Canada: Same-sex marriage motion ‘not likely’ to pass in Order of Bishops

By Tali Folkins
Posted Mar 1, 2016

[Anglican Journal] A resolution before General Synod this summer to change the Anglican Church of Canada’s marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage is “not likely” to get the number of votes it needs from bishops, according to a statement sent by the House of Bishops to Council of General Synod (CoGS), and released publicly Feb. 29.

In the course of their special meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario, last week, the bishops said “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 two-thirds majority in each Order.”

The bishops said they felt obliged to share this information, given that CoGS, which meets March 10-13, expects to be considering the process for handling July’s vote.

“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,” the bishops said. “We share this out of respect for the considerable work that the Church has invested in preparing to debate this motion at General Synod.” They added, “We continue to wonder whether a legislative procedure is the most helpful way of dealing with these matters.”

Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that it will be up to CoGS to decide how best to respond to the House of Bishops’ message when it meets this spring.

Regarding the uncertainty expressed by bishops about “whether a legislative procedure is the most helpful way of dealing with these matters,” Thompson said this should not be read as an attempt to undercut or circumvent General Synod’s established processes.

“The bishops understand that there is an obligation for the Council of General Synod to put a resolution before the General Synod,” he said in an interview. “I don’t imagine that they think that can be avoided.”

The bishops said discussion of the marriage canon had not been easy.

“Some of us talked of being mortified and devastated by this decision,” the statement said.

The bishops also said they recognized that the issue had brought “distress” to many people, and that their own statement would cause “deep pain…both within and beyond the Church.” They admitted to feeling “saddened that we do not seem capable of unity on this issue.”

But, they said, “We are committed to work toward the deeper unity for which Christ died, and we pray daily that God would mend our divisions,” adding they hoped to “witness the miracle of our healing.”

The bishops said they also continued to question whether the question of same-sex marriage is best handled by making changes to church laws.

“There is a desire among us to explore other options for honouring and fully embracing committed, faithful same-sex relationships,” the statement said.

“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.”

The bishops said they will also “engage Indigenous and minority cultural perspectives in our Anglican family in our understanding of marriage.”

The bishops said they intended to continue “conversations and engagement” with “This Holy Estate,” the report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon released September 2015.

During last week’s meeting, the statement said, the bishops spent much time discussing the theology of marriage, as well as “our episcopal role and responsibilities as chief pastors, and as guardians of the Church’s faith, order and unity.”

One focus, the bishops said, was the relationship of bishops 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.”

Last week’s meeting began, according to the bishops’ statement, with a “moving and intimate” account by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, of his experience at the meeting of world Anglican primates in Canterbury, England, this 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,” the statement said.

The bishops also said they regretted the lack of engagement across the church with the marriage canon commission’s report.

“We felt that we needed to recommit ourselves to promoting the document for study, and especially among our synod delegates,” the bishops said.

The bishops said they entered into the meeting aware that many in the church were praying for them. The meeting, they said, included daily Eucharist and Bible study using an Indigenous method.

The statement concluded with an affirmation by the bishops that they are intent on achieving a deeper unity for the church beyond the division created by debate around the marriage canon.

“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),” it said.

Meanwhile, a General Synod Communications story published shortly after the statement from the House of Bishops was released noted that Dean Peter Wall, planning and agenda team co-chair for General Synod, has asked members of the team to prepare a process by which CoGS will “engage” the House of Bishops’ message.

Wall also stressed that the House of Bishops’ statement does not put an end to the marriage canon process.

“I do not believe that the work of the General Synod can be pre-empted by a meeting of the House of Bishops alone,” Wall said in the statement. “It is when they meet as the Order of Bishops, in conversation with the Orders of Clergy and Laity, that bishops participate in the shared responsibility of all members of the General Synod to take a decision on this matter.”


Comments (6)

  1. Frank Riggio-Preston says:

    Canada’s House of Bishops is running scared after Canterbury

  2. Margaret Sjoholm-Franks says:

    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, and people from the congregation participate in the Pride Parade…in all honesty, they may have to remove the flag, they cannot welcome the GLBT folks and at the same time tell them that their relationships are not

  3. A sign of the presence and acting of the Holy Spirit is unity. Division is indicative of the powers of darkness. Sometimes God calls prophets, and grants them a true message which the community of faith disregards… to their peril. Think Jeremiah down the well; think Micaiah eating bread and water for the rest of his life (1 Kings 22:13-28). But until there is Unity, one cannot tell for certain who is the true prophet and who is the false. As Zedekiah said to Micaiah: “How did the Spirit of the Lord go from me to speak to you?”
    The Episcopal church endorsed same-sex matrimony only at the cost of losing the clergy and people of ACNA. That is schism, and neither ECUSA nor ACNA reeks of holiness in this matter. Any more than do GAFCON and the Southern Cone. The primates’ meeting was a step towards unity – albeit a faltering one. The Canadian House of bishops is to be commended for their caution, in the face of guaranteed outrage by those who are very sure of their own righteousness. Outrage is, of course, certain from either side of the controversy: for if the Bishops move forward on same sex matrimony, they will be damned by conservatives, and if they wait they will be damned by liberals.
    But schism is just so *wrong*! It is in defiance of Jesus’ prayer in John 17 “that they may be one as we are one.” The hard work of Christianity is to love ALL – even those with whom you profoundly disagree – and to wait, and listen, and speak prayerfully, working for the day when ALL can come to one mind – which is the mind of Christ.

  4. OKELLO DANIEL says:

    i thank God that we still have people who treasure Biblical teachings in places like canada may God Bless the bishops of Canada continue with the struggle to restore biblical teaching even to the lost like TEC

  5. Steven Colburn says:

    The ACC House of Bishops Advisory clearly reflects, as well as refers to, the chilling effect of the Anglican Primates’ shunning of the ECUSA. Clearly, that shunning is an act of Canonical Terrorism, whose sole purpose is to strike fear in peoples’ heart that they will be next, and to cast that net of fear as widely as possible, by choosing the victim whom you make an example of very carefully. I appreciate the thoughtful comments of those who posted before me, and their words echo in my mind as I read this–both Canadians and Americans. As always, whenever this topic comes up, there is the dissenting voice of some, who in their zeal for preserving and defending Biblical teachings, forget that we are Christians, not Biblicans, and that Christ Jesus charged us to accept the New Covenant that he bought for us with his passion, death, and Resurrection, and that New Covenant excluded none, including (and especially) those who had been shunned by the Jewish tradition which came before the Christian Era. Christ taught us to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and made each of us personally responsible for our brothers’ and sisters’ welfare, without judging, as we are all subject to sin, even the most self-righteous among us.

    I think in particular of the thoughtful comments about the Rainbow flag displayed at the Cathedral in Montreal, and of the comment by my American brother about our Presiding Bishop. So that our Canadian brothers and sisters may be clear on the reality of the situation: the ECUSA has left the acceptance of shunning of same-sex relationships and marriage up to the discretion of each Diocesan Bishop, so even though our Canon law permits the practice, it is most certainly not universally practiced, within the USA. Our Bishop of SW Florida is one of those who does not permit it, and this decision affects the lives of several million Episcopalians in Southwest Florida, for if even one is denied, we are all diminished.
    I continue to pray for all my Brothers and Sisters in Christ, regardless of which side of this issue they find themselves, because that is how Christ taught us to pray.

  6. Richmond Parker says:

    Probably proctology is now a good area for physicans to specialize in . Richmond Parker

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