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The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality

General Synod, 2007: Debate

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Earlier activities at the 2007 General Synod were described in a prior essay

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2007-JUN-23: Saturday: The 300 kg gorilla and procedural matters:

This was the first full day of debate on the same-sex blessing issue. Delegates were finally able to directly discuss the 300 kg gorilla at the Synod for the first time. The plenary hall was full; about 50 more spectators were present than normal.

A two and a-half hour discussion session began the session:

bulletDorothy Davies-Flindall of the diocese of Ontario said: "I have to come to accept that some people are ordered toward the same gender. The church needs to adjust its views. It has excluded them for too long"
bulletShara Golden of Fredericton said: "We do have same-sex [civil] marriage today, but we need more time to talk."
bulletIsaac Kawuki-Mukasa of Toronto said "In my home country of Uganda, it is a matter of life and death for [gay people]. What we decide here will have a huge impact half a world away. [Voting yes] would offer a gleam of hope to these people."
bulletBishop Larry Robertson of the Arctic said: "Homosexual behavior is not in line with Scripture of my prayer book. We can call it sin. My desire is for people to be whole and come back into line with Godís will."
bulletJean Hamilton of the diocese of Fredericton said: "Same-sex attraction can be changed and reversed."
bulletArchdeacon Dennis Drainville of the diocese of Quebec said: "We must begin to accept a profound policy of inclusion. If we are to speak to the world, it will be because we open the doors."
bulletCanon Kimberley Beard of the diocese of Toronto said: "I see division and a house divided against itself cannot stand. The Windsor Report calls for a moratorium on blessing same-sex unions."
bulletRon Stevenson of the diocese of Fredericton said: "I remember when acts of same-gender intimacy were criminal offenses punishable by prison terms. I hope to live long enough to see the church become Godís agent to bless same-sex couples."
bulletSheila Vanderputten of the diocese of Calgary said: "Holy Scripture is the foundation of my life. I have to vote not to accept same-sex blessings in spite of all the pain."
bulletArchdeacon Bruce Bryant-Scott of the diocese of British Columbia said: "I think itís time. We are not going to be any wiser for waiting."

A series of motions were rejected by the delegates during the evening session:

bulletOne would have required resolutions sent to it by the Council of General Synod on same-sex blessings to be passed only if they received 60% of the vote instead of the usual 50%.
bulletAnother would have required two-thirds majority vote at two successive General Synods.
bulletAnother would have required a secret ballot.
bulletA final motion would have avoided making a decision at this Synod by referring the same-sex blessing issue back to the Primate's Theological Commission for still more study.

Some delegates commented on changing the voting from a simple majority:

bulletArchdeacon Vicars Hodge of the diocese of Fredericton said: "It ought to be decided at that higher standard. The wellbeing of our church is gravely threatened."
bulletSheila Vanderputten of Calgary said: "This is an issue that may rend us asunder. We need to give this full weight."
bulletRev. Richard Leggett of New Westminster said: "Itís changing the rules. Whether we vote by 50 plus one, 60 or 67 per cent, there will be people who are not happy."
bulletArchdeacon Lynne Corfield of Niagara said: "The world is looking for leadership from us. We donít need this amendment to make it more difficult." 1,2

When the smoke cleared, the resolutions would be decided at this Synod by a simple majority vote.

The Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, halted discussion on the blessing of same-sex unions at 9 PM, even though at least sixteen delegates still wanted to speak. The motion being discussed at the time was "that General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada." A motion from the floor to alter the agenda and continue debate was defeated. Discussion will continue on JUN-24.

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2007-JUN-24: Sunday:

Resolution A186 was passed with a minor modification. It states: "That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine (in the sense of being credal) of the Anglican Church of Canada."

The clergy and laity voted 152 for and 97 against. The house of bishops voted 21 for and 19 against. 3

The church door was slammed in the face of same-sex couples when the key resolution was approved by comfortable margins by both lay and clergy delegates but rejected by the bishops. Clergy voted 63 to 53 in favor; lay delegates voted 78 to 59 in favor. But the House of Bishops voted narrowly against the motion: 21 to 19. Since motions require approval by each of the three orders, it did not pass.

The resolution read:

"That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod,
   1. with the concurrence of the diocesan bishop, and
   2. in a manner which respects the conscience of the incumbent and the
will of the parish,
to authorize the blessing of committed same-sex unions."

Loving, committed same-sex couples will continue to have their relationship unrecognized by the Church until at least the next General Synod in 2010. 4

An Anglican Church of Canada video "Synod on Demand" for Sunday, 2007-JUN-24

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Delegates authorize more studies:

The final action taken by delegates to the General Synod was passed by a narrow margin. It would ask the Primate's Theological Commission to determine "whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine." An amendment by Bishop James Cowan of British Columbia expanded the commission's mandate to include "Christian sexuality through the lens of Scripture, reason and tradition in the light of current scientific understanding." The motion was passed by the clergy and laity 129 to 99, and by the bishops 19 to 17.

bulletMartin Taylor of the diocese of Montreal said: "This provides a way for this badly-divided church to dialogue about these important matters. What I heard yesterday (June 24) was not a 'no,' but a 'not yet, but very soon'."
bulletGeorge Power of British Columbia said: "This will encourage people who are opposed and need to start a process of discussion,"
bulletBishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster said: "We donít need another study on human sexuality. There are libraries on this topic. We need people to read them." 5

The Synod also approved a resolution that calls on Council of General Synod (CoGS) to consider revising the church canon law on marriage to allow "marriage of all legally qualified persons." Since civil marriage became available for all adult Canadian same-sex couples in mid-2005, such a change would allow such couples to be treated as full members of the Anglican Church of Canada and be permitted to marry in church. 5

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Resolution B001 withdrawn?

There are rumors that Resolution B001 was withdrawn on JUN-25. It would have stated that the General Synod affirmed the present practice of blessing same-sex relationships in some of the parishes of New Westminster diocese.

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Our assessment:

We have a policy of attempting to remain objective. These are my personal feelings, and lack objectivity.

My belief is that this is the worst possible outcome. The Anglican Church of Canada is paralyzed for three years until the next Synod. Its bishops are out of touch with the wishes of its laity and priests. The Episcopal Church, USA must now stand alone among the provinces of the Anglican Communion in its wish for inclusiveness

The Anglican Church of Canada will be a far less welcome place for any youth and young adults who are considering becoming members. However, many people like myself (heterosexual, 70 years-of-age) will find the church more welcoming.

Once more, homosexuals and bisexuals -- particularly those in loving committed relationships -- have had the church door slammed in their face, as their beloved denomination continues to consider them as second-class members, and considers their relationships non-existent.

Still, the handwriting is on the wall. Same-sex relationships will be blessed by the 2010 Synod; if not then, then in 2013. Allowing same-sex marriage is inevitable, although that might not materialize until the 2020s.

But how much better it would have been if the Anglican Church had chosen to be moral and ethical leaders rather than followers.

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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. Solange de Santis, "Debate continues on same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal, 2007-JUN-24, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  2. "Heard during the same-sex blessings discussion before the evening votes: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  3. "Same-sex blessings consistent with core doctrine," ACC Web News, 2007-JUN-24.
  4. "Blessing of same-sex unions defeated," ACC Web News, 2007-JUN-24.
  5. "Church will continue to study same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal Daily, Issue 7, 2007-JUN-26, at: http://www.accnotes.org/

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Copyright © 2006 & 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2007-JUN-23
Latest update: 2007-JUN-26
Author: B.A. Robinson

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