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WASHINGTON DC: Chane's Same-Sex Ceremony Prompts Protests, Prayer

Chane's Same-Sex Ceremony Prompts Protests, Prayer

By Robert England
The Christian Challenge
June 12, 2004

GENN DALE, Maryland -- Bishop John Chane's blessing here late this afternoon of a same-sex relationship between the rector of St. George's Episcopal Church and his long-time sexual partner prompted a protest across the street from the church and a prayer service nine miles away in Bladensburg.

Bishop Chane blessed the homosexual union of Fr. Michael Hopkins and John Bradley at St. George's in a ceremony closed to outsiders and the media.

The blessing reportedly followed a new liturgy under development in the diocese, but one which has not yet been formally adopted at diocesan convention.

Bishop Chane sent copies of the proposed new liturgy to priests in his diocese earlier this week, asking for comments.

Crosses Draped in Black

About a half hour ahead of the service, a group of 9 Episcopalians stood silently across the street from St. George's, holding up several crosses draped with black cloth. Each of the crosses were about 2 1/2 feet tall.

The group consisted of 8 parishioners from across the diocese in parishes from Christ Church, Georgetown in Washington to All Faith parish in Charlotte Hall. They were accompanied a priest, Fr. Ted Lewis, who has been resident in the diocese for more than 40 years.

In holding a cross draped in black, Fr. Lewis said the protestors took their cue from a traditional Good Friday practice.

"We felt that the ceremony taking place was obscuring Christ, just as Christ is obscured on Good Friday," said Fr. Lewis.

The protestors said they did not represent any organized group, but decided to devise a protest after reading about the same-sex ceremony in a story in the Washington Post.

"We came up with the idea of a cross draped in black as a way of expressing our views," explained Bill Boniface, a parishioner of St. Thomas Croom, who noted that he was present as an individual and not as a representative of his parish.

Boniface said the protestors felt that crosses draped in black would be a more reverential and dignified form of protest than holding signs.

As Bishop Chane's car passed the protestors on its way to the parking lot down the street from the church, he appeared to be visibly startled at the sight of the protest.

The views of the protestors in Glenn Dale stand in stark contrast to the views of Bishop Chane reported in the May 31 edition of the Washington Post.

Same-sex unions, Bishop Chane is quoted as saying, are "holy and deserved to be blessed, deserved to be held up by the community and they deserve to be called what they are: sacred."

Both the protestors in Glenn Dale and people attending the service in Bladensburg took exception to Bishop Chane's claims. "It's not holy. It's unholy," said Gary Schenck of St. Luke's.

Fr. Lewis, in an interview, stated that the blessing service presented a fundamental problem for Christians because it mistakenly elevated experience above Scripture and tradition.

"As a result, the Episcopal Church has cut itself off from its moorings, leaving it adrift in the wilderness of secular culture," Fr. Lewis said.

Fr. Lewis also suggested that those in the Episcopal Church who support same-sex blessings were not, in fact, doing a good deed for homosexuals.

"What they are offering homosexuals is not bread, but a stone," Fr. Lewis said. The church is offering "something which does not have the power of salvation in it and is not going to remedy their condition."

Defiance of the Anglican Communion?

In interviews, protestors raised concerns that the timing of blessing may have been chosen to make a defiant statement to the Anglican Communion.

"It is obvious that the concerns of the Anglican Communion and the voice of those of us who hold to the apostolic, Biblical faith and practice of Christianity as accepted for 2,000 years have become muted by an agenda that will proceed at any cost," stated Wes Courtney of Christ Church in Accokeek, Maryland, in a statement released by one of the protestors to the press.

Courtney, who had planned to attend, was out of town on business and unable to be present. Chuck Claggett, also a parishioner from Christ Church, Accokeek, handed out Courtney's statement to the media.

The blessing in Glenn Dale occurs on the same day as a meeting in Kanuga, N.C. of the Eames Commission, an international body set up by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to find a way prevent schism in the Anglican Communion over actions of the Episcopal Church in America.

Last year, the Episcopal Church's general convention sparked a crisis in the Anglican Communion when it gave consent for the elevation of V. Gene Robinson, a homosexual priest living with his sexual partner, to be Bishop of New Hampshire, after strong warnings against approving Robinson from Anglican Primates in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The convention also voted that dioceses could proceed on a local option to adopt liturgies for same-sex blessings.

Prayer and Benediction

As the ceremony at St. George's got underway, another group of 40 Episcopalians gathered nine miles away for a time of prayerful silence, followed by evening prayer and benediction at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Bladensburg.

"We held this service to draw the focus of the church back to Our Lord and Savior," said Fr. Michael Heidt, rector of the St. Luke's.

The service in Bladensburg was held at the request of the American Anglican Council of Washington, a local affiliate of the national American Anglican Council, which urged Bishop Chane in a statement earlier this week not to go forward with the blessing at a sensitive time for international Anglican relations.

AACW, in a statement of protest released ahead of the ceremony, charged that Bishop Chane's actions made it necessary for faithful Christians in the diocese to call for alternative episcopal oversight.

"We believe a leader must cast his personal views aside, no matter how strongly he believes his views to be correct, and do what is best for the well being of his diocese and the greater church. This [Bishop Chane] has not done," stated the AACW.

"When Bishop Chane determines 'it is the right thing to do' in blessing these relationships, we ask, right for whom? Certainly it is not the right thing to do for the well-being of the once proud Episcopal Church, now ridiculed as the Gay Church," the AACW stated.

"It appears that faithful Christians in this diocese have few alternatives. Perhaps one of those alternatives is a laity call for another shepherd -- for it is the right thing to do," the AACW stated.

At the service in Bladensburg, homilist Fr. Ted Logan, rector of Calvary Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., called on the congregation to look to themselves for repentance and then to a reaffirmation of the doctrines of the church found in the Articles of Religion adopted by the Episcopal Church in 1801 and included in the Book of Common Prayer.

Taking scripture as an indispensable guide for all Christians, Fr. Logan said, "If it is not found in the Word of God, then God does not bless it."

Fr. Logan cited Article VI: "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that is be an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."

Most of the approximately 100 people who arrived to attend the ceremony at St. George's walked down the sidewalk to the church without looking across the street at the protestors.

The situation, while peaceful, was occasionally tense. Two police cars arrived just before the protestors gathered. After the protestors appeared, a few men posted in front of the church watched the protestors closely until just before the service began.

While there were only four protestors at first, three more joined shortly after they began. Later, another two protestors joined them.

After donning his mitre and crozier, Bishop Chane came outside and stood on the walkway leading to the entrance ahead of the ceremony. He was accompanied by a party of acolytes preparing to make a procession into the church, including a few children.

Prior to the service, workers for a catering service were busily taking items into the church on a wheeled cart from a truck parked directly in front of the entrance to the church.

Shortly after 4 pm, all those standing outside went inside the church, and the doors were closed.

There was a smattering of the media present -- Channel 13 from Baltimore, the Washington Times, and a local Prince Georges County newspaper, as well as the Washington Blade.


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