The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality
The St. Michael Report, 2006
As of mid-2007, members of the Anglican Church are divided into three groups:
||First class members include heterosexuals who can marry in the church,
and single homosexuals who cannot.
||Second class members are homosexual couples in committed same-sex
relationships who live in one of the approximately 8 parishes in the New
Westminster diocese of the Church in the area near and in Vancouver, BC.
They can have their union blessed at their local parish.
||Third class members are homosexual couples in committed same-sex
relationships who live in one of the other parishes in the New Westminster
diocese or in one of the other 29 dioceses in Canada. The Church currently
refuses to formally recognize
their relationship, no matter how loving and committed, as anything other
than that of two
roommates living together.
There has been considerable discussion within the Church to create a local
option plan, in which each diocese would have the freedom to decide whether to bless same-sex
relationships within their boundaries. This would greatly increase the number of
second class members. No significant consideration is currently being given to whether the
Church should allow such couples to actually marry in the church.
The mid-2004 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada requested:
the Primate ask the Primate’s Theological Commission to review, consider, and
report to the Council of General Synod, by its spring 2006 meeting, whether the
blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine."
This is an important matter to settle. Changes to church doctrine require a
more complex and lengthy procedure: approval by a two-thirds majority at two
triennial General Synods. This is a very difficult bar to reach.
The full name of
the report is: "Report of the Primate’s Theological Commission of the Anglican
Church of Canada on the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions." It was presented to
the Council of General Synod in 2005-MAY. It is commonly referred to
as the St. Michael Report in appreciation of the efforts by Anglican Sisters at St.
Michael's House in Oakville, ON who housed the commission members.
The commissioners came from many of the church's 30 dioceses and held diverse
theological positions. The Chairperson was the Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, the
bishop of Edmonton, AB.
Points raised by the Commission:
The Commission's report defined "committed same-sex unions" as: "committed, adult,
monogamous, intended lifelong, same-sex relationships which include sexual
The Commission recognized that:
"... there is a range of interpretations given to the term ‘doctrine’,
and that doctrines develop and change over time. 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. ...
any proposed blessing of a same-sex relationship would be analogous to a
marriage to such a degree as to require the Church to understand it coherently
in relation to the doctrine of marriage." 1
Their second of 42 points is that:
"The blessing of committed same-sex unions is tied to the question of
how all sexuality, as a feature of our bodily existence, participates in our
redemption – our entering into the life of holiness to which Christ, through his
incarnation, his life, death, and resurrection, is always calling us. Every
discovery in human learning, scientific research, and socio-cultural development
must be understood in the context of the fundamental reality that all we do and
are, including our sexuality and sexual acts of intimacy, is a response in faith
to the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, insofar as a monogamous, intended
lifelong, committed same-sex union will be a relationship that will either
enable or impair our participation in the life of God through Christ, by the
power of the Holy Spirit, it is inextricably linked to the core mystery of the
triune God, and how we experience God’s saving mercy. More categorically, 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." 2
Their eighth point is that:
"Doctrine is formed whenever the Church, as the Church, makes a statement
about who God is and how God acts, and insofar as the blessing of a same-sex
union constitutes such a statement about God and how God is active in
relation to that union, it must be considered as a doctrinal matter. ..."
However, they differentiate between core doctrines and "what may be termed
adiaphora doctrines." The latter has been defined as matters "upon which
disagreement can be tolerated without endangering unity."
They noted instances in history where the Church has reversed its approval of
certain established practices:
||The enslavement of humans,
||Racial segregation and civil rights abuses in the U.S. and South Africa,
||The Anglican Church of Canada's policy of assimilation of aboriginals
into white culture -- a practice sometimes referred to as cultural genocide.
Some within the church feel that the blessing of same-sex unions is another
instance where the church should reverse its historical stance.
The Commission accepted as a fact that the Church's responsibility is to:
"discern the leading of the [Holy] Spirit in this matter in reasoned and
faithful dialogue with Scripture and tradition, and then to respond in love
and obedience. It is commonly assumed that doctrinal certainty is required
before pastoral actions can be taken, but history also demonstrates that
clarity emerges when thought and action occur simultaneously."
They also take the position that the teaching of Jesus Christ on the topic of
same-sex relationships is knowable by theologians in the 21st
century. The Commission writes:
"19 ... the challenge facing the church is 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."
Conclusions of the Commission:
They concluded that: "...the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine.
They stressed that:
"The pastoral importance of this issue deserves a careful consideration
of its doctrinal implications in a manner that is deeply respectful of the
dignity and integrity of the gay and lesbian members of our church."
The Commission's final conclusion is:
"44. It is often lamented that the Church should become preoccupied in
debates on sexual ethics when there are so many more urgent issues that
could be ameliorated if only we would redirect our zeal. But the depth of
feeling that exists in the Communion on this matter indicates how important
it has become. It addresses our identity as sexual beings in community in an
intimate and profound way. It also relates to the question of how the gospel
of Jesus Christ is for all human beings, irrespective of our sexual
identities. It is now for the church to decide whether or not the blessing
of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian
Action by the General Synod of 2007:
The Synod passed resolution # A184:
"That this General Synod accept the conclusion of the Primate’s
Theological Commission’s St. Michael Report that the blessing of
same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the
sense of being credal."
There are limits to the amount of text that this site can copy from a
copyrighted document. We recommend that you read the report in full.
Report of the Primate’s Theological Commission of the Anglican Church of
Canada on the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions: The St. Michael Report," Anglican
Church of Canada, at:
"The St., Michael Report," Anglican Church of Canada, at:
"Canadian Anglican Theological Commission clarifies provenance of
same-sex blessings resolutions," Anglican Communion News Service,
||A copy of the report can be ordered online from The Anglican Book Centre
||Presumably the discerning of the leading by the Holy Spirit is achieved
largely through prayer. Staff of this web site
conducted a pilot study to determine if Christians can learn the will of
God on same-sex relationships through prayer.
Copyright © 2007, by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original posting: 2007-JUN-23
Latest update: 2007-JUN-24
Author: B.A. Robinson