Friday, May 29, 2009

An Invitation that is easy to refuse

I have been told I will be warmly welcomed if I attend St Augustine's Neutral Bay by the associate minister David Ould.
I renewed a discussion with Mr Ould after being directed from Father Christian at GAFCON to a discussion on Anglican Priest Father David Heron.
Both these blogs are satirical and I am not good at satire. I once told David Heron I did not appreciate that he put words into the mouth of Peter Jensen. There is really no need the man spews forth enough drivel on his own. For an example, just look at the meanderings over women in the priesthood in an interview on our ABC.

Anyway Mr Ould tells me I will be warmly welcome if I choose to descend from the Mountains and visit his church. "Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly"

I am sure he would put on a bright smile and shake my hand as long as I just sit there, sing the hymns and donate to the offertory.
But it would be a different matter if I should ask to read the lesson, or horror of horrors offer to preach or to give any indication that I might have thoughts of entering the ministry. Nor would I be so welcome if I arrived hand in hand with a man and asked for a blessing on our relationship.

Why would I want to travel so far when I can receive the same "welcome" in nearby churches. The ferry trip across the harbour would be pleasant but little else.

For years I visited nearby churches because I believe I should regularly participate in the sacrament of Holy Communion. I did not attend expecting any fellowship and was fully aware I should hide my sexuality. Before moving to the Mountains I came out to the local rector at Bexley North (Rev Robert Jones, now located at Turramurra) and was immediately removed from the Reader roster. I continued to worship there for another year, often with my then partner. I was much more forgiving in those days. He continued to smile and shake hands although he had compared homosexuality to bestiality.

For many years I worshipped at Emmanuel Church, Lawson in whose parish I reside. They have a traditional service at 8.30 and it was 1662 Holy Communion at the time. A new rector arrived, since left, who began making unusual changes to the service and whose preaching was of the fire and brimstone style but the last straw came when I was told a dear little old lady would be visiting me monthly for personal prayer. I informed them I would prefer to be asked not told and while I liked the dear lady I had no intention of discussing my personal life with her on a regular basis and have not been back there since.

I had seen homophobic letters to our local paper from the pastor (his term) of the next church east so went west to Holy Trinity, Wentworth Falls. Holy Communion was only every 2nd sunday and seemed to be omitted for the slightest reason in favour of family services so I did not stay there long.

I went further west to St Alban's Leura. I worshipped there for a number of years as the services were very traditional and the preaching, while mainly consisting of bland Bible stories, was bearable. I noted women were busy at the door but never took a part in the service, not even reading the lesson. A new rector arrived and while pleasant, never even asked my name. Eventually he departed from the Bible stories to make a violent attack on a movie, 'Brokeback Mountain'. I never heard him attack other movies with sex out of wedlock, I guess because at least they were heterosexual. I walked out, wrote a letter and he replied telling me we were all sinners. I agree but do not believe my homosexuality is a sin. I have not returned.

So why would I travel all the way to Neutral Bay knowing the ministers of the church are so homophobic as to write messages decrying a partnered homosexual minister in a non-Anglican church in a country as far away as Scotland.

If Mr Ould is not willing to accept Bishop Gene Robinson, would deny the priesthood to openly partnered homosexual men and women and refuse to bless gay partnerships, I have no interest in meeting with him and would find it very difficult to worship with him. I would not feel "welcome".

Out of curiosity I visited the website of St Augustine's Neutral Bay.
They have meetings at 9.30. Twice each month they have Holy Communion. They describe Holy Communion as "a token meal"
Then they continue:
"When we share in Communion together, we look back, look forward, and we look around. We look back to remember Jesus' death for our sins and his resurrection to new life, we look forward to his coming again to take us to be with him forever, and we look around to remind ourselves that all who trust in Christ are united in him. After a reminder is given of these things in the service, whilst you remain seated, trays of individual cups of grape juice and plates of pieces of bread are handed around the congregation. We encourage you to take this opportunity to do business with God in the quietness of your own heart. If your trust is in Jesus, we invite you to take a piece of bread and a cup of juice and place them on the shelf in front of your seat and wait until all have been served. Then we eat and drink together recalling that Jesus death and resurrection is for us, and that we are united with each other in him."

My United Church friends do something like this and I have no quarrel with that but I am an Anglican, this is not Anglicanism.

At St James, King Street there are 3 services of Eucharist (Said, Sung and Choral) almost every Sunday and there is also a midday Eucharist every weekday.

We use a common cup of wine and believe that the Body and Blood of Christ becomes truly present in the bread and the wine during the Prayer of Consecration.

Next Sunday we will have a woman preaching, a fairly common occurrence. Women act as deacons during the Eucharist and regularly read the lessons. We would be happy to have them preside (if ordained) but the Diocese does not recognise their ordination to the priesthood.
Most importantly is that every service sheet and publication has on the front page.
"We are a progressive community that welcomes all people regardless of age, race, sexual orientation or religion"
I know I praise St James a lot but it is so wonderful to feel truly "welcome".

So I will make the long trip each week to St James, King Street until I can arrange to move to the Diocese of Dunedin which was the first Diocese to have a woman bishop and has ordained an openly gay partnered man, Rev Juan Kinnear, to the priesthood who is part of the Cathedral staff.

I have no plans to visit any of the homophobic quasi baptist churches which masquerade as Anglican churches throughout Sydney.


Fran said...

Brian - what a post, so rich with your thoughts and feelings, your appropriate anger and passion on this topic.

You are true and authentic to who you are and I really respect and admire that about you.

I was trying to have a conversation with a non-faith blogger (that I love!) about institutionalized religion. Like you, it is for Communion. It is also about community for me. That said, institutions so often go wrong, very wrong.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

A most important post! Thank you.

(the Church of Sweden has elected it's first lesbian Bishop...)

Brian R said...

Thank you, Fran and what wonderful news, Goran.

Paul said...

Well put, Brian. An important and all too common story. I am glad you have found a place combining welcome and sacraments. May such places increase.

motheramelia said...

Thank you Brian for giving us a glimpse of the authentic person. I admire your persistence in the face of hostility and am so glad you have a community of faith that supports you. If I ever get back to visit Sydney I will make sure I worship at St. James.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you saw trough Mr Ould's 'warm' invitation. Your obvious faith shines through. You are a man who truly worships Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament.

June Butler said...

Brian, your persistence in attempting to be a part of an Anglican church community despite your ill treatment in many of them is amazing, but I understand why you do it. I feel a strong need for a church community, too, and I am drawn to the Eucharist. I pray that you will settle soon near a welcoming church.

Love and blessings.

Brian R said...

Thanks Grandmere, I also feel welcome and blessed in my online community of Anglican/Episcopalians