CoGS commends amended marriage resolution to recognize different understandings, Indigenous rights


“Members are entitled to hold and exercise either view provided they recognize and respect that others may with integrity hold a different view,” the amendment reads. Photo: I’m Friday/Shutterstock

When General Synod considers this July whether to allow same-sex marriages in the church, the resolution it will vote on is expected to differ in some respects from the resolution that passed first reading in 2016. That’s because Council of General Synod (CoGS), at its spring meeting in March, commended to General Synod an amended resolution—one meant to reassure Anglicans that they can hold different understandings of marriage and to recognize the rights of Indigenous Anglicans to make their own decision on the matter.

The amended resolution would add two new paragraphs to the marriage canon.

The first paragraph states that members of the church have “different understandings and teachings about the nature of marriage,” with some seeing it essentially as between a man and a woman, and others also accepting same-sex marriage.

“Members are entitled to hold and exercise either view provided they recognize and respect that others may with integrity hold a different view,” the amendment reads. “All Anglicans accept that marriage is a sign of God’s redeeming purpose to unite all things in Christ. We are committed to graceful walking together in a spirit of generosity as part of the same Christian community.”

The second paragraph affirms that “General Synod recognizes that Indigenous communities have particular understandings about the nature of marriage as well as their own ways of making decisions—both of which are protected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—and will continue to discern whether same-sex marriage would be acceptable in their communities.”

In a March 16 presentation to CoGS on the proposed amendment to the resolution, Canon (lay) David Jones, chancellor of General Synod, said the idea for it arose after the original resolution was referred to diocesan synods, the House of Bishops and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) for consideration. Some concerns emerged about the need for the resolution to address different understandings and teachings of marriage in the church, he said, as well as the desire for Indigenous Anglicans to make their own decision on the issue.

In April 2018, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said there was a chance the resolution might be amended to include reassurances for members of the church who hold a traditional view of marriage. “I think everybody is trying to find ways that will enable our church to respect more than one view on marriage,” Hiltz said at the time. In 2010, General Synod endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states that Indigenous people and communities have the right to, among other things, practice and teach their own religious traditions. In addition, in a November 2018 presentation to CoGS, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said Indigenous Anglicans were asking to be somehow “bracketed” in the divisive debate.

CoGS also approved at its March meeting a resolution commending General Synod to consider a seven-page statement on the same-sex marriage resolution. The document, “A Word to the Church: Considering the proposed amendment of Marriage Canon XXI,” includes a summary of the Anglican Church of Canada’s engagement with same-sex marriage since 1992; a lament for the “long season of deep pain” it sees the discussion as having caused the whole church; and a request that General Synod and the whole church make a set of affirmations, including a commitment to “stand together.”

Hiltz said he saw the statement as a “companion piece” to the legislative work General Synod will do on the marriage canon.

“It’s the closest thing I think we might be able to come to in terms of the yearning of some people to have a non-legislative process,” he told CoGS. “We see something like this as an opportunity for the whole church to be able to say something from the perspective of story, recognitions, commitments and communion.”

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Tali Folkins

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.

5 Responses

  1. I do hope we can do this and have a blessed understanding of our universal love for each other and the desire to remain together in our world wide communion.

  2. In 2004, a motion A134 was presented at General Synod. It had four clauses. One clause read: “despite deeply held convictions on both sides of the same-sex blessing issue, we commit ourselves to strive for that communion into which Christ continually calls us”. So now, 14 years, later, a statement about “different understandings and teachings” about marriage is going to appear in the Marriage Canon. So, may I ask, how are we any better off than we were in 2004? We have had two official reports, the St. Michael’s Report, a 40 page document, in 2005. We had the Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon in 2015, a 60 page Report. So, what is going on? Why is there so much confusion, as well as emotion and subjectivity? Why are Anglican leaders unable to see, or even articulate clearly the theological issues? Why is it, all we get are clever wording of phrases, in motions or statements, designed to please all Anglicans and pretend everything is all right? I won’t attempt an analysis, but may I point out there is “identity politics” going on at General Synod, so “identity politics” and theological beliefs are very, very confused. I will point out, this 21 century controversy resembles a 4th century controversy, known as Arianism. Arianism lasted 62 years. Arius began to preach in 318 AD. There were 20 church Councils held, meetings of the bishops during this time.Two Councils were ecumenical (all or most Bishops present), the other councils were provincial in nature. and in 381, the Council of Constantinople re-affirmed the Nicene Creed. Also, the bishops were operating in two languages, Greek and Latin. There were key words, key concepts, they needed to sort out and agree to, what these words/concepts meant. So, the Bishops of the Early Church, successfully engaged in a controversy, they sorted out the philosophy, which concepts to use, how to describe Christian beliefs, and they produced statements we know as Creeds, which have servced the Christian Church down through the centuries. I think our modern Bishops ought to practice humility, and to accept there is a theological poverty at this time. I also think, the belief there is a simple, rational solution, acceptable to all reasonable Anglicans is niave and false This belief (there is a simple,solution) is coming from modern, scientific culture. We arrogant, modern Anglicans, with our big heads, need to learn to respect our historicial forbearers. We need to learn from the events and persons of the Early Church.

  3. An additional comment. I mark the beginning of the “same-sex/Christian homosexual” controversy at 1998. In this year, there was a motion passed at the Lambeth Conference, motion 1.10, I believe, stating a traditional understanding of marriage. Here in Canada, in 1998, in the Diocese of New Westminster, a motion was presented, requesting the Bishop give permission for clergy to administer a rite of blessing. So, this controversy has only be going on for just over twenty years. That is not a long time, in terms of church history. So, where does the belief come from, that we ought to have solved the controversy out by now, come from? I suggest it comes from modern, scientific culture.

  4. So, let me see if I understand this correctly.
    By now it has been made perfectly clear to us that a certain unilateral action by the Anglican Church of Canada will seriously jeopardize our relationship with other member Provinces of the world-wide Anglican Communion. That action, if taken, will constitute a willful decision on our part to step out on our own and cease to care about walking in step with our global faith family.
    At the same time, our leaders are now anxiously promoting ‘Walking Together’ as though it is one of the high callings of God in Christ, and they are pleading with us to stay dutifully and steadfastly in step with them no matter what happens.
    The message I get is that the Anglican Communion is divisible, but the Anglican Church of Canada is not divisible.
    Does anyone else see a bizarre ‘disconnect’ in this, or a sleight-of-hand trick in progress?

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