Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being? (Book of Alternative Services, page 159)
These words flooded my thoughts during the past several months for various reasons.
Maybe from mirroring myriad examples of God’s people not striving for justice, not pursuing peace and not respecting the dignity of any human person.
Maybe from anticipating Easter when worshippers are invited to respond to this commitment as they renew or commence their covenant with God.
In mid-March, the kernel of this HOLLIStorial took root and germinated, even though snow and ice prevented me from walking on or even seeing the green grass of our backyard.
One Thursday evening, we watched the 1960 movie, Inherit the Wind. The title reflects Proverbs 11:29, “Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind.” It’s a parable, based loosely on the story of a real-life 1925 case about a teacher on trial for teaching evolution instead of creationism.
Midway through the movie we stopped to watch the news and were horrified to learn of 50 people being killed at two mosques in New Zealand. (Read the letter from the Interfaith Council of Halton — a message of solidarity.)
Comparing the movie’s violence, hatred and discrimination of 95 years ago with similar happenings today, we concluded people have not changed much.
The next morning, two stories fired up my attention.
The Church Times featured an article about Toronto Bishop Kevin Robertson. The Archbishop of Canterbury told Bishop Kevin that he would be welcome to attend the 2020 Lambeth Conference but his husband, Mohan Sharma, would not, even though other bishops’ spouses were invited.
Bishop Kevin noted an inconsistency. The Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion maintained that same-sex marriages were inconsistent with a resolution on marriage from the 1998 Lambeth Conference which defined marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.
As Bishop Kevin rightly pointed out, “I know as we approach 2020 that there are bishops who have been divorced and remarried, in some cases more than once, who are being invited, and their spouses are also being invited.”
Apparently in the church, different strokes for different folks.
Later that day I viewed, Towards Marriage Equality — Sharing Niagara’s Experience. This video documents same-sex marriages as experienced by couples and presiders.
I was honoured to be interviewed and to share my experience as the presider at a same-sex marriage.
Three questions were posed; here are my responses:
1. The same-sex marriage was a blessing to the faith community, because it affirms that humans cannot limit God’s blessing. God’s love applies to everyone, indicating we need to be an inclusive community by our action.
2. My faith shaped my decision to preside at same-sex marriages. My father instilled in me, from my infancy, to believe in God/Jesus and to treat all people equally.
During my ordained ministry, people have always come first.
Occasionally that clashed with church rules and traditions, but I still believe I was following what Jesus would do.
3. Presiding at a same-sex marriage was transformative for me. Our faith is a living entity which forces us to reach beyond our comfort levels and bring our faith to new situations. In his prayer, Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10) put it this way, asking God to “extend my territory”.
While presiding at my first same-sex marriage, I felt a strong sense of God’s presence and peace descending on us. God was blessing the two men as they exchanged their marriage vows and became one.
So, what can we do?
On every day and in every way we can …
- Keep striving for justice,
- Keeping striving for peace, and,
- Keep respecting the dignity of every human being.