As gay-supportive Anglicans hold their breath for General Synod decisions in June – allowing local option for the blessing of same-sex unions and taking the first steps toward inclusive marriage – some Anglican clergy are already counting the cost of the Church’s failure to move forward more quickly. They foretell the consequences should Synod decide for the status quo, or worse.
In Saskatoon in January, the Rev Shawn Sanford Beck advised his bishop that he is no longer willing to restrict his pastoral ministry to conform to an “unjust law” and that he would, if asked, bless same-sex unions and officiate at same-sex marriages. “I will no longer discriminate against homosexual people when it comes to the exercise of my priestly duties,” the priest stated in an open letter.
Unlike recent cases in which a priest and archbishop quietly participated in same-sex marriage services and later had their license to marry temporarily suspended, Rev. Sanford Beck faced a more severe penalty for stating his intention publicly.
Saskatoon Bishop Rodney Andrews urged the priest to reconsider or lose his license to minister, not just to marry. Not willing to withdraw, Shawn lost his license and then his job as director of a downtown ministry serving aboriginal people. He cannot perform priestly duties without special permission, including within his role as chaplain to Integrity Saskatoon.
Shawn is undeterred, saying that he and his young family accept the consequences of his statement. “As a priest and leader in the church, my complicity in upholding our current law makes me at least partially responsible for the ongoing suffering of LGBTT Christians, and I can no longer take part in that. If my current action helps render visible that which has been made invisible, then I will be happy to bear the consequences. I too will stand ‘outside the gate’ where so many other queer Christians have been sent.”