THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF CANADA AND HOMOSEXUALITY
Voting at the 2004 General Synod
Submission by ex-gay Anglicans:
A group of conservative Anglicans sent an open letter to the General Synod. They identified
||"....Canadian Anglicans who were once active in the homosexual
||Others 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:
||The former have a bisexual orientation, but have chosen to abandon
sexual activity with persons of the same sex, and
||The 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
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.
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:
||Persons with a homosexual orientation cannot decide to be celibate,
||Persons 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
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:
||A matter of doctrine or faith interpretation. If so, then the General Synod should deal with it.
||A 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:
||Archbishop 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."
||Rev. 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."
||Archdeacon 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."
||Pat Johnston of Ottawa favored the original resolution, saying: "What
is it we are afraid of and how long shall we wait?"
||Archbishop 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."
||Rev. 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
||Integrity, 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.
||Rev. 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."
||David 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.)
||Erik Miller, a youth member from Ottawa said: "I feel shame that we
neglected our duty."
||Rachel 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."
||Rev. Peter John Hobbs said: "...we agreed to err on the side of
unity. I hope our final word on this matter will be compassion."
||Bishop 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:
||The 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."
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:
||Actually marrying same-sex couples who
possess marriage certificates, or
||Allowing the ordination of priests who are
in same-sex relationships
will apparently have to wait for some future
This essay continues below
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:
||Cassandra 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."
||Steve 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.
||Ruby 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."
||Equal 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
||Terry 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
||An 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
||After 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.
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.
International response to the affirmation of committed same-sex unions:
The response to the affirmation was not long in coming:
||2004-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.
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
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."
Solange de Santis, "Synod defers decision on blessings. Will decide
tomorrow on 'integrity' of gay relationships," Anglican Journal,
"Reaction to synod's vote to defer a decision on same-sex blessings,"
Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-03, at:
"The American Anglican Council Condemns the Anglican Church of
Canada's Affirmation of Same Sex Relationships," AAC News, 2004-JUN-10,
Solange de Santis, "Synod 'affirms' same-sex relationships,"
Anglican Journal, 2004-JUN-02 [sic], at:
"Nine bishops 'express sorrow' at synod's actions," Anglican
Journal, 2004-JUN-03, at:
Jonathan Petre & Jonathan Wynne-Jones, "Bishops call for Canada's
expulsion in gay crisis," at:
"Other Voices," Classical Anglican Net News, 2004-MAY-14, at:
"Canadian Ex-Gay submission to Eames," 2004-AUG-13, Anglican
The text of resolution A134 is at:
"Canadian Anglicans decide not to decide. Status quo: Same-sex unions
blessed by some," Equal Marriage for same-sex couples, 2004-JUN-03, at:
Copyright © 2004 & 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Latest update: 2005-FEB-06
Author: B.A. Robinson