Monday, July 01, 2013

It is not just about Marriage

While I was away, there was a Diocesan Hui (meeting or conference) to discuss marriage, in particular same-sex marriage.  It was held in our parish hall.  Possibly it was just as well that I could not be there as it is a very emotional topic for me.

Bishop Kelvin has covered it well in his blog.

He concludes:

"At the end of the day no-ones opinions were much changed. But the great triumph was that we stayed together, we talked and we began to feel our way towards that sense of God's presence which enables us to be the body of Christ. We have a long way to go, but I am very optimistic."

In another post he has published his submission to the Ma Whea Commission on Same - Gender Relationship, Ordination and Blessing. 
This commission was set up by the National Synod and is to report to the General Synod by 2014.

Some parts of Kelvin's submission.

"The Diocese of Dunedin has been, for some time regarded as a “liberal” diocese with regard to the ministry of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. We have a number of persons that identify as GLBT serving in our clergy, on vestries, and as Synod Representatives. In the last decade several ordained people in same gender relationships have been ordained in our diocese and/or have held licenses for ministry. This has not been without dissent."

"We recognize that for a large number of our people marriage is defined in our Canons and our Prayer Book and means a lifelong union is between one man and one woman, to the exclusion of all others. Further, as our disciplinary canons require ordained people to be either married or celibate, there is currently no possibility of people living in same gender relationships being ordained. "
"For others of us there is the recognition that the current situation in the Anglican Church denies a significant group of faithful Christians the experience of living authentically and openly, of celebrating their partnerships and of fulfilling a call to ordained ministry, a situation that many find is difficult to reconcile with a gospel of love and inclusiveness."

"As a diocese we are committed to further discussion of these matters, recognizing that the more we meet with and fellowship with people with diverse opinions and the more we are able to place these potentially divisive matters into the context of the real people whose lives are so impacted by the decisions we make, the more likely we are to find a way in which we can work together for the good of the Gospel which has so captivated all of us."

My own vicar who is now Vicar-General of the Diocese commented on the hui.

"That is the only foundation for 'progress' - the acknowledgement of the foundational significance of our Baptisms, that those who think differently to us are still doing their darnedest to follow Jesus."

In a sermon   the week after the hui the vicar stated

"Jesus sees marriage as relatively unimportant – and I choose my words carefully. Relatively Unimportant. Relative to what you might well ask? Relative to the Kingdom of God, and thus Relative to the life of a Disciple of Jesus."

"At the end of the Hui, Bishop Kelvin speaking of his episcopal ministry used the metaphor of a lumberjack, trying to keep a great raft of logs together on a river. The image that came to mind was that the raft of logs has got stuck up a creek. Perhaps our lack of progress on this issue is precisely its insignificance in terms of the Kingdom of God. "

"I wonder if that was going on last weekend, certainly it yielded little if anything. Our thinking about marriage is so skewed – we see it of such distorted importance, that when we hear Jesus say ‘whoever has left his . . . wife . . . for my sake and the kingdom . . .’ we assume he must have got it wrong . . . but that is quite plainly what he says. To be a disciple is to be devoted to Jesus, to recognise his authority, like the soldiers and the slaves of the Centurion, to Act immediately in accordance with his command. Put another way, to have faith"

 I would reply that to me it is not about marriage it is about equality

That was reinforced by Elizabeth Kaeton in her moving post We are Equal.

I was excited when the same-sex marriage bill passed the NZ parliament not because there is any likelihood that I will ever take advantage of its provisons but because it removes the last remnant of  discrimination in the laws of the land.  I have full equality in New Zealand but not yet in my birth country, Australia.

Looking at newspapers of the 1950's when I was a teenager in Sydney, it would seem the politicians, police and certainly churchmen regarded homosexuals as on a par with murderers.  Thankfully I was not very aware of my sexuality at the time.  However even in the 60's,  I was told by psychiatrists that I  should not become a teacher as it would be too dangerous. I seethe with anger at the implications of those remarks.  I taught adolescents for 45 years and never once did anything improper with a student.

I think it is wonderful that today there are openly gay and partnered  politicians, police, judges in both Australia and New Zealand.  Young gay men and women should not feel they are 2nd class citizens anymore.  Except in the church.

While there were many reasons for my migrating to New Zealand and  Dunedin in particular, the existence of one openly partnered gay priest in the diocese was an important factor.

As a young man in Sydney I was keen to train for the priesthood.    I was a youth leader, a lay reader and even preached at Sunday evening services.  But it became obvious that this would not be possible as a gay man.  In fact, when I first told my rector that I was gay,  I was removed from reading the lesson and it was made plain that I was not really welcome to even attend anymore. 

However, until I began worshipping at St James, I never saw a woman read the lesson during a service.

Looking back on my years as a youth leader, we took it for granted that males would be leaders. Girls were assistants but never in charge and although we had youth services, only the boys took any role. 

Now I live and worship in a diocese which has a woman archdeacon, who was in charge of our parish for a year.  Our parish has  a recently ordained woman priest who is assistant and will be in charge during the vicar's absence over the next few weeks and of course there is the  historical fact that we had the first woman diocesan in the Anglican world.

Girls in our churches in Dunedin can see that they can aspire to any role in the church.

Similarly as a gay man it is inspiring to see a gay man preside at the Eucharist and it was one of the highlights of my life to meet and receive a hug from Bishop Gene Robinson. 

However at the moment there is a hold on recognition of gay people in the Anglican church of Aotearoa/ New Zealand.  I wait to see what happens at Synod in 2014.  But I am becoming impatient, there is a strong likelihood that I will not want to remain in a church where I am not seen as equal.

My vicar asks me to see that those opposed to me are also attempting to follow Christ. 

I have received more love and acceptance from atheists than the "Christian" leaders of the Anglican diocese of Sydney.  A straight man who advocated for gay acceptance in Sydney synod told me he had never seen such hatred on  faces as was displayed to him in synod that night. 

There is a local evangelical Anglican church in Dunedin. I have yet to meet any of them and will not be going out of my way to do so. My experience in Sydney makes me very wary of such people. I am told, although a neighbouring parish, they did not send any representatives to the the ordinations of the women of our parish. I see nothing Christlike in them.

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