[some of this is repeat, some of it is further reflection, some is response to negative comment I've seen on mailing lists]
Today was the big sex day. Synod heard read (a second time) the sexuality discernment statement, which summarises the position of synod members. That was received and asked to be sent to the diocesan bishops for circulation in their parishes in a fairly anodyne referral motion.
Speaker after speaker after speaker endorsed it, from all sides of the debate. Everyone wanted to affirm, to agree with the statement. It truly does represent where the ACCanada is at the moment, as a whole. It isn’t as far along as I might like, but as a scientist, I need to rely on the evidence in front of me; and that evidence is the stories as told by the 350 members of synod who represent the church. that’s our task.
Some observers are disappointed in the absence of explicit permission for same sex blessings, or even changes to the marriage canon. While I might wish for those changes too, that wouldn’t happen. If you read the text, however, there is zero mention of the three moratoria. They have now expired as far as the canadian church as a whole is concerned. Some bishops may choose not to advance, but there is no restriction on bishops choosing to move towards further blessings. I quote (para 4)
“We acknowledge diverse pastoral practices as dioceses respond to their own missional contexts. We accept the continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral responses”
That’s local option, right there.
There is also essentially no mention of the church beyond Canada, beyond the final sentence “hope that they will be a further gift to the ACCanada and to the wider church”. There is zero mention of “we’re worried about what the Anglican Communion is going to do to us”. General Synod is almost entirely focused on the benefit and state of the flock that has been entrusted to the Canadian bishops.
There is nothing in the document to countermand, slow down or stop the situations in those dioceses which have authorised rites: BC, New West, Central Interior, Huron, Niagara, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal [which probably represent well over half of the Anglican population of the country]. There is nothing to stop another diocese – say NSPEI – from moving forward. There is, unfortunately, nothing to explicitly permit Rupert’s Land to proceed (they passed an enabling motion with a “pending approval of General Synod” clause, and given their chancellor, I don’t think he’d read what we said as ‘approval’). I would expect that NewWest to expand its ministry – their response to the moratoria was to stop approving new parishes, and stopping at 7. apparently there are five more ready to go.
In the course of the debate, there were people who were very negative – Archdeacon Vicars Hodge of Fredericton; Terry Buckle +Yukon and others – who were saying positive things about this. Everyone, especially First Nations people, endorsing how they felt their voices had been heard. This is an indication that the Holy Spirit has been at work. Even more significant, after motion A115 passed, there were two opposite direction motions calling for moratoria, and another for increased pastoral generosity. Archdeacon Hodge of F’ton, mover of the lets-have-moratoria motion, suggested that they both be withdrawn. That is HUGE. Battles over those two would probably have been quite messy, but in fact didn’t even come to the floor. Synod was very clear, that it wanted our main work on the sexuality question to be the 9 June 2010 statement. But instead, those who were most pushing for explicit endorsement of moratoria, decided to withdraw.
The votes were overwhelming: unanimous in the bishops, only six contrary, by my count, in clergy and laity, and no, I was not one of the six. I believe that this morning saw one of the real moments of very apparent grace at synods – and they don’t come along every session.
At the tail end of paragraph 2 is this: “often, in processes of [dialogue and] discernment, the task is to see our way through a paradox”. I think that is key. Some want to move towards marriage and blessings, others do not. We all, and this was even more abundantly clear than the wanting to leave the statement as our main message, want everyone in the church to be heard and to be at home in their church, even if that becomes uncomforatble. Holding all those together IS a paradox. But it is something that we, the Canadian church, want to do.
That is not compatible with the “lets have a vote and our side had better WIN” impulse that I read from many on either edge of this discussion. Their attitude is their choice. It is not mine, neither is it that of the General Synod. I believe that the Canadian passage of (in PJ Hodge’s phrase) relentless incrementalism is what is going to work, in the long run, in this culture and this context.
I’ll try to get the Integrity eucharist photos up too – 108 people is not only twice the number we had last time (benefits of a site in the synod venue, as opposed to an off-site church); but I’d say only 20% of them were from The Fruit. There was a whole LOT of straight allies with us, and that felt REALLY good. More on that later.