“What does love mean to you?” I asked in my sermon on John 15 during worship on May 9th. Love, as we know, has many different meanings depending on its context. We love our friends and family, which is different from how we love our jobs, which is still different from how we love our spouses. What connects each of these expressions of love is the public recognition of the presence of God within them, guiding, nurturing and developing the love we feel for each other by the power of the Holy Spirit. This expression of love which we understand to be housed for us in the sacrament of marriage is a gift from God which God desired for all of us to equally experience.
At General Synod 2019, held here in Vancouver, the Anglican Church of Canada discussed the change of our marriage canons (by-laws) to permit same-gender marriages. This came after over 50 years of waiting, talking, praying, and wrestling with our theology, understanding of the sacrament, and the Holy Spirit. The topic was moved forward substantially by our own diocese when in 2002 our diocesan synod authorized the blessing of same sex unions. In each of these steps it was clear that the Holy Spirit was at work as we arrived at these decisions through prayer, discernment and deeply intentional listening to one another.
It was then, after General Synod 2019 when Archbishop Melissa Skelton approved the marriage of same gender couples in this diocese, that we as a parish began an intentional process of listening, discernment and prayer on how to respond to what the Holy Spirit was doing. We announced this consultation during Sunday announcements from our wardens at the time, Mi Ho and Tim Cheek, included it in our weekly email and bulletin, as well as continued reflecting during parish council meetings held between July 2019 and March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic put on hold much of the business of the parish council in 2020. From July 2019 to March 2020, our wardens, trustees, parish council, and myself, sought out conversations with the parish in order to listen and understand how God was moving within us on this topic. These conversations were to listen and not to convince, and they became the bedrock of our prayer at parish council during this time. While it was not unanimous in the conversation from you, what I clearly understood and heard was that the outcome of this conversation would not preclude the minority of those who cannot agree with marriage equality from remaining members of this parish, something I continue to honour and deeply respect.
In light of these movements of the Holy Spirit, I write to you today to announce that, at our regularly scheduled Parish Council meeting on April 27, 2021, held on zoom, our parish council has requested that I should be able to perform marriages for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. In order to do that, I was required to ask the Diocesan Bishop of New Westminster for permission to marry all peoples, regardless of sexual orientation, according to the rites and customs of the Anglican Church of Canada enacted in the Diocese of New Westminster.The request was sent in April 29, 2021 and the Bishop has approved our request effective April 30, 2021. Marriage, in our parish, is now open to all, regardless of sexual orientation, which marks a further step in our journey towards restorative love with our neighbours.
In my sermon on May 9, I posited that restorative love is about reconciliation with our neighbour, something Jesus enshrined for us in the greatest commandment, which is to love our neighbour as ourselves. This restorative love, which recognizes the divine presence of God within everyone of us equally, is further explored by Bishop John in his statement to the Diocese on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia which was marked on May 17. In it, the Bishop says that the church needs to chart a new course towards being a welcoming and compassionate place for the LGBTQ+ community. Marriage equality is the first step for us as a parish on that journey of charting a new course in reconciliation with all of God's peoples, as we step out in the love of God to walk alongside those for whom the church has not always been a safe place to celebrate who God has made them.
Today is a day for many of us to honour what love is, which is the powerful movement of the Holy Spirit in every facet of who we are as a community. For some, this will be a challenge, and I want you to know that this parish will always have a place for you. We are given the strength to love by the Holy Spirit, whose guidance and presence in this decision has enabled us to reach this outcome.
As we begin to walk together in the freshness of this new season of Pentecost, I pray God's abundant outpouring of that Spirit on you and this parish we all love.
these lands upon which we worship as the ancestral, cultural, traditional and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people from time immemorial.