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Religious Tolerance logo

The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and homosexuality

2013: Vote planned on SSMs for 2016 Synod.
Church sign angers some, accepted by others.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay.

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2013-JUL-06: 2016 General Synod to revisit the same-sex marriage question:

One third of the Anglican Church's dioceses have made significant progress in permitting the blessing of loving, committed same-sex relationships and civil marriages solemnized elsewhere. Still, the change represents only a partial movement towards full marriage equality. It resembles the situation in many U.S. states where same-sex couples can enter civil unions or domestic partnerships, but they are not allowed to marry. By registering their relationship as a union or partnership they are willingly accepting second-class status. During the hearings of the U.S. federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013-MAR, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court described civil unions as a type of "skim milk marriage" when compared to the "full marriages" that only opposite-sex couples can access. Having to obtain a civil marriage in advance, and then having it blessed by the Anglican Church later reinforces the denomination's position that there are full members in the Anglican Church -- composed of heterosexuals -- while the LGBT community can only attain second-class member status.

However, as of mid-2013, the first steps towards full marriage equality in the Anglican Church may soon come.

The General Synod approved resolution C003 to discuss and vote again on whether the denomination should marry loving, committed couples. The resolution was proposed by the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and its members Michelle Bull and Jennifer Warren. The debate and vote will be held during the 2016 Synod in mid-2016. Resolution asked the Council of General Synod to create a motion to vote on changing the church’s current Canon 21 "to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples." 1

The resolution asks that the 2016 motion would include a:

"... conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.

The vote was 25 to 11 among the bishops, 72 to 30 among the clergy, and 101 to 27 among the laity, all in favor of the motion. Since the majority within all three groups were in favor, the resolution passed.

Stephen Andrews, Bishop of Algoma, and Dean Peter Elliott of the Diocese of New Westminster proposed amendments stating that the motion in 2016 should be based on a widespread consultation within the denomination, and would include:

  • An explanation of why the motion does not contravene the Solemn Declaration.

  • Confirms that bishops, dioceses, and priests who want to continue discriminating against same-sex couples in marriage would have immunity under civil law and the Human Rights Code.

  • Contains a biblical and theological rationale for allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Some comments during discussion of the resolution were:

  • Co-author Michelle Bull said:

    "Those of us who believe that same-sex relationships are a normal and natural part of God’s creation, and are blessed by God, are having to turn away same-sex couples against the dictates of our consciences. We’re having to say no to people when we believe God wants us to say yes. We have to choose between obedience to the church and what we believe is obedience to God." 1

  • Bob Durham of the Diocese of Algoma referred to the resolution as "prematurely conceived." He contrasted the difference between the blessing of same-sex marriages, and solemnizing of same-sex marriages. He said:

    "One is a pastoral response; the other would be a sacramental rite. Blessings are not the same thing as marriage."

  • Archdeacon Peter John Hobbs of the Diocese of Ottawa, said that the motion:

    "... allows us to move forward in transparency and begins the long process that will see culmination six years from now."

  • Leona Moses of the Diocese of Huron opposed the motion. She said that she represented the beliefs of the Six Nations Reserve's six Anglican churches:

    "Traditionally, we look to seven generations before we make up our minds about what we should or should not do today." 1

If the resolution is approved in 2016 it would probably be implemented in 2019, which would be 14 years behind the Government of Canada's legislation broadening of marriage to include same-sex couples, and about 16 years behind Canadian adults according to Ipsos-Reid polls. If passed, it would probably result in many older Anglican members leaving, and perhaps some additional congregations disassociated themselves from the denomination. However, it would probably at least partially stem the flow of older teens and young adults who are leaving the denomination because of the latter's discrimination against sexual minorities. It is a matter of short-term pain and long-term gain.

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2013-AUG-29: Gay-positive church sign posted on Reddit goes viral:

A Reddit user in Ontario Canada took the following photograph and posted it on Reddit. There is no indication why the photograph was tilted almost 45º.

Church sign

The church sign is in front of St. John's Anglican Church in Niagara Falls, ON, Canada. It went viral with over a million views during the next day and a half. Some viewers were in agreement with the message, reasoning that Jesus' birth father was the Holy Spirit, and his adoptive father was Joseph. However, many viewers were offended, arguing that the message conflicts with biblical teachings.

The message resonates with the current same-sex marriage conflict in the U.S. Down through the years, religious and social conservatives have used different arguments to justify their desire to prohibit marriage equality for loving, committed same-sex couples. Ever since the Regnerus study at the University of Texas was published, the argument has shifted noticeably. That was the first major study to conclude that children being raised by two women or two men are disadvantaged. Many previous studies had shown that children with two same-sex parents do as well or even better than children raised by a woman and man. The message of Jesus' family on the church sign upsets many social and religious conservatives today.

Lynne Marchant, rector of St. John’s said:

"I don’t find it offensive in any way. We have people in our congregation who are homosexual. We are an all-inclusive church, a family. No one cares what your sexuality is. Come on in, we don’t see any difference."

Various users of Reddit commented:

  • "Your church is doing it right."

  • "Nice way to take things out of context to try to justify a point."

  • "They're going to have to rewrite the Bible to make it fit that agenda. Why not instead preach that Christ has forgiven all sins? An organization can either make up a god of their own choosing so that nobody gets offended, or they can tell the truth about who Christ is and what His finished work on the cross means for all of us."

  • "This church is wrong. Churches should stick to what they believe. Tolerate homosexuality, fine, but don't condone." 2,3

The photograph received about 16,000 positive votes and about 14 negative votes as of AUG-13.

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References used:

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

  1. Mariets Sison, "Same-sex marriage vote in 2016," Anglican Journal, 2013-JUL-07, at:
  2. Katherine Weber, " 'Jesus Had Two Dads and He Turned Out Just Fine' - Canada Church's New Billboard Draws Strong Criticism," Christian Post, 2013-AUG-31, at:
  3. Ray Spiteri, "Niagara Falls church's pro-gay sign 'just fine'," Sun News, 2013-AUG-31, at:

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Home>Conflict>Homosexuality>Faith groups>Denominations>Anglican Church of Canada>here

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Copyright © 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2013-JUL
Latest update: 2013-SEP-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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