Neighbours talk about sex

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Two Anglican church groups with profoundly different views on homosexuality say there is more uniting them than pulling them apart.

Indeed, the members of Fidelity and Integrity hosted information booths next to one another at General Synod and said they wouldn’t have it any other way as they continue to search for common ground.

Integrity is working toward the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the Anglican Church. Members support the blessing of same-sex unions and the ordination of practising gays and lesbians.

Members of Fidelity adhere to more traditional religious teachings and oppose the ordination of gays or lesbians who are not celibate. They believe sex should be limited to married couples.

Some delegates ambling through the gymnasium, scanning the information displays, expressed surprise that the two groups were operating side by side.

“Both Fidelity and Integrity asked that we be beside one another, ” said Rev. Paul Feheley, vice president of Fidelity.

“I can’t imagine being any other place in the hall except beside Integrity.”

Chris Ambidge, a leader of the Toronto chapter of Integrity, agreed.

“We feel that talking to each other is the only way this is going to work, ” Mr. Ambidge said.

Last fall, the two groups celebrated the eucharist together and they have also published a joint document, Emerging Common Ground.

“We realize that there’s a lot more uniting us than pulling us apart,” Mr. Ambidge said. “We all believe in Jesus Christ. We all are very committed to the continuing health of the Anglican Church.

“We agree we’re not going to hammer each other with scripts torn out of Scripture; it has to be seen as a whole. We agree that Christian marriage is a good thing, but it’s not for everybody … We also have profound disagreements, but our chief agreement is that Jesus Christ is our Saviour and so we sit at the table and talk to each other.”

Canon Feheley agrees the work the two groups have been doing is helping them understand each other.

“I think what we’ve been able to do is to realize the humanness of both sides of the question. It’s pretty easy to stand in a tower and take one brick out and throw something across to the other side and then put the brick back and hold the blocking in. This forces both of us to continue taking the bricks away and coming out from the tower to engage in conversation.”

The displays at the two booths were strikingly different. At the Integrity booth, delegates could nibble on rainbow coloured candy, munch on fruits and nuts or sample triangle-shaped cookies with pink icing. Integrity handed out small rainbow-coloured stickers which some people attached to their name tags. Also offered were hundreds of Chinese paper fans that many delegates used to try to get relief from the heat. Each fan had a sticker attached that said, “fan of integrity.”

The less flamboyant Fidelity offered an assortment of pamphlets on traditional religious thought.

Both Canon Feheley and Mr. Ambidge say they will continue working together. In fact, they say they get along very well for two people who come from opposite sides of the sexuality debate.

“Chris and I will often tease one another and joke with one another. I don’t view Chris as the enemy … I view him as a friend and as a colleague although he and I are both keenly aware that we don’t see eye to eye on this issue.”

Mr. Ambidge says what the two groups have had to keep in mind is that in the eyes of Jesus, everyone is equally entitled to love and understanding.

“When I look in the face of another Christian, whether they’re a member of Integrity or Fidelity, I am looking at my beloved’s beloved and I need to hold very firmly onto that realization,” said Mr. Ambidge.

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