A resolution asking General Synod to allow same-sex marriage will still go forward despite a statement from the House of Bishops that it is unlikely that such a motion will pass, says Canon (lay) David Jones, chancellor of General Synod.
“Council of General Synod [CoGS] is required [by General Synod 2013] to send a motion to General Synod 2016,” he said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “The motion…will be debated there, and there will be votes taken, one way or another.”
In its statement, the House of Bishops noted that during its special meeting February 23-26 to discuss the marriage canon, “it became clear to us that the draft resolution to change the Marriage Canon to accommodate the marriage of same-sex partners is not likely to pass in the Order of Bishops by the canonical requirement of a 2/3rds majority in each Order.”
Since the House of Bishops’ statement was released, some Anglicans-including Chris Ambidge, head of the pro-same-sex marriage group Integrity Canada-have suggested that the move to make this information public is a manipulative one, meant to deflate the motion before it even hits the floor at General Synod, which meets July 7 to 12.
But Jones said he doesn’t see it that way. “I think it is helpful for them to state what they see as the reality of where at least some of them are,” he said. “At least then there won’t be other expectations at General Synod.”
Jones said that the bishops’ statement should spur delegates to General Synod into further discussion about what the Anglican theology of marriage really is, and whether or not it is possible to have different practices in different parts of the church.
“General Synod will need to think about the issues that underlie the motion,” he said. “I am disappointed that, apparently, the marriage canon commission report hasn’t been discussed in any depth or thoroughness…the issues underlying the motion apparently haven’t been considered in any depth.”
Jones added that although “some people might read the House of Bishops’ communiqué as saying that the matter needs to be tabled and not discussed,” that was not how he saw it, though he acknowledged that this option is open to General Synod.
When asked whether or not CoGS will formally respond to the statement, Jones said this would be for the council to decide at its March 10-13 meeting.
“CoGS might very well say that we’ve received this communiqué, we’re bound to send a resolution to General Synod 2016, and it is for General Synod 2016 to make the decisions,” said Jones. “They might make that communication to the general church because that would provide some clarity as to who makes decisions.”
According to the constitution of the Anglican Church of Canada, the House of Bishops does have the right to formally communicate to both General Synod and CoGS, and Jones said use of this privilege has, in recent years, been “infrequent, but…not unusual.”
Jones stressed that even if the motion is defeated in July, it does not mean the issue will be put to rest.
He noted that controversial issues in the past-the debate over women’s ordination in the 1960s and 1970s, for example-were brought before synod several times before they finally passed.
“It may delay it…but it doesn’t necessarily stop all discussion,” he said. “And who knows where it will go? You must have an abiding confidence that the Holy Spirit will lead us where we need to go, when we need to get there.”