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by James Ferry

In February 1992, The New York Times reported: "Before an ecclesiastical tribunal known as Bishop's Court, an archaic forum used by Anglicans to hunt down heretics and other miscreants since the time of King Henry VIII, lawyers for the Bishop of Toronto began the trial of the Rev. Jim Ferry."This extraordinary court, the first of its kind in over forty years, found James Ferry guilty of willful disobedience and disrespectful conduct toward his bishop. But the real issue the court faced was that James Ferry was in a loving homosexual relationship while ministering to the spiritual needs of his Unionville, Ontario, parishioners. James Ferry lost his parish, his livelihood, his privacy - and the man he loved - but he remains a priest, and an articulate advocate for gays and lesbians who yearn for full inclusion in the church.In the Courts of the Lord chronicles the anguished process by which, after the failure of his marriage to an evangelical Christian woman and several loving but fragile relationships with men, Ferry came to terms with his sexual orientation. Ferry describes the history of his devotion to the church, his successful work in one of the more difficult parishes in Toronto, and his election to the Unionville parish where his clerical career was abruptly halted. His account of how a homophobic member of his congregation encountered his partner while snooping around the rectory, and then agitated for James Ferry's removal, is both vivid and shocking.With pain, compassion, and deep insight, Ferry explains the moral dilemma in which the church now finds itself: on the one hand committed to accepting gay people within the church and society; on the other hand requiring that they refrain from entering into loving relationships. James Ferry writes with compelling honesty about an issue that has troubled and divided Christian denominations for more than fifteen years. In the Courts of the Lord is an important book about love, morality and freedom not just within the church but within society at large.
Download In The Courts Of The Lord: A Gay Priest's Story epub
ISBN: 0824513916
ISBN13: 978-0824513917
Category: Politics
Subcategory: Social Sciences
Author: James Ferry
Language: English
Publisher: Crossroad (September 1, 1994)
Pages: 231 pages
ePUB size: 1558 kb
FB2 size: 1761 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 580
Other Formats: lrf mobi doc azw

Lost Python
James Ferry is a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada. In 1992 he was removed from his parish after it was revealed that he was gay and in a relationship with another man. In 2006, Archbishop Terence Finlay [who had removed Ferry] married a lesbian couple in a United Church of Canada church; and Finlay’s successor, Archbishop Colin Johnson, reinstated Ferry’s licence in 2011 and appointed him an honorary assistant priest at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Toronto.

He wrote in the Preface to this 1994 book, “When I first decided to write this book, it was going to be about gays in the Church, with a large section detailing my trial in Bishop’s Court… As I began to write, the book evolved into a very personal story, more personal than I had originally intended… I have written about my early life not because I think it unusual or interesting, but precisely because it is not… My Church claims as its mission … ‘to respect the dignity of every human being,’ all the while denying gay people the joy of love and intimacy with one special other. The Church’s adherence to this sexual double standard must come to an end it is to have anything at all to say to society at large. In this book… I have one paramount purpose: to hold the Church accountable to its own message.”

He states, “I began seriously to question many of my own beliefs. Was lifelong marriage the only healthy option for Christians who were normal sexual beings? One of my friends had almost died in an effort to deny his sexual orientation. I found I could no longer believe in a God who condemns the homosexual but refuses to remove homosexual urges. What a cruel God, to make someone a homosexual and then condemn him to a life in hell as he struggles to change.” (Pg. 20)

After a 1981 massive police raid of “every gay bathhouse in town,” he recalls, “My mind was in turmoil… It seemed to me quite clear that the raids were an attack on an entire minority community, an act of terrible violence whose intention was to drive fear into people’s hearts. I knew that fear. For years I had been afraid of myself, and had struck out… against those who represented what I couldn’t accept in myself. I had myself been victimized over the years by a society that had taught me to hate myself and those like me… Part of me wanted the Church to speak out against that terrible violence. The problem was, I was still a victim of my own fear. I couldn’t break my own silence; how could I expect the Church to break its?” (Pg. 36)

After a 10-day vacation in 1983, “I had a new sense of confidence as a gay man. I was not alone. I had met some wonderful gay men who were full of life and self-esteem, and had their lives together. Gradually I was beginning to build a new image of what life as a gay man could be, and I began to embrace it. With forays into the gay world of clubs and discos… I began to build up a small gay community of my own. And I quickly learned that gay Christians are in a double bind: not only was the Church prejudiced against me for being gay, but gay men had difficulty with my love for the Church. Most gays and lesbians… would have nothing to do with the Church, because they had found it to be such an unhealthy, bigoted place to be. Coming to terms with God and gayness was something few undertook successfully.” (Pg. 54)

He observes, “For me, to embrace the exile meant deciding to stay in a Church that might officially reject me if I was completely honest… It seemed obvious to me that God had called me and equipped me to be a priest, so much affirmation did I receive from bishops, clergy, and laity. At the same time I knew that God had made me a gay man. It would be a precarious tightrope walk, trying to juggle the Church’s conspiracy of silence with the greater need for openness and integrity… Perhaps by being a quiet but insistent witness … I could help a few people along the way to learn to love people like me more honestly and openly.” (Pg. 66)

He argues, “there has been a fundamental shift in how the Church defines who belongs and who has what rights. The defining principle is now one of inclusivity, with the burden of proof falling to those who would EXCLUDE some, not those who would INCLUDE all people. The day has come upon the Church that St. Paul hinted when he said, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek…’ Does this mean there is no longer gay or straight? Or is sexual orientation the last barrier of distinction?” (Pg. 73)

He acknowledges, “In search of an oasis, I started to attend the Christos congregation of Metropolitan Community Church several Sunday evenings a month… however, I found I had some difficulty with the ‘ghetto’ nature of a Church that was composed mostly of gays and lesbians. It was a relief to feel that I could worship without having to leave my sexuality at the door, but it also rankled that such a Church should be necessary at all.” (Pg. 123)

He had a discussion with his bishop. “I couldn’t live under the threat of blackmail, I told him… The Church’s standard that it’s all right to be gay but wrong to love somebody is sheer hypocrisy. People don’t choose to be gay and they should be allowed to love, because you can’t separate a person’s BEING from his or her DOING… When the bishop tried again to bring me to the point of admitting that I KNEW he’d have no choice but to ask for my resignation… I reiterated that I … had hoped he would find some just and compassionate way of treating me.” (Pg. 143)

He makes his defense in the courtroom, “How can one say that one accepts persons regardless of sexual orientation and then not allow any possible expression of that sexual orientation?... My sexuality is a gift from God as much as anybody else’s sexuality, and surely… that gift from God must be honored within the context of a relationship that is loving, mutual, supportive, caring and faithful… We don’t do that to heterosexual people… It trivializes ten percent of humanity and it condemns them… to lives of isolation and loneliness. It denies them the opportunity to know God through the love and support and nurture of one other special human being.” (Pg. 202-203)

After the bishop’s statement at a press conference afterwards, Ferry concludes, “All I had to do was lie, it seemed. Apparently, it wasn’t that the bishop objected to my loving another man, he just didn’t want to hear about it. The message to gay clergy was clear: keep the conspiracy of silence going and the bishop will hold up his end of the bargain… Dozens of gay clergy I knew had to read the sentence condemning one of their gay clergy brothers… and then go home to their own gay partners… The only difference between them and me was that, in a moment of pain, confusion, and need, I had been honest.” (Pg. 226-227)

He concludes, “I intend to continue the struggle to hold the Church accountable to its own message of inclusive love. I refuse to be silenced… Ultimately, I believe that the Church will drop all its barriers, including its prejudice against gays. In the meantime, it can … get to know the many beautiful gay people who already offer so much to the life of the Church… And the Church can officially recognize the reality of our lives, by admitting that we are already in her midst, loving and giving… and then move on to full inclusion, full acceptance, by admitting that a gay person’s sexuality is a gift from God.” (Pg. 230)

This heartfelt memoir will be of great interest to progressive Christians and the LGBTQ community.
There are three parts to this book: Anglican (Episcopalian) priest Jim Ferry describes his spiritual and personal journey, and his attempts to find fulfillment as a gay Christian while active as the rector of a Toronto-area parish, and an ecclesiastical trial to remove him from his parish. He describes how a homophobic parishioner reports him to the Bishop of Toronto, and the ensuing complicated ecclesiastical trial (the Courts of the Lord, of the title). Parishioners' reactions to his situation range from the homophobic to the fearful to the affectionate and supportive and we see how this diversity of opinion both distresses and comforts him. We also see how the stress of the canon-law process destroys his relationship with a man and places him under much strain, without destroying his personal faith. While it is, perhaps of necessity, a self-centred document (some might even say self-serving or confused), it is a measured and thoughtful exposition of a situation in which many clergy have found themselves. For them's of us who are into canon law, it is an indictment of a basic weakness in Anglican practice and approach, confusing the bishop's role of pastor of pastors, and judge, and prosecutor. One can have very different (indeed, warring and contradictory) opinions of Fr Ferry, and the issues of gays in the clergy, homesexuality and Christianity, but still benefit from reading his perspectives. This is Food for thought stuff, and an important document in a debate which is far from over.
I was very disappointed by this self-indulgent, self-engrandizing piece of pulp. Mr. Ferry obviously wrote this as an antidote to his insecurity and it expresses a poor attempt at both self-examination and historical analysis. This product is an insult to the reader's intelligence; a grand waste of time to read. I don't think the Anglican church got rid of Mr. Ferry for the reasons he would have us believe. I think it was his apparent obstinacy, and inability to subject himself to the authority of the church! There are many gay priests in the Anglican church who have not left their lovers (of which the church is aware). Mr. Ferry was obviously looking to grand stand at the time, and to create a name for himself! This is a sad testament and not worthy of a major motion picture.
I for one was not interested in his vanity, misrepresentations, half-truths, and rantings.
I read this book quite some time ago for two reasons: first, for the subject matter and second, because it is Canadian. I found it interesting....I am glad I read it...but it did absolutely nothing to change my belief regarding homosexual practice and obedience to Christ. This priest (Mr. Ferry), should indeed receive the compassion he longs for, however I see him heading in that dangerous direction many take: "Well, God must be wrong or I am simply misinterpreting what He is saying because this is how I feel, this is who I am." How many of us daily struggle with things that are against the will of God yet seem to fit like a glove in our lives? We were never promised freedom from suffering in this earthly life; God did not spare His own Son the suffering that was required to ransom us. Mr Ferry paints us a stark portrait of humanity but it is not as stark a portrait as the one Scripture reveals. To Mr.Ferry, I would say: never, never take your eyes off of Christ but count your suffering as joy before the Lord as so many have done before you. Please abandon your attempt to make others follow your journey away from the cross.