The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality
Blessing same-sex relationships New Westminster synod, BC:
1998 to now
New Westminster Synod (1998-MAY-10)
This synod encompasses 80 churches in Vancouver, British Columbia, and the
Lower Mainland of BC. The socialist provincial government in BC recently
extended to committed gay and lesbian couples the same rights, privileges and
responsibilities that heterosexual unmarried couples have enjoyed there for
decades. Perhaps motivated by the government decision, the New Westminster Synod
narrowly passed a motion (179 to 170) to ask that priests be allowed to bless homosexual
relationships. 1 The motion did not ask that the church
recognize this blessing as a marriage, as is often reported in the religious and
secular media. These are merely blessings; no rings are exchanged. The bishop of the New Westminster Diocese, Michael
Ingham, has supported greater rights for gays and lesbians in the church in the
past. He has decided to withhold comment on this motion until he has had an
opportunity to consult with the Canadian House of Bishops and Anglican
bishops attending the Lambeth
Conference in 1998-JUL/AUG.
Referring to those in the denomination that oppose same-sex unions, Ven. Neil
Gray, the rector of St. Paul's Church in Vancouver said:
"We need to do whatever we can to
offer those people an opportunity to move slowly, to feel that they are not being
railroaded into a corner...There are increasing numbers of gay men and lesbian women who
feel the church is not acknowledging the goodness and holiness they are feeling [in their
relationships]...They are getting tired of sitting at the back of the bus...Two gay men or
two lesbian women already have some legal protections. I think the church should lead that
movement rather than lagging behind it."
Chris Ambidge, co-convener of Integrity's Toronto chapter, commented:
happening in New Westminster is a sign that significant parts of the church are prepared
to change, which is hopeful to me as a gay man in the Anglican church. If I could wave a
magic wand and change the rules, that wouldn't help. There is a significant part of the
church who are not prepared to do this. It may split the church...I know that God created
in me a need to love, the ability to love. I cannot believe that God would be so spiteful
to say 'Ha! you're gay, you can't do anything about it.'"
Conference (1998-JUL-19 to AUG-9):
This is a meeting of bishops from all of the national churches of the
Anglican communion, representing about 80 million Anglicans. It is held in the
UK every ten years. One of a series of resolutions on the topic of "Called to
full humanity" dealt with human sexuality. It stated, in part: "This
||(b) in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in
marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that
abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
||(e) cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions
nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions; " 2
New Westminster Synod (2001 to the present)
||2001-JUN: In British Columbia, the New Westminster diocese's governing body -- the
synod -- voted 56% in favor of asking Bishop Michael Ingham to authorize the
blessing of same-sex unions within the diocese. The vote was 226 to 174
in favor. He refused again. To our
knowledge, this is the first diocese in the entire Anglican Communion to take
||2002-JUN: A motion to ask Bishop Michael Ingham to authorize
the blessing of same-sex unions within the diocese passed for the third
time. The vote was 63% in favor (215 to 129). This time, Bishop
||2002-JUL: During an address at Oxford University, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, the Most Rev. George Carey, departed from his prepared speech to say
that the diocese's decision was schismatic because it divides the Anglican
Communion and "makes us a very embarrassing partner in ecumenical circles." The
House of Bishops in Canada appears to be deeply divided on the subject.
Thirteen Canadian bishops -- approximately one third of the total contingent of
bishops -- have issued a public statement condemning the decision. They have
asked the diocese to delay implementing the resolution.
||2002-OCT-21: At a meeting on at the University of Toronto's Wycliffe College,
Archbishop Carey said:
"I want to plead with the House of Bishops to go very carefully, to find a
way that the decision in New Westminster can be overruled....If more and more
dioceses take this approach, it's going to undermine the unity of the Anglican
Communion and I don't know if the Canadian Church can afford to pay the deep
price...Some may have no alternative but to look for spiritual help elsewhere."
Talking later to reporters, he downplayed the importance of this issue. He said:
"This is not a life-or-death issue. This restless, angry, confused world has
such major problems facing it...I'm not absolutist on the issue of
homosexuality. I don't know how anyone can be, but there is so much we don't
know...Maybe with new knowledge, we can wake up to new interpretations."
||2002-NOV-13: Rev. Timothy Cook announced that he had resigned as
rector of St. Martin's Anglican Church in North Vancouver, effective 2003-JAN.
He took this action as a protest against the decision by his diocese to
approve the blessings of same-sex unions. 4 Eight of the 80
parishes in the Synod have also decided to break away. The Anglican bishop of
the Yukon has offered to add them to his diocese. Some have agreed.
||2003-MAY-27: The Anglican primates who head the 38 Provinces of the
Anglican Communion around the world met in Brazil for a closed-door meeting.
They reached a decision that "there is no
theological consensus about same-sex unions. Therefore, we as a body cannot
support the authorization of such rites." The Associated Press reported
that the primates committed to " 'respect the integrity' of the
self-governing national churches and their local dioceses. They also
acknowledged bishops' responsibility to meet 'the pastoral needs of
minorities'." Rev. Michael Hopkins, a American supporter of church
blessings for same-sex unions, said that he thinks that the U.S. Episcopal
Church could approve same-sex rites at its convention later in 2003. He said
that the primates are "preparing the world for it to happen, if it does."
||2003-MAY-29: The National Post newspaper reported that
"... in six Anglican parishes in British Columbia have been cleared to
use a special rite to bless same-sex unions, a landmark development in a
dispute that has rocked the world Anglican church. Bishop Michael Ingham, head
of the Diocese of New Westminster representing 25,000 worshippers across
Vancouver and southwestern British Columbia, yesterday announced his approval
for a rite and said details of the procedure would imminently be released."
The six parishes are: St. Margaret's, St. Mark's, St. Paul's and
Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver; St. Agnes in North Vancouver and St.
Laurence in Coquitlam, east of central Vancouver.
Bishop Ingham wrote a
letter to the six parishes who have requested the rite. It said, in part:
Church recognizes that homosexual couples face the same challenges and share
the same responsibilities as other people living out the costly demands of
love. Our purpose is to encourage and strengthen fidelity and mutual
supportiveness in family life on which the stability of our wider society
Noting that the ritual is not a marriage ceremony, he wrote
that it is
"...a blessing of permanent and faithful commitments between
persons of the same sex in order that they may have the support and
encouragement of the Church in their lives together under God.''
are required to receive ''preparation and instruction'' before the
blessing can be given. Also, they must be sustained and supported by the
The Anglican Communion in New Westminster issued a statement saying
"The love of Jesus extends to all people, regardless of sexual
orientation, and there is no disagreement that the Christian Church needs a
loving and gracious response to gays and lesbians in our midst. But the
response of this diocese is a radical and unilateral departure from the
teaching of Scripture and the mind of the Anglican Church. A diocese does not
have the mandate to raise itself above the spiritual unity of the Anglican
Communion and the authority of Scripture on which it is based.'' 6
the much desired reflection that will ease the strain on our Communion has
been jettisoned. Furthermore, failure to ensure strict compliance with
resolutions duly passed at our meetings clearly shows that Bishop Ingham
and his diocese see no value in being accountable to anybody."
Archbishop Akinola cut ties between his Province and the Diocese of
New Westminster. He stated:
"it is this flagrant disregard for
the Anglican Communion and what the vast majority of it stand for [and as
a consequence] that has made it inevitable for the Province to severe
communion with Bishop Ingham and the diocese of New Westminster."
"Gay marriage tears Anglican church asunder"
The internal stresses in the Anglican Church of Canada over equality for
gays and lesbians is threatening to cause a schism. Concerns surfaced at a
meeting of Canada's Anglican bishops :
||Seven dissenting conservative congregations in the diocese of New
Westminster BC had announced that they want to leave and form their own
diocese. Their bishop, Michael Ingham, estimates that only 5 to 10% of the diocesan
membership has aligned themselves with the breakaway parishes. The
dissenting congregations estimate 25%
||Seven priests in the New Westminster diocese face charges of
disobeying the bishop and contemptuous conduct causing scandal.
||A Yukon bishop, Terrence Buckle, faces disciplinary action for
allegedly interfering in the New Westminster diocese by offering to
supervise the seven dissenting congregations.
||Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster
diocese stated at a meeting of Canada's Anglican bishop that he
earlier changed his position and supported same-sex
blessings "...when it became clear [that] all people needed to be cared
for...It's the right thing to do...God does not condemn gay and lesbian
people." He said that his strategy was to create room for everyone in
his diocese. He said "I've clearly been unsuccessful despite my best
efforts....This conflict has been most ruinous for the conservative wing
of our diocese"
||Ann Tottenham, one of only two women among Canada's 35
bishops, recalls a past time when bishops threatened to leave the House
of Bishops if women were considered for ordination. She said: "We
should stick around no matter what foolishness the Anglican Church gets up
to....I felt the church has been wrong on this [denying blessings to same
sex couples], but I haven't gone lurching off in a huff. We need bigger
reasons to stay together or to leave." 9
Bishop Ingham's speech (2003-OCT-20):
Bishop Michael Ingham delivered a speech to a conference organized by the
British Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement. He stated that those who favor
the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in the Church are as "orthodox"
"The hatred, contempt and vilification of Godís gay and lesbian
children that claims the name of orthodoxy today is not condoned nor blessed by
Jesus Christ. It has more to do with those forces of religious fearfulness that
crucified Jesus than with the love for which he gave up his life....The problem
faced by gay and lesbian Christians, and those who stand with you, is not that
we are victims of tradition, but rather casualties of those who have not grasped
tradition deeply enough." 10
Global South Primates issue statement: (2004-MAY-18)
The Primates of the Global South of the Anglican Communion
representing 18 Provinces with a membership of over 55 million, held a
meeting in Nairobi on APR-15 & 16. It was chaired by the Most Rev'd Dr Peter
Akinola, the Primate of all Nigeria. Their main concerns appear to be the
consecration of Bishop Robinson, a gay man who is in a committed same-sex
relationship. However, they also criticize "...the Bishop and Synod of
the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada for their unilateral approval and
implementation of rites for the blessing of same sex union." They made a
number of recommendations to the Lambeth Commission which was created by the
Archbishop of Canterbury to discuss homosexual issues in the Communion. They
recommend that the Commission:
||Call upon the ECUSA to repent and to reverse the consecration of
Gene Robinson as Bishop
||Suspend and ultimately expel the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion
if they do not expel Bishop Robinson.
||To give "full Episcopal and pastoral oversight" to those
dioceses who want to split from the ECUSA.
They also recommend that "...similar measures should be applied...to the Bishop and Synod of the Diocese of
New Westminster..." 11
Windsor Report issued (2004-OCT-18):
Robin Eames, the Anglican Primate of All Ireland and Chairperson of the
Lambeth Commission on Communion issued what has been called the
Report. Its two main recommendations were:
||To have each Province in the Anglican Communion ratify an "Anglican
Covenant" that would, in part, commit them to consulting the Communion as a
whole when making major decisions.
||To urge those who had contributed to disunity within the Communion to
express their regret. This would include the Episcopal Church, USA for
having ratified the election of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire,
and the Anglican Church of Canada's New Westminster diocese for allowing the
blessing same-sex unions in some of its parishes. 12
Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster agreed "neither to encourage nor
to initiate" same-sex blessings in additional parishes. However, he did not
order a cessation of blessings in those parishes already licensed to perform
Same-sex marriage legalized by a court in British Columbia (2003-JUL-8):
The British Columbia Court of Appeal
had ordered the province to marry same-sex couples, effective on 2004-JUL-12.
Some homosexual rights groups in the province asked the court to remove the
delay after same-sex marriages became available in Ontario. The court agreed.
Same-sex marriage legalized by the federal government
Bill C-38, a bill to legalize same-sex civil marriage throughout
Canada, passed its final vote in the House of Commons during the evening of
2005-JUN-28. The bill passed its final vote in the
Senate on 2005-JUL-19 and was
signed into law on 2005-JUL-20 by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of
Canada. The Governor General, who usually proclaims legislation, was
incapacitated for medical reasons.
Alone among Canadian jurisdictions Prince Edward Island refused
to follow the new law. Under threat of a lawsuit that they would certainly have
lost, on 2005-AUG-19,
PEI capitulated, and same-sex civil marriage became legal across Canada.
However, faith groups are not required to marry same-sex couples if their
beliefs or regulations require them to discriminate against such couples.
Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod begins (2007-JUN-22):
For almost two years, same-sex couples have been able to obtain
a civil marriage at any location in Canada. They have also been able to have a
religious marriage at some liberal religious denominations, like the United
Church of Canada and Unitarian congregations. But the best they are offered
in the Anglican Church is to have their relationship blessed at one of seven
parishes in one of the church's 30 dioceses. No Anglican parish will marry them.
A number of resolutions concerning the blessing of same-sex
relationships are before the General Synod. More details.
One is B001: "Blessing couples in covenanted same-sex unions." It states:
resolved: Notwithstanding any decisions taken by this its 2007 Synod, the
General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada affirms that the present
practice of the Synod and Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster in
authorizing the blessings of covenanted same-sex unions in eight (8)
Parishes of that Diocese shall continue in the Diocese of New Westminster
pending further resolution by General Synod." 13
The authors of the resolution noted:
"The provision of this rite has enabled gay and lesbian people to
feel safe, respected, and included in the full life of the church and
that the sudden withdrawal of this rite would seriously undermine the
progress that has been made."
"In view of the deliberative process
leading to a rite of blessing couples in covenanted same-sex unions in
the Diocese of New Westminster, and the potentially damaging effects if
this rite is abruptly withdrawn, and given affirmation ∂12 of the
St. Michael Report that 'history Ö demonstrates that clarity
emerges when thought and action occur simultaneously,' the Diocese of
New Westminster needs to provide ongoing pastoral care and continuity
for its people and parishes within its existing practice."
- Lila Sarick, "B.C. Anglicans to go slow on blessing gay
relationships," The Globe and Mail, Toronto ON, 1998-MAY-12, Page A5
"Resolution I.10: Human Sexuality," at:
- Leslie Schrivener, "Bishops urged to overrule B.C. diocese on gay
unions," The Toronto Star, 2002-OCT-22, Page A23
- "Anglican priest quits over same-sex unions," The Toronto Star,
Quick Hits section, 2002-NOV-14, Page A21.
Richard Ostling, "Anglican Bishops Reject Gay Unions," Associated
Press, 2003-MAY-27, at:
Ian Bailey, "Anglicans to bless same-sex unions in B.C.," National
Post, 2003-MAY-29, at:
"ACiNW Responds to the Issuing of the Blessing Rite," 2003-MAY-30,
"Church of Nigeria cuts ties with the Diocese of New Westminster,"
Anglican Communion News Service, 2003-JUN-2, at:
- Leslie Schrivener, "Gay marriage tears Anglican church asunder," The Toronto Star, 2003-OCT-31, Pages A1 and A18.
"Bishop addresses British Lesbian and Gay Christians in Manchester,
England," New Westminster diocese, 2003-OCT-30, at:
Peter J. Akinola, "April 16 Statement by the Global South Primates,"
"The Windsor Report 2004," The Anglican Communion, at:
Resolution B001, General Synod 2007, at:
Copyright © 1999 to 2007, by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2007-JUN-23
Author: B.A. Robinson