Marriage canon amendment fails to pass at General Synod

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Primate Fred Hiltz and officers of General Synod share a tense moment of silence before results are revealed. Photo: Matthew Townsend

The Anglican Church of Canada will maintain its traditional definition of marriage after a vote to amend the marriage canon failed to pass at General Synod 2019.

The 42nd General Synod voted against Resolution A052-R2, which would have amended the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, after the resolution failed to pass by a two-thirds majority in all three orders. While two-thirds of the Order of Laity (80.9%) and Order of Clergy (73.2%) voted in favour, less than the required two-thirds (62.2%) voted in favour of the resolution in the Order of Bishops.

Photo: Matthew Townsend

The final results of the vote, which took place on the evening of July 12 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, were as follows: The Order of Laity saw 89 members (80.9%) vote Yes and 21 members (19.1%) vote No, with one abstention. The Order of Clergy had 60 members (73.2%) voting Yes, 22 members (26.8%) voting No, and two abstentions. In the Order of Bishops, 23 members (62.2%) voted Yes and 14 members (37.8%) voted No, with two abstentions.

The announcement of the result left many synod members visibly in shock. A scream could be heard. Many members began crying, and one young delegate ran out of the room in tears.

General Synod’s rules of procedure may leave room for the subject of same-sex marriage to return to the floor. Questions about ways to vote again on the matter, as well as memories of General Synod 2016’s changing vote count, suggest the topic may not be closed until General Synod concludes its business on July 16.

For example, some delegates approached the microphone and asked about potential methods by which General Synod could reconsider a vote, to which Chancellor David Jones responded. But Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz pointedly drew the night to a close.

“Friends, notwithstanding that there are more people coming to microphones, I am just so conscious of pain in this place,” the Primate said.

Acknowledging the observation of a member of synod, he noted, “Our children are crying. And many of you are crying, for a variety of reasons. So I think it’s time to adjourn. It’s time to leave this hall in silence. It’s time for you to go and do what you need to do—to cry, or to gather with delegates from your own diocese; to gather with friends, to gather in circles of prayer, just to try and be attentive to one another.

“If there are proposals for revisiting the matter, there are provisions for how to deal with that,” he added. “If there are proposals for other resolutions on the same matter, there are provisions for how to deal with that. But it needs to be at another moment in this synod.”

Resolution A052-R2 to amend the marriage canon, as put forward at General Synod 2019, served as the second reading for the amendment following a first reading at General Synod 2016. The resolution declared that Canon XXI, On Marriage in the Church, “applies to all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage.” It would have changed the wording of the canon to replace all references to “man and woman” and “husband and wife” with “the parties to the marriage.”

The amended marriage canon, based on the resolution, would also have stated that “a minister may only solemnize a marriage between persons of the same sex if authorized by the diocesan bishop.”

Earlier in the day, General Synod members voted to amend the original Resolution A052 to add two paragraphs to the preface of Canon XXI. The first stated that “faithful members of the Anglican Church of Canada have different understandings and teachings about the nature of marriage,” and that Anglicans are entitled to hold different views provided they “recognize and respect” that others may, with integrity, hold different views.

The second paragraph stated that General Synod “recognizes that Indigenous communities have particular understandings about the nature of marriage as well as their own ways of making decisions,” and that Indigenous people “will continue to discern whether same-sex marriage would be acceptable in their communities.”

A motion to divide this amendment and vote on each paragraph separately failed to pass, with 153 members (66.8%) voting No, 76 members (33.2%) voting Yes, and three abstaining. The original motion to amend Resolution A052 with both paragraphs subsequently carried, with 206 voting Yes (89.6%), 24 voting No (10.4%), and two members abstaining.

Another resolution passed during the afternoon, Resolution A101-R1, that adopted the affirmations in the document A Word to the Church concerning the amendments to Canon XXI on marriage. General Synod voted strongly in favour of this motion, with 196 members voting Yes (84.85%), 35 members voting No (15.15%), and two abstentions.

According to Resolution A101-R1, General Synod “affirms the right of Indigenous people and communities to spiritual self-determination” in their decisions regarding same-sex marriage; affirms that bishops and synods in the Anglican Church of Canada hold diverse understandings of the existing marriage canon; and affirms that there is a diversity of understandings and teachings about marriage within the church, and that these are held with “prayerful integrity.”

The resolution also affirms the commitment of the General Synod to presume good faith among those who hold diverse understandings and teachings. Finally, it affirms the commitment of the General Synod to walk together and preserve communion with each other, in Christ, within the church and the Anglican Communion, and with ecumenical partners.

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Matt Gardner
Matt Gardner is a staff writer for the Anglican Journal. Most recently, Gardner worked as corporate communicator for the Anglican Church of Canada, a position he held since Dec. 1, 2014. He previously served as a city reporter for the Prince Albert Daily Herald. A former resident of Kingston, Ont., Gardner has a degree in English literature from Queen’s University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. He will continue to support corporate communications efforts during his time at the Journal.

55 COMMENTS

  1. The first time I attended a funeral for homo-sexual person and saw the grief on the face of the partner, I absolutely knew that love is love, the kind of love that our God calls us to! To the Canadian Bishops of Canada who voted against this, please pray for an open mind and guidance from God. Look around you at the relationships you see! If church attendance and membership in Canada is at all similar to your neighbor to the south, the future of the Church rests in our young people who are so much more open to LGBTQ people than we older people are and they will be moved away from the church by having their friends less than fully welcome!

  2. As I count the votes to change the marriage cannon that each bishop’s vote carries 5 times the weight of each of the other Synod delegates. I guess God must speak more clearly to bishops than to the other Synod delegates. If this is so why maintain the sham of voting on any matters at Synod. With 5 times the power only bishops’ votes matter anyways. Or perhaps it is time to change the voting rules.

    • This is shameful. As usually happens to people who attain positions of power, their heads get lost in their desire to exercise power and they end up ddo far astray from their purpose. In this case, they have become the most unholy group Anglicans among us, undoubtedly hiding under some Biblical phase or two to cloak and continue hypocracy. Their folly is they are creating their own demise and they don’t even see it coming. I ask all Anglicans not to be fooled by a hauty hat and a myriad of robes. They often cause one to forget that the mission Jesus has given US ALL is love one another, spread love, think lovingly and act lovingly. In a final note I ask that bishops lend an ear to the following statement… we know this because the Bible tells us so. It’s not rocket science.

  3. The church is committed to its demise.
    Nothing confirms this more than the unshakable 14 bishops who continue to refuse to see the future.

  4. Amen and Amen for the “NO” vote! There really isn’t anything to discuss re marriage being between a “man and a woman” since the Bible tells us that is the definition of our marriage. Since the Bible clearly defines marriage, and we are calling ourselves Christians who believe the Bible if the true word of God, “what is there to discuss”??? This should be the final discussion on this subject in our Anglican Church of Canada! You either believe the Bible or you don’t…..!!!! You can’t have it both ways!!

    • So I suppose as long as it’s one man and many women then you’re okay with that? Because that is in the bible (several times), King David being the most prominent but certainly not sole example

      • The Old Testament in particular has many passages that describe things that people said and did, including words and behaviours of people like Moses and David. But just because the Bible describes these things happening does not mean that God approved them. In fact, the narrative in the Old Testament often shows the negative consequences of behaviours such as multiple wives on people’s relationship with God (e.g., Solomon).

    • I’m sure there are other Anglicans who feel the same way. But then you must also condone slavery — “you can’t have it both ways!!”::
      Col 3:22-24: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters,since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”
      1Tim 6:1: “Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.”
      Titus 2:9-10: “Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back,not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.”
      Eph 6:5-8: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ;not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women,knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.”

      Good luck:

    • No, you can’t have it both ways and the Anglicans of Canada are in vast numbers making that known. Last week I attended service in my hometown and I sat among a congregation of 6 people. I am one who won’t be returning. Guess it won’t be long before another closed door on an Anglican church shows the real effect of beliefs akin to the ones you are expressing here.

  5. I am sorry for my sisters and brothers of the Anglican Church in Canada. The bishops are clearly out of touch with their clergy and the laity. This is very, very sad. I pray for the entire Anglican Church in Canada.

  6. A very difficult time for all involved at Synod and indeed for those not involved in Synod as well. No matter what the outcome many would be unhappy.

    • Wayne Green: Difficult time for sure. I have no problem with same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada.
      But…..what has not been mentioned here yet is the price the Anglican Church of Canada may have to pay if the marriage canon eventually passes.
      In 2016, the Episcopal Church in the US was suspended from the international Anglican Communion for 3 years for doing exactly the same thing. Will we be next if the marriage canon eventually passes?
      I suspect it is this issue that is playing a large part in the decision by some Bishops to oppose the marriage canon.

  7. Taking away the three different groups and strictly going by the numbers of people voting, this would have passed as more than 2/3rds voted yes. I really feel that speaks to the heart of the matter; the majority want this to pass.

  8. I have decided today that I will no longer refer to myself as an Anglican. I will now direct my money and time to a more worthy charity. Goodbye.

    • Should we then say, “Hey world, oppression an marginalization of specific groups of people is ok because the Anglican bishops says so”… How silly. My dear man, any spiritually fit person who is in communion with God knows, if it’s not a loving way, it is not God’s way. You, me and the House of Bishops have the same mission in this world… model the love of Christ in all we say and do. I will remember you in my prayers.

      • Nobody can be allowed to do the wrong thing out of pity. This is the part where Christianity becomes difficult, where you must leave what your body is telling you to do and walk in accordance to the word of God. It doesn’t matter what we think, or what the world has become, God still remains the same.

  9. I am deeply disturbed, to put it mildly, at the failure of the marriage canon revision. The Anglican church claims to be open and welcoming to all…this decision proves that is a hypocritical claim…obviously people are only welcome IF they measure up to certain criteria. Any Christian church should be primarily about LOVE…on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus gave his gathered disciples—and by extension, us—a new commandment. If love isn’t the prime objective and motivator for a decision being made, then that decision cannot be said to be christian. I am especially appalled at the House of Bishops’ vote, given that dIocesan bishops would be given an opt-out clause (a sad thing in itself). I am seriously questioning whether I still wish to remain a part of this church, after 72 years of membership.

    • The vote was gerrymandered in the house of bishops. Several conservative bishops were elected and consecrated in the months immediately prior to GS. In addition there were at least three affirming bishops unable to attend (and therefore unable to vote, there is no proxy provision) due to medical issues

      • Where is your evidence there was “gerrymandering”? There was one “affirming” bishop absent, Bishop Skelton, due to illness, that I know of. And two bishops abstained from voting. There is great division amongst the Bishops on this matter. However, the whole process of having two votes, and requiring a two-thirds bar, are intentionally high standards. I don’t know the history of changing canons, but it is difficult in order to protect the Church in the long haul. I think this topic, “christian homosexuality” is a complex topic because there are different concepts of love being used. so, is it not important to get our theological thinking clearer? Are secular concepts of love entering the Christian Church? There is something false being claimed, somewhere in this controversy. It ought to be up to the Bishops, and to theologians, to sort out, “What does Christian Love mean in modern society? What are the Church’s beliefs? What are our ideals? And what ethical standards do we expect of faithful christians?”. I see a danger in basing our beliefs about Christian love primarily on having good feelings. Christian love, as I understand it, is difficult. It takes grace from God to be able to love, in certain difficult situations. But secular society teaches that loving is natural, and so is easy.

  10. I think Anglicans across Canada need to know more details about why 14 Bishops voted “No” and why the others voted “Yes” on the marriage canon issue.
    This decision will have long-term ramifications for our Church and I, for one, would like to make sure I understand everything I can about why the Bishops are unable to agree among themselves on the direction the Anglican Church should take on performing gay marriages.
    A statement from the House of Bishops is needed for clarification, especially about the possibility that individual Dioceses may be able to perform same-sex marriages despite the decision by General Synod. Will that mean that geography triumphs over theology?
    I am afraid that the marriage canon vote will seriously undermine the authority of all our Bishops from now on.
    I’m sticking with the Anglican Church, praying we can make our way through this adversity. But how many Anglicans will move on to other churches which get along without an episcopacy because they are fed up with the constant internal strife over the marriage canon?
    I think the Primate was right to call a halt to the emotional post-vote debating for a day or so, following the defeat of the motion. Unfortunately it appears that the debate will continue long after this General Synod is over….. at the expense of other serious issues that face our church.

  11. Since same-sex marriage is occuring already–esp in Toronto Diocese–it is hard to see how it won’t happen wherever anyone wants anyway, in spite of this narrow vote.

  12. Can we recognize same sex union by calling it significant partnership, not marriage this way we sustain our perspective of what marriage is?

  13. One of the greatest ironies of leadership is that it is always hemmed in by conflicting realities and interests. And if it were not…? This issue, as with many waves of social change, will be grandparented in; I have little doubt that it will pass organically at the next General Synod. This will be too much too early for some and too little too late for others, but it will happen nonetheless. In the meantime, with no overt prohibition on same-sex marriage, many priests throughout Canada will go on officiating at same-sex weddings as they have been doing since civil union was made the law of the land.

  14. Family sitting down to wonderful holiday meal together with much chatter and laughter:

    Me: Would you pass the peas, please?
    Response: bowl of Brussels sprouts passed my way.

    Me as I set Brussels sprouts aside: Thank you. May I please have the peas?
    Response: long look at the bowl of Brussels sprouts I’ve set aside; slight nudge of bowl of Brussels sprouts toward me while making meaningful eye contact

    Me: Yes, I see those, thank you. Would you pass the peas, please?
    Response: These Brussels sprouts are round and green and lovely, fresh picked and prepared just for you. They’re just like peas. They’re even better than peas because they’ve been prepared just for you. We love you so much we’ve prepared those just for you. Why can’t you just be grateful?

    The chatter and laughter have stopped.

    Me: Thank you. That was very kind of you. The Brussels sprouts look lovely for someone who can eat Brussels sprouts but I cannot. Something in the way I’m created won’t let me eat them; trying to eat them actually makes me ill.
    Response: Why are you making a big deal about this? Why can’t you just be loving and grateful for what you have and let this family eat their meal in peace?

    A dozen people, love and kindness in their eyes, reach out for the bowl of peas to pass which somehow now has landed on the floor with a loud crash. No peas for me. No peace for anyone.

  15. It is ironic to me that the same General Synod that finally offered my long-dead, First Nations, great-grandfather an apology for it’s “cultural and spiritual arrogance”, voted to deny my sister – also a Christian – the same sacraments to which I have full access. The church was exclusionary then and it remains exclusionary now. I wonder if, in 3 generations from now, will there even be anyone left to offer her an apology?

  16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

    One of the key words in this scripture for me has always been “whosoever”. It does not read “whatsoever” but “whosoever”. As a young boy, that word made all the difference to the Christian, and at the age of 12 I got down on hands and knees and accepted Christ Jesus as my Saviour. Never had a day or a moment of regret as a result of this.

    John 3:16 has allowed me to love and embrace the God that created me in His image.

    With all due respect to my church, no Bishop or lay potentate has the right or power to take that away from me. Nor take away the monogamous thirty-nine year partnership and legal marriage I have with my best friend, partner and husband, Jim, who is also Metis.

    While I understand the vote of the Bishops, without actually agreeing with it, many have shown their true colours with this vote. That vote extends to me as a man, a human being, a Christian, and as a husband.

    Their vote will allow me time to reflect on the valid values of my own Christ-centred journey that I follow and how they may be at odds with the decision of the Bishops.

    Respectfully,
    Michael King St.Clair
    St. John the Baptist Anglican Church
    Cobble Hill, British Columbia

  17. Interesting, this should have been a walk in the park for the pro side. Something stopped these Bishops -who voted in favour in 2016. What was it? We have another three years to work on it now-get it right. What’s wrong with that?

  18. A Canon is a manmade rule that is subject to change by the people living on the ground to meet the real or perceived needs of the church. “The sacraments are signs and seals because the Holy Spirit uses them to identify us with Christ and the salvation Christ accomplished for us. These physical, visible, and touchable signs and seals represent the spiritual reality of our union to Christ and the salvation he provides.” One of the 7 sacraments that are practiced by the Anglian/Episcopalian Church is Marriage, it can not be changed by man and only by God through the Holy Spirit. Why as the church abandoned the belief in the Holy Spirit and his teaching. Marriage is sacramentally between a man and women.

  19. I understand that there’s a lot of drama at play on this issue right now, but I want to tell you my story.
    I was feeling hurt and ashamed that this issue was even a discussion for the church, because my feeling is that it is so obviously wrong to claim that gay “marriage” is in any way equivalent to marriage. I do feel strongly that partners should be allowed to see each other in medical emergencies and have pensions and inheritances legally enshrined. That is what I understand part of the legal function of secular marriage to be.
    I don’t know if there was some sort of thinking along the lines that, since marriage changes fornication into holy union for heterosexual couples, maybe marriage will sanctify sexual behaviour between homosexual couples. I don’t believe that it does. There was also no theological justification coming from the church leadership on this issue.
    I’m still finding it difficult to justify remarriage in church for divorced people. It’s not as if there’s a divorce ceremony in the BCP. I don’t think suicides should get church funerals. This is not because I don’t feel for the families. I’m still getting used to the “open communion” where you don’t even have to be baptised to partake. I think children shouldn’t take communion until confirmation. I think pastors should deny the sacrament to unrepentant sinners. That kind of conservative thing is me. I want incense!
    I love English chant and baroque music and I would feel the loss if we switched to that generic kind of “worship music”. I didn’t come to Anglicanism from another church. The Anglican Church is my home church.
    I was finding it hard to justify continuing at my church (and I sing in the choir) if the Christian teaching was abandoned.
    I don’t know where I would have gone if this thing had passed. I don’t know if there is an ANiC church in my community. The next closest option would be a Missouri Synod Lutheran church or just not going to church at all.
    I have no ill-will towards people with a homosexual orientation. I just believe that man+woman means life and no other combination does, and I’m not willing to compromise that.

  20. I feel great sorrow for our brothers in faith in Canada. As a .member of the Episcopal Church in the USA, I belong to a Church (one of three in Dallas, Texas) that offers marriage to all who qualify for civil marriage ( and that is available to all regardless of gender per the Supreme Court’s vies of our Constution) as long as one member of the couple is an Episcopalian. Perhaps it is time for us to give up on the “Anglican Communion” which came about only through the spread of the British Empire, now gone. The Churches the British planted in Africa and Asia have vastly different views of the love spoken of by Jesus. I fear that the “three legged stool” of the Anglican Church has lost one of its legs in the post-colonial Churches. I pray your synod will find a way out of this that verifies all human love and does not loose the younger generation. In case you wonder, I am not a member of that younger generation, as I am age 77. .

  21. In response to David Kellett’s comment: “I see a danger in basing our beliefs about Christian love primarily on having good feelings. Christian love, as I understand it, is difficult. It takes grace from God to be able to love, in certain difficult situations.”

    Agreed, and certainly Christ showed us the cost of love, in his living and in his dying. I think he would want us to show our love to those who challenge our comfortable assumptions about what is “the norm” by recognizing that these “others” are as fully human as we like to think we are, and by recognizing that they deserve the same rights and respect and inclusion as we enjoy and expect ourselves.

    Jesus told us clearly that we must love one another, as God loves us all. But almost immediately the first Christians started arguing amongst themselves about who was in and who out. Two thousand years later we’re still doing the same thing—and yet God continues to love us? I’m sure I don’t understand why.

  22. I think it us time that Anglicans call for the resignation of the House of Bishops., It is time that the Anglican Church modernized free of the cluches of these ultra conservatives. They have caused too much pain and the resultant disunity in the church. Major change is coming, the death of the Anglican Church of Canada and it is coming faster than you think.

  23. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the House of Bishops. You remembered what your true calling is…. to the Christ our Lord, not the wisdom of the laity. The true demise of the Church will come when we vary from Holy Scripture and lose the favor of God. Jesus was fierce with his defence of scripture. I love my gay friends and relatives and wish for them much happiness and they deserve all the support our secular government offers them.. But our love of God and his teaching must come first. I can now return to the Anglican Church for my faith in her has been restored. God Bless you all, on both sides.

  24. Same-gender marriage is alive and developing in the Anglican Church of Canada. Under the existing Marriage Canon it will continue to expand through local diocese and parishes. Reconciliation transforming this world moves forward. God be praised, alleluia!
    The Spirit of God speaks through all Christians, not just a few incoherent Bishops. Forget the past, a new thing is before us, Some don’t get it. I will stick with the Anglican Church through these changes

  25. As the Anglican Church struggles with a lack of funds and declining membership, Even a Maclean’s magazine writer recognizes that the churches in decline are liberal on such issues as marriage and those that are growing are conservative.(See St. Martin’s, Houston, largest Episcopal church anywhere) The Body of Christ is not a democracy where one can choose to believe what one wishes. Jesus clearly espouses love but has tough words for those who do not follow Him alone. Jesus does not question the writings of the prophets relative to basic tenets and one of those is that God created man and woman to build on His creation. Man may love man but holy matrimony is not for them. As followers of Jesus, we are taught to”announce the Kingdom, bring healing and and deliverance to the oppressed” Matt. 19, Lk. 9&10

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