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.”