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Marriage canon amendment fails – Anglican Church of Canada

Marriage canon amendment fails – Anglican Church of Canada

As reported by the Anglican Journal:

The Anglican Church of Canada will maintain its traditional definition of marriage after a vote to amend the marriage canon failed to pass at General Synod 2019.

The 42nd General Synod voted against Resolution A052-R2, which would have amended the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, after the resolution failed to pass by a two-thirds majority in all three orders. While two-thirds of the Order of Laity (80.9%) and Order of Clergy (73.2%) voted in favour, less than the required two-thirds (62.2%) voted in favour of the resolution in the Order of Bishops.

An insightful thread from the Bishop of Edmonton:


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JoS. S. Laughon

A good start.

Christopher SEITZ

“As a result, nothing about this decision will change our practice in Niagara; I remain steadfast in exercising my episcopal prerogative to authorize the marriage of all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to be married, thereby responding to the pastoral needs present within our diocese. Two rites of The Episcopal Church, The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage and The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2 continue to be authorized for use in our diocese, in accordance with our established episcopal guidelines.”

This is fairly representative.

So one wonders what the vote says, beyond showing that a sizable percentage of Bishops–far more than in TEC–are not prepared to depart from former marriage understandings. It looks like, therefore, the conservative Bishop position in their respective dioceses will be retained and not blocked, at least for a season. This was once true in TEC as well, but is no longer.

Rod Gillis

“…sizable percentage of Bishops–far more than in TEC–are not prepared to depart from former marriage understandings.” Spin it doc! You might talk with professional mathematicians and sociologists about commensurability. What the voting set at General Synod does show is that 81% of laity and 73% of clergy rejected the unfalsifiable fundamentalist assumptions of 14 Canadian bishops. Something of Pyrrhic victory. Now more Canadian bishops will use de facto canonical authority to authorize same sex marriages. And….I would encourage my American friends not to see the Canadian scene as a proxy for TEC battles.

Christopher SEITZ

Dear Mr Gillis, this isn’t very hard.

Over 1/3 of Canadian Bishops, elected by their dioceses for their positions, voted against changing marriage. There are around 9 out of over a 100 in TEC, and they cannot function in this issue as their Canadian counterparts.

De facto episcopal canonical authority. An interesting concept. It went the way of the dodo in TEC. Now it is functioning *for the Left* in Canada. Ironies abound.

Jim Pratt

Dr Seitz,
The 14 dissenting bishops represent between 8 and 10 dioceses (the list of those voting has not been released), with the diocese of Calgary probably being the only urban diocese among them (one of the Toronto suffragans may have voted no); so only 1/4 of Canadian dioceses. Statistics are hard to come by in the Canadian church, but in 2001 (the last year for which I could find statistics), those dioceses combined had few members and a lower ASA than the Diocese of Toronto. One of those dioceses has only 15 parishes, and 2 or 3 priests besides the bishop. They probably represent about 10 to 12% of the membership of the church.

Christopher SEITZ

I teach in Toronto and know the situation on the ground reasonably well. As for its size, it is fair to say it is larger than every other diocese in Canada by a substantial percentage, and not just the ones voting No.

It is also important to note that it has the largest conservative parishes also in its midst. St Paul’s Bloor Street being a good example. So it is a vanguard liberal Diocese that would struggle without its conservative parishes. How that will play out is far from clear, and it is already a matter of significant tension in several parishes. Wycliffe College Toronto is the largest anglican seminary in Canada; it has no liberal counterpart of any size in all of Canada. Trinity College has a very small teaching faculty and student bloc. It is 90% an undergraduate school in the University of Toronto.

Jim Pratt

As for de facto episcopal authority, I think the vote has severely eroded confidence in and trust for episcopal leadership. While the House of Bishops’ message was an attempt at damage control, to keep authority in bishops and synods. But some parishes and clergy are going to see local option as giving them permission to do what they want. The resolution was carefully crafted to give conservative bishops like +Calgary an explicit and absolute veto in their dioceses; now that is up in the air.

Christopher SEITZ

I agree.

I said 1/3 of Bishops and the dioceses that elected them. I did not say 1/3 of all dioceses.

In any case we have an odd situation canonically, with a traditional marriage canon and local option. That is incoherent. But there it is.

Rod Gillis

More difficult than you realize apparently.Variables focusing is misleading. Think .333 water v. .333 heavy water. An extraordinary bar gives a small number of mostly rural dioceses disproportionate clout in the Canadian Church. Comparing TEC and Canadian polities is apples to oranges. A past delegate to General Synod, I’ve been hearing about several interlocking incommensurability issues for over forty years. The chancellor ruled in 2016 that the current marriage canon does not prevent bishops from authorizing same sex marriages. Bishops doing so are meeting the needs of their diocese as stated by their diocesan synod. The majority of Canadian Anglicans are not some ‘new left’. They are just plain folks who want justice and compassion for the GLBTQ2 members of their church. They are not buying conservative theology nor are they worried about being booted from The Communion for supporting same sex marriage. In Canada belonging to a church does not make one liberal left.

Christopher SEITZ

I am confident you have introduced something very profound Mr Gillis. “Variables focusing is misleading.” I am sure that explains everything.

Now let’s look at facts on the ground.

If there are 75,000 people worshipping each Sunday in your favorite species of the ACoC–throughout the length and breadth of all of Canada–you should count yourself fortunate.

At least in Toronto, the not-your-favorite-species of the ACoC is keeping something like a decent Sunday worship population.

Being booted out of something? Those are your concerns, not mine, I can assure you. Does anyone really care?

Grace and peace.

Rod Gillis

It explains the crux of the matter. I’m thinking one of the reasons you are not a fan of Bernard Lonergan has something to do with math and statistics. Canadian demographics actually work against your implicit notion that the dissenting episcopal rump in Canada, i.e. the “sizeable percentage of bishops”, have an import beyond a parliamentary anomaly in the General Synod. In reality, being a bishop of some those dioceses is akin to being captain of a dory. I’ve made my point, Thank you for your replies.

Christopher SEITZ

Bernard Lonergan? Mon Dieu, he solves every problem, even the ACoC decline. Now there’s a mathematics we can all use.

Simon Burris

Maybe the bishops are less likely to vote “yes” because they hear from parishes likely to bleed members if the amendment passes?

I am assuming that the laity and parish priests who voted “yes” would be more insulated from the traditionalist crowd, since (I think) there tends to be less diversity within a parish than between parishes. Bishops would be less insulated, since (I think) they would be in contact with diverse parishes.

I am not ruling out other reasons, of course.

Christopher SEITZ

The bishops who voted No are well-known conservative bishops whose views were known ahead of time. This outcome was predicated.

What I am commenting on is how it makes much difference, and why liberals are so upset. The ground is already in place whereby Bishops were giving their OK already. In Toronto one of the Bishops celebrated a same-sex marriage recently. You can see the prepared responses from people like the Bishop of Niagra, posted above.

Cynthia Katsarelis

People are upset because we want to live our lives and our faith like everyone else. Not everyone has the resources or the health to travel. And those of us who take the sacraments seriously would likely want to be in our faith communities and family for the sacrament of marriage. People will die without the benefit of marriage and it’s cruel. Further, the majority support SSM, so there’s a tyranny of the minority and that is a painful situation.

Christopher SEITZ

It is ironic that the very same episcopal/diocesan discretion decried in TEC is perfectly acceptable in the ACoC.

It just goes to show how the office of Bishop is now virtually emptied of overall logic and consistency. In Canada they are kings and queens over their respective domains, while in TEC they must be servants of the General Convention. When the Canadian equivalent of General Convention fails to give what one side wants, it is to be proudly ignored by Bishops. In TEC, +Love’s same behavior is interdit.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Your version of “perfectly acceptable” is being described by Canadians as incredibly painful.

Christopher SEITZ

LGBT people in the ACoC will not be blocked in any way by this vote. Same-sex ‘marriage’ is available in Toronto at present — including for Bishops.

It is hard to know what a vote like this was ever meant to mean given that people are doing what they want to anyway.

Simon Burris

If the history of TEC is any guide, then the point of the amendment was never to make SSM available–as you say, it was already perfectly available–but rather to make official the “outside” status of the traditionalists.

Christopher SEITZ

This is a reasonable conjecture.

I think what happened is that the rules governing changes like this were inconvenient–they make one wait too long; which was a feature and not a ‘bug’–and as well there were some latent worries over the first round last time.

So as a ‘safety measure’ the chancellor simply ruled from on high that same-sex marriage was nowhere forbidden and that silence was translatable into ‘full steam ahead.’ As so it was.

In a way this move made the voting at round two always a bit outflanked by facts on the ground. Not sure why there was so much wailing and gnashing of teeth, in consequence.

But as you say, one knock-on effect is that it makes 14 Bishops/dioceses into outliers. But at least they still have some kind of leverage. In TEC, that was removed.

The irony is that Bishops moving ahead anyway on the grounds that they are bishops is precisely what was targeted as no-go in TEC. Yet here it is being applauded! Ignore Synod and go ahead.

Leo Schuman

I feel badly for all the LGBT people in Canada who, by this vote, have once again been told that (some) Anglican Bishops believe God gave LGBT people birth defects instead of hearts, and so their love is unworthy of the blessing of the church. Hatred draped in pious, anti-scientific condescension is still hatred.

Simon Burris

Is the definition of “marriage” really a scientific question?

Cynthia Katsarelis

That’s a pretty disingenuous question, Simon. As those opposing SSM generally don’t believe the science that tells us that we are born gay, it isn’t a “lifestyle choice.”

Simon Burris

Well, I can see how you would think I was being disingenuous (and I am guilty of being that sometimes), but in this case I was trying to figure out where the “anti-science” came in.

People like me sometimes think pro-SSM people are “anti-science” (if that is a real category) because we think that science tells us that we are a two-sexed species… And to us marriage is about (amongst other things) overcoming and channeling the various difficulties and opportunities that attend our being a two-sexed species.

So if I were to say that pro-SSM people are “anti-science” it would be a little lazy, because I would be eliding over a bunch of issues that in my mind are attached to the question of SSM, but which may not have been raised explicitly by my in the conversation.

David B Bailey

As both a priest and a scientist, I get a little perturbed when I read comments like “Science tells us . “. Science depends on the findings reported in peer reviewed publications. I always want to see a citation to the peer reviewed literature on any and all “hot” topics.

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