Bishop John Shelby Spong interviewed on the day DOMA was consigned to the history books

SPONG swirl

“You don’t resist consciousness, nor do you turn it around. Nobody would contemplate re-segregating; no one would contemplate taking the vote away from women. Nobody will contemplate forcing gay and lesbian people to go back into the closet today – we just passed that, and consciousness doesn’t go in a two-way street; it’s always a one-way direction. You’re always more open to the future.” – Bishop John Shelby Spong

I first met Jack Spong in 2008 when he travelled to what he called “the frozen north” to help us launch our Re-Thinking Christianity Speaker Series at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Newmarket. At that time, from the confines of my church imposed closet, I and many others were working together to end the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s discrimination against  LGBT members. The terms of my closeted existence meant that I could not speak publicly about who I am lest my denomination take actions against me because of who I love. So, Jack and I spoke privately about the struggle that my life had become. His gentle encouragement “to be all that I am created to be” together with the love and support of so many others gave me the courage to come out into the struggle in more public ways as Holy Cross defied the discriminatory policies of our denomination.

Jack has returned to Holy Cross several times over the years and each time his love and support has been a blessing to our congregation and to so many people in our part of the world. A great deal of water has flowed under a good many bridges since our first meeting. Over the years, our community has continued to be blessed by Jack’s visits and his considerable support. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has removed constitutional barriers to the full inclusion of LGBT members and we continue the work of living into our vision of equality for all. Even though I have married the love of my life, I continue to serve as the pastor of what Jack has dubbed “the jewel of the north” and surprise, surprise, the sky has not fallen in. My wife Carol and I are both grateful to Jack and his lovely wife Christine for their ongoing love and encouragement! 

The interview below took place on June 26th, 2013, the day the U.S. Supreme Court announced its monumental decisions on the Defence of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8. As I watched it, I was reminded that the struggle for the rights of LGBT folk is only one of many human-rights struggles that Jack has engaged in during his long and distinguished career. Jack is a giant among men; and not just because of his great height or his former office, but because he lives the benediction he teaches:  “If God is the source of life, I worship God by living. If God is the source of love, I worship God by loving. If God is the Ground of Being, I worship God by being more fully human; the embodiment of the Divine.”  Thank-you Jack for all you’ve done to help so many of us to embrace our humanity and thereby embody our Divinity!!!

Heading to the Joint Assembly!

Ottawa Convention Center

Ottawa Convention Center:
site of the Joint Assembly

It has been almost two years since the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada voted on a series of motions designed to end the discrimination against GLBT people in our church. Prior to the passage of these motions, I assumed that once we voted to allow same-gendered marriage and the ordination of openly gay candidates for the ministry of word and sacrament we would be well on the way to equality for GLBT folk in our congregations. I had hoped that our church’s affirmative votes would mean that I could finally set aside studies related to sex in the Bible. As an ordained woman who just happens to be gay, I had grown weary of sexual politics in the church and longed to turn my attentions to theological matters that might lead to a re-articulation of the Christ experience for 21st century thinkers. My naive notions failed to take into account the fact that it has been close to 37 years since the ELCIC voted to ordain women and sadly there are still bastions of prejudices against women that remain in the ELCIC.

Voting doesn’t make it so. As the National Assembly of the ELCIC draws near, I have begun to receive questions about: 1) what it’s like to be an “out lesbian” serving in an ELCIC parish, 2) how many individual congregations have voted to affirm the ELCIC’s policies, are served by openly gay clergy, or are preforming same-gendered weddings, and 3) what needs doing in order that we might have more congregations that actually welcome GLBT folk into full membership?

In response to the various questions that are littering my inbox I can only say, “I don’t know?” You see I live in a bubble. The congregation I serve is a fully inclusive congregation. Shortly after the ELCIC voted to allow openly gay clergy to serve, I was finally able to celebrate by marrying my long-time partner. Our wedding celebration was also a congregational celebration. While I am relieved to be able to speak publicly about who I am, my gayness is not central to my ministry. We at Holy Cross are busy working to be a congregation that dwells in the 21st century. We are constantly exploring what it means to follow the ways of Jesus in a post-Christendom world. We have moved so far beyond the sexuality questions which obsessed the ELCIC for nearly two decades. I rather like the freedom that our particular bubble has afforded us to float away from the endless conversations about sexuality. So, it is with great trepidation that I began to engage the questions that are frequenting my inbox.

This Joint Assembly marks the first time that the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church in Canada have gathered together for our national conventions. As full communion partners there is so much that unites us. However, the Anglican Church of Canada, unlike the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, has not yet voted to remove all of the barriers to full inclusion for its LGBTQ members. While our experiences in the ELCIC prove that voting doesn’t make it so, it does make it possible for us to claim our place in the church. So, while I applaud the sentiments that bring us together for this Assembly, I can’t help wondering about the quality of our “full communion”?Joint-Assembly-logo_FINAL_full2

I shall endeavour to blog during this Joint Assembly. I’ve added a page to this website where related blogs will be posted. In the meantime I travel in hope!

In God There Is A Welcome!!! Happy Pride!!!

pride canadaAs Pride Week celebrations continue and I search for words to help us express our celebrations of Canada Day during today’s worship service, I came across this prayer written by Kittredge Cherry and Patrick Cheng.

Rainbow Christ, you embody all the colors of the world. Rainbows serve as bridges between different realms: Heaven and Earth, east and west, queer and non-queer. Inspire us to remember the values expressed in the rainbow flag of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community.

Red is for life, the root of spirit. Living and Self-Loving Christ, you are our Root. Free us from shame, and grant us the grace of healthy pride so we can follow our own inner light. With the red stripe in the rainbow, we give thanks that God created us just the way we are.

Orange is for sexuality, the fire of spirit. Erotic Christ, you are our Fire, the Word made flesh. Free us from exploitation, and grant us the grace of mutual relationships. With the orange stripe in the rainbow, kindle a fire of passion in us.

Yellow is for self-esteem, the core of spirit. Out Christ, you are our Core. Free us from closets of secrecy, and give us the guts and grace to come out. With the yellow stripe in the rainbow, build our confidence.

Green is for love, the heart of spirit. Transgressive Outlaw Christ, you are our Heart, breaking rules out of love. In a world obsessed with purity, you touch the sick and eat with outcasts. Free us from conformity, and grant us the grace of deviance. With the green stripe in the rainbow, fill our hearts with untamed compassion for all beings.

Blue is for self-expression, the voice of spirit. Liberator Christ, you are our Voice, speaking out against all forms of oppression. Free us from apathy, and grant us the grace of activism. With the blue stripe in the rainbow, motivate us to call for justice.

Violet is for vision, the wisdom of spirit. Interconnected Christ, you are our Wisdom, creating and sustaining the universe. Free us from isolation, and grant us the grace of interdependence. With the violet stripe in the rainbow, connect us with others and with the whole creation.

Rainbow colours come together to make one light, the crown of universal consciousness. Hybrid and All-Encompassing Christ, you are our Crown, both human and divine. Free us from rigid categories, and grant us the grace of interwoven identities. With the rainbow, lead us beyond black-and-white thinking to experience the whole spectrum of life.

Rainbow Christ, you light up the world. You make rainbows as a promise to support all life on Earth. In the rainbow space we can see all the hidden connections between sexualities, genders, and races. Like the rainbow, may we embody all the colours of the world! Amen.

Below is a version of a favourite hymn “For All the Children” composed by David Lohman and sung by a gathering of Catholics in Minnesota last summer. Since then our neighbours to the south have made some good progress toward equality. We here in Canada can take pride in our nation’s equal marriage laws, but more work needs to be done to accomplish full equality.  

Not Going Quietly – Desmond Tutu

tutuDavid Frost’s recent profile of Desmond Tutu (Nov.2012) paints a picture of a vibrant life well lived during astounding times. Tutu’s recent work as Chair of  The Elders an independent group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights ensures that his wisdom will continue to provide insights and opportunities for those who seek to peace through justice. Of particular note, The Elders have taken up the cause of peace in the Middle East. Tutu sees the plight of Palestinians as akin to apartheid.  What is it that inspires Tutu:  “The knowledge that there is a God who actually does care. And strangely, this God who is omnipotent is also impotent. This God has extraordinarily said, ‘Look I have created you and I have created you to be a person.’  A person is someone who is a moral agent who can choose between good and bad. God can’t intervene to stop us from making the bad choices. And so how does evil end? Evil is going to end when there are those amongst God’s creatures who want to collaborate with God and the forces of good to end evil.”