Canadian bishops unlikely to support marriage equality

UPDATE from the Archbishop is here:

When it comes to allowing same-sex marriage, the bishops seem to be thinking “yes,” “no” and “maybe” in roughly equal proportions, Hiltz said.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada issues statement following discovery that they do not have 2/3 votes to pass marriage equality at next Synod:

Section 25b of the Constitution of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada allows for the House of Bishops to communicate with the Council of the General Synod on any matter, the secretary of the House of Bishops shall transmit such communication in the name of the Primate.

Earlier today, General Secretary Michael Thompson, on behalf of The Right Reverend Donald Phillips, secretary of the House of Bishops sent the following statement to the members of the Council in the name of the Primate.

The Canadian House of Bishops met in Niagara Falls 23-26 February 2016 in a special session dedicated to a discussion of matters relating to the upcoming gathering of the General Synod where proposed changes to the national Marriage Canon will be considered.

The meeting began with a moving and intimate account of our Primate’s experience of the Canterbury gathering of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in January. In reliving these moments with him, we grew in our understanding of the complexity of relationships in the Communion, and were filled with gratitude and pride by the grace, humility and leadership provided by our Primate.

While in our last meeting we considered in some detail ‘This Holy Estate’, the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, we regret that there has not been much engagement with this document across the Church since that time. We felt that we needed to recommit ourselves to promoting the document for study, and especially among our synod delegates.

We spent a considerable amount of time discussing the theology of marriage and our episcopal role and responsibilities as chief pastors, and as guardians of the Church’s faith, order and unity. We concentrated on the relationship of the bishop to the Church locally, nationally and with our Anglican Communion partners, and alongside and within synods. These conversations led into considerations about the nature of our relationships within the House in light of the deep differences we have on the matter of changing the Church’s teaching on marriage.

In our exploration of these differences it became clear to us that the draft resolution to change the Marriage Canon to accommodate the marriage of same-sex partners is not likely to pass in the Order of Bishops by the canonical requirement of a 2/3rds majority in each Order. Some of us talked of being mortified and devastated by this realisation. We feel obliged to share this with the Council of General Synod as they give consideration to the process for handling this resolution at General Synod. We have grappled with this issue for three meetings of the House, and we feel a responsibility to convey our inability to come to a common mind in discerning what the Spirit is saying to the Church. We share this out of respect for the considerable work that the Church has invested in preparing to debate this motion at General Synod. We continue to wonder whether a legislative procedure is the most helpful way of dealing with these matters.

We have been conscious that the presence of this motion has brought distress to some, and we acknowledge the deep pain that our statement will cause both within and beyond the Church. And we are all saddened that we do not seem capable of unity on this issue. Nevertheless we are committed to work toward the deeper unity for which Christ died, and we pray daily that God would mend our divisions. Our hope is not in ourselves, but in Christ, and so we are committed to staying together that we might witness the miracle of our healing.

In our deliberations, we affirmed a commitment to continuing conversations and engagement with the Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, and to achieving the greatest pastoral generosity possible. There is a desire among us to explore other options for honouring and fully embracing committed, faithful same-sex relationships. We will also engage Indigenous and minority cultural perspectives in our Anglican family in our understanding of marriage.

The meeting was entered into in the grateful consciousness that a great many in the Church were praying for us and it was framed by daily Eucharist and Bible study using ‘Gospel Based Discipleship’, an Indigenous way of praying the Gospel. We have discovered a richness in our sharing and a timeliness in our readings that we believe is evidence of God’s Spirit at work in our midst.

Despite the pain and distress we feel at our own differences, yet we strongly affirm that we are united in striving for the highest degree of communion possible in the spirit of St Paul’s teaching of the nature of the body of Christ and our need for one another in Christ, where no one can say, ‘I have no need of you’ (1 Corinthians 12.21).

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  1. tim lusk

    I am deeply disappointed

  2. Jim Pratt

    I fully expected it to fail in the House of Bishops at GS. The reality is that the rural and sparsely populated diocese (most of which are conservative), rural dioceses are over-represented in the HoB.

    However, I am extremely disappointed that the Bishops have effectively quashed the proposal before it can even be discussed. I had hoped that an open discussion at GS might have swayed the numerous bishops who are in favour of same-sex marriage (or at least don’t have a problem with it) but are unwilling to speak out publicly or to vote for it, because they don’t want to rock the boat.

    As a married gay priest, and a former officer of the Provincial Synod of the Province of Canada, I have always felt my vocation and gifts valued and respected by the numerous bishops and archbishops I have worked with. But, with very few exceptions, these bishops are publicly silent. Very tellingly, +Fred’s reports of the Primates’ Gathering did not include any indication that he shared with his fellow primates his own stories of LGBT clergy in Canada or of our experience of blessing same-sex couples.

    The proposal for General Synod is, to my mind, too conservative. It allows opt-out by any diocese, parish or clergyperson, but does not allow opt-in by a willing parish or priest in a diocese which has opted out. But it was, at least, a way forward. Now I fear that the issue will not even be discussed at General Synod, and any action will be put off for not an indeterminate length of time.

  3. Sad, but but not a surprise. The bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada are concerned more about their status within the “Communion” then they are the people in the pews. They are not in touch with the times or the people.

  4. John Chilton

    At #primates2016 Canadian primate Hiltz convinced his fellow primates not to consequent his province, but to wait and see if General Synod adopted marriage equality as TEC did at its 2015 General Convention.

    The consequences for TEC are inconsequential.

    The irony is, because Canada was under threat of consequences it could only have made it harder to change the hearts of enough bishops to reach a 2/3 majority; opponents of equality can now hide behind the threat.

  5. Rev Dr. Ellen M Barrett

    Saddened but not surprised.

  6. William Bockstael

    Not surprised…actually, the ACC has become rather irrelevant these days in matters of gay marriage (and in many other matters as well), Canada has had civil same-sex marriages for over 10 years and gay couples have options, the United Church of Canada and the Lutheran church perform religious ceremonies. I was last year in Montreal and at the cathedral they have a rainbow flag displayed at the entrance signaling their acceptance of the GLBT community, the rector is married to his partner…so this move means they may have to remove it…they cannot welcome the GLBT folks and at the same time tell their do not welcome their relationships.

    • Geoff McLarney

      That’s my diocese and I can assure you the flag is not going anywhere. Actually this whole debate is somewhat academic for us in Montréal since the office for the Blessing of Civil Marriages is authorized for all couples. We have virtual marriage equality: gay couples just have to do it in two steps (legal and sacramental). In many European countries, that’s the case for all marriages.

      The elephant in the room is the Lutherans. Under full communion, there’s no reason why a couple can’t marry according to Anglican rites, before a priest recognized by the Anglican Church.

      • Matthew J Wright

        Not academic. I cannot imagine being active in my parish (vestry, Eucharistic minister, lay reader) and not being permitted to get married in the building where I worship every Sunday AND by the clergy I serve alongside every week.

    • Geoff McLarney

      It depends what you mean by “getting married.” To me, the important thing is the full religious rites of marriage. I’m less concerned about whether my priest is authorized to act as an agent of the Crown in filing the legal paperwork, but then that may be my Christian anarchist bias showing!

  7. Sean Storm

    SIGHS. All I can say is I don’t think Jesus is happy. And isn’t making Him happy our primary goal? I think He is sad and unhappy because we are wasting time of silly things, instead of doing what He told us all to do. He gave us a command to love each other, to help each other, to foster each other, and not to point fingers at our brothers and sisters. Jesus would sit down and eat lunch with lepers, HIV patients, black people, rich and poor, old and young, gay or straight…He doesn’t care who you are, He loves us all the same. So my question is this…why cannot we be more like Jesus, say “live and let live” and get on with His word and will for Mankind.

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