Leaving his tiara at home, chris Ambidge is going to miss Pride this year for the first time in two decades. Instead, he's going to parade in altogether different attire, working the floor of the Anglican Church of Canada's general synod, meeting through Monday (June 25).
As president of the Toronto chapter of Integrity, an international org of gay and lesbian Anglicans, Ambidge will go to Winnipeg to persuade his fellow church people that the sky won't fall if his Church allows the blessing of same-sex marriages.
"The Anglican Church baptized me, and they're stuck with me just as I'm stuck with those the Church baptized whom I oppose," he tells me. "But I am getting impatient, because I've worked on this for 20 years. We now have same-sex civil marriages in Canada, and civilization has not fallen apart."
Maybe not civilization, but potentially the global Anglican Church as it currently exists. Ever since 2002, when the diocese of New Westminster, BC, voted to bless same-sex unions, and U.S. Anglicans (called Episcopalians) elected their first openly gay bishop a year later, Anglicans have been on a collision course with each other.
Earlier this year, the heads of the 38 member Churches worldwide gave an ultimatum to the North American Churches to "straighten' their path. Driving the opposition are some of the fast-growing conservative Churches of Africa, Asia and Latin America in whose culture homosexuality is deeply taboo.
Drop the gay positivity, these forces are saying, or we'll drop you from the international Anglican community. In other words, schism.
The U.S. Church has ignored the non-binding request, and now all eyes are on Winnipeg. About 320 members will vote on resolutions that would give dioceses in Canada the option of giving church blessing to gay unions.
Supporters of same-sex blessing point to other decisions lifting the ban on birth control, divorce, the ordination of women that at the time seemed to threaten Church unity but today are part of mainstream Anglican practice.
Ambidge likens the conservative pressures to being on a ship going through a storm. "You have to lighten the load to get through, so you decide to toss the gays and lesbians overboard."
Unlike the Catholic Church's hierarchy, Anglicans have no global decision-making body that can unilaterally impose a ruling, though the collective opinions of the Church primates can be influential on local churches. But underlying the fight against same-sex unions in Canada is a move to invest more powers in the international hierarchy. Add to that a deep feeling among Canadian Anglicans on both sides of the issue that the Church family should not fracture.
Anglicans here have been studying the issue for 30 years. They avoided making a decision at their last synod in 2004, opting for more study. If they do vote to allow the blessing, there's a chance Canada might find itself alone.
Ironically, Anglican outsider status would finally make Ambidge feel like an insider in the Church of his birth. Debate on the same-sex blessing resolution will take place Saturday and Sunday. Depending on how it tips, Ambidge could have a lot to celebrate in the 'Peg.
But that doesn't mean he's over missing this week's festivities in Hogtown. "I'm sure it wasn't malicious," he says of the timing of the Winnipeg meeting, "but it is annoying.