On Friday, September 30, our rector appeared before the archbishop and the chancellor of the diocese, along with four other clergy, to receive a stern admonishment from the chancellor and a formal warning, in writing, from the archbishop. The reason? Blessing the civil marriage between a woman and her partner, who identifies as “Trans”, in what the couple refer to as a “queer marriage”.
Same-sex blessings and marriages are not permitted in the Anglican Diocese of Calgary, despite the recent vote by General Synod to amend the national marriage canon. Our bishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, who is also the Metropolitan archbishop of the Province of Rupert’s Land, has indicated he is not likely to permit same-sex marriage in this diocese, even if General Synod ratifies its decision in 2019, nor is he prepared to sanction the blessing of same-sex marriages in the meantime. On September 17, six local clergy, including our rector, offered a blessing to a couple in a ceremony held at St. Stephen’s and then notified the archbishop in writing that they had done so.
The admonition issued by the chancellor charged the clergy with a failure to love their Christian brothers and sisters across the diocese, that is, those who oppose same-sex marriages and blessings. The archbishop’s letter, which he handed out to the clergy in person, threatened that any future actions of this sort would be answered by Canon XVIII, the regulations governing the disciplining of Anglican clergy. Those regulations stipulate penalties ranging from an admonition to the relinquishment of holy orders.
Our rector and one other member of the clergy have asked for a follow-up meeting with the archbishop and chancellor to seek a way forward, citing the negative consequences for everyone of the escalation of this conflict. They seek your prayers and your support.
We don’t have an arrival date yet BUT on Thanksgiving Sunday, Fransis of our Translation Team was able to contact the father of the Syrian family we are sponsoring and have a brief telephone conversation. This is our first direct contact with the family.
The father, Khalil, said that he and his family are ok and that they have completed their paperwork and medical requirements. They are awaiting word from the government for next steps. Fransis explained to Khalil that there is a whole team of people eager and excited for their arrival in Canada and that we are holding them in our thoughts and prayers. This first contact went well and ended with a plan to stay in touch. We will keep you posted, too!
NeST (Newcomer Support Team) continues to prepare as we await word on an arrival date for the Syrian refugee family of 6 we are sponsoring, currently waiting in Jordan.
- About 51 NeST volunteers met for an Orientation Session at St. Stephen’s on Sept 18 and heard an update on each Team’s activities and preparations to date. Volunteers received copies of the NeST Volunteer Guidelines and (if applicable) Volunteer Driver Policies. Those who have completed the security screening for working directly with the family received their NeST nametags. This wonderful ‘village’ is patiently waiting to support the family when they come.
- Between individual donations, outreach contributions, two garage sales, St. Paul’s silent auction and the sale of quilts made by St. Stephen’s quilters, we have raised just over $40,000. This is a phenomenal response and gives us a strong financial base from which to support the family through their first year in Canada. Note that the anticipated partial government funding (6 months of support at social assistance levels) will be in addition to the above.
- Our sponsorship “undertaking” is in the processing queue. Once the Matching Centre has ensured all paperwork and requirements have been met, the Visa Office in Jordan will arrange travel for the family and send us notice of their pending arrival. We have been told to expect about 10 days’ lead time for their arrival in Calgary.
- Given the challenges of an unknown arrival time and perhaps a very short time to prepare permanent housing, we are still looking for temporary accommodation options. Please contact a NeST Team member if you have suggestions to offer that could be available on short notice.
- In lieu of the whole ‘village’ greeting the family in person upon their arrival we have begun collecting signs and good wishes for a small contingent of greeters to bring to the airport to represent the wider community. This is based on advice from other groups’ experiences of very exhausted travellers and long delays getting through customs at the airport. Our hope would be to arrange a larger welcoming celebration when the newcomers are better able to enjoy meeting everyone.