The St. Michael Report
(Preface, Members, A Brief Overview of the Report)
The General Synod of 2004 requested ‘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’. The Primate, the Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison, made this request of the Theological Commission and stressed the need for timely consideration. Archbishop Hutchison was convinced that in the interests of our church’s need to be ready for the General Synod 2007, the Primate’s Theological Commission should try to have its report ready by the Fall of 2005. We concurred and eventually committed ourselves to an even earlier timeline of presenting to the Council of General Synod in May, 2005.
The Commission is deeply grateful to the Sisters of the Church as three of our four meetings have been held at their convent, St. Michael’s House in Oakville, Ontario. We have greatly appreciated their hospitality and have benefited from joining with them in prayer. It is out of our gratitude that we have named the report ‘The St. Michael Report’. The Commissioners come from many different dioceses of the Canadian church. We hold widely different theological positions. We have, however, listened carefully and respectfully to one another and have all grown in understanding as a result. We are especially grateful to the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan who staffs the Commission and is of invaluable assistance and support. The Primate chose not to attend the two meetings in which the Commission worked almost exclusively on the Report but we deeply appreciate his prayerful support.
We ask the Council of General Synod to receive and commend the Report to our church for consideration. We believe that we have outlined what needs to be pondered as we seek the way forward together. In particular, we are especially concerned that our church should commit herself to serious engagement with the whole range of theological issues associated with such blessings. Rather than issuing a general call for more study and discussion, we hope that the Anglican Church of Canada will invite all sides to listen prayerfully and deeply to those who hold different perspectives. In particular, we ask that constituencies refrain from trying to score rhetorical points, or gain influence for the positions they may have already decided are right. We all have much to learn from each other, and in order for that to happen we need to enter into intentional, deep, prayerful listening.
Representing several different theological colleges, universities, parishes, and dioceses, we hope that the Commission will be able to help the church further engage in the much needed theological reflection.
We thank the General Synod and our Primate for entrusting us with this task.
The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Chair
Members of the Primate’s Theological Commission
The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Edmonton, Chair
The Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews, Thorneloe University
The Rt. Rev. Benjamin Arreak, Suffragan Bishop of the Arctic
Dr. Walter Deller, College of Emmanuel and St. Chad
The Rev. Dr. Wendy Fletcher, Vancouver School of Theology
The Rev. Jamie Howison, St. Benedict’s Table
The Rev. Paul Jennings, Montreal Diocesan College
The Rev. Joanne Mercer, Queen’s College
(St. John’s, NL)
Dr. Robert Moore, Christ Church Cathedral
The Rev. Dr. Gary Thorne, St. George’s Church
The Rev. Madeleine Urion, Wycliffe College
The Rev. Lisa Wang, Trinity College
A Brief Overview of the Report
- The Commission has concluded that the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine.
- The Commission understands the term ‘committed same-sex unions’ to mean committed, adult, monogamous, intended lifelong, same-sex relationships which include sexual intimacy.
- The Commission is particularly concerned to call the whole Church to engage in furthering the discussion of this issue in a sustained, prayerful, respectful, and non-polemical manner.
- The Commission recognizes 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.
- The Commission does not believe that this should be a communion-breaking issue.
- The Commission, recognizes ‘the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation’ (Book of Alternative Services p. 645). We acknowledge that the interpretation of Scripture is a central and complex matter and that, at times in the Church’s history, ‘faithful’ readings have led to mutually contradictory understandings, requiring ongoing dialogue and prayer towards discernment of the one voice of the gospel.
- The doctrine of the Church has always been definitively expressed in its liturgies; such a liturgy of blessing is no exception since in it the Church declares the activity of God towards the object of the blessing.
- It is the view of the Commission that 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.
- Culture is the context in which Christians live out their faith and formulate doctrine. 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.
- Several doctrines are integral to the theological consideration of the blessing of committed same-sex unions: salvation, incarnation, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, theological anthropology, sanctification, and holy matrimony.
- We recommend that any doctrinal discussion of the blessing of same-sex unions should seek a broader consensus on the relationship of sexuality to our full humanity in Christ.
- 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.