing violent as global warming continues; of lifestyles and livelihoods disappearing as the Arctic icecap melts.
Really coming to terms with these realities was very much the focus of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference—COP21—held in Paris. “COP21” refers to the ”Conference of Parties” and to those countries which have adopted the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In the midst of that great gathering of political and religious world leaders, and among thousands of ordinary citizens from every corner of the globe, a huge ecumenical service was held in Notre Dame Basilica. I had the great privilege of being there.


“Aware of the impact of the lifestyle of most of the developed countries, we need to call into question the logic of our consumption and to allow our attitude and witness to experience conversion— practising restraint and simplicity, not as a form of heroic renunciation, but as a form of joyful sharing. Our hope as Christians rests in our belief that our world is not destined to despair, but to transformation, and that human beings capable of self-destruction are also capable of uniting and choosing what is good.”

This “conversion” is the very thing that renowned environmentalist David Suzuki calls “the necessity for a massive change of spirit” on the part of leaders in government and industry and on the part of consumers in society…which includes us all. Suzuki has said he looks to both business communities and faith communities to provide leadership in calling for this “change of spirit”.

Reaction to Fred Hiltz’s presidential address

Amidst the predictable sycophancy from Hiltz’s employees, the youth delegate from the Diocese of Caledonia – one of the few dioceses to have a theologically conservative bishop – hits the nail on the head. The address was tendentious.

Rather comically, there is a comment under the article that claims the bias is not only acceptable but required because, under canon law, the primate is supposed to speak and write prophetically to the Anglican Church of Canada.  It must be pure coincidence that this is the first time ever that a “prophecy” has been lifted wholesale from contemporary secular values.

Read all the reactions here:

Asher Worley, youth delegate, diocese of Caledonia
For me, basically, he clearly had an agenda, and in my view, the chairperson—the chairman of a meeting like this—simply needs to be more neutral, so I felt that he was being inappropriate in that way. He had his opinion, and it wasn’t veiled. I guess that it wasn’t veiled is a good thing, but that he had an opinion in the first place, and that he expressed it, was, I believe, inappropriate.

What he said was not unexpected, but it wasn’t—let’s put it this way: I don’t agree. I’m trying to think of a way to put this so that I’m not being rude or discourteous. I was looking for a more neutral, this is what we’re doing, but we have to still be in God’s Word, and we have to be searching the Scriptures, because as a church, our main objective is to preach God’s Word—so it was just not what I was looking for in my primate.


Fred Hiltz’s presidential address at General Synod

Unsurprisingly, changes to the marriage canon occupy a significant portion of the address.

Also unsurprising is that there is a clear undercurrent that Hiltz favours the change. Hiltz would have us think that the important thing is not so much whether same-sex activity aligns with how God expects us to behave as revealed in the Bible, but whether the two sides can hold together and disagree with charity. Truth must be subservient to a satisfactory outcome of ecclesiastical transactional analysis: the disagreement must be good disagreement, then we will all be OK together as diversity prayers waft heavenward in clouds of smudging smoke. No-one will leave and clergy pensions will be secure.

Needless to say, that is all nonsense: both sides can’t be right and, since this time the issue is marriage itself not just blessings, there will be less “core doctrine” wiggle room. The disagreement will be vigorous, divisive and probably bitter. Perhaps that is “good disagreement” in that it would at least be honest..

The whole address can be found here:

With you, I am aware that for many throughout the Church, the issue of this Synod is the proposed amendment of the Marriage Canon to make provision for the solemnizing of same-sex marriages in our church. This matter is before us as a result of deliberations on Resolution C003 at General Synod 2013, passed in our accustomed way of voting as bishops and as clergy and laity voting together; and then by request of each of the Orders voting separately – bishops, clergy, and laity. This resolution directed the Council of General Synod (COGS) to bring forward the necessary amendments to the Marriage Canon. As you will hear in some depth this evening, COGS appointed a Commission on the Marriage Canon to address the request. The commission honoured in full the amendments to the original Resolution C003, including broad consultation across our church, with the Anglican Communion and within ecumenical circles in the Church Catholic.

The commission produced a report entitled, “This Holy Estate” which included substantial reflection on the subject of Covenantal Love in a marriage relationship and an invitation to consider some models for understanding same sex marriage. The Report was presented at the September 2015 meeting of the Council of General Synod and commended for study throughout the Church. At the special meeting of the House of Bishops in February, I did a cross-country check as to how the Church was engaging the report diocese by diocese. It appeared that the level of engagement had been nowhere near what had been hoped. I regret that and to be honest it has left me wondering what that says about our Church.

I am grateful that over the course of the next couple of days, members of Synod will have opportunity in Neighbourhood Groups to talk about the report.

I want to make an appeal to Synod that in these conversations and then in debate, we be especially and gently mindful of all those whose lives and loves and longings we are discussing – all those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning. They are members of our families and extended families; they are our neighbours and our friends. They are members of our parishes. They are our clergy. They bear on their brow the same cross all the rest of us do. They pray with us. They hear the Word of God with us. They break bread with us. They are sent like the rest of us to live by that ancient call, that great commission, “You are my witnesses”.

I hope we will all enter into these conversations in the spirit in which they have been designed. I trust they will draw us together in a good way, preparing us for the consideration of the Resolution on Monday, July 11. I take this opportunity on behalf of Synod to thank our Chancellor for the time and care he gave in preparing a memo for all members of Synod with respect to “Issues in Dealing with Resolution A051”. Drawing on the Declaration of Principles in the Handbook of the General Synod and the Rules of Order and Procedure with which we carry out our work, the Chancellor helps us understand all that can happen to a resolution once it is before the Synod. The memo speaks not only to how the Synod handles the resolution, but also to things we need to bear in mind should the resolution pass or not. The Chancellor will speak to his memo at the outset of our legislative session on Monday. I am convinced as I am sure many of you are that it will be enormously helpful with respect to our need for clarity in order and procedure.

The companion absolutely necessary to clarity in this matter before Synod is charity, charity one toward another. I recognize that much is at stake in our deliberations, including how we understand the authority of the word of God, the nature of tradition and the defining of doctrine. How we understand what constitutes responsible pastoral care of LGBTQ persons. What is at stake for some is our Church’s commitment to dignity, inclusion and fair treatment of LGBTQ persons in our midst, inclusion meaning full and equal access to all ministrations of the Church including the solemnizing of their marriages.

For some, an issue at stake is our capacity to remain in communion with one another in the face of deeply held differences of conviction over this matter. “How big is our Church?” was a question posed to me in recent days. It was quickly followed by two more. “How committed are we to making room for one another? Can there be in the spirit of pastoral generosity a place for us all?”

For some an issue at stake is the catholicity of the Church and the impact of decisions we make on our relationships with other churches within the Anglican Communion and with churches with whom we are in ongoing or emerging dialogue.

For some what remains at stake is a continued wrestling with the conclusion of the 2005 St. Michael Report that “the blessing of same sex unions is a matter of doctrine” (para 42), but “not a matter of what is often referred to as core doctrine in the sense of being creedal, it is a matter of doctrine that does not hinder or impair our common affirmations of the three historic creeds” (para 42). The commission concluded also that such blessings are not “a communion breaking issue”. For some what is at stake is their continued wrestling with the significant dilemma named in the St. Michael Report and within which the Church is deeply immersed (nationally and internationally). The dilemma is articulated in the following questions;

Is it theologically and doctrinally responsible for one member church of the Communion to approve a course of action which it has reason to believe may be destructive of the unity of the Communion?

Is it theologically and doctrinally responsible to accept unity as the value which transcends all others, and therefore for a member church of the Communion to refrain from making a decision when it believes it has an urgent gospel mandate to proceed?

In our deliberations about this matter which is clearly divisive, I hope we can embrace the principle of what the Archbishop of Canterbury calls “good disagreement”—that is, disagreement in which we will not dismiss, despise, or demonize the other, but rather turn to one another with a commitment to speak graciously, listen intently and learn of the perspective from which another thinks. While we acknowledge the strain in our relationships, let us not get to a point where any of us says to another “I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21). On the contrary, let us never forget our call “to make every effort, to maintain the unity of the Spirit to the bonds of peace”. (Ephesians 4:3)

My appeal to the members of this Synod is that we exercise holy manners, conducting ourselves in such a way that reflects that ancient call, that great commission “You are my witnesses”.

Fred Hiltz speaks at the opening of General Synod

For Hiltz, whether the church should marry or not marry same-sex couples all comes down to inclusion. Not, I hasten to add, the inclusion in the church of the just the person but also the inclusion of what the person does. In Hitz’s mind Christianity must affirm, accept, condone and, naturally, include not only the person – his essence – but the expression of his essence, how, in the vain little pantomime of his three score and ten years he acts out his essential nature. At least, when it comes to sex; in particular, homoerotic sex.

That is because the Anglican Church of Canada has largely abandoned the idea that, because of the Fall, man is inherently sinful and all creation is subject to the bondage of corruption under the weight of that sin. Thus, we are led to the inescapable conclusion that the urges of the church’s homosexual clergy are there because God put them there.

A lusty young heterosexual could make use of the same principle to explain his unfettered promiscuity, too, of course. But, then, there aren’t many lusty young heterosexual clergy in the ACoC.

From here:

This is the body that through its history has also wrestled with numerous issues within the Church and in the world at large over which we have often found ourselves in deep disagreement. Many of the issues have centred around inclusion—the place of women in the councils of the Church, the place of women as priests and bishops, the place of young people and their voice and vote, the place of children at the Eucharistic table, the place of those married and divorced and wanting to marry again, the place of religious communities whose life transcends diocesan boundaries, the place of Indigenous Peoples from status as observers, to guests, to partners, to members in Synod, and the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people within the Church and their equality of access to all the ministrations of the Church including the solemnizing of their marriages.

Anglican Bishops in a 3-way

On same sex-marriage, the ACoC bishops fall into one of the following categories: No, Yes and Maybe.

Fred Hiltz thinks – as does Justin Welby – that the three can co-exist, walk together to use Anglican jargon. They can’t for one simple reason: liberals will not stop promoting their same-sex marriage agenda – ever; not until they have their way.

Once again the “spirit” – not, I am quite sure, the Holy Spirit – is invoked to legitimise what for 2000 years the church has deemed illegitimate. How could this not be the spirit of the age?

Read it all here:

When it comes to allowing same-sex marriage, the bishops seem to be thinking “yes,” “no” and “maybe” in roughly equal proportions, Hiltz said. A number of bishops in the Canadian church also have a “holy desire” to consider alternatives to a simple yes-no vote on same-sex marriages, he said. Some have given considerable thought to other alternatives, and these are likely to be the main topic of conversation when the House of Bishops next meets in April, he added.

The article makes perfectly it clear, once again, that the main preoccupation of Western Anglican bishops is sex – just like everyone else. The comical thing about this is that the bishops genuinely seem to believe it will garner the world’s approval when all it does is heap well deserved derision on an institution that tries to do what everyone else does but ends up doing it with less panache.

Fred Hiltz personally agrees with same-sex marriage

The following article is a summary of what transpired during a question and answer session following the recent Queer Eucharist that Hiltz presided at.

The whole thing is worth a read because it illustrates well the morally chaotic universe the Anglican Church of Canada inhabits. A universe where a Primate’s personal view of same-sex marriage is at odds with the religion he is supposed to represent, where telling someone homosexual activity is wrong amounts to abuse, where the main purpose of the church appears to be not only to affirm whatever its members do no matter what but to provide them a safe space in which to do it.

From the attendees at the session, it is once again apparent that ACoC clergy promote gay marriage so strenuously because so many of them are, themselves, married to a person of the same sex.

I do see a bright future ahead for the Anglican Church of Canada, though: not so much as a church but as a gay dating agency for unattached clergy.

“All of us belong to God,” said Canon Douglas Graydon to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at a gathering held to discuss same-sex marriage in the Canadian church. “The question is whether we belong to the church.”

It was a question many LGBTQ Anglicans brought forward in a question and answer session that took place after a talk Hiltz gave following the “queer Eucharist” service hosted monthly at the Anglican Church of St. John’s West Toronto.

Passions ran high in the hour-long conversation, moderated by Graydon, an associate priest at St. John’s who is in a same-sex marriage. The event saw about 150 people—including several LGBTQ clergy from the diocese of Toronto—come forward to share stories of pain and discrimination, and to call on the church to honour their struggle and their equality.

“What I want from our bishops, and from our primate, is the kind of language that restores hope, that will allow a 17-year-old thinking that suicide is maybe better, to say, ‘No—no, there is hope,’” said the Rev. Alison Kemper (deacon), a professor at Ryerson University. “We are who we are, and if the Anglican church chooses to deny us, we will get married, and we will have careers and we will have churches. What you need to do is claim your authenticity as our leader.”

Her thoughts were seconded by her wife, the Rev. Joyce Barnett, incumbent at St. Matthias, Bellwoods, who stressed the importance of publicly calling out homophobia and exclusion.


The most pointed question, however, came at the end of the evening, when a young woman named Jessica Davis-Sydor asked Hiltz about his personal views on the issue.

“I never actually heard you come out and say that you supported, that you support what is going on, that you are fighting to try and get same-sex marriage in the church,” she said. “Do you fully support it, deep down, what is happening?”

Hiltz responded by saying that while he personally supports same-sex marriage in the Anglican church, his position as president of General Synod places limitations on what he can or cannot say as a representative of the Canadian church.