Thursday, October 05, 2006

Terence Finlay is a coward

Terence Finlay is the former Anglican archbishop of Toronto. This past June, he performed a marriage for a lesbian couple.

The Anglican church is divided on the issue of same-sex blessings --- let alone actual marriages, but Finlay's personal connection to the couple superceded his commitment to his church and his obligation to uphold the decision of the most recent synod, which put off a decision on same-sex unions and maintained a moratorium on same-sex blessings.

Courageous, no?


A brave man would have taken a stand when it meant something. A brave man would have announced his remarkable philosophical transformation regarding homosexuality before acting on it. (Finlay fired a priest in 1991 for being in a gay union, and in 2004, shortly before he retired, he reprimanded a priest for . . . you guessed it . . . performing a same-sex blessing).

Finlay took his stand when it conveniently cost him nothing. He is retired, so he can't be fired. His pension can't be revoked for an act that occured after his years of service (and likely couldn't have been even if he'd had felt strongly enough to perform a marriage/blessing prior to his retirement). And, although his actions undoubtedly carry symbolic weight, he is no longer in a position where he will have to take direct heat from members of his communion.

The only consequence for his choice to turn his back on his fellow Anglicans is that his license to perform marriages has been revoked --- until the end of 2006. Tragedy. He must be suffering.

Even Anglicans who support same-sex unions should be angry that Finlay chose to flout the decisions of synod and to do it weakly, timidly, and secretly, without personal sacrifice and without conviction.

His selfish actions only serve to exacerbate tensions in an already troubled faith community. Some will see Finlay as being a 'leader' in a cause. The timing of Finlay's ethical evolution suggests weakness, either a weakness of character that held him back from acting on, or even acknowledging his conversion to same-sex advocate or a lack of confidence in the doctrinal and spiritual validity and righteousness of his actions.



Tim said...

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)

Anonymous said...

Civil marriages are sufficient for gays and if they don't like it then they can form their own church to get married in then.

Alberta Girl said...

And this is one reason that I - as an Anglican - have not attended church for years - I watched as more and more the Anglican church doctrine as I knew it was watered down more and more to pander to those crying "victim" - it became a place that didn't stand for anything.

Anonymous said...

I congratulate Archbishop Finlay for having the courage to act in justice and in love.God calls to an ongoing revelation of love for us and that is not hidebound in canons, scripture abitraily arranged almost 2000 years ago and in bigotry. God created all human beings equal. Why cannot we treat all human beings as equal?

Canadi-anna said...

A man and a woman are equal, but a man is not a woman.

With the exception of giving birth and providing breast milk, a man can fulfill all the needs of a baby or child. He can nurture, he can love, he can change dirty diapers -- but he will never be called a 'mother'.
Does giving him the name 'father' diminish his love, his responsibility, his tenderness, his importance? NO.
He simply doesn't fill the gender requirement integral to the understanding of motherhood.
A barren woman, who cannot breast feed, can adopt a child and be called 'mother'. Why? Because she fits the one quality that is universal to motherhood -- she is a woman.

I can acknowledge that homosexuals are children of God, that God loves them, that they are no more in danger of going to hell than anyone else, that their relationships can be as loving and important to them as those of heterosexuals --- it doesn't mean that I am a bigot or unkind if I say that their relationships, no matter how committed, do not fit the requirements of marriage -- because the one universal component of marriage has always been the opposite gender requirement -- number of people, ages, familial relationships and the desire of the parties involved vary from culture to culture, but until the 21st century, people of two different genders was never an 'option', but always a requirement -- worldwide.

If gender is not relevant to being a parent or a marriage partner, why are the books called 'Why Heather has two mommies' instead of 'Heather's daddy is a woman'? Why do gays and lesbians accept the gender differentiation when it comes to 'mom' and 'dad'? Isn't that discrimination? Are gay women saying there is something wrong with being a 'dad' that one of them doesn't want to take that name? No. They simply understand that the definition of 'mom' or 'dad' has a gender requirement.

If you honestly believe that scripture is bigoted, I have to wonder why a religious blessing would be an important issue for you. You suggest that 'scripture' was arranged arbitrarily and with bigotry -- most people just claim it is interpreted those ways.

This is not the forum in which to engage in a scriptural debate, but my guess is that your idea of love includes anything that 'doesn't hurt anybody'. Your choice, but don't pretend that Finlay, acting in his role as a priest, was being anything but selfish. His interest wasn't in advancing your cause, or else he would have made his actions public before the Bishop did so for him.

Finlay took a stand, representing a faith for which he had no right to speak. You might like the stand, but it was dodgy and lacked the openness which might have made this an 'just' act. People seeking justice don't sneak.

kevvyd said...

Hi Canadianna, I'm glad to see you posting again!

I'm not sure how much of a right I have to comment on these things, being an atheist and heterosexual, (not that it has never stopped me before), but I both agree and disagree with you.

I agree in that it is possibly a cowardly thing that he did, but that would imply knowing what his motivations were when he agreed to the ceremony as well as in 1991 and 2004. Perhaps he was defending a doctrine he didn't agree with back then but felt the Church was not ready for the "truth" as he senses it and could no longer hold his tongue. This can be read in a number of ways. Or, you could be right, he simply knows that he has nothing to lose now and can get a bit of press by performing the ceremony.

Also, I must note that the argument you make in your comment can be reduced to "marriage is between a man and woman because it has always been so". This is pretty weak, there are a lot of customs that I am glad we do not follow any longer.

anon1: Civil unions are indeed perfectly fine, in fact they are the only legal marriage in Canada; the religious ceremony is only legally binding when the legal documents are signed. However, there are many that would prefer to not have to take their love "outside" and would like to be full-fledged members of their chosen religious community.

Canadi-anna said...

Hi kevvyd -- The church has been struggling with the sexuality issue for two decades. If Finlay didn't believe in the doctrine he was upholding when he disciplined those priests, it would have served the debate better that he was true to himself and his beliefs, damn the consequences.

History and tradition are important factors when making sweeping societal changes. Only time will tell if there are negative/positive or neutral affects due to the changes to the marriage laws, but my argument to anonymous was based less on 'it has always been so' than on the weakness of the 'equality' argument put forward by those who support gay marriage (particularly within the church).

kevvyd said...

If you honestly believe that scripture is bigoted, I have to wonder why a religious blessing would be an important issue for you.
That is a very interesting question. You don't have to shut a door in my face too often to make me lose interest in it.

You suggest that 'scripture' was arranged arbitrarily and with bigotry -- most people just claim it is interpreted those ways
What exactly do you mean by "interpreted"? Things seem pretty cut and dried if you read Leviticus, (Homosexual acts are an abomination to God (18:22) or If a man has sex with another man, kill them both (20:13)).

If we include biases based on sexual orientation in the definition of "bigotry", then I'm not sure where there is any room for interpretation in the above quotes.

Canadi-anna said...

People often use Leviticus as the smoking gun of bigotry in the bible.

First, many Christians don't take the Old Testament as their authority for life, and the New Testament has little to say about homosexuality except Paul, who apparently includes homosexuals amongst those who won't be part of God's kingdom. Pretty harsh words, yes, but nowhere does he advocate death for any act --- simply contrition and reformation.
There are also questions about whether Leviticus or Paul were talking about homosexuality or the act of sodomy or male prostitution. The distinctions are important for two reasons. There are people who are inclined towards the same gender, and then there are those who are not so inclined, but who will engage in sexual acts against their own nature for purposes that range from the 'thrill' of the taboo, to being isolated in the company of the same gender and yielding to their baser urges or for payment.
Many Christians and Jews believe that Leviticus was referring to those who 'chose' sodomy because of lust or money, rather than those people who are homosexual by nature.

The Old Testament as read by Christians is without benefit of commentary and in many cases context.
If Leviticus were so straightforward, then there would be no schism within any Abramic religion about homosexuality.
Then there is also the fact while some people believe the entire bible to be the divine word of God, many others believe it was divinely inspired, but filtered through the prism of the history of its authors. While some people argue that it is wrong or unfaithful to 'pick and choose' what we accept as 'truth' from the bible, I believe God gave us reason and discernment in order that we could do just that. When I disagree with something in the bible, I consider when it was written, in what context and what else is said about the same subject. Most often, as in the case of homosexuality, there will be passages that are not directly related, but still apply. That's where personal interpretation comes in.
Only those who have limited knowledge of the bible simplify the argument to 'well, Leviticus says . . .'

kevvyd said...

Having grown up in a Christian household, I have always found Christian's relationship with the Old Testament interesting. There are some that honour every word as the Word and others that attempt to consider the context in which they are written.

I don't know much about the original language the Old Testament was written in and am not up on any controversies or disagreements in the use of the term "homosexuality", "sodomy", and "prostitution". However, I have to wonder what kind of person would "choose" homosexuality against their nature. (Outside of a prison, of course.)

Unfortunately, whether it's through ambiguity of language, mistranslation, divine mischief, or simple bigotry, homosexuals are left out of a place that it is clear many want into.

INP said...

Anna, I'd like your opinion on something. I am conflicted.

On one hand, I think religious freedom should trump gay rights when it comes to performing gay marriage and the ability to criticize the gay lifestyle.

However, acknowledging that religious freedom supersedes certain other rights, where do we draw the line?

Have you heard about the Somalian Muslim Minnesota cabbies who wanted the city to pass a by law allowing them to have little lights on their cabs indicating that they will not transport anyone carrying booze? Have you heard about images of Piglet being banned in certain areas of Britain.

I guess what I'm asking is: Once we enact laws to protect the rights of religion above all other rights, can we possible foresee all the ways in which the followers of Islam will use this little legal caveat to entrench their religion and their values deeper and deeper into our civilization?

I fear that, in the end, every step we take to protect Christianity will be used as a weapon to promote and strengthen Islam here in Canada.

Canadi-anna said...

Hi inp -- It's a tricky line and I think it will increasingly be blurred.

The big question when it comes to gay marriage will be if 'marriage' will be determined to be a 'legal' or a 'human' right.
Legal rights are subject to limitations by the state, and religions can be exempt -- 'human rights' are natural rights that exist regardless of the state.
No person and no institution is exempt from being expected to respect the human rights of others. In a liberal democracy, that's why we have 'human rights tribunals' -- to ensure that the natural rights of people are being upheld by institutions of the state, private institutions, and personal entities.

I haven't heard of the Piglet thing, but if it's true, it's stupid.

As for cabbies, I suppose they have the right to refuse anyone they please, but if they are going to refuse to take people who are carrying booze, what about drunk people?
And then, what if they refuse to drive a drunk person and that person decides that they can't get a taxi so they drive and kill someone?
What about people who've been to the butcher and have ham in their packages?
It's sheer stupidity if you ask me and this is where the market will play a significant role. If non-Muslims take affront to being targeted as unworthy of transport for whatever reason, and if they boycott cabs driven by Muslims, then maybe a monetary loss would make the drivers see that they aren't in the business of making personal decisions for other people -- they are being paid to drive, not pass judgement on the morality of their passengers. But should the drivers be allowed to refuse passage? To me it seems that the only issue for cabbies should be their personal safety.

Religious freedom can't be protected to the exclusion or to the detriment of other freedoms because it is only one element of a free society. If my religious freedom impinges on your personal freedom (for example does a Muslim's right not to eat pork or to be offended by depictions of pork??? translate into a non-Muslim being forced to take down a poster of Piglet) the guiding force has to be reason.
That said, reason and sanity are seldom in play when the extreme elements of religion or secularism clash.

Canadi-anna said...

kevvyd -- You ask what person would choose to engage in acts against their nature, but people do it all the time. The simplest reason is for money, another is for the excitement of doing something 'wrong' or 'taboo'.

As for homosexuals being left out . . . again, it's a matter of interpretation. Gay people are welcome at many churches. It bothers them that most churches see gay sex as a sin and that prevents them from being members because they feel they have no choice in being gay. The churches will answer that regardless of our natures, we have a choice as to how we behave.
Some might be offended by the simplicity of that analysis, but in the end we are all struggling against our natures. We struggle against greed and selfishness. We struggle against pride and vanity. We don't ask the church to bend its ideas on averice or charity to suit us, why should we expect it to alter its views on sexuality because we think its unfair?
We don't have the right to demand that a church conform to our needs, we can only pray that in all of our struggles, our faith will keep us strong inspite of ourselves.

kevvyd said...


I know that you didn't ask my opinion, but I'd like to provide one more example that I just saw today. You mention the Muslim cabbie that won't carry alcohol; what about the fundamentalist pharmacist that won't provide birth control pills? I believe (though I could be wrong - it might be still in the courts) that it has already been decided legally in several jurisdictions that this person has the right, based on religion, to withhold certain services. If one does, then so should the other, and in my mind, that's fine. A Muslim cabbie can ask, I suppose, for routes that don't include bars and liquor stores and another cab will come along.

As Canadianna suggests, perhaps monetary loss or general discomfort with the position would drive someone, in time, to another occupation, however there is a risk that they will use that position to try to force others to conform to their morality. Also, in the case of small towns where there might only be one pharmacist, not providing all services to all that request them is not moral.

If a church asks homosexuals to not practice their sexuality while allowing heterosexuals to, they are asking part of their population to deny a natural part of themselves. This is not healthy, nor tenable in the long run for the health of the community.

INP said...

Kevvyd, I guess I could draw a distinction. The pharmacist who refuses to dispense birth control is adhering to traditional Canadian traditions and values. You know, the ones followed by the people who formed and built this nation from day one. We already know that great societies are built by such people. The Muslims, however, are seeking to inject their foreign values into our civilization - values that have brought nothing but oppression and suffering wherever they are imposed.

The way I figure it, the Muslim road is the last road we need to go down. The Christian one, well, we are already on it. And it's taken us to some wonderful places.

kevvyd said...

Drawing distinctions like this is dangerous, especially when the distinctions are drawn by laws. It is true that this country was founded as a Christian one, but tolerance of other beliefs has really created the Canada that we know today.

I'm not exactly comfortable with your reference to the "Muslim road". I hope that you refer to the violent political struggles that surround the Islamic cause rather than the religion itself. I am no theologian, but I have read the Koran and the Bible and the text to justify violence exists in both; but in each case can be read as symbolic, should the reader wish to do so. There is certainly a problem today in that there are a cadre of Islamist leaders that prefer a more violent reading of the Koran, but Christianity's history is every bit as blood-soaked for the same reason. The solution is not to clamp down on the "spread" of Islam, as if it was some kind of disease, but to embrace the moderate Muslims that can find homes within Canadian culture like so many other have.

The violence we see, and associated with Islam is purely political, and in the same way that religion was used to justify, fuel, and recruit for the battles in Ireland between Catholic and Protestant, it is used by Islamist political leaders today. This is not a war between religions, at least I really hope not, it is a war in which religion is used as a weapon - to unite the sides against the other.

I am personnally not comfortable with certain elements of the culture promoted by Muslims. I do not agree with the way they've assigned gender roles, for instance. If I had my way we would have laws established on open humanist (non-theistic) principles in which all could participate in the community in their own way. Canada appears in fact to be going slowly down that road, and for that I'm thankful. If that means a pharmacist won't give me a medicine I feel I need or a cabbie won't carry my drunken arse home, fine, provided there is someone else that will.

Now, if you do actually mean that you are uncomfortable with Islam itself, then my whole argument above is moot. In that case, nothing sort of a Christian-based legal structure and culture will be good enough. However, that would exclude more than just Muslims and Canada will be the poorer for it.

INP said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
INP said...


Let me respond to just one of the thoughts in your excellent post.

You said: "There is certainly a problem today in that there is a cadre of Islamist leaders that prefer a more violent reading of the Koran, but Christianity's history is every bit as blood-soaked for the same reason.

First, there is not a “cadre” of Islamist leaders who prefer a more violent reading of the Koran. Rather, there is a unanimous brotherhood consisting of all leaders of all Islamic nations who, without exception use Islam to enslave their people. Second, Christianity’s so called “blood soaked history” cannot be laid side by side with today’s Islam. It is not only disingenuous to compare Christianity of old to modern Islam, it is positively deceitful. One existed then and evolved, the other still dwells in medieval ignorance and intolerance.

Based on the evidence at hand, it would be unreasonable to believe that Islam is compatible with civilized nations. The truth is Muslims exist in a 13th century reality with respect to their compulsive obsessive adherence to their religion and their inability to tolerate dissent within nations that they control. The only reason that side of them has not come out here in Canada yet is because they have not yet gained any control. And by God, let us hope they never do. Because we all know what happens whan Islam is in control. And it ain't pretty.

Canadi-anna said...

kevvyd -- If a church asks homosexuals to not practice their sexuality while allowing heterosexuals to, they are asking part of their population to deny a natural part of themselves. This is not healthy, nor tenable in the long run for the health of the community.

Is denying natural urges only a hardship when those urges are sexual? It would seem so, but married people are expected to deny attraction to people other than their mates, pedophiles are expected not to act on their natural urges and many people are called to celibacy for various reasons.
Beyond that, people who find vast sums of money on the ground are expected to deny their urges to keep it. People are expected to deny the natural urge to lie to protect themselves if they've made a mistake . . . the list goes on.

The psycho-babble that says it's unhealthy to repress our sexual natures is just plain silly. There are plenty of acts of sexuality which are 'natural' to the person with the urges, but that are contrary to the laws and the mores of society.

A religion doesn't force anyone to act within its understanding of God and morality, but one would have to wonder why a person would want to be a part of a religion that sees their behaviour (should they act on their 'sinful' sexual urges) as disordered or aberrent.

'(A)llowing heterosexuals to' engage in normal, God created sexual activity is hardly the same as condoning acts which are deemed to go against the nature of both God and man as the relgion sees it.

Bending the religion to suit gays means yielding the understanding of the marital and familial relationship. It undermines the foundations of the religion. You are asking churches to take a secular view of sexuality.

If churches should give up their understanding of such basic concepts, you might as well suggest that there should be no religion. After all, most people, religious or not would agree that murder, theft and any other crime or misdemeanour that harms a person is wrong. Who needs religion to tell them that? Why don't we just all worship at the altar of political correctness where nobody ever has to feel like anything they say, think, feel or do is wrong and where no one is ever allowed to offend with suggestions that there is a right or wrong when it comes to personal issues like sexuality?

kevvyd said...

You're right, there is a point to be made that repressing urges and behaviours is important for society, my argument is weak. However, I disagree that simply because heterosexual relationships actually produce offspring makes them any more normal or natural than homosexual. As a species, we have multi-faceted complex communities and to deny that homosexuals (and therefore homosexuality) add to these communities is a denial of reality. Homosexuals may not produce offspring, but the function of a community is greater than simply making babies - homosexuals add to it in other ways.

The fact that homosexuality exists and has likely always existed means that it is by definition a natural thing. It might not be normal, per se (using normal to mean something that most people do), but it is natural. Condemnations from a church or any group at all is therefore unnatural.

inp: Sorry for not responding sooner - I was away from computers for a few days.

We are destined to disagree on this, and that's fine, so this will be my final word on the topic. Saying that I can't compare Islamic violence with Christian violence because they are simply somehow different is not an argument. Millions have died in fights between Christian factions going back to Roman times (read Gibbons) and in wars like the Crusades (and others) that used Christianity as a motivator for colonization. That is not deceitful, that is history.

A small group of terrorists on September 11 2001 attacked the United States. Yes, they had backing from the Afghan government, and very possible others, however, in his speech on the rubble pile the next day, George Bush effectively declared war on Islam by lumping the entire world into two camps ('fer us er agin us). Politics in the Islamic world is complicated, and by no means are all Muslims anti-Western, however they do share an instinctive reflex to resist take-over from the outside. In this simplistic rally-call, and later by electively going to war in Iraq, Bush demonstrated his intention to dismantle the mid-East as it exists, and the leaders there, in the same way that Bush used it here, used religion to rally their people in resistance. There is no difference in the use of religion in either case.

It is pretty obvious from your response that you believe Islam is inherently evil - that's fine as an opinion. However, the real problem is not Islam, it is extremism, and it can be fought; but not by denying the extremists in our own camp, nor the violence in our own history.

Canadi-anna said...

kevvyd -- As a species, we have multi-faceted complex communities and to deny that homosexuals (and therefore homosexuality) add to these communities is a denial of reality. . . The fact that homosexuality exists and has likely always existed means that it is by definition a natural thing. It might not be normal, per se (using normal to mean something that most people do), but it is natural. Condemnations from a church or any group at all is therefore unnatural.

Lots of human conditions are 'natural' and yet not desireable and in fact detrimental to the survival of the species. Religions almost univerally condemn practises/people that threaten the continuity of the species or present the potential for harm to the species (for example the biblical rejection of homosexuals or the exclusion of lepers from regular communities).

Like I've said, there are various facets of ourselves which we are called upon to repress -- anger, lust, jealousy, greed etc. Society barely asks that we limit those anymore, but if religion says that expressing negative emotions or non-normative sexual urges is wrong, why would we question only the fairness and rightness of the sexual prohibitions, when all the other means of expression are just as 'natural' and universal.?
Arguing that homosexuality is natural so churches should accept homosexual behaviour is just crazy.

Birth defects are often natural, does that mean we shouldn't hope our children are born without them? Does it mean that society shouldn't try to create devices that might make the blind see or the deaf hear etc. because their condition is 'natural' and 'normal' for them. (Don't get all offended at this analogy, how often have you heard gay people say:"who would choose to be gay?"
I agree that no church should preach that gay people are less human or that they are going to hell, but in my experience, only the most extreme of churches believes or teaches that. Separating sinner from sin might not please the homosexual who doesn't want to deny his homosexual urges, but then, he should find a relgion that suits his world-view instead of expecting the church to meld itself in his image.
Maybe in time all churches will 'see the light' where homosexuality is concerned, but there is nothing inconsistent in their handling of it in this generation.

kevvyd said...

I'm not sure where homosexuality fits in your definition of things that are detrimental to the survival of the species. If homosexuality actually did threaten the survival of mankind, it would either have exterminated us by now or it would not exist. I presume you think that if it became dominant it would threaten birth rates or something. As I see it, it has been with us for thousands and thousands of years and as far as I can tell, a shriveling population is not one of our pressing concerns.

I am not a student of biology, but from my reading on evolution I've learned that most traits that remain in the population generally do so for a reason. What evolutionary purpose homosexuality serves is beyond me (maybe it serves as a sexual outlet when one gender or the other is more dominant in the population?), but the fact that it has remained indicates it serves some purpose. I'm willing to leave that question to anthropologists and to accept reality and those with whom I share it.

Canadi-anna said...

kevvyd -- It needn't be an actual detriment, it only needs to be perceived as a detriment.

Most religious people would not use the need to propagate the species as being the determining factor in a behaviour's acceptability -- most religions would see it as a moral issue. There is one 'right' form of sexuality, and deviance from the right way is against the will of God. That is a detriment because accepting sexual activity outside marriage, outside the normative male-female union is seen as potentially de-destabilizing to the whole society.
Your evolutionary theory may or may not be correct, but many recessive traits lurk in our dna, who knows -- and that's assuming homosexuality is a genetic trait and not an environmental one or a combination of various factors.

Regardless, the point is that for whatever reason, most world religions are against homosexual behaviour. Some are opening to the idea that it is just an alternate normal. While some homosexuals feel that it is their right or duty to alter church doctrine and communal POV, my suggestion is that they should find a church that suits them and work within its framework.
Maybe the divine plan is that everyone will eventually have the same perspective on morality issues and that things like homosexuality will not be considered morality issues at all because they will be thought of as normal -- maybe. But until such a day comes, religions remain within their rights to proscribe sin and should not be expected to yield their ideology to fit in with secular demands.

Budd Campbell said...

Alberta Girl said...

And this is one reason that I - as an Anglican - have not attended church for years - I watched as more and more the Anglican church doctrine as I knew it was watered down more and more to pander to those crying "victim" - it became a place that didn't stand for anything.

Fri Oct 06, 09:05:21 AM

These people who were "crying 'victim'". Would it be safe to say that the group of people you are referring to is Native peoples and the issue is residential schools? Would it be safe to say that you completely reject their complaints as unfounded?