A deeply divided Anglican Church of Canada opted Sunday not to allow its priests to bless the partnerships of same-sex couples, rejecting, for now, a long campaign by its most liberal members to sanctify gay and lesbian unions. (Read Synod coverage from their website here – Blog Ed.).
After a weekend of tortuous, emotional debate at the church’s national synod in Winnipeg, a majority of the 300 delegates here actually agreed to approve same-sex blessing ceremonies.
For the decision to stand, however, church law requires not a simple majority, but separate majorities among priests and laity, and also among the church’s 40 Canadian bishops. And while the priests and laity approved the move, it was voted down by a narrow majority of two bishops. Feelings were raw after the debate. Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. and the incoming leader of the national church — who voted in favour of the blessings — suggested afterward his fellow bishops had failed the church.
“There’s no question there will be considerable disappointment on the part of many, and a lot of pain. And there will be some people who will be saying, ‘How long, oh Lord, how long must this conversation continue?’” Bishop Hiltz said. “The bishops will certainly be challenged to think about the kind of leadership they are providing.”
Sunday’s decision is complicated by the fact that earlier in the day, delegates, including bishops, voted in favour of a motion declaring same-sex blessings to be compatible with the 500-yearold “core doctrine” of the church.
“On the one hand we said it is a matter of doctrine, on the other hand the church is not prepared to proceed immediately with the blessing of these same-sex unions,” said Bishop Hiltz, who said he was not sure how he would lead the church in the coming years through this ambiguous path.
“It gives one pause, to think how it is we actually make decisions,” he added.
Sunday’s vote follows years of squabbling and theological study within the church. Currently the United Church of Canada is the only large, mainstream denomination in the country to bless and marry same-sex couples.
While the Anglican result will please many conservatives in the church, it is a stinging setback for thousands of Anglican gay and lesbian worshippers and their champions, who have been pressing the issue for more than a decade.
The Anglican Bishop of Vancouver, who heads the Diocese of New Westminster, announced in 2002 that priests under his supervision could bless same-sex unions. Elsewhere in Canada priests and bishops have been secretly blessing and even marrying gay and lesbian couples for some time, hoping that a formal decision this weekend by the church’s national parliament would legitimize such ceremonies. What happens now is not clear. Many same-sex worshippers, and their supporters, could leave the church.
In such cities as Vancouver and Toronto, there could also be court battles as breakaway liberal parishes try to take their treasured buildings and church assets with them.
The decision, however, will be a satisfying one for Anglicans worried about the fate of the 77-million global Anglican Communion, of which the Canadian church, and its 650,000 members, is considered an independent “province.”
Conservative bishops in many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America have denounced moves by their Anglican cousins in the United States and Canada to bless or marry same-sex couples, or to ordain openly-gay bishops. There have also been threats to expel the two North American provinces from the Communion should they continue to defy hundreds of years of traditional church doctrine on the matter.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 25, 2007 article by Richard Foot in The National Post