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Religious Tolerance logo

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) & homosexuality

Heart-stopping gay marriage vote
at Anglican Church's 2016 synod:

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Background: The Anglican Church of Canada and same-sex marriage:

The Anglican Church of Canada is one of 38 provinces within the worldwide Anglican communion. The total membership around the world is in excess of 86 million.

Each Province is automomous; they have their own primate, and governing structure. 1 The Canadian Province holds a General Synod every three years where major matters of policy are decided. Attending are delegates from across Canada who are sorted into three "Houses:" composed of the bishops, the clergy, and representaives of the laity.

As with so many other liberal Christian denominations, three "hot" topics have emerged during the 21st century involving human sexuality:

  1. The ordination of non-celibate priests with a homosexual orientation. During 2012, the Diocese of Montreal ordained two openly gay and partnered men to the priesthood. During the same year, the Diocese of Saskatoon ordained a woman deacon who was in a same-sex marriage. 2

  2. The blessing of same-sex committed partnerships including same-sex marriages that have been solemnized in a civil ceremony or in another church. As of mid-2016:
    1. "... ten dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada permit the blessing of same-sex unions: the Vancouver-based Diocese of New Westminster, the Diocese of Edmonton, the Diocese of Ottawa, the Diocese of Toronto, the London-based Diocese of Huron, the diocese of Quebec, the Diocese of Rupert's Land, the Hamilton-based Diocese of Niagara, the Diocese of Montreal, and the Victoria-based Diocese of British Columbia. The Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (formerly the Diocese of Cariboo) also permit such rites." 1

  3. Marrying same-sex couples within the Church. This was the final topic preventing full equality for people and couples of all sexual orientations within the denomination. Marrying such couples in the Church had always been forbidden by the marriage canon, and will remain so until at least the 2019 General Synod.

At the 2013 General Synod, the delegates decided that they would debate and vote at the next General Synod in 2016 on whether:

"to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples." 3

That is, whether they would solemnize marriages of same-sex couples in Anglican Church of Canada churches.

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Mid-2015 public opinion in Canada:

On 2015-JUN-29, three days after the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four out of the five U.S. territories, 4 Forum Poll™ conducted a poll among 1,221 randomly selected Canadian adults. They found that:

  • 70% approved of gay marriage.

  • 22% disapproved, and

  • 8% had no opinion or declined to answer. 5

The margin of error of the results is ±2.8 percentage points.

Opposition to marriage equality was greatest among the oldest adults, the less wealthy, the least educated, residents of the province of Alberta in mid-west Canada, and political conservatives.

Support in Canada exceeded the level of support in the United States by about ten percentage points. It will probably take until the mid 2020's for U.S. support to reach 70%.

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2016-JUL: Activity at the 2016 General Synod:

The 2016 General Synod was held during July of that year, almost exactly eleven years after the Government of Canada passed bill C-38 to legalize gay marriage. That bill had been signed into law on 2005-JUL-20 by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. After a short interval of resistance by the government of one province -- Prince Edward Island -- same-sex couples were able to freely marry across Canada in all ten provinces and three territories.

According to Andrea Woo and James Keller, writing for the Globe and Mail newspaper, the vote was taken on JUL-11, "... after a week of impassioned debates." 3 " The CBC reported that:

"More than 200 delegates attending the six-day General Synod 2016 "... [heard] from more than 60 speakers, most of them in favor of gay marriage."" 7

Delegates took strongly held positions on the Marriage Canon Resolution, based largely on their interpretation of the six "clobber passages" in the Bible which have been traditionally seen to refer to same-gender sexual behavior. Unfortunately, these passages appear to be ambiguous, because they have been interpreted very differently by sincere, thoughtful, and thorough theologians.

Since the Resolution proposed major changes to the marriage canon, a two-thirds majority in each of the "Houses" was required to approve the measure. The initial count indicated that the Synod had rejected the change by a single vote:

  • The Order of Bishops passed the motion by 68%.

  • The Order of lay delegates passed the motion by 72%.

  • However, the Order of Clergy vote was 51 in favor and 26 opposed, or 66.23% in favor. This is just short of the 66.67% needed to pass the measure. 5

Bobby Rae, writing for Pink News, said:

"The Anglican Church of Canada has voted against allowing clergy to perform same-sex marriage by a single vote." 6

Eliot Waddingham, a transgender man from Ottawa, said:

“It is breaking my heart that there are people who see gay marriage as a separation from God and from love." 6

Reverend Jeremy Smith tweeted:

"Woah. One vote. Prayers for all those wounded by the anti-LGBTQ vote." 6

The rejection was not well received by many delegates. The CBC reported:

"The Archbishop of Toronto has joined several other prominent clergymen who say they will bless same-sex marriages in defiance of a narrow vote by the Anglican Church of Canada not to authorize gay unions. ... Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson said he wanted his gay and lesbian colleagues 'to share the joy' and that he believes most Anglicans support same-sex marriage. ..."

"The U.S. Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States, is alone among Anglican bodies in approving gay marriage and has faced a backlash [within the Anglican Communion] for its support of same-sex unions." 7 

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2016-JUL-12: OOPS. A tiny vote miscount was detected:

Some delegates noted that the electronic vote count on JUL-11 disagreed with the printed record distributed as a PDF document to members of the Synod. After a brief investigation, it was discovered that the General Secretary, the Venerable Dr. Michael Thompson's vote had been described as "clergy - non voting." Thus his vote was actually counted in the Order of Laity. He had voted in favor of marriage equality. After his vote was included in the Order of Clergy, that vote became 52 in favor and 26 opposed, or 66.67% in favor. The required two-thirds majority had just been met!

The Marriage Canon Resolution A-051-R2 had been approved!

The Primate and Chancellor discussed the ​vote count error:

 8

The next step is to wait until the next General Synod in mid-2019 when the same resolution will again be voted upon. Since acceptance of marriage equality is gradually increasing at about one percentage point a year, there is a good chance that the resolution will again be approved, and the Marriage Canon will be changed to accommodate marriage equality for persons of all sexual orientations. If it is defeated, then the entire process would have to be restarted, and the earliest approval date would be mid-2025.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Anglican Communion," Wikipedia, as on 2016-JUN-25, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Homosexuality and the Anglican Church of Canada," Wikipedia, as on 2016-JUL-13, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. Andrea Woo and James Keller, "Anglicans pass same-sex marriage resolution after vote error discovered," The Globe and Mail, 2016-JUL-12, at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  4. The Territory of American Samoa was, and remains, the exception. Most of its population are American Residents, not American Citizens. Thus rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court do not necessarly apply there.
  5. "US court ruling boosts approval of same sex marriage in Canada," The Forum Poll, 2015-JUL-03, at: http://poll.forumresearch.com/
  6. Bobby Rae, "Canadian church reject same-sex marriage by a single vote," Pink News, 2015-JUL-12, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/ [As of the evening of JUL-13, Pink News had not corrected their article to include the correct voting results.]
  7. "Toronto Anglican Archbishop to bless gay marriages despite national vote," CBC News, 2016-JUL-12, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  8. Michael Thompson, "Statement on the vote count on Marriage Canon Resolution (A-051-R2)," Anglican Church of Canada, 2016-JUL-13, at: http://www.anglican.ca/

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Site navigation:

Home > Conflict > Homosexuality > Faith groups > Denominations > Anglican Church of Canada > here

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Copyright © 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2016-JUL-13
Latest update : 2016-JUL-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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