In a progress report to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) on the early work of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, chair Canon Robert Falby noted that there had been “some controversy” over the membership of the committee after it was announced in early 2014.
Critics have said that the commission does not have a balance of members who are both for and against the resolution passed at General Synod 2013, which asked CoGS to prepare and present a motion to change the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples” prior to the next General Synod in 2016.
In fact, Bishop Larry Robertson of the diocese of Yukon voiced those concerns to CoGS, meeting in Mississauga, Ont., on May 3. He said he spoke not only his own views but those of people in his diocese and beyond who brought their concerns to him because he is a member of CoGS. After confirming that a change to the marriage canon would be considered a matter of doctrine that would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in all three orders at two consecutive General Synods, the bishop said he and several people who had come to him questioned the idea that the commission was balanced.
Falby replied that he was disappointed that Robertson didn’t think the commission membership was balanced. “I think it is,” he said. “At our initial meeting, one of the things the commission did agree on was that they have to keep an open mind on all of the issues and assess them all judicially.”
His understanding of the criteria used by the officers was that they “were looking for people who occupied the middle road, with perhaps opinions previously expressed on one side or the other, but not anyone who had taken on an advocacy role for one side or the other.”
Falby also emphasized that the commission wants to hear from Anglicans across the country with any point of view on the matter and that it is inviting submissions of their opinions in a written document or video through a dedicated page on the church’s website, anglican.ca. Submissions can also be made by email firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions must be in by Sept. 30, 2014 and will be posted on anglican.ca. Falby said the goal is to have an open and transparent process, and posting the comments is with the intent of creating a public hearing.
Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Northern Ontario mission area also commented that there is no First Nations representation on the committee. “Keep this in mind that the church and the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman…Our elders are very strong in that belief and they would like to see that continue, so please keep this in mind for our First Nations people, as they are part of the Anglican Church of Canada.”
Falby assured her that the views of indigenous Anglicans are valued and added that he has already had a brief conversation with National Indigeous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald about how their input should be elicited and given to the commission.
Bishop Robertson later told the Anglican Journal that in spite of the differing views on this issue, he remains fully committed to the church. “The Anglican church is a church of broad traditions. One of the reasons I am a member of this church is because of the broadness of it,” he said. “I can sit down and pray with you, and still have communion with you and still share the gospel to the limits that I can, even though there are areas that I disagree with…It’s when it starts to lack in love, that’s when it becomes a real issue for me.”