Canada: Why can’t Anglicans care about issues other than sexuality? asks Hiltz

By André Forget
Posted Mar 14, 2016
Archbishop Fred Hiltz says so much time and energy have been devoted to debate over human sexuality,  at the expense of other issues such as violence against women and climate change. With him at the CoGS meeting head table are Cynthia Haines-Turner, deputy prolocutor, and General Synod chancellor David Jones. Photo: André Forget

Archbishop Fred Hiltz says so much time and energy have been devoted to debate over human sexuality, at the expense of other issues such as violence against women and climate change. With him at the CoGS meeting head table are Cynthia Haines-Turner, deputy prolocutor, and General Synod chancellor David Jones. Photo: André Forget

[Anglican Journal] In his reflections during the last session of Council of General Synod (CoGS) for the last triennium, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada expressed frustration that Anglicans have not exhibited the same degree of passion for human rights issues as they have for debates about same-sex marriage.

“I long for a time in our church when there is as much attention and conviction and passion and voice and action from the rooftops about sexual exploitation, about gender-based violence, human trafficking for the sex trade, missing and murdered Indigenous women, pornography, religiously based violence around the world, our violence against creation itself, and the greed and the reckless consumption that drives it,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

“There are many of us who would say that we wish that we didn’t have to spend that much time [on the same-sex marriage issue], but in fact we’ve had to,” he said. Some, he noted, have criticized the church for spending an “inordinate” amount of time on the issue.

But despite his concerns over how much energy was going into discussions over same-sex marriage, Hiltz applauded the care and respect he felt CoGS had shown in its nearly two days of closed-door discussions about the proposed change to the church’s marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage.

“I think…we were really working hard here at this meeting at trying to make room for one another,” he said. “There’s a place for everyone in the Anglican Church of Canada, so how do we work hard at making room for one another—that’s going to be the challenge, in part, at General Synod, too.”

At the end of its discussions, CoGS had unanimously agreed March 12 to send to the upcoming General Synod a draft resolution prepared by the Commission on the Marriage Canon changing the Anglican Church of Canada’s law to pave the way for same-sex marriage.

At the same time, however, CoGS said that while it is legally obliged by General Synod 2013’s Resolution C003 to send the same-sex marriage motion to General Synod 2016, it has also considered “the possibility of other options.”

In a message to the church,  CoGS said, “The General Synod may discern a legislative option is not the most helpful, and if so, we faithfully hope that through dialogue at General Synod an alternate way will emerge.”

CoGS did not indicate what these “other options”  might be, but the message was clearly a response to an earlier statement it received from the House of Bishops that a vote to allow same-sex marriage was “not likely to pass in the Order of Bishops.” In their statement to CoGS, the bishops had also questioned whether “a legislative procedure is the most helpful way” of dealing with the issue of gay marriage.  In a written response to the House of Bishops, CoGS asked “for some concrete examples of other options” to a legislative process.

Hiltz also spoke to the CoGS at length about his experiences at the January meeting of the primates of the Anglican Communion, and the status of relations within the global Anglican Communion following their decision to censure The Episcopal Church (TEC) for its 2015 decision to allow same-sex marriages. The primates asked that the Episcopal Church’s participation in Anglican Communion bodies be temporarily limited.

He noted that despite this call from the primates, the Episcopal Church has indicated that it will send representatives to the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in April, and Hiltz said he expects they will participate as “full members.”

The provinces of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria have announced that their bishops will boycott the meeting because of the American attendees.

“It raises the whole question of the authority of the instruments of Communion —in and of themselves, and how in fact that authority plays itself out in terms of the interplay among the instruments of Communion,” Hiltz said, noting that the ACC may choose to draft a formal response to the Primates’ Meeting communiqué.

Hiltz said that the Canadian church will be represented at the ACC by Bishop Jane Alexander of the Diocese of Edmonton, Suzanne Lawson, and Archdeacon Michael Thompson, the church’s general secretary, who will be standing in for Archdeacon Harry Huskins, who is unable to attend for health reasons.


Comments (8)

  1. Frank Riggio-Preston says:

    It seems as if Canada’s House of Bishops is more concerned with being censured than with accepting gays and lesbians as full members of their church

  2. Doug Desper says:

    “Why can’t Anglicans care about issues other than sexuality?” seems like code talk for “Why can’t people just go along?” The main reason that this is so dominant is that pressure groups made it so much their issue in North American Church life for the past twenty years. Now, it can’t just be turned off.

    I think that the Anglican world majority prove their point every day about many, many “other issues” being of concern to them. Living in countries with Muslim extremists burning down their churches and killing their members, lack of infrastructure, terrible economies, rampant illness, and many other issues certainly qualify the majority of Anglicans with being concerned with other things — and quite often in an exemplary way.

  3. Tom Blair says:

    This makes no sense at all. It is just a leftist political way of saying why can’t you think like us??

    I’m a very conservative Anglican and I think all the time about issues other than sexuality. I worry about America’s involvement in foreign wars; about the power of global capitalism to nullify the will of the people; about the treatment of the Palestinians by the Israelis; about the assault on the American middle class by capitalists via immigration; I worry about the power of the state and it’s thuggish tactics against the grassroots.

    This is a leftist political statement masquerading as a call to justice. I don’t blame the author – I do blame EDN for giving them a platform.

  4. Pam Payne says:

    Thank you, Archbishop Hiltz. I do not downplay the importance of taking time for measured consideration and discernment regarding changing interpretations of our understanding of how God would have us live in the world. However, I too wish that Anglicans of all spectrum of understanding would display as much zeal and passion for, and time spent on, the other vital issues you have outlined. It is not a question of requiring everyone to “think like us.” It is a question of making the treatment of God’s people and God’s creation the priorities of God’s church, and working together to achieve them.

  5. The Rev. Dr. Elaine McCoy says:

    Pitting matters of sexual and gender injustice, racial injustice, poverty, and health policies against each other may be a necessary response to politics but as such, it is merely pragmatism and does not represent a faith response. As far as I can see, Jesus never rationed His compassion for another nor parsed the command to love. Human suffering is not divisible. Inclusion is not an index to be rationed or “merited”. Let’s stop confusing political mediation with Christian life. Post-colonial nations may have intolerable contexts that promote their intolerance. That is the legacy of sin, not a Kingdom value.

  6. Rev. David Antezana says:

    Triste escuchar o leer tantos temas y tan o ningun pasaje Biblico que apoyen sus puntos de vista… La Iglesia Episcopal debe y tiene que volver a la Biblia como fuente de fe antes que sus canones tradiciones e.t.c. La Biblia hoy habla y dice lo mismo que ayer….Por causa de vuestras tradiciones invalidaron mi Palabra… dice el Señor… Jesucristo vuelva a despertar a la Iglesia Episcopal como una iglesia viva llena del verdadero evangelio..

  7. Steven Colburn says:

    Dear Archbishop Hiltz, in case you haven’t noticed, same-sex marriage IS a human rights issue! Of course it is just one aspect of human rights, but one that the Church has defined through its Canons and practices, and that is why it needs looking at. BTW, almost EVERY issue that comes before the General Synod requires an inordinate amount of time before it can be accomplished or concluded. That is because of the consensus approach to decision-making, which does require a substantial investment of time and energy, but is certainly worth the effort, compared to other approaches, such as unilateral decision-making. Perhaps you no longer have the pastoral patience that is necessary to be Primate. There’s no dishonor in admitting that and stepping down. Or maybe you were just having a bad day. It happens.

  8. James Harris says:

    In othe words, don’t care about sexuality. Oh, and don’t say black lives matter. All lives matter. So, really, the only things that matter are the things so obvious we don’t have to talk about them, and we should care about nothing the majority isn’t troubled by. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

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