Support the Café

Search our Site

The final meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s commission on the marriage canon prepares final draft report.

The final meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s commission on the marriage canon prepares final draft report.

Friday, 21 AUG, the commission on the marriage canon held it’s final meeting in the national offices of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) in Toronto Ontario Canada. The commission has held four meetings and numerous email consultations since it was created by the ACoC’s Council of General Synod (CoGS) following General Synod 2013 and then held its first meeting in 2014. The commission has had one mandate, to make recommendations to CoGS on the feasibility of changing the ACoC’s canon 21 – the marriage canon – to allow same gender marriage.

The ACoC’s General Synod of 2013 passed a resolution, C003, that requests the CoGS to prepare and submit a motion to the General Synod of 2016 to change canon 21 to allow same gender marriage, as it allows heterosexual marriage. Resolution C003 also stipulated that the motion to change canon 21 include “a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

Amendments to Resolution C003 were also submitted and passed by General Synod which further stipulated that the motion;

  • demonstrates broad consultation in its preparation;
  • explains how this motion does not contravene the Solemn Declaration;
  • confirms immunity under civil law and the Human Rights Code for those bishops, dioceses and priests who refuse to participate in or authorize the marriage of same-sex couples on the basis of conscience; and
  • provides a biblical and theological rationale for this change in teaching on the nature of Christian marriage.

The commission’s report to CoGS is about 50 pages in length. The largest section of the report is a biblical and theological rationale for Anglican same gendered marriage. The commission will submit the final version of its report to a special session of the CoGS that has been called for 22-23 SEP 2015.

I hope readers of the report will remember that our task was to do the work that was asked for in the original resolution. And not to decide for the church whether we should do this, but to provide the background to see whether it is possible…

The Rt Revd Linda Nicholls, bishop suffragan
Trent-Durham episcopal area
Diocese of Toronto.

Image from

You may read the full article in the Anglican Journal.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Professor Christopher Seitz

Brother David.

The reason that it takes two readings for the constitution to be altered indicates its higher status. Or did.

The Diocese that judges a declaration of GC to be unconstitutional would need to be disciplined by Title IV.

So perhaps what you are looking for is Title IV as the highest authority in TEC. I don’t disagree.

It is just that Title IV has given the PB authority the Constitution refuses to grant.

I’m not sure you are a member of TEC but ACI has served as expert testimony in several cases. I can assure that Goodwin Proctor interrogates expert testimony quite rigorously, as is its legal duty.

TEC own expert witness testified under oath that TEC lack the proper hierarchy language.

And this is why a new Title IV was devised. As John Chilton indicates above, it will now ride in to enforce ssm in those dioceses which ‘make provision’ in a manner that is judged inadequate.

This is the New Episcopal Church and many will find it now it to purpose.

Professor Christopher Seitz

At least in TEC, until recently, it was perfectly clear that a ‘diocese’ had a constitution and canons, met in convention, expressed it corporate identity through various means.

So, yes, a diocese had an individual identity, just as TEC might reasonably be assumed now to have one. People vote, a majority rules.

In TEC, however, the constitution had a certain constraining force it arguably no longer asserts. So a diocese cannot appeal to it over against GC decisions.

But the main point is that in the TEC system, yes, dioceses have identities. Or, used to.

Rod Gillis

Back in 1957, in his book Insight, Bernard Lonergan wrote about the ” paradoxical character of the ‘known unknown’ “.
Let’s have some fun and riff on that notion with regard to the Canadian situation described in the article above. The article quotes the terms of reference of The Marriage Commission as established by a motion of GS.

“to change Canon XXI on marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

The wording is well known. What else may be known as a result? Well, I think most folks know what is meant by a member’s individual conscience and individual conscientious objection.

But what is meant by, “no …congregation or diocese should be constrained … against the dictates of their conscience.” What is meant by a diocese or a congregation having a conscience is unknown . We may know how to discern a policy or canonical provision of a diocese; but how is the conscience of a diocese or congregation discerned? Perhaps what is meant is the legal ability of a diocese to opt out, (or might it be it in?), to any proposed change; but of course the motion does not call for anything that specific. It simply refers to something much more vague, i.e. some sort of collective “conscience” which ought not to be constrained however construed and discerned.

We don’t know what will happen in situations where the “conscience” of a diocese and that of one or more of its constituent parishes conflict.

Indeed, the language of the motion has a certain character of the unknown when it comes to modifiers. Is it that a diocese or congregation, like and individual, has a right to conscientious objection; or is it that any member of the clergy, any member of the episcopate, together with any member of a diocese or congregation qua member that has such a right?

One thing is certain, I’ve used up my three comments for today.

christopher seitz

Mr Chilton. I am grateful for your candor. We at ACI have insisted all along that General Convention was in a real bind. It wants to create a rite that must be available everywhere, but it also wants to hold onto a remnant idea of a Bishop and Diocese as having integrity, canons and so forth. It is further dubious that a Trial Rite can be passed by voice and not roll call vote in the HOB. But no matter. We are where we are.

“I agree…that we are headed for a collision between bishops who only allow destination weddings, and couples who believe that this is not adequate. Title IV complaints are only a matter of time.”

Again, thank you for the clarity of your comment.

Professor Christopher Seitz

Mr Gillis.

My comment was based on language above, viz., “conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”

It was also based upon comments from synod participants re: Indigenous People. +Mark MacDonald lives in Riverdale where I assist (St Matthews).

But of course the Anglican Church of Canada could well decide to move closer to the kind of global policy that TEC at GC has inaugurated.

Rod Gillis

@ Christopher Seitz and David Allen, I’m well aware of the terms of the original motion. I made a presentation to The Commission, and addressed that very point in some detail in so doing. We’ll have to wait and see what The Commission has come up with in regard to the same.

While bishops and other clergy may be afforded “conscientious objection” as individuals, to speak of church structures such as a diocese or congregation being afforded a “conscience” is much more complicated, to say the least. Such a proposal would essentially result in a tyranny of the majority in said diocese. If on the other hand, we’re talking about a notwithstanding clause, a political opt out, for dioceses or parishes, that would make any national reform of The Marriage Canon moot. Where would a couple seeking marriage in say rural Saskatchewan go, for instance?

On this basis, one may expect some very interesting debate should the requested amendment make it to the floor of GS 2016. It may well be that parts of the motion will end up being deemed impossible for performance. Indeed, it will be very interesting to see how The Theological Commission has dealt with the rather muddled process they have been handed.

I’m also well aware of the the comments of Bishop Mark Macdonald. One does not require any inside scoop to know where the First Nations community stands. The following assertion is found in the final paragraph of The Statement of Indigenous Bishops to the Marriage Commission, “We uphold the inherent right and ability of our communities to make these decisions on their own. ” My response to that is, let’s allow Anglicans who are seeking same sex marriage within their church the same inherent right and ability. I’m sure other Canadian Anglicans feel the same.

The most interesting question of all, is might the House of bishops will throw a spanner in the works, thus preventing an amendment from ever reaching the floor in 2016?

In any event, while I don’t disagree with your political analysis, we are some distance from knowing outcomes with any degree of reliability.

christopher seitz

I have made no effort to engage in political speculation though I do have my own hunches based on informed people in the ACC where I work.

Kind regards.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café