Respecting our Differences
General Synod 2004 & the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

Introduction

After a long and arduous process – and years of anticipation – the Council of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has decided on the wording of two resolutions it will place before General Synod 2004 related to same-sex unions:

  • the first affirms the jurisdiction of dioceses over blessing rites for same-sex unions,
  • and the second instructs the preparation of resource material to aid the Church as it continues in respectful dialogue about these issues within the context of differing opinions.

This action falls short of earlier calls on the General Synod to discuss and authorize the blessing of same-sex unions itself:

  • In 1995 the Synod was asked to initiate church-wide consultations on “the liturgical recognition of committed monogamous same-gender unions”; the motion was tabled indefinitely.
  • In 2002 the House of Bishops, finding itself unable to achieve consensus, referred the issue back to General Synod hoping, if possible, for resolution.
  • And currently many Integrity members and friends are joining Claiming the Blessing Canada calling on the Synod to authorize such rites and to urge dioceses to provide them within local faith communities.

The current resolutions clearly do not intend to affirm same-sex unions or to offer a decisive conclusion to the Church’s ongoing debate about them. As the Synod’s ethics consultant explains, the Synod is not being asked to make a decision on same-sex blessings, but rather to affirm diocesan jurisdiction over such decisions. This confirms the 2001 opinion of the Legal and Canonical Commission of the Diocese of New Westminster, the only Canadian diocese that currently allows identified parishes to recognize God’s blessing of committed same-sex relationships.

Therefore, if General Synod approves the resolutions as currently put, we can expect the focus merely to shift to those dioceses where there is a sufficient movement of the Spirit to bring the issue forward. In less hospitable dioceses we can expect discrimination against lesbian and gay Anglicans to continue, regardless of how “undeniable” their pain and suffering (Primate’s Task Force Report, 5.4).

Hearing Diverse Voices

However, these resolutions may well be the best way forward. Although the voices of gay and lesbian people have often not been heard, the Church has grown in its understanding and acceptance of GLBT people. After several decades of study and dialogue, in some places our gifts and relationships are being recognized and affirmed. Some of us are beginning to feel that we truly are “full members of the Body of Christ.”

But clearly the Church has not yet found “common ground” on this issue:

Respecting Our Differences

But the Metropolitans also pointed forward: “Across Canada, Anglicans live with an absence of consensus on this issue, but agree, in practice as much as in theory, that the table to which God in Christ welcomes us is a place we belong together.” This, we believe, is the spirit behind the resolutions we now ask General Synod members to approve.

We believe that our shared baptismal covenant commits us to Living Together in the Church – including our differences. Currently the Anglican Church of Canada gives preference to the traditionalist perspective, and given our history, that’s understandable. But we can no longer live in willful ignorance of the diversity of opinion among us. If we are truly committed to “respecting the dignity of every human being,” then we must recognize and respect our brothers and sisters in Christ whose well-reasoned, biblically-informed conscience leads them to affirm and celebrate committed same-sex relationships.

By affirming diocesan jurisdiction over blessing rites (the “local option”), General Synod moves the debate back to the diocesan level. Indeed, the motion to Synod calls on “all bishops, clergy and lay leaders to be instrumental in seeing that dialogue and study continue.”

Though continuing the dialogue diocese-by-diocese delays the fuller inclusion and participation of lesbian and gay people in the Church, it also creates “facts on the ground” that may prove beneficial. One diocese already permits blessing rites, and others may soon follow. As Bishop Caleb Lawrence paraphrased the Gamaliel principle, “If [blessing same-sex unions] is not of God, it will not stand, and if this is of God, this house of bishops will not be able to prevent it.” As Acts 5:39 continues: “In that case you may even be found fighting against God!”

“See, I Am Making All Things New!”

Following the third vote in favour of blessing same-sex unions in New Westminster in 2002, Bishop Michael Ingham gave his consent saying:

“We have voted for unity in the midst of diversity. We have decided to embrace faithful Christian believers of differing conscience within the one Body of Christ. We are not taking sides with some members of our church over against others, but inviting both to work together to support the mission of the church throughout the world without the scandal of division. We do these things in the belief that they are the call of the Spirit to the church everywhere.”

This is our belief as well. Integrity urges all people to pray that the Spirit would move the Church according to God’s purpose, “for the old order of things is passing away … all things are being made new.” (Rev. 21:4-5).

NOTE: At General Synod 2004

Several Integrity members are delegates to General Synod 2004, and most chapters will have representatives in attendance at the Integrity Canada display booth. For more information please visit the booth, contact the local chapters, or email media@integritycanada.org.

Resources

 
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