Church grapples with pain after marriage canon vote—with new developments possible

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Lyds Keesmaat-Walsh (centre), delegate from the diocese of Toronto, weeps alongside Bishop Riscylla Shaw (left) in the immediate aftermath of a July 12 vote on a motion to amend the Anglican Church of Canada’s marriage canon. The motion, which would have allowed for same-sex marriage in the church, failed to pass by a few percentage points in the Order of Bishops. Photo: Milos Tosic

Vancouver

“Our children are crying.”

That was how Primate Fred Hiltz—paraphrasing the observation of delegate Michael Chartrand—described the pain in the room following the failure of the 42nd General Synod to pass a resolution amending the marriage canon, which would have allowed for the solemnization of same-sex marriage.

“Those words are going to haunt the Anglican Church for a long time,” says Sydney Brouillard-Coyle, a youth delegate from the diocese of Huron who identifies as gender non-conforming, queer and asexual. Though members of General Synod had long been preparing for upheaval after the vote on July 12 no matter the outcome, when the results finally came, the anguish it caused for LGBTQ Anglican youth almost defies description.

Waiting for the vote results to come in, Lyds Keesmaat-Walsh—a member of the Church of the Redeemer in Toronto who identifies as non-binary, agender and transmasculine, queer in their sexuality—and who, like Brouillard-Coyle, prefers they/them pronouns—was “overcome with fear like I have never known before, and I’ve gone through multiple coming-outs.”

When the results appeared, and it became clear that the resolution had failed to secure the required two-thirds majority in the Order of Bishops, Keesmaat-Walsh, 20, felt a grief that they had only experienced once before, when a close friend was killed in a shooting.

“The sound that came out of my mouth was not a sound I knew I could make,” they say. “And I collapsed. I completely collapsed into Bishop Andrew [Asbil]’s chest. I’m very grateful he was there.”

As the tears flowed, seeing a delegate nearby that they believed had not voted in favour of the motion proved too much to bear. “I looked across the table … and I knew I could not stay in this room any longer. And I got up and I fled.”

The pain felt by queer youth delegates may have been particularly intense, but it was not unique. Across General Synod, pain and grief were the overwhelming emotions that followed the vote, both among those who voted for the resolution and those who voted against it.

Even as the church struggled with the aftermath of the vote, new developments suggested that the matter is far from over. Almost immediately after the vote, delegates came up to the microphone to ask what their options were for reconsidering a decision at General Synod. LGBTQ youth delegates led a protest at the next day’s worship service before the election of a new primate. And many voices indicate they will continue their struggle for the Anglican Church of Canada to recognize same-sex marriage.

Queer youth take action

In the immediate aftermath of the vote results being announced, young LGBTQ Anglicans were overcome by intense sadness and despair. Yet out of necessity, they forced themselves to turn to an even more pressing concern: ensuring the safety of their fellow queer youth.

“I could hear the screams and the wails from other people as the news started to sink in,” recalls Brouillard-Coyle, 19.

“When I saw one of the other youth delegates run towards the door, that’s when I just knew the severity of the situation,” they add. “And that’s when I started running.”

Outside the Grand Ballroom, a group of youth delegates were on the floor sobbing. In the chaotic conditions at that time, Keesmaat-Walsh variously comforted fellow delegates, responded to text messages on their phone from concerned friends and family—and frantically tried to find youth delegates who were less secure in their sexuality or had recently come out, but were nowhere to be found.

Concern for the youths’ safety was very real. Speaking at the microphone before results were announced, Keesmaat-Walsh told synod members about the suicidal thoughts and self-harm urges they had struggled with after General Synod 2016, when due to a voting error, it appeared as though the first reading of the marriage canon resolution had failed.

To their immense relief, their fellow youths were alive and well. But the feeling left its mark. “That level of fear is something I never want to feel again,” Keesmaat-Walsh says.

At this juncture, feelings of anger predominated. Some queer youth proposed staging a walkout, so General Synod “could see who they were driving away from the church.” Yet the mood soon turned into a resolve to stay.

“A couple of youth brought up that no, this is our home, and they can’t drive us away, and we’re not going anywhere,” says Brouillard-Coyle.

Joining hands, the youth recalled a round that they had learned to sing during their orientation at General Synod: “Love, love, love, love / People we are made for love / Love your neighbour, love yourself, and love your God.” Other delegates began singing along, taking photos or videos, or hugging the youth. That positive reaction, Brouillard-Coyle says, instilled a determination to continue their dissent “until this is resolved.”

The next morning, the youth planned a spur-of-the-moment protest at the worship service in Christ Church Cathedral before the primatial election.

Keesmaat-Walsh wore a T-shirt with the logo for Equally Anglican, an LGBTQ group within the church, and a transgender pride flag as a cape. Brouillard-Coyle sported dyed hair evoking the rainbow pride flag. Another youth delegate joined them wearing a bisexual pride flag as a cape. All three joined hands outside the cathedral and began singing their “Love” round as synod members filed in for worship.

Some members joined them in song, while others simply watched. Because some delegates had been inside before the protest and had not heard the song, the trio resolved to enter the cathedral holding hands and singing so all could hear them. Unbeknownst to them, they say, Hiltz was in the middle of speaking when they came in.

“I’ve heard people speculating that the primate put us up to this,” Keesmaat-Walsh says. “He had no idea we were doing this. I want to make that very clear. This was us.”

After singing a few lines, the youth stopped. One member in the pews, they recall, told them to listen to their primate. Using vocal projection techniques they had learned as a “theatre kid”, Keesmaat-Walsh declared loudly, “‘I’ve never been more heartbroken.” Then they sat in the pews.

During the service, they left the cathedral to check on the safety of a fellow youth they had not heard from since midnight. Returning from the hotel and wondering if they had missed the Eucharist, they decided not to receive the sacrament as a protest.

As synod members filed forward during the Eucharist, Keesmaat-Walsh and Brouillard-Coyle joined the line where Hiltz was offering the bread. Upon standing in front of the primate, they each kept their hands by their sides, took deep breaths and said, “In a church where I am not worthy of one sacrament, I am not worthy of any of them.”

In that moment, Keesmaat-Walsh says, “I saw the primate’s heart break.”

“We saw the pain on his face,” Brouillard-Coyle adds. “Even afterwards, when he was clearing the table…. He does his best to hide it, but I could see it in his eyes.”

Immediately after the service, the pair approached Hiltz to make clear that none of their interruptions were meant to be disrespectful to him. They thanked him for his allyship, expressed their gratitude for the heartbreak they saw in his eyes, and for standing with them in the best way he could. In their recollection, the primate’s main concern was for the youth.

“We both have great respect for Fred Hiltz…. He came back [and] he went straight to us, which I am very grateful for,” Keesmaat-Walsh says.

“He’s a very good man…. We told him about why we had had to leave the service earlier, for parts, and he was very concerned…. His primary concern was that we were all safe, which when I spoke to him last night after the vote was also his primary concern…[for] us and our safety.”

The pair were heartened that the two final candidates for the new primate, Bishop Linda Nicholls and Bishop Jane Alexander, are individuals they consider allies. Nicholls, now primate-elect, quickly messaged Keesmaat-Walsh following the announcement of the marriage canon vote results.

“She messaged me last night [after the vote] right away. I am very grateful that Linda Nicholls is our new primate.”

Grief on all sides

Grief and shock poured across the floor of General Synod immediately after the vote. Photo: Milos Tosic

The day after the marriage canon vote saw the whole of General Synod reckoning with the grief and pain in its wake.

A sense of sadness was felt among delegates who had spoken against the resolution to amend the marriage canon and voted against it. Even while maintaining the conviction that they had been correct to do so, the hurt that pervaded General Synod after the vote also affected them.

“I’m deeply grieved by the pain and the division that this entire process has caused,” says Bishop Joey Royal, a vocal opponent of amending the marriage canon. “But not passing this marriage canon change was the right decision. And saying that does not invalidate my love for LGBTQ people.”

Royal acknowledges that many LGBTQ people disagree. “Of course, and they’re free to disagree,” he says. “But I’m giving my perspective on that.”

In a sign of remorse over tensions that had found expression on the floor of General Synod on the night of the marriage canon vote, Bishop David Parsons went before synod members on July 13 and apologized for his reactions the previous evening.

Speaking to the Journal afterward, Parsons said he, too, felt sorrow at the pain that followed the marriage canon vote.

“We make decisions at General Synod,” he said. “We have difference of opinion, but we’re allowed to talk. And there needs to be time to be able to talk…. I’m deeply hurt by the hurt it seems I’ve caused. That words ‘seems’ seems as if I’m playing it down. I’m not…. There’s no rejoicing in my heart whatsoever.”

As he had previously, in putting forward his views on the marriage canon amendment, Parsons reiterated his adherence to the Bible.

“Scripture prevents me from doing what I want to do,” Parsons said. “What I would like to do is allow same-sex marriage. I hope you take me in context with this…. Scripture prevents me from operating on my own will. I have no authority to go against the Scripture, and if I don’t have Scripture, I have no authority to go on.”

He added, “I stand under the authority of Jesus, who’s called me, that he’s the one and only saviour—and he gives me no permission to condemn anybody. He gives me no permission to not allow anybody to count. Jesus says to every one of us, ‘You count.’ And that’s always been my message…. I always care for people. I always love people, and I don’t hate anybody. But scripture condemns me for many of my thoughts and practices. And so for the last 40 years, I’ve been in the process of transformation, of the renewing of my mind.”

The role of the bishops

In her sermon at Christ Church Cathedral the morning after the marriage canon vote, Bishop Lynne McNaughton described the day’s reading from Ezekiel 34 as “an indictment of shepherds who don’t care for their sheep.” Jesus, she said, views himself as the “good shepherd who came to bind up the broken-hearted, seek the lost, rescue the scattered and the outcast. The good shepherd calls us each by name…. The namer whispers to the broken-hearted, ‘You are precious, honoured and loved.’”

“How do we hear this?” she asked. “How do we hear this as we get up after an agonizing night at General Synod when we move from the high of yesterday morning moving to the Indigenous self-determination, through the afternoon of making affirmations of how we can live well in our diversity, to the excruciating pain of last night’s close vote?”

McNaughton moved onto the subject of bishops, a relevant topic for many upset about the vote results. While the Order of Laity and Order of Clergy both saw the required two-thirds majority in favour of the marriage canon amendment, the Order of Bishops did not meet that threshold.

“Church leaders have taken on the pastoral metaphor from scripture that pastors and bishops are shepherds…. There’s a danger when human beings take on this metaphor and forget that Jesus is the good shepherd,” McNaughton said.

As this article was being written, the House of Bishops had met together at General Synod and were reportedly preparing a joint statement on the marriage canon vote.

Indigenous perspectives

National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald. Photo: Milos Tosic

The pain after the marriage canon vote made July 12 an emotional roller coaster for General Synod—marking a significant comedown after widespread elation felt that morning as members voted almost unanimously for the establishment of a self-determining Indigenous church as part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The trajectory of the day was no different for Indigenous delegates, who shared in the grief felt by the rest of General Synod when they met together as an Indigenous caucus.

“Despite the joy of the morning, the mood was very sad, because people were moved by the pain that they saw in the whole room,” National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald says. “Indigenous people were very, very concerned, particularly about the pain of the young people.”

Indigenous delegates voted both for and against the marriage canon resolution. But even among those who had voted against, MacDonald says, “There was no celebration of victory, there was no sense of ‘Isn’t this great?’. There wasn’t even much of a memory of what had happened before, despite how important and monumental that was. People were overcome by the emotional pain that they saw in the people, and that really was one of the dominant moods.”

However, with emotions running high in the day after the vote, an uglier undercurrent began to develop.

“We have heard from certain people quite negative, at times hostile reactions to Indigenous people in the Anglican Church of Canada because of the way that they voted,” MacDonald says.

“There’s an assumption there that all Indigenous bishops, for instance, voted against the marriage canon change. That’s not true at all.

“We are concerned about the implications of that kind of scapegoating, and we’re trying to deal with it as gently and serenely as possible.”

Both MacDonald and reconciliation animator Melanie Delva view the results of the marriage canon vote as a reconciliation issue.

MacDonald says that the aftermath of the vote reveals an undertow of “racial opinions and ideas,” colonial assumptions, and scapegoating that are hindrances to reconciliation, with people making “misjudgement and mischaracterizations of Indigenous people as a whole” and suggesting that “self-determination is great, as long as you do what we tell you to do.”

Delva says that “the results of the vote on the marriage canon is a ‘reconciliation issue’ in the same way that all decisions the church makes are ‘reconciliation issues.’”

Self-determination, she says, “means that for some, abstention is the right choice. For some, a no vote is the right choice. For some, a yes vote is the right choice. Self-determination does not mean Indigenous peoples do not participate in the life and processes of the wider church. It means that as per [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], they do so within the context of free, prior and informed consent.

“In the wake of this [vote], much more education will be necessary in order for us to walk humbly together in what has the potential to be an amazing incarnation of Jesus’ power to heal and restore.”

Views from the military ordinariate

Among lay delegates at General Synod, one of the more unique perspectives on the marriage canon vote comes from PO2 Bob Fearnley, a musician by trade currently posted at CFB Esquimalt with the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy.

PO2 Bob Fearnley. Photo: Matt Gardner

A lay member of the Anglican Military Ordinariate, Fearnley feels a “deep sense of disappointment” at the results of the marriage canon vote. He draws a comparison to the apology by Hiltz at General Synod 2019 for spiritual harm inflicted on Indigenous peoples, saying, “I feel that we’d missed a great opportunity to make sure that we weren’t going to have to apologize again for something that we had done to the people who are in the midst of us.”

Fearnley’s military background also puts the marriage canon vote in the context of generations of Canadian soldiers.

“They died for freedoms that they never even could have imagined would be possible in this day and age…. I would never leave the church, because you can’t leave if things don’t go your way…. But it felt as if we had dishonoured the sacrifice of our glorious dead,” he says.

“What would I say, looking into the eyes of a gay [armed forces] member, who would die beside me for the exact same thing I would, and tell him that the institution that I’m a part of yet again had failed him?” Fearnley asks.

“It’s tough,” he adds. “But I have to make sure that I also remember…people who would have voted or who did vote against the marriage canon would also have died alongside me.”

Options for reconsideration

Following the vote on July 12, delegates went to the microphones and asked what options General Synod had for reconsidering a decision made.

Primate Fred Hiltz and officers of General Synod share a tense moment of silence before results are revealed. Photo: Matthew Townsend

There are two ways synod can do so, Chancellor David Jones explains to the Journal. In the first method, once the discussion of a matter has been concluded, members can ask for reconsideration, which would require a two-thirds majority of the house.

The second method is that members could bring forward a somewhat different motion, but dealing with the same general topic. Because General Synod has now passed the deadline for bringing a motion, rules would require a two-thirds majority of the house in order to commit a late motion.

Since same-sex marriage is a question of doctrine, an objection might be why the Anglican Church of Canada would not require two readings at successive General Synods to re-examine the matter. The answer is that the amending formula, as stated in the Declaration of Principles, only requires two readings at successive General Synods if the resolution is a matter of doctrine in a canon.

The process that led up to the July 12 vote started at the 2013 Joint Assembly with a resolution, C003, to amend the marriage canon so that it would apply equally to all, i.e. both heterosexual and same-sex couples.

“If it hadn’t said ‘amend the canon,’ if it simply said [to] bring a motion that a minister in the Anglican Church of Canada may solemnize a same-sex marriage, it wouldn’t have needed two readings and it wouldn’t have needed two-thirds,” Jones says.

As the chancellor points out in a 2016 memorandum, Canon XXI on marriage does not define marriage, nor does it explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.

Conservative synod members have criticized this memorandum. Royal, for instance, says that “accepting the chancellor’s memo sets us on a dangerous path as a church, because what it does is it allows us to do things that are not explicitly prohibited in canons. It’s an argument from silence…. That’s a dangerous precedent to set, and I disagree with the chancellor’s memo very, very strongly.” Parsons told the chancellor directly in 2016 that it was “wrong for him to put out that memo.”

Jones, however, insists that such criticisms “are assuming that the canon prohibits [same-sex marriage]. The canon doesn’t. Show me where it does. It doesn’t. Read the canon.”

In light of the canon text, church rules and the fact that 76% of people in the room on July 12 voted in favour of the resolution, Jones draws the following conclusion about the marriage debate: “I don’t think it’s over at all.”

He suggests a number of possible scenarios going forward. Since many dioceses already solemnize same-sex marriages, other dioceses “that have held back…will go ahead” and bless same-sex marriages. A motion could come before the present General Synod while it is still in session, or the matter may come before the next General Synod.

“It may come in a very simple format,” Jones says. “It may simply be that this General Synod declares that a minister may solemnize the marriages of any two persons authorized to marry by civil law.”

Prayers for the church

With the wounds from the July 12 vote still fresh, synod members are turning to their faith in God for solace in trying times.

For Keesmaat-Walsh, prayer is difficult at the moment. They recall the words their father told them before they left for Vancouver to attend General Synod.

“I know that God loves me. And I know I belong in the kingdom of God…. The last thing my dad said to me before I left, when he dropped me off at the bus to go catch my flight, was: ‘Remember, the kingdom of God and the Anglican Church are not the same thing. When the church is at its best, you can get glimpses of the kingdom. But the Anglican Church of Canada is not the kingdom of God.’ And I’m trying to hold onto that knowing that in the kingdom, I belong.”

Holding on is not always easy—a harsh feeling to experience for a young person devoted to their church.

“I’m the church geek…. Before I had a cellphone, when in doubt, people would call the church if they couldn’t get a hold of me, because I was probably there,” Keesmaat-Walsh says. “That’s my life. The church is my whole world…. But I’m done. I am done with people who come up to you and say, ‘I am sorry for your pain,’ when they were part of the voting that gave me pain…. Right now, I’m too angry to pray, and I hate that. I want to be close to God right now.”

Brouillard-Coyle and Keesmaat-Walsh intend to continue their struggle for the recognition of same-sex marriages in the church. In protest, they will not receive the sacrament in any parish or diocese that does not solemnize same-sex marriage, and encourage others to do the same. They find inspiration in LGBTQ Anglicans before them and gratitude for their bishops who supported them after the vote result.

“People need to be praying for the queer Anglicans and queer Christians in their lives, because this will affect other denominations,” Keesmaat-Walsh says. “For all the queer Christians in their lives, they need to be reaching out to them, making sure that they are safe, making sure that if they need to be alone, that’s respected—but if there are dangers for them to be alone, they have somebody with them. People need to pray that we will know that we are beloved children of God and that we belong in this church. People need to pray that the hearts of the House of Bishops will be softened…. Pray for the children in queer families, who are seeing a church say that their parents’ love isn’t valid.”

“We’re never going to stop fighting…. We’re not backing down,” they add. “We are going to keep fighting until [same-sex marriage is recognized]. The only question is, how much pain and how many lives lost have to happen before we get there? It’s not a question of if the Anglican Church has marriage equality. It’s when, and how much do we have to go through first.”

For those who voted against the marriage canon resolution, the call to prayer also rings out. Expressing a desire for the church to move away from politics, Royal says that Anglicans should “talk about the gospel, talk about Jesus, talk about reconciliation with God and each other.”

For many Indigenous delegates, prayers for unity and reconciliation remain paramount in the wake of the marriage canon vote and the new reality of a self-determining Indigenous church.

“We want to find balance,” MacDonald says. “Indigenous people are not looking for some kind of veto over what happens here, and as is typical of Indigenous people, there is quite a bit of tolerance of the ambiguity that exists in the Anglican Church of Canada.

“We’re hoping that we can get back to focusing on some of the urgent issues of our day and age, and that we can find some common ground in reconciliation and in mission.”

For individuals, prayers for unity remain strong even among those who were dismayed by the result of the marriage canon vote. In his own case, Fearnley is praying that he can let go of the hurt and disappointment he feels and try to turn those emotions into something positive.

“At the same time that I’m disappointed that this vote went the way it did, it has only strengthened my resolve going forward to enact this change, which I believe should have been done now,” he says. “But if it can’t be done now, then it must be done in the future.”

He adds, “I’m praying for our unity, as all of us are, I’m sure, and that there is a way forward for us all to walk together, and to make sure that even though we have this disagreement, that we can still progress and grow together…. I’m just hoping that we can gain a perspective on this where we won’t have to argue about this anymore, and that we can serve everyone equally and faithfully.”

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Matt Gardner
Matt Gardner is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Gardner worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Gardner has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.

55 COMMENTS

  1. I’m so sad that the Anglican Church has chosen this path. God made people the way they are, there must be room in the church for everyone!

  2. There is nothing right about any vote that results in the oppression of a group of people. The bishops that caused this should be ashamed to hold office and utterly embarrassed to be using the Bible to justify a right to cause oppression to take place. Don’t be hippocritical enough to say your no vote doesn’t mean that. To do such is the language of bigotry.

    • Why is this name calling being published in the comments (” bigotry”)? Those who hold to the 2,000 years of church teaching are not bigots. Those who want to change the church’s doctrines are not the “oppressed.” Marriage is not a rights issue.

      • Society has said through the constitution and the courts that marriage is indeed a rights issue.
        But then society has to abide by a higher standard than the church.

  3. Remember that Christ will always provide a remnant of faithful believers. In the end it is only Christ that matters. We need to focus on what Christ’s law is and then follow it. Read your Kjv Bible and ” Take up your cross…”.

  4. Of course the Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriages as it dates from a time when there was no need for prohibition as the civil law did not permit it. Sexual sin is sin no matter what form it takes… the one cheating on their spouse, the married spouse looking at someone else than their spouse with lust, the unmarried couple having sex… anyone operating outside of the God given definition of marriage between and man and a women which by definition includes same-sex sexual relationships. The Word of God cannot be changed or reinterpreted by those seeking to please the changing mores of culture. Staying true to the Word is what has defined the Church from the very beginning; we are to live in the world but not be of the world. Let me end by saying that I truly love all people, no matter their sexual orientation. True agape love is wanting someone else’s highest good. We are all born with specific tendencies and preferences and the Word is our guide on which ones need to be developed for God’s glory and which ones need to looked on as challenges to overcome; a.k.a. Paul’s thorn in the flesh.

  5. We should not forget that now sociologically we are becoming a minority and not to lose sight of public perceptions: the wider public perception of “bishops” is that of a cast of selfserving…. (what would be the word for those who cover up crimes?) … or of an elite out of touch with their flocks (wider public does not discriminate Anglican bishops from RC bishops). These are NOT MY OPINIONS but seems to be the general non-church-goer public perception by talking to non-church goers and by reading their comments on CBC, etc., and by the results of polls and public opinion research. Bottom line: this is a MAJOR P.R. DISASTER that affects not only the bishops as a group but the Church as a whole and our ability to proclaim the Gospel to the un-church or no-faith.

    • What does PR have to do with it? The church is not a club trying to get new members. I would certainly never care what the leftist CBC had to say about anything anyway. You would be better off being concerned about your own theology and your own Christian life. Seriously, this is how we got into this debacle in the first place, being worried about whether we look “inclusive” enough to outsiders. Christianity does not equal inclusion.

      • Dear Elisabeth Staton,
        Sorry but you are barking up the wrong tree. My theology and my Christian (not Biblian) life -since you seem to worry- are solidily orthodox and credal (I have been told that I do preach about sin, and on our redemption through the crucified Christ – go figure since I believe I preach about the risen Christ!).

        You are right that Christianity is not about inclusion per se and for the pure sake of it (how can we possibily offer open communion to the Nazis for example? Or those who seek always to pay the lowest wages possible?) nor we should give up to any secularized notion of human rights.

        Having said all this, it is obvious by my previous comment that my very conservative theology leads me to not reduce divine revelation to the scriptures. For me the fullest and most complete manifest revelation of God was, is in Jesus Christ our ONLY redeemer and saviour (no apologies). For all this I am a Christian and not a Biblian. I follow Christ as constantly revealed in Tradition (oral and writen the Didache, the biblical canon, etc., Life in the Church, Sacraments, Communion to God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. I think your theology is bound to a specific set of writings. Mine is not.

        Now, going back to your correct appreciation that it is not about PR.

        I did not bring that topic up thinking it to be decisive or determining for our course of action, but because as the minority we are becoming in an increasingly secular society, the perception that we can not tell gay people that God does not condemn them for their unchosen sexual orientation, is perceived as anything except love. This perception, wrong or not, does hinder our ability to proclaim the Gospel (bear in mind that the ability of the new religion to attract new converts was due in large part to the way our ancestors lived loving each other in spite of their being sinners; of course you might argue that homosexuals were admitted once they had renounced to their “sinful ways”, HOWEVER, our knowledge -and therefore understanding- of the nature of human sexuality demands from us as Christians to act accordingly to our following Christ in Tradition, liturgy, prayer, theology, ecclesial life, life in community and life on the Holy Spirit…and in the way we read the Bible).

        Of course you seem to reject the findings of sciences and perhaps even the human experience of Christians who are gay, and for this you do not feel the need to adjust your notion about gay couples. Makes sense! So much so that naturally and logically for you God must be very upset about two people of same gender loving each other, caring for each other and respecting each other’s human dignity and condition as child of God. So, you believe the Bible condemns homosexual acts, and that the Bible attests to God being upset at a gay couple. For the sake of argument let’s say that-yes- the Bible does condemn gay couples and that therefor -since for you the Word of God is contained in between the first and last page of this book- God is upset at gay couples. Can you tell me why do YOU think God is so mad at a gay couple?

        Your answer would help you to discern why you stand where you stand. Of course, this is for your own growth in your faith and not for any desire to convince you of anything.

        I will hold you in prayer and ask you to hold me in prayer.

        Rev. Julio C. Martin +

        Your servant in Christ our only redeemer and saviour.

      • Actually the message of the magi at Epiphany said that indeed everyone is included. We are strengthened by diversity and acceptance of those who are not like us.

    • The Crucifixion was–and is–the worst P.R. disaster the Church has ever suffered. But without it there is no Church. Gien the choice between having bishops vote their convictions and avoiding a P.R. disaster, I hope we always choose the former.

  6. It is totally disingenuous to claim to “love” the persons to whom you have just denied access to one of the sacraments of the church on the basis of who they are as human beings. Creeds and dogma, along with tradition in general, are only as credible as their ability to reflect on-going revelation, awareness and development of human knowledge. No accident that those who hold the reins of power in a hierarchical church were the one group with enough members not to acknowledge this. Kudos to those young people who are refusing to let their God be so limited.

    • Anne, the purpose of the church has never been to give “access” to anything, like some kind of modern day affirmative action program. Rather, we accept, submit and conform to the church’s teaching, unless, of course, we think we know better. Second, marriage is not a sacrament in the sense you are using the word, if you check the 39 Articles in your BCP. Third, up until very recently, no one had “access” (better word would be permission) to take Holy Communion, one of the true sacraments) unless they were confirmed by a Bishop. But of course, that has been done away with, as we should just allow anyone to participate, without any understanding or commitment to anything. Third, are you really saying church teachings aren’t true ( credible) unless they’ve incorporated new ideas? Finally, we don’t and can’t limit God, thank God. The few Bishops that have stood up against this relentless pressure should be commended, not those who are destroying the church.

  7. The ongoing argument , does the current way of the world govern the Church or does Scripture Those who believe the latter will try in almost all instances to be accommodating but in the end like Luther they will turn to reason and conscience Don’t beat on those who voted against the Canons modification , they were only following scripture and their conscience

  8. I have not stopped weeping since the vote on the marriage canon. Disappointment does not describe the depth of my pain. How do I explain to my non-Christian daughter that the church does not want her, at least not enough to solemnize her marriage? To her it’s another flaw in the church’s treatment of many groups over the centuries, especially women, Indigenous people, and anyone who was not considered white. I agree. I hope that the suggested “local option” gives us a positive way forward.

  9. For more years than I care to think about the nature of my nature, the nature of my love, and the nature of my relationship with my partner have been scrutinized, weighed morally, debated and discussed by the Church. This, and the ensuing decisions over time, have happened in the most public of ways – in committees, at Synods and reported in the press – which for myself and many like me has meant living this out at an incredible level of vulnerability. In a way we have stood emotionally naked in ‘the assembly’.

    Through all of this my partner and I have done our best to remain faithful to God, our Church and one another. We had hoped that this time the Sacrament of Marriage might come to embrace us. We had hoped and prayed that this might happen while my partner of 30 years, who now has Alzheimer’s disease, still knows who I am.

    I refuse to be angry. I refuse to be bitter. In the very core of my soul I am certain of one one thing. While we may still be excluded from the Sacrament, this has certainly felt like a marriage to us; and whatever the Church chooses to call it we have never felt that what we have has been excluded from the blessing and Grace of God.

    We will continue to say, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”

    • It’s not clear to me why you would mind this “scrutiny” if you wish to overturn 2,000 years of church teaching. Presumably, we would want the fullest analysis of all aspects of this critical issue. Or possibly not? Everyone’s “nature” has been discussed: that’s what the conversation about male and female has been about. You don’t own the vulnerability issue either, for those who have watched our church divide over this, leaving us with nothing of our tradition, where are we to go? No one can exclude you from God’s grace. But marriage is not something you “feel.”

      • I did not wish to imply that I ‘own ‘ vulnerability. That is an unfair and inference to take from what was a sharing of my personal experience. Sadly, the pain seems to be everywhere.
        Marriage may not be A feeling but it certainly is something you feel in the sense of experiencing -a union , a sharing and a commitment among other things.
        Please don’t assume that I know so little simply because you disagree.

        • Dear Katherine,
          I appreciate your honesty, bravery, and your compassion. Standing down to bullies is never easy.

          God loves you and your wife. John 3:16 states ‘whosoever’ and not ‘whatsoever’.

          Blessings to you both.

  10. This is what happens when children run the church councils. With respect, the way the article describes the responses of some of the younger people is embarrassing. If they can’t control their emotions and act maturely in public, how did they ever get to be delegates in the first place? I am tired of hearing about suicide every time you don’t get your own way. How the issue of marriage came to be a sign of “inclusion” is beyond me. There are thousands who have left the AC because of this type of extortionate behaviour. Many thousands more will be leaving because of the “local option loophole.” So much for voting. Primate Hilts wonders at the alarming decline in attendance? When you stand for nothing, what do you expect.

      • I’m sorry, but if you want a tantrum, you need look no further than the behaviour of David Parsons, the Diocesan Bishop of the Arctic. Keening in despair is not a tantrum, it is a cry of the heart.

        • For which he has since made a full public apology for. I have not heard of any other apologies made for outbursts made, have you?

        • Thank you, Brian. Those who are not moved by the crying of our children have missed the point of the love of God. The love of God and a place at the table shared by other children of God is what these children are crying out for. Anyone who can’t see that should be ashamed because their dismissal of such pain dishonours the commandment to love your neighbour. And they try to say that this attitude and behaviour is not hate. It is indefensible.

  11. Forgive my ignorance: Why is there so much fear expressed by and for queer community for their like-minded friends?
    What is it that they fear?

    • Rule number one: don’t listen to what they say (emote). Instead, watch what they do. Disruption is the intent and they use whatever means at hand. Next, notice the bias in the AJ reporting. In this article, no one holding the traditional view was interviewed: the histrionics make for better reporting. Finally, while it is difficult for Christians to accept, there are some who want to take down the church out of pure destructive motives. Remade in their own image. Now that’s really fearful.

      • Ms. Staton: Speaking for the Journal, I can say that you are incorrect—please read the article again. Both Joey Royal and David Parsons were interviewed in this piece, as is clearly evident in the phrase “Speaking to the Journal afterward, Parsons said…”

        I am trying to allow a dialogue to occur, here, recognizing that there are vastly different opinions and high emotions. I am concerned that your comments are moving from a representation of your perspective to mere inflammation, so I’m letting you—and everyone else commenting—know that this is not acceptable on our site. My tolerance for this will be extremely limited. – Matthew Townsend, Editorial Supervisor

  12. If the Anglican Church like hundreds of others, does not continue to throw its arms wide for ALL to prosper in love & acceptance as was Jesus’s and our mission, they will be left empty and wither and die from a long and much shame filled history that has taken another step back into darkness, in a regressive, desperate and threatening time we currently face. I am deeply saddened, gravely disappointed and looking for arms that are open in the faith community.

    • Oh please. You have got the complete wrong end of the horse. First, no one is being denied baptism and the Eucharist. Those are the two sacraments of the church. Second, there is no right to marriage. Period. Just like I don’t have a “right” to be ordained. Next, please stop equating inclusion and marriage. This is a category mistake. We are all excluded from things every day of our lives. This is irrelevant to the issue of marriage. Finally, if you want to go where they believe everything (and therefore nothing) I recommend the Universal Unitarians ( or something, can’t remember their exact name). You can do and believe whatever you feel like there.

  13. This should not be seen as a victory for the traditionalists. The majority of lay and clergy in the Anglican Church of Canada are for the proposed change and it would have passed but for the two extra votes needed from the house of bishops. It’s obvious that this change will come about, the only question is when. The only positive for the traditionalists is that it gives them extra time to consider their options on how to remain true to their Anglican faith once the inevitable happens. The Anglican Church in North America will probably take the majority of congregations/congregants who decide to leave. Start developing your exit plan and looking at your self-funding options while you have the time. Godspeed.

    • Good comment but you’re forgetting that the laity who vote at Synod are not representatives of the lay body of Anglicans: they vote their own personal views. Therefore, there are thousands of Anglicans who are not in favour of this change and they’ve been voting with their feet and wallets for the last fifteen years, especially the last three (hence former Primate Hiltz’s comment on the “alarming” decline in attendance). I would find it funny if it weren’t so pathetic some actually think that allowing gay marriage would bring people into the church when all this fighting and voting has done us drive life long Anglicans like me out. So when we, the body, will no longer pay the clergy and bishops’ $100,000.00 per year salaries, they’ll have nothing left. But, by all means, be allies of the oppressed. Virtue signalling is not Christianity.

      • You stated that conservative Anglicans have been voting with their feet and wallets for years now. They are choosing to leave rather than fight, which is their prerogative. If you were telling me that they were staying to choose delegates, clergy, bishops, metropolitans, and primates that were in line with their thinking, then my advice to you (the conservative Anglicans) would have been different. It’s no different than what the United Church went through when most conservatives left and those that didn’t eventually succumb to the pressure to conform. I pray that God would grant you peace and wisdom in the days ahead as you seek to continue your fellowship with Anglicans of similar heart and mind.

        • I appreciate your response Brent and accept your good faith suggestion that being a delegate would have been one way to support the traditional teaching of the church ( this without of course knowing what I have done in this regard up until last October). Where would I be today, then, with more than 11 Bishops declaring this week that the vote at General Synod last Friday meant nothing? Would it be better or worse to have been a delegate and to have your voice ignored? I chose to accept that this issue would not be dropped until the pro argument got its way, by whatever means. John Wesley said that while schism was one of the worst things, there was something even worse than that. I leave you to ponder what that might be. I have just read that the Diocese of the Arctic had ceded from the Anglican Church of Canada. Here we go.

          • FYI, the Diocese of the Arctic has provided a follow-up statement saying they have not seceded, on Facebook:

            The Diocese of the Arctic remains a diocese within the Anglican church of Canada, but must distance itself from those who violate the Marriage Canon. The implication of this is a state of “impaired communion”. By using the phrase “self-determining,” we are reserving the right not to affirm or submit to decisions that violate the doctrine of the church on marriage.

            One of our writers has been in touch with Bishop David Parsons, and we’ll have more reporting on this soon.

            -MT

  14. Sorry but you are barking up the wrong tree. My theology and my Christian (not Biblian) life -since you seem to worry- are solidily orthodox and credal (I have been told that I do preach about sin, and on our redemption through the crucified Christ – go figure since I believe I preach about the risen Christ!).

    You are right that Christianity is not about inclusion per se and for the pure sake of it (how can we possibily offer open communion to the Nazis for example? Or those who seek always to pay the lowest wages possible?) nor we should give up to any secularized notion of human rights.

    Having said all this, it is obvious by my previous comment that my very conservative theology leads me to not reduce divine revelation to the scriptures. For me the fullest and most complete manifest revelation of God was, is in Jesus Christ our ONLY redeemer and saviour (no apologies). For all this I am a Christian and not a Biblian. I follow Christ as constantly revealed in Tradition (oral and writen the Didache, the biblical canon, etc., Life in the Church, Sacraments, Communion to God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. I think your theology is bound to a specific set of writings. Mine is not.

    Now, going back to your correct appreciation that it is not about PR.

    I did not bring that topic up thinking it to be decisive or determining for our course of action, but because as the minority we are becoming in an increasingly secular society, the perception that we can not tell gay people that God does not condemn them for their unchosen sexual orientation, is perceived as anything except love. This perception, wrong or not, does hinder our ability to proclaim the Gospel (bear in mind that the ability of the new religion to attract new converts was due in large part to the way our ancestors lived loving each other in spite of their being sinners; of course you might argue that homosexuals were admitted once they had renounced to their “sinful ways”, HOWEVER, our knowledge -and therefore understanding- of the nature of human sexuality demands from us as Christians to act accordingly to our following Christ in Tradition, liturgy, prayer, theology, ecclesial life, life in community and life on the Holy Spirit…and in the way we read the Bible).

    Of course you seem to reject the findings of sciences and perhaps even the human experience of Christians who are gay, and for this you do not feel the need to adjust your notion about gay couples. Makes sense! So much so that naturally and logically for you God must be very upset about two people of same gender loving each other, caring for each other and respecting each other’s human dignity and condition as child of God. So, you believe the Bible condemns homosexual acts, and that the Bible attests to God being upset at a gay couple. For the sake of argument let’s say that-yes- the Bible does condemn gay couples and that therefor -since for you the Word of God is contained in between the first and last page of this book- God is upset at gay couples. Can you tell me why do YOU think God is so mad at a gay couple?

    Your answer would help you to discern why you stand where you stand. Of course, this is for your own growth in your faith and not for any desire to convince you of anything.

    I will hold you in prayer and ask you to hold me in prayer.

    Rev. Julio C. Martin +

    Your servant in Christ our only redeemer and saviour.

  15. Ms. Stanton, your hurtful comments need to be called out. You seem to have taken pleasure in the very real pain caused by the vote. (Not “extortionate behaviour” as you call it!)
    As for embarrassing behaviour, it is David Parsons who should be embarrassed by his temper tantrum, and great disrespect shown to the Primate and indeed all of GS.
    You state that “Christianity does not equal inclusion.” That’s a curious comment. Tell me, just who do you think Jesus would have us exclude?

    • Pardon the interruption in your dialogue with Ms. Stanton, but you must know that Bishop Parsons was embarrassed by his actions and has since made a full public apology for same. Regarding your question on those who Jesus would have us exclude, would it not be the same list as was given to John in Revelation 21:8 as to those that will be eternally separated from God: “…the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars…”?

    • Dear Teresa,

      To answer your question, there were a few people that Jesus actually did exclude. Exclude by making whips and violently driving the money-changers out of the Temple. That’s exclusion!

      Jesus was also not too fond of the hypocrisy of powerful religious leaders. Calling them things like a “nest of snakes” is not the most inclusive label to put on people.

      But Jesus really seems to have it in for the rich. Not just by whipping the money-changers out of the Temple, but by saying things like, “It is as hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.” Excluding them from heaven! That’s big-time exclusion!

      And if you think Jesus is excluding when it comes to rich people, his mother is even worse! Mary says about God, “He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.” So it looks like we know who Jesus (and his mother) believe in excluding and sending away.

  16. A comment here: Why can’t we respect the outcome result? How in the name of diversity the conservatives within the church are not welcomed? It looks like to watch more carefully the tears of one side and one type of door. Having all together in one church is not easy, there are sincere believers who can’t accept the same sex marriage and they can;t be called bigot. The fathers of the church in the past made strong decisions despite the challenges they had in their communities, because of their love for the Scriptures.

    • I understand the conservatives have a right to a voice. So do the opposite. The difference being the conservatives KNOW they are equal to any other Anglican and they just proved that anyone different is not
      not equal
      not accepted
      We can be Anglicans as long as we hide who we are
      Conservatives do not have to hide their hate
      We have to hide our love
      There lies the difference

      • I am willing to believe that you believe, in good faith, that the argument about marriage is an “equality” argument. Instead of accusing those who don’t accept this premise as hateful, you might want to investigate more fully why I and others do not engage the marriage argument in that domain. Leaving aside that disagreement is not hate ( clearly I would never characterise your disagreement with me that way), there is a substantive and widely published argument that refutes both the “rights” argument more broadly and the subsequent “equality” argument. That these arguments were never fully engaged leading up to the vote, but the premises merely assumed to be true, is the fault of church leaders who were relentlessly pressured into coming to a decision quickly. I probably can’t change your mind, but I do challenge you to at least ask whether you actually can support an equality argument and also to stop characterising those who disagree with you as hateful.

  17. “Seriously, this is how we got into this debacle in the first place, being worried about whether we look “inclusive” enough to outsiders. Christianity does not equal inclusion.”

    Just about the least gracious and least Christ-like comment I have ever heard from the mouth of someone professing to be a Christian.

    • Fortunately, it is not up to you to decide whether I am Christ-like. I am surprised (or maybe not) that comments such as yours and those with words “bigotry” and “hate” are being published. Name calling is not an argument, but is the refuge if those who cannot substantiate their position. God is the judge if my profession and witness, not you.

      • Ms. Staton is correct—and I apologize for publishing the above comment from Ms. Thraves. While there is clearly disagreement over which approach to marriage is more or less Christian—and I know emotions are high—we should refrain from attacks upon the faith of others.

        -MT

  18. It is with great sadness to discover that although I can be baptized, confirmed and BURIED in my church I can not marry the woman I have lived with for 28 years. The woman that helped me raise four children that are successful in life and have given us EIGHT grandchildren.
    This practice of marrying in civil court and going to the back door of the church for a blessing is also not acceptable.
    The church accepts us in the congregation, accepts our work on Parish council and a hundred other committees, accepts our envelopes, accepts our physical work fund raising, cleaning the buildings, serving meals, runing environment groups BUT
    how do I answer my 8 year old grand daughter
    “Can I go to church if they don’t want you there Grandma and Nana?”
    How can I say that they will want you there unless you decide later in life you want to be with a girl.
    Second class Anglicans we are, if we be that.
    We may not be alive once opportunity allows another motion, first vote and second vote again.
    So sad at so much hate displayed here.
    Take care for we care

    • Hello Claudia,
      Thank you for your thoughtful post. I can appreciate the dilemma and challenges you and your wife are struggling with.
      Blessings.

  19. So sad…people reaching out to God and rejected because of genetic make-up. Ignorance of today’s knowledge is a very pathetic excuse for exclusion. I think Jesus might just frown. Linda Mowbray.. My God, My Jesus…would.

  20. I knew the Anglican Church of Canada was in trouble but the result of the recent vote on the so called marriage canon appears to be dragging the church even deeper into irrelevance. I failed however to understand that this organisation is now officially on the rocks and rapidly heading for disaster. After reading the comments above there doesn’t appear to be a way forward..or .a reconciliation if you will. Although a majority of the clergy and lay delegates appear to support changing the church’s marriage canon, a significant number are not and in all likelihood will not be on side. As for the House of Bishops it appears at least 14 of them are woefully out of tune and out of step with the people and clergy they are expected to lead. The House of Bishops decided the church would reject changing the canon to include equal marriage. Realising it’s mistake Bishops released a letter basically suggesting individual diocese can basically do what they want on the issue. Unfortunately this is too little too late. As there is no ruling on the issue, same sex couples seeking to access the sacrament of marriage can not expect to be treated equally in every anglican church in every diocese across the land…and that my friends in grossly unfair. Synod delegates supporting equal marriage are shocked and gravely disappointed. The House of Bishops had a huge opportunity to stop the bleeding and reunite the church. Unfortunately this elite body of mostly ageing white men collectively failed to understand the issue or even recognise the problem….and now that is putting their future and indeed the future of the Anglican Church of Canada in jeopardy.

  21. Genesis 2:18-22 was God’s idea of man & woman helping each other. I’ve watched society slowly spiral to a pit of no return. The world has changed drastically in the last century or so it seems. Mass media desensitized the conscience of mankind through comedy, documentries, and even in our education system where small children get sex education through the secular cirricullum and many other ways. But also children who were victims of sex abuse at mass numbers around the world has forced us to …It could be that persecution of Christians in the western world is going to intensify and cause many to take a second, third look while good is called bad, and bad called good. Our freedom had a price at great cost. Mind you the mindset of those who paid the price for our freedom had a sincere and good cause of what we ought to think twice about the times of each generation’s mindset. Our generation is a mindset of unlimited rights. Our privileges are being forgotten at an alarming rate. My 2 cent worth.

  22. Note to Matt Gardner: Thank you for your report. It was a difficult assignment with many nuances. I think you presented the news fairly and with consideration for the various parties.

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