On the last Sunday of every month, the evening Eucharist at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton takes on a distinctly rainbow-coloured hue.
The monthly worship service is the focal point for area members and friends of Equally Anglican, an LGBTQ-affirming ministry. Although the ministry first took shape in the Diocese of Toronto preceding the first vote on amendments to Canon XXI on Marriage in the Church at General Synod 2016, Equally Anglican has taken on a life of its own in other parts of the country.
At Holy Trinity, the Eucharist is organized by the Equally Anglican group and welcomes, and includes, LGBTQ people in the worship as intercessors and as guest preachers. Intercessions and sermons at the service have a particular focus on LGBTQ concerns, but all centre around what co-organizer and lay reader Matthew Mercer Deadman calls “the radical love-for-all as taught to us by God.”
“From my layman’s perspective, it’s a reaffirmation that the Good News applies and is about everyone,” Mercer-Deadman said. “I think particularly now in the LGBTQ community, a lot of the focus quite rightly is shifting to the needs of the trans community, and I feel that it’s important that we remind ourselves and we remind our neighbours that we are all made in God’s image…”
“Being made in God’s image encompasses everyone, regardless of race or sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression. It’s just so much bigger than that, and the sacrificial and redemptive love of Jesus is part of that incomprehensible largeness.”
In dioceses from Ottawa to New Westminster, many congregations have adopted the symbols of Equally Anglican in a show of support for the LGBTQ community, particularly during Pride Month—using its distinctive logo on banners outside their churches or during Pride parades.
For Edmonton Pride this year, Equally Anglican had a presence at both the Pride Parade and Pride in the Park, with co-organizer Imai Welch attending along with other “clergy-allies” from the diocese wearing their clerical clothing. Supporters also planned to attend the local LGBTQ-organized social evenings known as Fruit Loop, engaging with the local community and helping to reinvest proceeds into the local LGBTQ community.
In Toronto, supporters of Equally Anglican are participating in Pride activities such as the annual Church on Tap event on June 22 at Christ Church Deer Park, a fully inclusive celebration of the Eucharist with Bishop Kevin Robertson presiding—Canada’s first openly gay bishop—as well as live music, words from local queer activists, and an evening “Gospel Drag” show.
Equally Anglican origins
Equally Anglican began in 2016 as the brainchild of the Rev. Philip Josselyn-Hamilton, assistant curate at Trinity Chuch in Aurora, Ont.
“I think that in so many ways, the church has not traditionally been a place that LGBT people feel like they can have a voice or have a meaningful contribution into the life of the church,” Josselyn-Hamilton said.
“Equally Anglican was almost sort of reminding the church that we’ve always been here, and that you can’t get through most Sundays without singing a hymn written by one of us, or directed by an [out] choir director/organist who is L, G, B, or T. I thought it was time for us to say to the rest of the Anglican Church that the way that the vote went in 2016 actually mattered to their friends and their parishioners and their clergy, even.”
In the lead-up to the vote on same-sex marriage at General Synod, Josselyn-Hamilton led local Anglicans and members of the LGBTQ community in producing three videos depicting gay or lesbian couples active in the Anglican Church of Canada, whether as clergy or lay people. Each video received tens of thousands of views on Facebook.
“My hope was just that we would get even just a few people to see these videos, feel humanized about the issue, and then maybe vote more gently at the synod,” Josselyn-Hamilton recalled. “Even if they were maybe conservative on the issue of same-sex marriage, at least maybe in their working groups, they would have a bit of a context for people who are already in their neighbourhoods [and communities].”
The extension of Equally Anglican to Edmonton began when the rector of Holy Trinity asked anyone elected to a second term in the vestry to pick a ministry focus. One vestry member chose the LGBTQ community as an outreach ministry. Having heard of Equally Anglican in Toronto, the members asked permission to use the name before spinning it off and making it their own (“Toronto-inspired, but not Toronto-directed”).
Mercer-Deadman described the monthly Eucharist service as “sort of a halfway point to reintroduce not just LGBTQ people back to the Anglican Church, but to reintroduce the Anglican Church back to LGBTQ people.”
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not meant to be a separate-but-equal congregation,” he noted. “It’s just seen as another Sunday night service for the parish of Holy Trinity, but is more outwardly and specifically affirming for the LGBTQ community.” At Holy Trinity, Equally Anglican is looking towards more community outreach, possible fundraising, and coordinating with other LGBTQ faith groups in the city.
Anglican Church of Canada, Info: News from General Synod, July 03 2018