Gay Clergy Respond to Anglican Bishops' Statement on Homosexuality
It was a Catch-22 situation: Gay clergy are the ones most affected by the recent statement of the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada reiterating that practicing homosexuals may not be ordained. But because of what the bishops said, many gay clergy could not speak publicly on the matter.
Now, thanks to an enterprising newsletter editor, a way has been found for the ACC's clergy to share their thoughts on "Human Sexuality: A Statement by the Anglican Bishops of Canada."
Chris Ambidge, co-convenor of the gay Anglican organization Integrity/Toronto, knew that the bishops' statement would need to be discussed in the chapter's newsletter, which he edits. Upon reflection, though, he realized that more than the official response of Integrity/Toronto ought to be printed.
"I realized very soon after seeing the text – actually before the press release made it public – that it was particularly sticky for lesbian and gay clergy," he says. "I thought it was important to go looking for responses . . . on the principle that [the newsletter] was the only place where they were going to be printed, and [this was] something the bishops needed to hear."
Mr. Ambidge says that his chapter's newsletter, The Integrator, is sent to every bishop in the ACC; thus all bishops will have the opportunity to hear the reactions of the clergy who are affected by the statement. "I don't know that the other diocesan papers or the Anglican Journal [the ACC's national periodical] would know of or be comfortable sending such letters to homo clergy," says Mr. Ambidge. "I hope I'm trustworthy – well, clearly I am to those who replied . . .
"I did have to do some chivvying to get the responses I did," Mr. Ambidge adds. "I will allow that I've solicited more for that item than I have for any others."
Mr. Ambidge solicited responses from thirty clergy subscribers to Integrity/Toronto whom he knew were gay and whom he thought might be willing to speak on the matter anonymously. The January issue of The Integrator carries eight responses, and more will be printed in the next issue.
"I know that the Bishops have heard story upon story and they are compassionate people," said one clergywoman. "But they do not know what it is to live in the skin of a lesbian or gay priest or deacon."
"I do love the church and want to continue to be in ministry," wrote a clergyman. "But I also hope that there will come a time in my life when I will be able to fully live and express my sexuality in a committed relationship. If that does happen, I know that as things stand now I can not continue as a priest in the Anglican Church."
Another clergyman wrote, "While there is much talk of discussion and dialogue and study under the headings of 'Gay and Lesbian Persons in the Church', and 'Blessing of Covenanted Relationships', the section on 'Ordination of Gay and Lesbian Persons' is silent. I hope that this is an oversight, but it gives the impression of a Church willing to talk about being open to Gay and Lesbian Christians as long as they aren't called to the ordained ministry."
"My overall assessment is . . . some angry, some resigned, most sad, all of them very disappointed," says Mr. Ambidge. "[To the clergyman] who said, ‘Lotsa progress in twenty years, not a long time in the life of the church,' I wrote back and said, 'Yes, but it's a very significant chunk of a human life.'"
One response struck Mr. Ambidge as especially important: a letter from a priest who wrote, "I pray for a day when I will not have to be afraid of falling in love with someone, and being forced to choose between my love for that person and my love for the church. If that day doesn't come for me, I pray it will for lesbigays who come after me and, like me, rejoice to serve Christ within the church."
"Wouldn't that make your heart break?" Mr. Ambidge says. "Praying not to fall in love."
It is not merely the priest's words that moved Mr. Ambidge; what is striking about the letter is that the priest, after consulting with his bishop, agreed to let his name be used. The letter will be printed in the next issue of The Integrator.
"Exemplary courage," is how Mr. Ambidge describes this action. "There are many clergy in this country who cannot bring themselves to do this, not because they're fraidy cats, but because they have the very well-founded fear of what might happen. I hope that this will quite literally be an inspiration to others. Not to shove them into copycat outings, but to show them that others are going public. It will help them, even if they stay firmly closeted, for good and very valid reasons."
World Feature: Pro-Gay and Ex-Gay – Is There Room for Dialogue? By Heather Elizabeth Peterson. For nearly three decades, the pro-gay and ex-gay ministries have competed for the souls of gay men and women, each movement convinced that the other is tragically mistaken in its views on homosexuality. Now a small number of people on both sides of the issue are striving to find common ground. (December 1997)
World News: Canadian Anglican Statements on Homosexuality Please Both Sides in Debate. By Heather Elizabeth Peterson. Amidst heated debate in the Anglican Communion over the morality of homosexual acts, Canada's bishops have issued a new statement on human sexuality that is being praised by both progressives and traditionalists. (December 1997)
© 1998 Heather Elizabeth