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THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA AND HOMOSEXUALITY

Voting at the 2004 General Synod

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Submission by ex-gay Anglicans:

A group of conservative Anglicans sent an open letter to the General Synod. They identified themselves as:

bullet"....Canadian Anglicans who were once active in the homosexual lifestyle...," and
bulletOthers who "have struggled with exclusively same-sex attractions."

Because the success rate of therapy focused on changing a client's sexual orientation appears to have a failure rate in excess of 99.5%, we assumed that none of the authors of the letter was able to change their sexual orientation to heterosexual. That is:

bulletThe former have a bisexual orientation, but have chosen to abandon sexual activity with persons of the same sex, and
bulletThe latter have a homosexual orientation and have decided to become, as they wrote, "celibate by choice."

However, this may not be so. We received an Email from one of the authors of this letter who states that a successful personal transition was personally accomplished, from a homosexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation.

The open letter stated that they "...are united in our commitment to the authority of Holy Scripture, and we reject the resolutions regarding the blessing of same-sex unions sent by the Council of General Synod to General Synod, 2004. We believe that facilitating the blessing of same-sex unions, without listening to the stories of Godís transforming power in our lives, is to act irresponsibly, and without weighing all the facts.  To pass these motions would be to betray and marginalize those of us who have come under the authority of Scripture and entered into a process of exodus from the homosexual lifestyle. ...It is not loving for the Church to encourage us to live in slavery to this mortal flesh, and not honest to assert that change is not possible. Instead, we look to the Church to empower us to draw closer to God by offering our bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing unto God. 7

We have been unable to find any statement or reports by leaders of the Anglican Church of Canada which have stated or implied that homosexuals and bisexuals cannot change their behavior. Specifically that:

bulletPersons with a homosexual orientation cannot decide to be celibate, or
bulletPersons with a bisexual orientation cannot decide to seek a relationship with a member of the opposite gender.

However, in a similar open letter to the Eames Commission which is studying homosexual policies in the Anglican Communion, the group states that "we have often been cowed into silence by those who seek to revise Biblical teachings on this issue. When we have had the courage to speak out, we have been ignored, dismissed, or overruled. What we ask is that our stories be heard." 8

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The vote for a local option in the blessing same-sex unions:

The synod was scheduled to vote on the evening of June 2, on whether to "Affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod [local faith community], with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions." (Resolution A134). 9 During the afternoon, discussion centered on whether the blessing of same-sex unions was:

bulletA matter of doctrine or faith interpretation. If so, then the General Synod should deal with it.
bulletOR
bulletA matter of practice or pastoral care. if so, then it should be left to individual dioceses in a type of local option.

The delegates agreed to take no action on the original motion. However, a revised resolution was passed. It asks the Primate's Theological Commission to "review, consider and report...by spring 2006...whether the blessing of committed, same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine."  This commission had been established in 1995 to examine questions of biblical interpretation. The revised resolution also requests that "...the issue of the blessing of committed same-sex unions be considered at the meeting of General Synod in 1997." That is the next scheduled Synod; the meetings are held every three years in late spring. The vote was fairly close among the laity and clergy: 142 to 118. The bishops were more accepting of the motion; they voted 22 to 12.

Reactions to the revised motion were mixed:

bulletArchbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate-elect, said: "I've said before that this particular synod is surrounded by a lot of prayer right across this land and therefore, I trust the movement of the Spirit within this synod and will abide by the decision. I'm grateful for what's happened. I still hold a personal hope that the church will send a very positive message to same-sex sex partners. But the Synod has spoken. I trust that."
bulletRev. Gene Packwood of Calgary favored the revised motion. He said: "we get to stay in communion with the worldwide Anglican Communion, work toward consensus, protect Anglican minorities worldwide and, personally, I won't have to do pastoral damage control when I get home."
bulletArchdeacon Larry Beardy of Keewatin, who is Cree, said some of the concepts in the original resolution"...are foreign to us...if you approve it we will once again be left behind."
bulletPat Johnston of Ottawa favored the original resolution, saying: "What is it we are afraid of and how long shall we wait?"
bulletArchbishop Terence Finlay of Toronto agreed. He said that three year delay "dissipates energy and leaves some of my priests and lay people in a wilderness of secrecy and hypocrisy."
bulletRev. James Pratt of Western Newfoundland said that "Cow Head [NF] is not Vancouver." He said that the vast majority of people in his parish had never knowingly met an openly gay or lesbian person. They are unwilling to grant dioceses a local option now; they will hold the same opinion three years in the future. He urged immediate action on the original motion.
bulletIntegrity, an Anglican gay-positive group, said that the church, by postponing a decision, "...is refusing to respond to an increasingly urgent pastoral need in our community and hindering any evangelistic work or witness among the lesbian and gay community." They issued a press release, which stated in part: "We have to ask what three more years will add to the decades of work that the church has already been engaged in...This horse has been led to water again and again and again, and now is complaining that it is thirsty." By the time of the 2007 General Synod, the denomination will have been discussing the homosexual "issue" for over three decades. There has been little new data which has appeared from the scientific or theological communities over this time.
bulletRev. James Wagner, a spokesperson for Essentials, a coalition of conservative Anglican groups who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, said he was "...pleased with the motion to defer because it represents the theology of this matter and the unity of the church." 1
bulletDavid Thomas, a youth member of the Canadian Forces, said: "I am disgusted with the inability of this synod to make a decision. It's been 30 years since we started this debate. I refuse to pass the buck." (Actually, it has only been 28 years.)
bulletErik Miller, a youth member from Ottawa said: "I feel shame that we neglected our duty."
bulletRachel Taylor, a youth member of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (of British Columbia) said: "I am disheartened and disgusted with the decision yesterday."
bulletRev. Peter John Hobbs said: "...we agreed to err on the side of unity. I hope our final word on this matter will be compassion."
bulletBishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster diocese, who consented to the blessing of same-sex unions there in 2002, said that his diocese would continue its existing policy. Referring to the revised resolution, he said: "I'm not surprised or disappointed by the decision. It follows, in fact, the same pattern that we went through in our diocese. The General Synod now is pretty much where we (New Westminster) were in 1997. It's appropriate that we take the time that people need and while we take that time, it's important to hold people in mutual respect. What the synod has said tonight is that they wish to study the matter further before making any recommendation as a General Synod."

This decision by the General Synod leaves individual dioceses in a type of limbo. Bishop Ingham continued:

bulletThe General Synod has "...not prevented any diocese from considering the matter as they wish to do at a local level. That will continue. There is already a decision in the Toronto diocese to hold a synod (on same-sex blessings) this fall. I know there's pressure in other urban dioceses too. That will continue as this next three years unfold." 1.2

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams released a statement on JUN-03 saying, in part: "The decision to defer the question of the right of dioceses over same sex blessings offers hope for the continuing collegiality of the Anglican Communion. It is important that the Canadian church has held back from a structural shift that would have run counter to the pleas and wishes of the Primates' meeting last Autumn and of so many around the Communion. In doing so, it has avoided complicating still further the work of the Lambeth Commission" 3 It appears that William's letter was premature.

The Toronto, Ontario diocese will consider whether to ask their bishop to approve the blessings of same-sex unions at a special meeting of its synod. Also in Ontario, the Ottawa and Niagara dioceses are planning to take this same action in the near future.

Other topics, such as:

bulletActually marrying same-sex couples who possess marriage certificates, or
bulletAllowing the ordination of priests who are in same-sex relationships

will apparently have to wait for some future Synod.

This essay continues below

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The vote to "affirm the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships:"

Gays, lesbians, same-sex couples and their supporters were discouraged by the JUN-02 motion to defer action on a local option to bless same-sex unions in favor of creating still another church study on homosexuality. In a surprise move, the General Synod approved a statement the next day that "affirms the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships." 9

Delegates' responses were highly polarized, as expected:

bulletCassandra McCollum of the Yukon, a bisexual, said: "Our church has always had gay couples and they have been welcome. This would affirm we recognize them as children of God."
bulletSteve Schuh, synod member and chairperson of the Vancouver chapter of Integrity, a gay-positive Anglican group said: "It is the first time gay relationships have been affirmed" by the Anglican Church of Canada. 4
bulletRuby Lockhart of Central Newfoundland diocese had negative feelings about the statement. She said: "God made us in his own image, male and female. I cannot accept a man lying with a man. I don't believe that is the way we were created. I really believe it goes against the Bible."
bulletEqual Marriage for same-sex couples, an advocacy group which promotes equal rights (and rites) for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, noted that the theme of the Synod was "I am making all things new." This was explained by the church with the following: "As Anglicans we live in a diversity of relationships, differing theological paradigms, unique challenges and controversies. At the same time, we are on the verge of new directions: a new strategic plan, the new agape a new primate, and, we pray, a renewed sense of the church's unity in its diversity" Equal Marriage said that "Canadian Anglicans decide not to decide." They concluded their article with the comment: "The evening ended with a worship service that included a reading from the Bible: 'Do you not know that you are God's temple and God's spirit dwells in you?' It was a question that was left unanswered for same-sex couples by this General Synod." 10
bulletTerry Finlay, Archbishop of Toronto, said: "We've waited patiently. I think people want some resolution on this. This is not our major issue in our church and what we're about ... we heard about AIDS and HIV in Africa, these are the issues that are consuming the world and we ought to be there. It's time to take action." 10
bulletAn Aboriginal leader said: "These kind of things [same-sex marriages] existed in our community a long time ago. We had legends about gay and lesbian people and they were stopped by the church. We were not allowed to talk about gay and lesbian people ... we will open up a can of worms with our elders. How come gay and lesbian people were evil before and they are not now [again]?" 10
bulletAfter the evening prayers, and just as delegates were ready to leave the plenary hall, Bishop Donald Harvey of the synod of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador read a surprise statement prepared by himself and eight other bishops: Andrew Atagotaaluk (Arctic), Benjamin Arreak (suffragan of the Arctic), William Anderson (Caledonia), Anthony Burton and Charles Arthurson (Saskatchewan), Terrence Buckle (Yukon), Ronald Ferris (Algoma) and Larry Robertson (suffragan of the Arctic). It said that the bishops, laity and clergy had made an error. "In recent days the General Synod has made a number of contradictory decisions which may be causing confusion in the church. On the one hand, the synod has deferred a decision concerning the blessing of same-sex unions for three years in order to explore whether such ceremonies would be a matter of doctrine. This consideration will need to be engaged by all 34 synods of the Anglican Church of Canada. On the other hand the Synod appears to have pre-empted this work by summarily expressing the opinion that it affirms the 'sanctity' of committed adult same-sex relationships." The bishops complained that the motion ignored the request of "...the Lambeth Commission for Anglican provinces not to take any action on these matters before the release of their report." They also noted that the motion ignored the opinions of Inuit and indigenous churches who had opposed the statement. They urged: "...Anglicans across Canada distressed by this expression of opinion not to despair and urge them to take their full part in the diocesan and provincial synods which will contribute to a decision of whether this is a doctrinal matter."

Primate-elect Andrew Hutchison said he had heard "far too late to do anything" about the action of the nine bishops. 5

Some questioned whether the word "sanctity" made the statement a matter of doctrine. Dennis Drainville of Quebec said that it didn't. Using the word "sanctity" acknowledged that "God is in the midst of that relationship between two committed partners." However, the word is used twice in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer; both times it refers to opposite-sex marriage ceremonies.

Essentials, a coalition of conservative Anglican groups who oppose equal rights for gays and lesbians, issued a press release. It regretted that the "affirming" motion went a step further than the previous day's motion. They intend to wait for "the response from the international community" before making any decisions about their future.

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International response to the affirmation of committed same-sex unions:

The response to the affirmation was not long in coming:
bullet2004-JUN-4: The American Anglican Council (AAC) responds: The AAC is a conservative group of American Anglicans. They issued a statement on JUN-4 which said, in part: "The very church that seemed to be listening to their brothers and sisters worldwide has now declared through their action, ' We have no need of you.' Through their decisions, both ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada reflect a body capitulating to the spirit of the age. We find this decision outrageous. Its flies in the face of clear teaching of Scripture, natural law, the four instruments of Anglican unity, and the vast majority of Christians worldwide. As if all this were not egregious enough, the amendment is clearly the result of a highly dubious process which involved last minute maneuvers, curtailed debate and most astounding on a vote of this significance, a vote by hands. How is that even possible?...the decisions of ECUSA and the Canadian Church represent unilateral acts of rebellion that have resulted in disunity and schism." 3 The four instruments of Anglican unity referred to above are the See of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council.
bullet2004-JUN-6: The Global South group of conservative primates responds: This group of Anglican leaders consists of 22 primates who speak for over 50 million Anglicans -- about 70% of the total membership of the worldwide Anglican Communion. They condemned the statement of affirmation and asked that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, USA be expelled from the Communion. According to the News.telegraph web site: "Their intervention has badly damaged efforts by [Archbishop of Canterbury] Dr Williams and other Anglican leaders to broker peace between the factions on homosexuality....Conservative primates, including a member of Dr Williams's Lambeth Commission, said using the term 'sanctity' put same-sex unions on a par with marriage and pre-empted debate on their doctrinal status."

Archbishop Gregory Venables, the primate of the Southern Cone (South America), wrote the statement on behalf of himself and the other 21 primates. He said: "The use of the word 'sanctify' means that the whole issue has already been decided and that is devastating. It's saying that God has agreed to bless same-sex unions...the word carries the implication that this isn't just right, but that this is God's will and he has set it apart for the human race. It's rewriting the Christian faith. There's nothing in the Bible about the sanctity of same-sex relationships. Canada's action merely confirms the sad reality of the fragmentation of the Anglican family....We would like to see them expelled. This is going against Christian teaching and they should either repent or shut the door behind themselves."

Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the Primate of the West Indies and a member of the Lambeth Commission, added: "It is completely unacceptable to Bible believing orthodox Christians that same-sex unions are described as 'holy'. Such language is reserved for marriage alone. The attempt to give 'committed adult same-sex relationships' the same theological stature as marriage exacerbates the crisis in the Communion and will reap devastating consequences." 6

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References:

  1. Solange de Santis, "Synod defers decision on blessings. Will decide tomorrow on 'integrity' of gay relationships," Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-02, at: http://anglicanjournal.com/
  2. "Reaction to synod's vote to defer a decision on same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-03, at: http://anglicanjournal.com
  3. "The American Anglican Council Condemns the Anglican Church of Canada's Affirmation of Same Sex Relationships," AAC News, 2004-JUN-10, at: http://aacblog.classicalanglican.net/
  4. Solange de Santis, "Synod 'affirms' same-sex relationships," Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-02 [sic], at: http://anglicanjournal.com/
  5. "Nine bishops 'express sorrow' at synod's actions," Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-03, at: http://anglicanjournal.com/
  6. Jonathan Petre & Jonathan Wynne-Jones, "Bishops call for Canada's expulsion in gay crisis," at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk
  7. "Other Voices," Classical Anglican Net News, 2004-MAY-14, at: http://www.anglican.tk/
  8. "Canadian Ex-Gay submission to Eames," 2004-AUG-13, Anglican Mainstream, at: http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/
  9. The text of resolution A134 is at: http://gs2004.anglican.ca/
  10. "Canadian Anglicans decide not to decide. Status quo: Same-sex unions blessed by some," Equal Marriage for same-sex couples, 2004-JUN-03, at: http://www.samesexmarriage.ca/

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Copyright © 2004 & 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Created 2004-JUN-01
Latest update: 2005-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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