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The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality

Events from the year 2000 to 2005

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Sponsored link.

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See also coverage of the developments in the New Westminster diocese.

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2001-JUN: Repeat motion to bless same-sex unions passed BC diocese:

The Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia again approved a motion to ask Bishop Michael Ingham to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions within the diocese. The vote was 56% in favor (226 to 174). He refused again.

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2002-JUN: Repeat motion to bless same-sex unions passed BC diocese:

The Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia again approved a motion to ask Bishop Michael Ingham to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions within the diocese. The vote was 63% in favor (215 to 129). This time, he assented. More details

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2003-OCT-30: "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. The main conflict was triggered by the New Westminster, BC, synod which decided to allow the blessing of same-sex committed relationships. These are not actually church marriages, as is often reported in the religious and secular media. These are merely blessings; no rings are exchanged. More details.

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2003-SEP-06: Two female deacons marry:

Alison Kemper and Joyce Barnett, two Anglican deacons, were among the eight same-sex couples who initiated the Ontario court challenge for same-sex marriage in 2001. Their have been together for two decades and have two children. The couple was married in a civil ceremony a few days after same-sex marriage became legal in the province. Their union was blessed in a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Trinity, a downtown Anglican congregation in Toronto, ON. This is unusual, because the Anglican Church of Canada is officially opposed to blessing same-sex couples. Ms. Kemper said: "What happened to us was substantial and something of great joy, and we wanted to celebrate that with our religious community and our friends and neighbors." About 200 people attended the service. 1

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2003-NOV: Claiming the Blessing Canada formed:

Claiming the Blessing Canada is a "group of Anglican clergy and lay people who wish to see the Anglican Church of Canada extend blessings to same-sex couples," on a local option basis. 2 They took their name from a similar organization in the United States. 3 In 2003-NOV, they published "A Call to Blessing." They ask that laity, clergy, members of religious orders, and parishes who wish to endorse the Call to email them.

"We, clergy, religious, laity and parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada call upon the General Synod, 2004 to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions."

"To bless the relationship between two men or two women is to declare that this relationship is a blessing from God and that its purpose is to bless God, within the context of the community of faith."

"The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada recognised as early as 1979 that homosexuals are fully welcome in the Church. There have been many opportunities to study the questions raised by gays and lesbians in the Church since that time. Recent legal changes, both provincial and federal, have pressed this pastoral issue in a new way. Now is the time for Anglicans to provide for the blessing of their same-sex unions. This should be available within their local parish community."

"Therefore, we ask the General Synod of 2004 to authorise the blessing of same-sex unions and urge Bishops and their dioceses to make provision for implementation by means of a local option approach. By this action we are committed to celebrating the holy love in faithful relationships and claiming the blessing of God and community."

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2004-MAY-18: Global South Primates issue statement:

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:

bulletCall upon the ECUSA to repent and to reverse the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop
bulletSuspend and ultimately expel the ECUSA from the Anglican Communion if they do not expel Bishop Robinson.
bulletTo 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..." 2

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2004-MAY-28: General Synod:

The church held its week-long 2004 General Synod in St. Catherines, Ontario starting on 2004-MAY-28. About 300 delegates and 200 observers attended. Events at the Synod are described in a separate essay.

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2005-APR-29: Conference of bishops:

The 40 bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada debated for three days whether to continue blessing same-sex relationships. The Canadian Press (CP) appear to have incorrectly described the outcome of the debate. The CP reported that the Bishops unanimously passed a resolution which declares a moratorium on the practice for two years. 4 The Venerable A. Paul Feheley, Principal Secretary to the Primate, maintains that the CP report was in error. 5 He wrote that the Bishops agreed unanimously "neither to encourage nor to initiate" the blessing of same-sex couples until General Synod has made a decision on the matter. Archbishop Andrew Hutchison said that this will give church leaders time to study how such blessings relate to the official doctrines of the faith. The new policy does not require the blessing of the Council of the General Synod as the CP stated. The synod meets on MAY-06 to 08 in Mississauga, ON. The policy seems a bit strange, because when a couple wants to have their relationship blessed, the initiative usually comes from the couple and not the priest or bishop.

The bishops also agreed to withdraw officially from the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets in Nottingham, UK in June. This will also have to be approved by the General Synod. The CP reported that Archbishop Hutchison said: "In some cultures homosexuality is still a major criminal offence, punishable by heavy prison sentences. We must respect those cultures." Again the CP appears to have misreported Archbishop Hutchison statement. Principal Secretary Feheley said: "In the interview (at which I was present) the Primate referred to the need within the Anglican Communion for a sense of accommodation of different views on the subject of homosexuality. In no way does the Primate or the Anglican Church condone the imprisonment of homosexuals. The Primate has a long history of defending the rights of gays and lesbians, including significant work in the Diocese of Montreal after a number of gay men had been murdered." 6 The Canadian Press also reported that: "The bishops affirmed the place of homosexuals in the church." 5 

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2005-MAY: Primate's Theological Commission on blessing same-sex unions:

The 2004 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada had asked the Primates' Theological Commission to determine whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine. In its "St. Michael Report," they determined that it was a matter of doctrine. They wrote:

"It seems to us that this issue is fundamentally related to the doctrines of salvation (soteriology), incarnation, the work of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology), our creation in the image of God (theological anthropology), sanctification, and holy matrimony." According to Christianity Today: "...the Commission admitted there were several interpretations of what the 'doctrine' could mean and also that the understanding of its meaning was changing during the time." The report states: "We agree that the blessing of committed same-sex unions is not a matter of what is often referred to as a 'core' doctrine, in the sense of being credal doctrine.....[They advised Anglicans to] "...see our cultural norms through the eyes of Christ and then, out of allegiance to him, to promote those norms that honour him and renounce those that do not." 6.7

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2005-MAY-06 to 08: Council of the General Synod meeting:

The report of the Primate's Theological Commission was received by the General Synod. The Commission and Synod expressed concern that consultations with First Nations Anglicans has been impeded in the past because of a lack of resources to translate material into Aboriginal languages.

They acknowledged the request of the Communiqué from the Primates' meeting that the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church, USA withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council. They decided to send representatives to the Council in Nottingham during 2005-JUN. However, they will only listen; they will not participate. 6

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References:

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

  1. "Miracle moments - The spirit of inclusion is moving among us," RMN Flashnet Digest, 2003-SEP-10.
  2. Peter J. Akinola, "April 16 Statement by the Global South Primates," 2004-MAY-18, at: http://www.americananglican.org/
  3. "Claiming the Blessing Canada," at: http://www.geocities.com/claimblesscanada/index.htm
  4. "Same-sex blessings halted; 2-year-ban by Anglican bishops," Canadian Press, The Toronto Star, 2005-APR-29, Page A4.
  5. A Paul Feheley, "Same-sex article was misinformed," Letters to the editor section, The Toronto Star, 2005-MAY-07, Page F7.
  6. "Primate's Theological Commission Canada Releases Statement on Same-Sex Unions," Christianity Today, 2005-MAY-07, at: http://www.christiantoday.com/
  7. "Council of General Synod Message for the Church," 2005-MAY-08, at: http://www.americananglican.org/l

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Copyright © 2000 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-MAR-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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