Anglican Church of Canada marriage Amendment fails by one vote; bishops respond

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UPDATE: The vote passed by a 2/3 majority in each order, the ACC reports on Twitter today. A technical error is blamed for the incorrect conclusion.

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Last night at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, an amendment to the Canons to offer marriage equality “to all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage” failed to pass by the narrowest of margins.

The Resolution, A051-R2, also provided for the Canon to amend its language around marriage to omit gender references, and an amendment to the Resolution passed earlier in the day reserved the authority of bishops to permit or not to permit the solemnization of same-sex marriages in their dioceses.

Amendment to Resolution A 051 Be it resolved that:
Paragraph 3 of Motion A051 be deleted and replaced with the following clause:
3. The following be added to section 11 of the Regulations
e) A minister may only solemnize a marriage between persons of the same sex if authorized by the diocesan bishop.

A change to the Canons requires a two-thirds majority vote by orders to pass. The Amendment late yesterday failed to reach that threshhold by a single vote in the clergy.

CBC news reported on the debate and its result.

In order to pass, the resolution required two-thirds support from each of three orders — lay, clergy and bishops.

The bishops voted 68.42 per cent in favour of the resolution, and the lay delegates voted 72.22 per cent in favour. However, the clergy voted 66.23 per cent, just missing the percentage needed.

The vote by General Synod 2016, which followed complaints of bullying and intimidation, sparked bitter disappointment among some members. …

Archbishop Colin Johnson of Toronto cited his own decades of marriage in arguing in support of the motion.

“I want my gay and lesbian colleagues to have the same joy,” Johnson said. “I believe it’s the right thing to do.”

The Rev. Allison Courey of Manitoba’s Rupert’s Land diocese said she loved to study the Bible throughout her life and she did not choose to be a lesbian.

She made an impassioned plea in support of the resolution, saying “many of us” have committed suicide because “death was better than being rejected by God.”

However, other speakers urged delegates to reject the idea of same-sex marriage, with one saying it would cause “ghettoes of resentment” if allowed, while several aboriginal delegates denounced the resolution as condoning an “abomination” and disobedience of God.

Read more of that story here.

After the result was announced, Archbishop Fred Hiltz said that room on gunn tweetthe agenda would be needed today for a “pastoral response.” Last night, he “pledged to remain in the room to pray, listen, and weep with people,” the Rev Scott Gunn reported via Twitter.

Overnight, several Canadian bishops have chosen to authorize liturgies for the solemnization of marriages as their pastoral response to the vote. The Rt Rev Michael A. Bird, Bishop of Niagara, wrote:

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has narrowly voted against a change in the marriage canon that would have enshrined equal marriage within our national canons. This decision is deeply regrettable and inconsistent with the ever more inclusive witness of our Church that has inspired this synod’s theme: “You are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43). …

In the words of David Jones, the chancellor of General Synod, our current marriage canon “does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage.” At the same time, it is clear that our Anglican conventions permit a diocesan bishop to exercise episcopal authority by authorizing liturgies to respond to pastoral needs within their dioceses, in the absence of any actions by this General Synod to address these realities.

Accordingly, and in concert with several other bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, it is my intention to immediately exercise this authority to respond to the sacramental needs of the LGBTQ2 community in the Diocese of Niagara. In the absence of any nationally approved liturgy, I am authorizing The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage and The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2 for use in our diocese. These newly created rites of The Episcopal Church in the United States of America may be used for the marriage of any duly qualified couples. Clergy intending to use these rites will, for the time being, be required to notify the Bishop’s Office in advance.

Read Bishop Bird’s full statement here.

The Rt Rev John H. Chapman, Bishop of Ottawa, wrote:

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz said in his challenging and wise sermon at the opening Eucharist of General Synod:
This [General Synod] is the body that through its history has also wrestled with numerous issues within the Church and in the world at large over which we have often found ourselves in deep disagreement. Many of the issues have centered around inclusion—the place of women in the councils of the Church, the place of women as priests and bishops, the place of young people and their voice and vote, the place of children at the Eucharistic table, the place of those married and divorced and wanting to marry again, the place of religious communities whose life transcends diocesan boundaries, the place of Indigenous Peoples from status as observers, to guests, to partners, to members in Synod, and the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people within the Church and their equality of access to all the ministrations of the Church including the solemnizing of their marriages.

The Parliament of Canada, in 2005 introduced Bill C-38 The Civil Marriage Act, providing for the marriage of same sex couple. This was passed by the House of Commons in June of 2005, and in July of 2005 passed the Senate of Canada, received Royal Assent and affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. While these institutions are not ecclesial in nature, they are of course entrusted with the well-being, safety and inclusion of all Canadians, all the people of God.  As people of God, we know that God calls our civic representatives to the work that they do on behalf of us all.

It is time my friends. It is past time.

When the vote was announced I was extremely disappointed. However it is also true that a very significant majority (70%) of General Synod delegates have voted in favour of authorizing same sex marriages. This is good news.  Unfortunately, a change to Marriage Canon XXI will not happen at this time. While a strong majority voted in favour in each of the orders of Bishops, Clergy and Laity, the two-thirds threshold required in the Order of Clergy for changing a Canon fell short by one vote.

It is now up to and within the authority of a diocesan bishop to respond in a manner that they deem appropriate.

It is my intention, in consultation with and in partnership with a number of other diocesan bishops to proceed with same sex marriages immediately within the Diocese of Ottawa. While no clergy will be required to officiate at a same sex marriage, those willing may do so with my permission.

This is a pastoral decision that is necessary at this time in our history as a diocese and as a church.

Read Bishop Chapman’s full statement here.

The Most Rev Colin Johnson, Archbishop in the Diocese of Toronto, posted a video, in which he said:

Johnson jpeg

General Synod has voted by a majority but unfortunately an insufficient majority to change the Marriage Canon at this time.  This news will be devastating to the LGBTQ community, and to the many clergy and Anglicans who support them, including myself.

This “No” vote recognizes that, like Canadian society at large, our Church is not of the same mind on this issue.

As a Christian, a bishop and a Canadian, I believe this is the time to amend our Marriage Canon – and I have spoken about this in today’s debate.  My belief about this has evolved in recent years upon reflection on scripture, prayer and discussions with people across the diocese and the wider church.

Having witnessed discussions, debates and today’s vote, it is my conviction that a thoughtful pastoral response is now required for our LGBTQ  brothers and sisters who are members of the Diocese of Toronto.

The integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships was affirmed by our church in 2004.  I know there will be some among you who will disagree with me, but I do believe that the logical next step would be to permit same-sex marriages in the Church at the pastoral discretion of the Bishop and with the agreement of local clergy.  This is an option I will be considering in the coming weeks.

I am advised that this option would not contravene the Marriage Canon, and I am confident it would be supported by the majority – even if not all – of our bishops, clergy, laity and the wider community.

I also respect that there are other convictions.  No one will be obligated to act against their conscience.  At my consecration as Bishop, I took a solemn vow to preserve the unity of our church, and that vow is central to my vocation. We are loyal members of a national church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, and in spite of obvious and understandable frustrations and anger, I believe we can and will find a way forward together. If we do this together, it will be far better than if we do it apart.

Watch and read Archbishop Johnson’s full statement here.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada closes today.

Featured image: The Rev. Allison Courey of Manitoba’s Rupert’s Land diocese …made an impassioned plea in support of the resolution, saying ‘the Bible runs so deeply in my veins I cannot imagine my life without it.’ (Anglican Church of Canada) via CBC news

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10 Responses to "Anglican Church of Canada marriage Amendment fails by one vote; bishops respond"
  1. Several months ago the Canadian House of Bishops indicated publically they were divided on this issue, indicating the required two-thirds majority for SSM to pass in their order was not there. Consequently, my reading of the tea leaves was that once the motion was on the floor for debate it would be stick handled off using referral or some other procedure. Man was I wrong! (and happy now to have been proven so).

    The motion was voted on after a very lengthy if not difficult debate.As one watched the live streaming of that debate yesterday afternoon and evening, it was clear that many of the sixty speakers found debating legislation painful. They should take consolation in the fact they we are a synodical church, that we have both the privilege and responsibility of making our own decisions, that they are not imposed upon us by a central curia, official or unofficial, meeting elsewhere behind closed doors.

    The failure of the vote in the one order of clergy by a single vote is, notwithstanding, still a victory for justice for GLBTQ Canadian Anglicans. The achieving of the two-thirds majority in the orders of bishops and laity, and the near achievement of that majority in the order of clergy demonstrates the huge amount of support for SSM in the Canadian church. Opponents of SSM marriage cannot but find this grounds for sober second thought going forward.

    The real shocker in this is the legal opinion from the Chancellor, contained a memo to the Synod published before debate, that the current Marriage Canon does not actually prohibit SSM, with the follow up that at least two bishops will therefore allow SSM. Although an example of classical messy Anglicanism, it means that other dioceses may also follow suit and do what is appropriate for their pastoral and social situations--which is all that most folks wanted in the first place.

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    • I am surprised that the bishop of Quebec will not allow same-sex marriages in a diocese that is on its way to extinction…in a province that is strongly secular and where people look at religion with the eyes on an archaeologist… I suspect we wants to shut down the diocese before he retires

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  2. There is a bit of irony in the result. Had the resolution passed, it would have come back for second reading in 2019, and not taken effect until January 1, 2020. Just before the vote, the Rev Rob Marsh asked a point of clarification about that, to which the Chancellor gave an equivocal reply based on his opinion that the present wording of the canon does not forbid same-sex marriages. Nevertheless, had it passed, conservatives would have argued, and many bishops would have probably said that they would wait to authorize same-sex marriages until the revised canon came into effect.

    But now, backed by the Chancellor's legal opinion, the bishops have no such grounds to wait or delay, nor do the conservatives have much of an argument for further delay in those dioceses that have been engaged in dialogue and discernment for decades. I suspect that the end result, once it all shakes out, is that marriage equality will spread and take root faster than if the resolution had passed.

    As Rod pointed out, there was a dramatic shift among the bishops since February, when only 1/3 were intending to vote yes. The bishops have seen the need to move forward, and I pray that they will now put their words into action.

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  3. The entire process resembles a bit the process of civil same-sex marriages...it will be done diocese by diocese, until the standing cannon is pragmatically dead . This is a watershed moment for the ACC, they have the choice of moving forward or jumping into irrelevance, in a country that is highly secular and where religious institutions are increasingly isolated from society

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  4. For shame! One vote by one clergy person stopped equality, justice, and radical acceptance from occurring in the Anglican Church. Those who voted against this motion missed an historic opportunity to stand with those who have been marginalized and treated unjustly. He or she (in fact, all those who opposed this motion) also stood in opposition to the biblical call to recognize that each of us are created in the image of God, created with love. I am deeply saddened and dismayed by this decision.

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    • Here, here and a salute to whomever that courageous priest was who had the guts to vote against the homosexual lobby in the Canadian Anglican church and stand up for the biblical requirement of marriage as between one man and one woman!! Of course it didn't last long as the bishops immediately ignored the vote and decided to take unilateral action and approve the ssm change to the canon.

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      • Shame is reserved for these petulant and arrogant bishops, who lose a vote and then decide to ignore the canon law (to say nothing of the biblical witness!) that they have pledged to uphold because they didn't get their way. Their selfish and unlawful actions will result in a split within the church. These bishops should abide by the decision of their synod, or else resign in good conscience. What they are doing is a shame upon them and their churches-- and their actions will result in the continued withering and ultimate demise of liberal Anglican churches in Canada. For shame, indeed.

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      • @ John Johson, "...bishops, who lose a vote and then decide to ignore the canon law ..."

        Actually the bishops you refer to are not ignoring Canon Law. The Chancellor of the General Synod indicated before the resolution was even on the floor, that the current Canon does not prohibit same sex marriage in church. He also made it clear that defeating a motion does not empower or authorize its opposite. See details in the above article above. The point may now be moot, but we'll have to wait and see.

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  5. BREAKING NEWS:
    An audit of the electronic voting found that one clergy clicker was erroneously classified as laity. The revised total is 52-26 in the order of clergy, and the motion CARRIED.

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  6. Well Mr. Johnson it appears the measure passed after all following the discovery of an incorrect count don't you know. However, don't worry because you'll still have the same petulant and arrogant bishops who will find other ways to ignore God's word and split the Canadian church just like we have in the United States. Oh and by the way, they will never resign!

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