General Synod on July 6 approved a resolution that will bring the issue of same-sex marriage to a vote at the meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada’s governing body in 2016.
At its triennial meeting here, General Synod passed Resolution C003, asking the Council of General Synod 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.”
Moved by the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island members Michelle Bull and Jennifer Warren, the motion was approved by a two-thirds majority of the orders of bishop, clergy and laity. Using clickers-a handheld electronic device-25 bishops, 72 clergy and 101 laity voted in favour of the resolution; 11 bishops, 30 clergy and 27 laity were opposed.
The resolution asks that this motion include “a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”
It also sets additional criteria contained in amendments introduced by diocese of Algoma Bishop Stephen Andrews and Dean Peter Elliott, diocese of New Westminster. The amendments, approved by a vote, state that the 2016 motion should include supporting documentation that:
- “demonstrates broad consultation in its preparation;
- explains how this motion does not contravene the Solemn Declaration;
- confirms immunity under civil law and the Human Rights Code for those bishops, dioceses and priests who refuse to participate in or authorize the marriage of same-sex couples on the basis of conscience; and
- provides a biblical and theological rationale for this change in teaching on the nature of Christian marriage.”
Several members stood up to speak for and against the resolution.
“Those of us who believe that same-sex relationships are a normal and natural part of God’s creation, and are blessed by God, are having to turn away same-sex couples against the dictates of our consciences,” said Bull. “We’re having to say no to people when we believe God wants us to say yes. We have to choose between obedience to the church and what we believe is obedience to God…”
The Rev. Bob Derrenbacker, diocese of Algoma, described the resolution prior to the introduction of the amendment, as “prematurely conceived,” saying that what the church has debated in past General Synods was the blessing of same-sex marriage and not same-sex marriage itself. “One is a pastoral response; the other would be a sacramental rite,” said Derrenbacker. “Blessings are not the same thing as marriage.” He added that “a number of dioceses, which have developed guidelines for same-sexblessings, have recognized this difference, with at least some of saiddioceses making such a distinction in those guidelines.”
Derrenbacker supported the amendment, saying it would “ensure that theproper and requisite study, consultation and prayer would take place inadvance of any proposed change to one of the canons of our church.”
Archdeacon Peter John Hobbs, diocese of Ottawa, said the motion “allows us to move forward in transparency and begins the long process that will see culmination six years from now.”
Leona Moses, diocese of Huron, spoke out against the motion and said she was representing the views of all six Anglican churches on the Six Nations Reserve. She explained that, “Traditionally, we look to seven generations before we make up our minds about what we should or should not do today.”
The resolution was voted upon twice, after the primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz, acknowledged that he had made a procedural error.
Some members pointed out that Hiltz failed to ask whether the house was ready to close debate on the resolution. Some members also intended to request a vote by orders, but Hiltz said he was unaware of it. “I own that mistake,” he said, expressing concern that “a number of people within the family are feeling angry that due process was not followed.”
Note: A correction has been made to paragraph 8 of this story. The Rev. Bob Derrenbacker, diocese of Algoma, was misidentified as Bob Durham, and additional context has been added to his statement.