Preface to the General Synod Canon XXI
‘On Marriage in the Church’
- The Anglican Church of Canada affirms, according to our Lord’s teaching as found in Holy Scripture and expressed in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer, that marriage is a lifelong union in faithful love, and that marriage vows are a commitment to this union, for better or for worse, to the exclusion of all others on either side. This union is established by God’s grace when two duly qualified persons enter into a covenant of marriage in which they declare their intention of fulfilling its purposes and exchange vows to be faithful to one another until they are separated by death. The purposes of marriage are mutual fellowship, support, and comfort, and the procreation (if it may be) and nurture of children, and the creation of a relationship in which sexuality may serve personal fulfilment in a community of faithful love. This covenant is made in the sight of God and in the presence of witnesses and of an authorized minister.
- The Church affirms in like manner the goodness of the union of man and woman in marriage, this being of God’s creation. Marriage also is exalted as a sign of the redeeming purpose of God to unite all things in Christ, the purpose made known in the reunion of divided humanity in the Church.
1. Cf. Gen. 1:27–31
2. Eph. 5:31f.
3. Eph. 1:9f.
4. Eph. 2:11–16.
- The Church throughout its history has recognized that not all marriages in human society conform, or are intended to conform, to the standard here described. For this reason, in the exercise of pastoral care as evidenced in the earliest documents of the New Testament, the Church has from the beginning made regulations for the support of family life especially among its own members.
- Aspects of the regulation of marriage in the apostolic Church are recorded in the New Testament. A new standard of reciprocal love between husband and wife was introduced leading towards an understanding of their equality. In preparation for marriage Christians were directed to seek partners from among their fellow believers. In Christ’s name separated spouses were encouraged to seek reconciliation. In his name also divorce was forbidden though not without exception. In certain circumstances a believer already married to an unbeliever might be declared free from such a marriage bond; in others, and here in the name of Christ, remarriage during the lifetime of a former spouse was described, with one exception, as an adulterous union.
1. 1 Cor. 7:3f, 11:11f, Eph. 5:21–33, cf. Gal. 3:28
2. 1 Cor. 7:39, 2 Cor. 6:14, cf 1 Thess. 4:2–8 (RSV)
3. 1 Cor. 7:10f
4. Matt. 5:31f, Mark 10:2–9, cf. Mal. 2:13–16
5. 1 Cor. 7:12–16
6. Matt. 19:9, Mark 10:11f, Luke 16:18, cf. Ro. 7:3
- From these principles and precedents the Church, living in many cultures and in contact with many different systems of law, has sought in its rites and canons to uphold and maintain the Christian standard of marriage in the societies in which believers dwell. This standard and these rites and canons pertain to the selection of marriage partners, preparation for marriage, the formation of a true marriage bond, the solemnization of marriage, the duties of family life, the reconciliation of alienated spouses, and to the dissolution of marriage and its consequences.
- All members of this Church, in fulfilling the obligations of the People of God, share according to their circumstances in the obligation to uphold Christian standards of marriage in human society especially by care for their own families and by neighbourly care for the families of others. Special obligations rest upon certain members of the Church as set forth below.
- The particular duties of the clergy, described in part elsewhere in this Canon, include the provision of education for marriage and family life, the solemnization of marriage, the pastoral care of families, the encouragement of reconciliation of estranged spouses, and the pastoral care of those whose family ties have been broken or interrupted by death, sickness, poverty, enforced absence, human weakness, or by wilful act.
- The duties of the laity, according to their several circumstances, are to share with the clergy the responsibility for upholding family life, in particular:
a) by their presence with friends and neighbours at weddings to bear witness to their support of those who marry;
b) to safeguard the legality of marriages by readiness to allege promptly any cause or just impediment which might make a proposed marriage unlawful;
c) to promote and encourage the use of the professional skills that serve family life;
d) as spouses, to be faithful to their own marriage vows;
e) as parents, guardians, god-parents, teachers, or other fully qualified persons, to guide children and young persons in preparation for family life;
f) as neighbours, mutually to promote the welfare of families, and to seek the reconciliation of any whose family life is impaired or broken;
g) as communicants, to uphold the Church’s discipline, and to seek the restoration to communion of any who have become alienated or are excommunicate; and
h) as citizens, to work for the maintenance of just laws for the welfare of family life.
Terms of Reference
For the Primate’s Theological Commission
- The Primate’s Theological Commission shall consist of 12 members, appointed by the Primate.
- The Commission shall
a. encourage and promote theological discussion in the Church by producing statements and study materials on central theological questions;
b. set its own agenda, in consultation with the Primate, concentrating on key theological issues;
c. discuss the foundational theological questions underlying matters referred to the Commission by the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee and/or the House of Bishops and/or the Council of General Synod; and
d. reflect and respect the diversity of theological opinion in the Church.
- Members shall be Anglicans with appropriate expertise and representative of the diversity of theological opinion in the Church.
- At least one member shall be a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. At least one member shall be a member of the Committee on Faith, Worship and Ministry of the General Synod.
- The Commission shall invite an ecumenical reflector to participate in its meetings, and may invite Anglicans and/or members of other churches to participate in its projects.
- The Commission is subject to Sections 43 and 44 of the Constitution.
- Notwithstanding section 43(e) of the Constitution, members shall serve for a period of 6 years, whereupon a review of the Commission’s work and membership shall be undertaken by the Primate.
Resolution of General Synod 2004
on the Blessing of Same Sex Unions (A134)
Be it resolved that this General Synod:
1) Affirm that, even in the face of deeply held convictions about whether the blessing of committed same sex unions is contrary to the doctrine and teaching of the Anglican Church of Canada, we recognize that through our baptism we are members one of another in Christ Jesus, and we commit ourselves to strive for that communion into which Christ continually calls us;
2) Affirm the crucial value of continued respectful dialogue and study of biblical, theological, liturgical, pastoral, scientific, psychological and social aspects of human sexuality; and call upon all bishops, clergy and lay leaders to be instrumental in seeing that dialogue and study continue, intentionally involving gay and lesbian persons;
3) Affirm the principle of respect for the way in which the dialogue and study may be taking place, or might take place, in indigenous and various other communities within our church in a manner consistent with their cultures and traditions;
4) Affirm that the Anglican Church is a church for all the baptized and is committed to taking such actions as are necessary to maintain and serve our fellowship and unity in Christ, and request the House of Bishops to continue its work on the provision of adequate episcopal oversight and pastoral care for all, regardless of the perspective from which they view the blessing of committed same sex relationships; and
5) Affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships.
Motion to Defer
The original resolution brought to General Synod contained a section 2 which read “That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions.” In the course of debate, a motion to defer this clause was moved and carried:
That Resolution A134 be amended by:
1)Deferring consideration of section 2 until the meeting of General Synod in 2007; and during the period of deferral:
2)Request that 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;
3)That on receipt of such a report, the Council ofGeneral Synod distribute it to each province, diocese and the House of Bishops for consideration.