CoGS asks church leaders to encourage marriage canon discussion in provinces, dioceses

Members of Council of General Synod (CoGS) discuss “respectful conversation” practices during a meeting on the marriage canon Sunday, November 12. Photo: Tali Folkins

Council of General Synod (CoGS) is asking leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada to encourage discussion, within provinces and dioceses, of the same-sex marriage amendment now awaiting its second reading at General Synod 2019.

A resolution approved by CoGS Sunday, November 12 requests the primate as well as the prolocutor of the national church “to communicate with the Metropolitans and Provincial Prolocutors, and diocesan bishops and synods to encourage full consideration of the matter be given prior to General Synod 2019.” It also asks that “the consideration given shall be reported to the Council of General Synod no later than November 1, 2018.”

The resolution arose out of discussion the previous day on the marriage canon. Members were asked by Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton, chair of the CoGS working group on the canon, to gather in table groups by their ecclesiastical provinces and write down any questions they had about either the resolution to change the canon or the process of discussing the resolution that the dioceses and provinces are to undertake before its second reading. The working group, she said, would compile answers to their questions in a “fact sheet” to be given to provinces, dioceses and members of General Synod 2019.

In July 2016, a resolution to amend the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriages passed its first reading at General Synod. According to the Anglican Church of Canada’s Declaration of Principles, changes to canons dealing with doctrine—such as the marriage canon, for example—must be “referred for consideration to diocesan and provincial synods, following the first approval of the General Synod.”

One question raised by the table group of the province of Canada was whether there was “a mechanism for accountability to ensure that the dioceses and provinces are being faithful to the call to consider the marriage canon amendment”; another asked how the status of their considerations of it was to be shared with the rest of the church.

After discussion of these and other questions, CoGS planning team co-chair Dean Peter Wall asked if the council might later consider a resolution requesting the primate and prolocutor to communicate with their provincial counterparts about discussion of the marriage canon resolution in the provinces.

On Sunday, the resolution was presented by the Rev. David Burrows (province of Canada), with the clause calling for a report-back by November 2018 added. The resolution was further amended to include dioceses as well as provinces, and was then adopted by consensus.

In their provincial table groups on Saturday, November 11, CoGS members put forth a number of questions about the procedure around the marriage canon amendment’s second reading. They asked, for example, whether the resolution could be amended, and what would happen if it is tabled at General Synod 2019.

In response, chancellor David Jones replied that the resolution can be amended, and that such amendments would require a simple majority to be approved (unlike the resolution itself, which will require a two-thirds majority in the three Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity). General Synod could also vote to table the motion, which technically means postponing it to later in the session; however, Jones added, a variant of tabling is to postpone it indefinitely or to the next General Synod. In this case, he said, the resolution would effectively fail, since it needs to be approved by two successive General Synods in order to pass.

Among the other questions posed by CoGS table groups were whether bishops have a right to go ahead with approving same-sex marriage in their dioceses if the resolution fails; whether the voting would be electronic, by paper or by a show of hands; and how the church would deal with those who cannot accept same-sex marriage if the resolution passes.

Saturday’s meeting was one of two at this session of CoGS to focus on the marriage canon amendment. A second meeting on Sunday, also led by McNaughton, was meant to instruct members on how they might carry on “respectful conversation” on the controversial resolution. McNaughton recommended a number of practices, all based on the idea of seeing the goal of conversation as understanding rather than changing another person’s mind. These included mentally separating the person one is talking to from the “problem” at stake; being aware of the interests that underlie people’s positions; knowing and owning one’s own emotions around a debate; and always seeking merit in the other person’s position. Council then watched as two pairs of CoGS members attempted to model these practices, explaining their own points of view, listening to those of their counterparts and then expressing appreciation for those views.

After hearing reports of “bullying” in conversations around the resolution at General Synod in 2016, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, gravely reminded members of synod of the need to show “holy manners” toward one another.


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Tali Folkins
Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.


  1. So to put it in layman’s terms, do by whatever means necessary to persuade everyone that changing the marriage canon is the only logical course of action ,and above all silence any opposition.

    • Perhaps, Tony, you could constructively suggest how we might change our process for considering doctrine (assuming you accept there has to be such consideration from time to time).

      Your “layman’s terms” seem nothing at all like a description of the process in place and being followed.

      • First of all it should be done in a way that does not violate scripture. The church seem to give more credibility to the musings of the world then it does to scripture. I seem basic doctrine has been hammered out pretty well through the last 2000 years. Now a days people take issue with something because it may rub them the wrong way People want to get rid of the creed and in its place say the Shema in its place ,which is not a declaration of faith but a general statement about God. They do this because they have a problem with the deity of Christ ,the virgin birth, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus,again they want to violate scripture so that is more inline with their perspective, conforming it to their viewpoint. Scripture has the final word on all things pertaining to the faith we are to conforn to it not it to us.

  2. In relation to things changing–marriage canon, view of Eucharist, ordination– I’ve found that The Book of Common Prayer: A Biography by Alan Jacobs helps me to see how matters of liturgy and practice are not static but changing as a community works through these matters. I particularly refer to the inclusion, then exclusion, of The Black Rubric, in the early days of the Anglican communion. Seeing how matters change, and with what motivation and results, is something we also read about in the book of Acts, especially in relation to the matters brought up in the first council at Jerusalem in which St. Paul differed from St. Peter. It shows how the church reacted without division.

    • You are right liturgies change, canons change but Gods standards ,like God Himself , do not change. Heaven and earth will change but not Gods word. If Gods word is our benchmark then when liturgies and canons change they change either to the better ,meaning they are becoming more in line with Gods word ,or for the worse where they depart from the standard set in Gods word. The marriage canon changes for the worse.


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