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Archbishop reconciles with gay priest

By Leigh Anne Williams, Staff writer on March, 23 2012

Archbishop Finlay and the Rev. Jim Ferry with worship leader Jennifer Henry at the Reconciliation service at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto. Photo: Courtesy of Peter Turner

Last Sunday, Archbishop Terence Finlay and the Rev. Jim Ferry met at Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Toronto to write a new chapter in an unhappy story that began more than 20 years ago. The latest chapter began with a service of reconciliation and contains new hope for the future.

In 1991, the Archbishop, then the bishop of the diocese of Toronto, dismissed Ferry after learning he was in a homosexual relationship. Losing his license to be a priest became a very public struggle for Ferry when the bishop wrote a letter to his Unionville congregation, effectively outing him. To add insult to injury, Ferry was then put through a public trial known as a Bishop’s Court for “disobedience.”

At the reconciliation service, attended by some 300 people, “There were a lot of people, not just Anglicans, not just gay people, but ordinary citizens across the country who were very caught up in what was happening to me,” said Ferry in an interview. He met people who said they’d been following his story for 20 years, and were deeply affected by it. “I think doing this publicly is going to be very important for the church and for the broader society,” said Ferry.

For his part, Archbishop Finlay admits that he had hoped to work towards reconciliation for a long time.  “There is much pain and hurt in situations like this and we had to wait for the appropriate moment,” he told the Journal.

Although Archbishop Finlay gave Ferry permission to continue to function in a variety of ways at Holy Trinity, albeit under the supervision of his parish priest, it was Archbishop Colin Johnson of the diocese of Toronto who restored Ferry’s licence and made him an honorary assistant at the church—after Archbishop Finlay retired.  “I think that helped us move forward with our own personal act of reconciliation,” said Archbishop Finlay. 

In his apology, Archbishop Finlay said that although he had personally wanted to be supportive of Ferry, he was obliged to follow the policies of the church as they were back in 1991. “I deeply regret the suffering these actions have caused you, your loved ones and many others,” said Archbishop Finlay. “I acknowledge that this has brought you much pain and I am truly sorry.”

Ironically, since his retirement in 2004, Archbishop Finlay has found himself on the receiving end of disciplinary action. After he married two friends who were lesbian, he received a reprimand and his licence to officiate was temporarily suspended.

Both men said they found the reconciliation service a powerful experience. “It was a moment of grace for both of us,” said Ferry. “I could thank him for owning what happened and for saying he was sorry for all the suffering I’d been through,” he explained, adding that “reconciliation is a process not [just] a moment.”

Remarkably, through it all, Ferry kept his faith. “It was faith that God had called me to be a continuing voice calling the church to live out the gospel message of God's all-embracing love, by ending it's barriers of exclusion for queer folk in the church,” he said. “I'm glad the day is finally dawning when all are welcome, not just some.”

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March, 23 2012
Categories:  News

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