Priest to lose licence over same-sex marriage stance

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Rev. Shawn Sanford Beck, an Anglican priest in the diocese of Saskatoon, was to lose his licence to minister after March 31 if he did not reconsider his declaration that he intends to marry gay couples, if asked, said diocesan bishop Rodney Andrews.

“Shawn has declared his intention to step outside the guidelines and requirements of our church at this time. I have encouraged him to reconsider,” Bishop Andrews said in a statement.

If Mr. Sanford Beck’s licence is not renewed, he will still be a priest, but may not perform such priestly duties as baptisms and communion services unless he receives special permission, said Bishop Andrews in an interview. “This is not a disciplinary action,” he added.

The action would mean Mr. Sanford Beck would lose his job as director of ministry at a Lutheran mission in downtown Saskatoon that serves aboriginal people, he said in an interview. “We do a weekly sacred circle (service), a weekly community meal, street ministry and advocacy and we’re getting funding for an aboriginal minister,” he said. Under the terms of a 2001 agreement between the Anglican Church of Canada and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, priests must be in good standing with their denomination to serve in the other’s church.

“This is a matter between him and his Anglican bishop and I will deal with the results. I think it is regrettable. He’s been doing wonderful work. We will be very sorry to lose him,” said Bishop Cindy Halmarson of the Lutheran church’s Sask-atchewan synod. However, she added, the issue of same-sex relationships will be considered in June at both churches’ national conventions and should be decided by a church as a whole, not by individuals.

In February, Mr. Sanford Beck wrote an “open letter” which said that the church’s ban on same-sex marriages and blessing ceremonies “is theologically problematic and fundamentally unjust.” In the interview, he said his views had been forming for quite a while but were solidified when a gay couple in a long-term relationship came to him last November, asking for a blessing ceremony. Mr. Sanford Beck is chaplain to the Saskatoon chapter of Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans.

“I would rather have waited (to express his views) until (the) General Synod (national convention),” he said, but the couple’s request caused him to act.

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Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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