Archbishop Hiltz clarifies Canadian situation for fellow primates

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Saying that he hoped to “dispel rumour or misunderstanding,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has written to his fellow leaders of the worldwide Anglican Communion explaining the developments around the blessing of same-sex unions, which has embroiled Canadian Anglicans in conflict.

In his four-page letter, which was sent to the other 33 Anglican primates and four moderators of the Anglican Communion’s United Churches on Jan. 9, Archbishop Hiltz, who is the national archbishop, underscored that the Anglican Church of Canada has not yet agreed upon a definitive position on the issue. “It is important to note that the Anglican Church of Canada has not altered its doctrine of marriage as outlined in our prayer books and canons (church laws).”

However, he put the situation in context: Canadian Anglicans, he noted, “do live in a country where the federal government in 2005 approved legislation that allows the marriage of same-gender couples.”

Archbishop Hiltz also reaffirmed the Canadian church’s “commitment to full membership and participation in the life, witness and structures of the Anglican Communion.” He also called on Anglican leaders to respect each other’s boundaries and desist from intervening in the affairs of provinces other than their own.

In providing the “up-to-date picture” of the conversation regarding the blessing of same-sex unions, the primate cited ongoing conversations about the issue in various Canadian dioceses and his approval of General Synod’s request that the Primate’s Theological Commission consult with dioceses and parishes on two questions:

  • The theological question of whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine; and
  • Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

Archbishop Hiltz also reported on the decision by the synods of three Canadian dioceses – Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara – requesting their bishops to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions despite the 2007 General Synod’s defeat of a resolution “affirming the authority and jurisdiction” of dioceses to offer them. Those resolutions, he said, were a way of testing the mind of the local church and “the results speak of a pastoral need that cannot be ignored,” he said. “In each case the bishop has indicated that he will consult widely before making a decision.”

The primate said it was “regrettable” that some Canadian Anglicans have chosen to leave the church despite the fact that the house of bishops had made “adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and episcopal support of all members of our church, including those who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod.”

Archbishop Hiltz also said that he was praying that at the Lambeth Conference, scheduled July 16-Aug.4 in Canterbury, England, all bishops would be granted the grace to “maintain a capacity for respectful dialogue” and “a tolerance for diversity of opinion.”

Meanwhile, in related news:

  • A group of conservative Anglican leaders who met in Nairobi in December announced they would invite bishops, senior clergy and laity from every province of the Anglican Communion to attend a pre-Lambeth Conference meeting in Jerusalem. But the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, has objected, saying that he was not consulted about the planned conference. “I am deeply troubled that this meeting, of which we had no prior knowledge, will import inter-Anglican conflict into our diocese, which seeks to be a place of welcome for all Anglicans,” Bishop Dawani said in a Jan. 2 statement urging the organizers to “reconsider this conference urgently.”
  • An international group of about 50 Anglican leaders met in Chicago Dec. 5-7 to “build international coalitions and develop a strategy for the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the life of the church,” according to an announcement from the group, called The Chicago Consultation. Canadian bishop Michael Ingham, of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, attended. The group called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to invite Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire (who lives with a male partner) as a full participant to the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Participants also voiced opposition to the concept of an Anglican covenant that would create a centralized governing body with authority over member churches for the first time in the Anglican Communion’s history.

With files from Episcopal Life Daily(Editor’s note: A correction has been made in the second paragraph of this story, first published Jan. 9.)

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Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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