Monday, June 25, 2007

Unimpressed with the Anglican Church of Canada

Yesterday, the 2007 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada decided not to bless same-sex unions.

The motion "needed a triple majority of bishops, clergy and laity to pass. The laity voted 79 to 59 in favour and clergy voted 63 to 53, but bishops voted 21 to 19 against." In other words, two clergymembers sunk the whole progressive battleship, despite a clear majority in favour of blessing the unions.

Why would they do this? Well:

The bishops' action will spare the Canadian church from censure by leaders of other branches of the global Anglican Communion, almost all of whom are vehemently opposed to blessing same-sex unions and permitting priests to be in open homosexual relationships.

But it will anger many Canadian Anglicans, particularly in large urban centres, and isolate the U.S. Episcopal Church, which alone in the worldwide Anglican Communion has approved a liturgy for same-sex blessings and appointed an openly gay bishop.

I have to say, as a nominal Anglican, this looks like cowardice to me. As far as Christian sects go, I felt the Anglicans did a masterful job of changing with the times, rejecting the old where it had lost its purpose but without the sorts of reactionary purges (ideologically speaking) most of the mainline protestant churches came out of. And in 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster proved it by approving same-sex blessings. More specifically, parishes were allowed to choose whether or not to perform such blessings. Now that has been kiboshed (does this mean the unions already blessed are unblessed?)

The only silver lining is that the synod did not close the door on a future reconsideration of the issue, ruling beforehand that "the blessing was 'not in conflict with' core doctrine a vote of 21 to 19 in the House of Bishops, and 152 to 97 by clergy and lay members, who voted together." (Diocese of New Westminster)

The timing of the decision was, in my opinion, particularly poor, as the Globe points out:

The Anglican's vote coincided with Gay Pride Day in Toronto - where prominent Anglicans Bill Graham, the former foreign and defence minister, and Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario, attended a service at Toronto's gay Metropolitan Community Church.

One downtown Toronto Anglican parish, Holy Trinity, passed a resolution prior to general synod stating it would approve the blessing of same-sex unions regardless of what synod decided.

A lot of Anglican churches in Toronto are inclusive, so I doubt this decision will be quietly accepted. As an aside, I'm amused the Globe described the MCC as "gay" when queer-allied is more apropos.

A quick (and slightly tongue in cheek) breakdown of other religions' views:

  • Haredi Orthodox Judaism: "homosexuality is a sin" = no same-sex marriage, ever
  • Modern Orthodox Judaism: "we thought homosexuality was a sin, but if it's genetic/inherent, we'll reconsider" = no same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future
  • Conservative Judaism: American and allied rabbis: "homosexuality hasn't been a sin since 2006" = acceptance of partnerships and ordination of homosexuals, but no performance of marriage rites; other rabbis "uhm, no, still a sin" = no same-sex marriage, ever
  • Reform Judaism: "we've been cool with it since the 1980s" = same-sex marriage since 2000, although up to the congregation to decide
  • Reconstructionist Judaism: "we're more reform than reform" = as above, but congregations are strongly encouraged
  • Adventist: "you can join, but we won't ordain, bless, or marry you" = no same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future
  • Baptist: ranges from "evil!" to "we support your right to a civil marriage" = fence-sitting (not always a bad thing)
  • Lutheran/Reformed: "okay by us" = differs from country to country, but many allow same-sex marriages or blessings
  • Presbyterian (U.S.): "blessings are okay, but they are not marriages" = more fence-sitting (not always a bad thing)
  • United Church (Can.): "okay by us" = local option, if your parish is okay by it you can have full marriage
  • Quakers: "seriously? we love's kind of our thing" = probably
  • Mormons/LDS:
  • Eastern Orthodox Christianity: "love the sinner, hate the sin" = no same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future
  • Methodist: "you can join, and we'll ordain you, but no blessings or marriage" = wait for it
  • Metropolitan Community Churches: "it's in our mandate" = hells yes
  • Roman Catholic: "we miss the last Pope...he really sold the whole 'love the sinner, hate the sin' thing" = as if--they're a long way off from ever approving same-sex unions
  • Islam (apparently the one thing all the sects are united on?): "evil!" = could they be worse than the RCs?
  • Hinduism: "theoretically we're okay with just about anything...theoretically" = no same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future
  • Buddhism: "dude, there's like 20 kinds of Buddhism" = your mileage may vary
  • Sikhism: "we have no scriptural authority for this, but we're pretty sure it's bad" = no same-sex marriage in the foreseeable future
  • Confucianism: "you have to get married and have kids, but what you do for fun is your own business" = probably no same-sex marriage, but I can see at least three ways around this
  • Taoism: "we're pretty married to the yin/yang thing" = officially no same-sex marriage, but as above, open to interpretation

The thing that always gets me is the sects that allow openly LGBT members and even ordains them, but is not ready to marry them. Thereby forcing them to live in sin, even if you don't think they're sinning...awesome. Well played.

The General Synod was liveblogged: no, really!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Galway Post 2: Why Does Everyone Hate Signs?

Location: Corrib Village, Galway, Ireland

Date: Monday June 11, 2007

Time: GMT 22:00

Monday 11 June

18.00 Registration

(Siobhan McKenna Theatre, Arts Millennium Building)

18.30 Keynote Introductory Address

Judge Sang-Hyun Song

20.00 Welcome Reception at the Irish Centre for Human Rights

The disaster continueth. I was finally, finally able to check my bags in at Manchester, only to find they hadn't assigned us a gate (and this maybe 45 minutes before wheels up). So I wandered through the departure area, and as luck would have it, was fairly close to Gate 9 when told that was where I should be. I sat there and waited to board...and waited...and waited...and was suddenly jolted out of sleep by a flight attendant hollering "Final Boarding Call for Galway" about three feet from my ear (I'm not was clearly done to wake me without looking like she had to wake me, and for that I am thankful). So I dashed for the plane, and thankfully people were still stowing their baggage and whatnot, so I didn't look the total fool.

I slept the hour to Galway, and then took a cab to Corrib Village, the residence all the attendees were lodged at. It was shockingly hot and humid. The cab driver was chatting with me as we drove, and seemed amused that I would "come all this way for a lecture."

A shot of Corrib Village at night.

Once at Corrib Village, I showered (7 hours on planes, plus 6 sitting in the airport--yuck) and put on some semi-dressy clothes to go to the opening lecture and reception. I took the River Path pointed out on the e-mail we had received, blindly trusting it to take me to my destination...

And thus commenced and hour and change of me wandering around the National University of Galway campus, in humidity which occasionally became mist or even rain. Also, I might add, in mounting panic. I'm hardly known for my ability to be on time, but I would have been, in this case, if not for getting late. I kept telling myself Well, maybe I'll miss the registration, but I'll make the speech and then Well, maybe I'll miss the speech, but I'll make the reception and occasionally I should really just go back to Corrib Village...if I can find it. There was not a single map to be found on campus, nor did I pass anyone who looked likely to be able to direct me (e.g. staff).

The silver lining, and it's not a small one, was that during this desperate wandering, who should I run into (almost literally--Irish sidewalks are narrow) but Emily from highschool! Now I must say, as I caught glimpse of her, I did think That looks like Em...I guess of all the people to run into, she'd be the most likely since I knew that her S.O. Brian was Irish. Nevertheless, I was relatively certain she was studying primateology in Toronto, and knowing that she was doing some sort of complicated mega-degree, I assumed she was still there. But no! It was Emily! Much more surprised to see me than I her, for the reasons listed above (tragically, I do not have a charming Irish S.O.). We exchanged the usual "Oh my God! What are you doing here!" Hilariously, though only in retrospect, she could not tell me where the Arts Millennium Building was, since she only used the gym on campus. But she gave me her number and we arranged to meet later in the week.

Finally, I found a sign (not even a map, mind you, just a sign) that pointed to the Arts Millennium Building, wherein I might find the Siobhan McKenna Theatre and the rest of the conference.

Arts Millennium Building

I scuttled in and picked up my rather snazzy conference package, containing, to my delight, a carry case and a copy of An Introduction to the International Criminal Court, and to my chagrin, a detailed map of campus. I missed all but the very end of Judge Sang-Hyun Song's introductory speech, although I did get to hear him speak later, at the Reception.

Judge Sang-Hyun Song

(from the ICC website)

On the way to the Reception I met up with my "sponsor", as it were, Professor Williams. She'd been worried about my absence, so I was able to explain to her my "adventure" as we walked the few blocks to the Irish Centre for Human Rights. The Centre is, properly speaking, the host of the conference, although this was the only time we spent there, owing to its size. It's a pretty yellow building on a canal, right across from the gorgeous Galway Cathedral.

Irish Centre for Human Rights

Galway Cathedral

And then I walked home, couldn't get into Corrib Village (all the gates were locked) and so had to circumnavigate the entire, massive compound, and had dinner a la vending machine before collapsing into bed.

Galway Post 1: Adventures in Air Travel

Location: Terminal 1, Manchester Airport, UK
Date: Monday, June 11, 2007
Time: 09:30 GMT

Although relatively painless, the first—and longest—leg of my trip was not a painless as I could have hoped. I was not packed when my parents arrived at the apartment this morning (yesterday morning, in fact) as I had been holding off any potential anxiety about the trip by my signature method of ignoring its existence until the last minute. I slept in; I had breakfast and drank my coffee; I faffed about on the internet until an hour before they came, and then I dashed about my disaster-area of an apartment tripping over bags and discarded cook books in a panicked attempt to shove everything in my bags. When it was finally done and we were a black away, I realized I’d left my pill case on the couch. Cue more running and gasping and profanity hissed at inanimate objects.

At the airport I had lunch with the parents, and my good mood was restored; actually, a little too restored, as I was fairly giddy and traded entirely inappropriate barbs with Mom and Ron, laughing so hysterically that most of the Swiss Chalet was looking askance. Ah well, I’m long past being embarrassed by my booming laughter, and mostly I just take a perverse pride in it

Mom had strongly suggested I pre-book my seat, or at least do it when I got my boarding pass, but as usual I made a half-hearted attempt to follow her sage advice and then failed to follow through. I got a window seat, but since the Thomas Cook staffer mentioned that the flight was far from fully booked, I wasn’t concerned and decided to risk the window seat. (Generally, you see, you want an aisle seat when you fly alone, so you needn’t bother—or talk to—your aisle-mates when you need to powder your nose.) Well, true enough that the flight was not full—there were plenty of passengers with three seats to themselves, stretched out and sleeping. My row, however (15, right over the wing of the Boeing 757) was occupied by a family of five, including one toddler. Now, thankfully they were British children, and therefore shockingly well behaved, but I didn’t get more than 20 minutes of sleep on the trip (I was planning on sleeping the whole time) and nearly injured myself waiting for an opportune time to excuse myself. Also, just before takeoff the sweet mother offered me a Werthers (presumably for my ears) and I was caught unawares, stuttering out and “Oh! No, but thank you so much,” that I felt was less than gracious and which irked me for a good 15 minutes. Generally I can tell when someone is making a genuine offer, but my knee-jerk reaction is to demur, and I worry that I might offend people out of latent shyness

On the up side, the meals were edible. Dinner was a Lilliputian roast beef dinner, with a doll-sized Yorkshire pudding I was honestly sorry to eat. I asked the slight attendants beforehand if the dinner had mushrooms in it (meaning, “is it mushroom-stuffed-mushrooms-in-mushroom-sauce,” not “was it once stored in the same warehouse as some mushrooms”) which elicited a brief panic from the cabin crew. Breakfast was equally amusing, a fusion-cuisine marvel of “Streaky Bacon Panini” which reminded me strongly of the Two Fat Ladies

The family and the cabin crew were returning to Manchester, rather than setting out from exotic Canada, and I fell in quickly with their accents and speech patterns. I speak like a Brit anyway, in terms of colloquialisms and sometimes syntax, which I blame on a childhood of East Enders, Coronation Street, Are You Being Served? and so forth. Of course, I don’t want people to think I’m mocking them, so I stamped down on the impulse to say sentences like “Is she not keen on the breakfast?” or “Do you fancy a pillow?” as well as, of course, calling people “love” more than necessary. I shudder to think how much I’ll absorb the speech patterns in Galway, and what I’ll have to stamp down on by the end of my week there.

Arriving in Manchester, I was terrified by the total lack of signage telling me where to find Aer Arann departures, but I finally figured out it was directly above me. Mush good it did me—there was some malfunction in the baggage check equipment, and possibly because of this I cannot even check in until 11:05, and that means that instead of catching a nap in the six hours I’m, I get to spend the first five trundling my suitcase behind me, unable to sleep or shop, and the last one in a mad dash to get through backed-up security and to my gate on time. Part of my concern about that comes from the fact that I’m concerned my luggage—carry-on and checked—might be over the Aer Aran allowance. If I had time, I’m sure I could figure out a solution, but I’ll be pressed and I am not looking forward to any potential nasty surprises.

As a final note on this day’s Comedy of Errors theme, the pounds my mother gave me this morning, which I foolishly assumed had recently been exchanged at the back, must have been holdovers from a previous trip as they were rejected with extreme bemusement when I tried to use them to get my brekkie. The problem—that they were too old—had to be explained by the patient lady behind me, since the cashier just handed them back with a puzzled “I can’t take these” as though I had tried to pay with Canadian Tire Money. Thankfully they took Visa. Plastic is the universal language, and I’m reasonable fluent, thank god.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fun with TB

In response to the recent "Oh my God, that man had TB and was on several international flights" scare, WedMD offers: Tuberculosis: 17 Questions and Answers

TB X-ray

So anyway, I find TB "hilarious" (in the very dark, cynical, "Sure, worry about bird flu and SARS, its not like we don't have enough things after us now..." way). According to the WHO,1 a third of the world's population--mark that, a third--is infected with the bacteria that causes TB (of course, unless immuno-compromised, relatively few of those will develope the illness). Unsurpriseingly, given its high proportion of immuno-compromised (e.g. people with HIV) and generally poor health care infrastructure, Africa has the highest prevalence2 and mortality3 of any continent. That doesn't mean that every country in Africa is that bad, nor that other countries aren't worse, as "continent" is a hell of big sample size.4

In happier news, WHO also thinks the global incidence of TB peaked in 2005,5 thanks to world-wide efforts to control the incidence of infection.

TB is of course a disease with a long and colourful history, which Wikipedia summarizes here.

  1. Fact sheet N°104, Revised March 2007
  2. Ibid. 511/100k population, more than twice any other continent (SE Asia is next with 290) or the world average of 217/100k.
  3. Ibid. 74/100k population, three times the world average of 24/100k.
  4. Cf. Bangladesh (prevalence 406/100k, mortality 47/100k); Cambodia (703, 87); Philippines (450, 47); Russia (150, 20, which isn't all that bad accept that it's a growing problem in a country that used to have excellent nationalized healthcare): WHO, Global tuberculosis control - surveillance, planning, financing, WHO Report 2007, WHO/HTM/TB/2007.376, online:
  5. Supra note 1.