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Canadian Anglican & Presbyterian Activists in Forefront of Stonewall Celebrations

Canadian Anglican & Presbyterian Activists in Forefront of Stonewall Celebrations

By Jonathan Widell
June 11, 2019

It is going to be a busy summer for the LGBT activists both inside and outside the Protestant churches in North America and, accordingly, for their critics as well. June marks the semicentennial of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969.

The season was kicked off by Winnipeg Pride Festival. St. Francis Anglican church was one of the participants. The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada made the necessary decisions to get on the LGBT bandwagon the other day. A few days after the Stonewall celebrations, the Anglican Church of Canada will hold its General Synod, where the change of the marriage canon is expected to pass for a second time to allow for same-sex marriages in the church.

In hockey, this is called momentum. Since hockey is one of Canada's national sports (the other one is lacrosse), do not expect Canadians to stop here. The previous General Synod left us with a cliff hanger and although the vote could in principle go either way this time, everybody knows there is only one way that this will go. First Nation Anglicans are expected to oppose same-sex marriage creating consternation among progressives who would like to see a clean sweep on the subject.

Even for the critics, it is difficult not to feel the excitement. The critics are not "insensitive", which is the rallying cry among the activists who turn the mere existence of resistance to their agenda as an argument to force it through. This is not about being sensitive or insensitive but making up one's mind about who we should love. The present situation opens up a new meaning in the question that Jesus asked Peter: "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:16). As R. E. Brown observed, this may mean, grammatically speaking, either "do you love me more than you love these?" ("these" meaning either Peter's fishing equipment or the other disciples) or "do you love me more than these (other disciples) love me"? He opted for the latter interpretation because he thought it would have been ridiculous to ask whether anyone could love the other disciples more than he or she loved the resurrected Christ. That is what Brown thought. At the present juncture in church history, we know that nothing is more pertinent than the question "do you love me more than you love these other disciples?" Even if the wayward disciples were Christ's disciples (and only Jesus knows their hearts), we would still have to make a choice between loving them and loving Jesus.

Besides momentum, we could call the trend by many other names. In investing, a similar phenomenon is called "animal spirits" (from the Latin spiritus animalis), which the famous British economist John Maynard Keynes used to describe how people arrive at financial decisions, including buying and selling securities, in times of economic stress or uncertainty. John P. Kotter, an expert on leadership, called it "a sense of urgency" in his bestseller by the same name. Yale psychologist Irving Janis called it groupthink in his book by that name in 1972 to explain how colossal errors of judgment in foreign policy could take place. In more theological terms, Slovenian post-Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek called the momentum "Holy Spirit" in the speech he gave at Zuccotti Park in the heyday of Occupy Wall Street in October 2011.

Indeed, Žižek may turn out to be the most influential theologian of the momentum now that the career theologians have failed to give a satisfactory explanation of what is going on in the churches. Insofar as our theology is supposed to be based on the Bible, it is almost dramatically simple to shoot down the slogans that the LGBT movement uses in place of theology, as in the case of St. Francis Winnipeg.

The discrepancy is not alleviated if we expand our theological parameters to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral. For instance, the creeds have lost much of their authority after it was noticed that the Holy Trinity could not be relevant to our day unless it goes through the necessary gender-bending. The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada Fred Hiltz has been known to refer to the Holy Spirit as a she. Why should we still talk about the Father and the Son? The same perceived problem adheres to the Biblical revelation. Even if the NRSV has done its best to replace "brothers" with "brothers and sisters", St. Francis Anglican Church in Winnipeg preferred to talk about "marching with all our siblings in Christ". All that is left of the Quadrilateral is the "earnest desire that the Savior's prayer, 'That we all may be one,' may, in its deepest and truest sense, be speedily fulfilled" for the simple reason that the more churches jump on the LGBT bandwagon the easier it is to scrap the rest of the Quadrilateral.

It is for that reason that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church is so momentous. Since the Presbyterians have maintained a profile as a bastion of Protestant orthodoxy, it had to overhaul its theology at a pace that only served to highlight the inconsistencies of the project. No sooner had they recognized the need for special pastoral care than they also passed the "equality" of the marriage institution and ordination. A motion was passed that asked the Life and Mission Agency to develop and gather resources to strengthen our ability to provide appropriate support to bodies of the church in developing models of pastoral care that recognize the gifts of all and encourage mutual support and care for those who have been harmed by homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism and hypocrisy.

Hey presto, the General Assembly voted in principle for inclusion - equal marriage and ordination -- which was one of four options under consideration. Since it did not want to be perceived as insensitive, the church reassured the faithful on its website by saying that "that there will be a committee to work on implications and that this begins a year-long process as it goes through the Barrier Act. There is no immediate change to practice or doctrine."

You do not have to be a Bible-thumper to spot the inconsistencies. Slavoj Žižek, the star of Zuccotti Park, wrote a short article "Transgender dogma is naive and incompatible with Freud", which amounted to a frontal assault against transgenderism. It was published in Spectator Life on May 30, 2019. Krista Burton wrote an opinion piece with the memorable paragraph: "Pride is clearly also for corporations who want to milk as much money as possible from a previously ignored demographic. In the past decade or so, companies have scrambled to prove how O.K. they are with L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+ folks, and well, it's embarrassing how transparent the scramble for our money is." The piece was published in the New York Times on June 17, 2017.

If the LGBT movement was supposed to be a variant of the Occupy movement in the churches, it has betrayed its anti-capitalist agenda miserably. In an article that sought to portray LGBT-friendly congregations in Toronto in a positive light, Richard Langley justified the social activities of those churches in terms that no capitalist would fail to appreciate: "Contrary to the assertion that churches are granted a 'free ride' because they are exempt from property tax, Daly found that the value of the services they provide is worth 11 to 12 times what they would pay in property tax. That's the halo effect."

There are a lot of changes going on in the churches but not all change amounts to repentance, as we all know. Instead of inclusivity, we should turn our eyes to Matthew 7:14: "But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." This does not mean that we should not make haste. As the Apostle Paul put it, "Run in such a way as to take the prize." (1 Cor. 9:24) What we should avoid is what is happening now. As he said a couple of verses later: "Therefore I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight like I am beating the air." (1 Cor. 9:26)

Jonathan Widell was born in Finland, worked in the European Parliament in Luxembourg from 1995 to 1998 and moved to Canada in 2003. He earned the Doctor of Civil Law degree from McGill in 2012 and the M. Div. degree from the Montreal School of Theology (Montreal Diocesan Theological College) in May 2018. He left the Anglican Church of Canada after graduation. He currently works as a freelance translator.

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