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Bless me, father

BrodieThis week I read with interest the article in The Telegram concerning the annual celebrations commemorating St. Francis of Assisi at the Anglican Cathedral, incorporating the blessing of the animals.  While reading the article, my youngest daughter asked why we did not attend and have our dog, Brodie, blessed. I paused for a moment, reflecting upon my reasoning for our absence at this annual occasion.

For me, this decision comes because of my questions relating to the nature of blessing, and of the role of the church in setting things apart as sacred and holy in the sight of God and the community of faith. It seems, in our Anglican patterns and traditions, we have little difficulty setting apart individuals, animals, objects, liturgical items, books, buildings, and property. All these can be blessed. Yet, when considering the nature of relationship, the Anglican Church in this province has been deathly slow in examining the presence of God in same sex relationships. The Anglican Communion, to varying degrees, has examined at various levels discussions on the place of homosexuals and lesbians in the life, witness, and ministry of the church. In this diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, this has no doubt been as a result of our previous Bishop`s abandonment of our fellowship in his retirement, as he joined with other clergy, and left to partner with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, rejecting our diocese, and the Anglican Church of Canada. I commend our Bishop, Cyrus Pitman, for sidestepping these issues for the past ten years, so as to focus on the unity of the diocese and its mission to proclaim the kingdom of God in Christ in this place.

Ten years have passed, and the Anglican Church of Canada outside this area has continued to grapple with the discernment of the Holy Spirit in the life and witness of the church in relation to homosexuality.  In the meantime, this diocese has not actively entered into dialogue, as we have grieved the parting of bishops, clergy, and laity from the fold. This year,  General Synod passed Resolution C003, asking the Council of General Synod to prepare and present a motion to change the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples” http://www.anglicanjournal.com/articles/same-sex-marriage-vote-in-2016. Because of this landmark resolution, our diocese, and our worshipping communities have to grapple with same-sex marriage and its place in the church.

This month I have once again dusted off my resources concerning the Anglican Church and Homosexuality.  There has been much written, since 1978, about the journey the church has engaged in concerning homosexuality http://d1cp1qz2o8x44l.cloudfront.net/faith/files/2010/10/hsrh.pdf.  I encourage one and all to engage in dialogue, in prayer, and reflection, as we prepare to take our place with others throughout the Anglican Church of Canada, and discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church. We must find ways to have open, relational conversation, so as to hear the valued voice of clergy and laity in the church.

The dialogue is essential; the dialogue is inflammatory. We are the people of God and we love deeply. Opinions concerning the nature of God, of blessing, of Christian community, and of human sexuality often produce much hurt and discord.  We must recall the variety and depth of the expression of Christian community in our midst. We must celebrate the diversity that comes in faith communities, and our commitment to stay together as we strain and struggle. In The Homosexuality Debate: Faith Seeking Understanding (2003), Bishop Patrick Yu (Area Bishop, Diocese of Toronto) addresses the pastoral challenges that continue to be before the church. He states,

Attention should be given to the challenges raised by this discussion to congregational life. The church`s response to homosexuality has uncovered important issues that go beyond the specific decisions in this controversy. It raises questions as to what kind of community we wish to be, how we in fact treat each other and outsiders, how we can be a distinctive witness in our culture.

We must pray. We must be informed. We must welcome and engage the whole community in the dialogue. We cannot offer blessing with one hand, and, on the other hand, ignore the plight of those in our community who are longing to be seen as equal and be accepted in the life of faith.

David Burrows

About David Burrows

David Burrows is a priest of the church, currently serving in parish ministry within the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, a place he has called home for the past ten years. He consistently engages dialogue and action with the wider community through creative outreach projects. Cycling, kayaking, and driving fast cars are distractions in his life.
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8 Responses to Bless me, father

  1. I would only comment that a blessing can be offered and received if the person, animal is present to be received. Same sex couple regardless of whom they are, certainly to be at a blessing and welcome. If we as a community are fixed on the what and the how, we are misguided.

    All people and without exception are administered communion, blessing or ability to attend any parish. Children and adults should be invited to bring their friends, pets and be included. Same sex union blessings are a topic of discussion about who will conduct this duty, it is not a sacred part of this denomination, yet it is about legal roles which is to be a federal and provincial responsibility to act upon. I sense the meanings and definitions are being confused.

  2. Avatar of Tony Houghton

    The institution of the church can bless anything it wants to but that doesn’t mean that there will be any blessing coming from God , it will be a man’s blessing and that’s it. We have to be very careful not to invoke a blessing in the name of God that he would never bless or condone.In all my searching the only animal blessing that were done were just before sacrifice or eating, so you can take your pick.The church can run a risk when doing any type of blessings that we end up calling evil good through the blessing.God will never call anything or practice good and bless it, that he has clearly proclaimed in his word as evil.
    As for communion be without exception is only a practice that has been adopted by the modern church.Paul and John made it clear that there were requirement for communion and people who did not meet those requirements were bringing condemnation and the blood of Christ( not in a good way) on themselves.The lords supper is only for those who are Christian and not the world in general.We take communion way to lightly and do it without hardly any thought of what we are doing

  3. David Burrows

    Ron & Tony, thank you for your insights. The question for me is not the nuances of particular Scriptural and Theological understandings in relation to the sacraments of Holy Eucharist & Marriage. The question instead is, how do we move forward as community given the diversity of opinions and experiences? For me the suggestion of a closed/specific table community, or of an anthropocentric ruling about that which is godly or ungodly cannot be the measure that we adhere to. Given these parameters you both offer, I wonder if any would be guaranteed admittance to Holy Communion, or to partake in marriage.

    • Avatar of Tony Houghton

      As for the question as to how do we move forward with diversity of opinions and experiences ,best to look to Augustine when he said In”In essentials,unity ,in non-essentials liberty ,in all things charity.” If we look to the beginning of the church they were fighting heresy all the time and every so often would hold a Council to set the essentials for the church.But now a days we don’t like to be told what we have to believe,even by God.We have to set a clear definition of what the essentials are and hold to it .There are those in the church and leadership who deny the basic tenets of the faith such as virgin birth deity of Christ, bodily resurrection of Christ etc.and still want to classify themselves as Christian,I think that is basically dishonest.If they really want to be true to their beliefs they should leave the church and start their own religion instead of trying to highjack Christianity.

      • Avatar of Jennifer S

        Tony,
        I love that quotation but it is almost certainly not Augustine’s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_necessariis_unitas,_in_dubiis_libertas,_in_omnibus_caritas And it echoes, not answers, the questions raised in Burrows’ article: what IS essential? What does caritas/love look like in Christian context? I admire your commitment to the whole of the Law and church doctrine as it has evolved so far. I’ve been constructed to consider that (living! breathing!) church teaching and practice can continue to evolve, which may be at heart why we find ourselves on the opposite sides (do circles have ‘sides’?) of many questions raised here. And we’re back to Burrows’ question again – how are the likes of thee and me going to live together in Christian community?

        • Avatar of Tony Houghton

          We must first realize that the church is not our church ,it is Gods church and we are to ,as Christ puts it ,worship Him “in spirit and in truth” The truth that we must worship him in is His truth ,not ours .Our truth may portray a God or a Jesus that is found nowhere in the bible but out of an imagination of what we want him to be. The church must conform its view of God to what He has reveal Himself in the whole Bible.We must realize that we do not have all the answers but the bible does and our lives as a church must be a daily seeking God’s truth and conforming our truth to His revealed truth.We must also realize that God does not contradict himself so if we hold a belief that contradicts what God has spoken then we are wrong and must change. As in the church, we have differing opinions on a lot of subjects,some are totally contradictory to one another,they both can’t be true.Our task as a church is to seek the truth and discard that which contradicts it.

  4. Avatar of Andrew Graham+

    +Patrick Yu is definitely not retired. He might be tired, sometimes, but he’s not retired. :-)

  5. David Burrows

    Thank you Andrew, it’s definitely me that’s tired :)

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