Anglican bishop asks church to vote again to confirm decision on same-sex blessings

Lorie Chortyk
Communications Officer
Anglican Diocese of New Westminster
Bishop Michael Ingham, spiritual leader for the more than 30,000 Anglicans in Greater Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, and the Sunshine Coast, has asked church members to vote again in 2001 to confirm a decision made last May by its governing body to endorse the blessing of same-sex relationships.

In an announcement today, Bishop Ingham said that while attitudes in the church are changing, there is still not a strong enough consensus to move forward in unity on the issue. He said that he will give his consent to same-sex blessings in 2001 if there is a clear majority in favor of the
motion, and no existing impediments under Canadian or church law.

Last May Anglicans in the Diocese of New Westminster made history as the first diocese in the country (one of 30 across Canada) to vote in favor of allowing same-sex blessings.† Diocesan Synod, a 400-member governing body made up of Anglican clergy and lay members narrowly passed a motion (179 to 170) asking the bishop to permit clergy to perform ceremonies for gay couples. (The blessing of same-sex unions by a church is a service of celebration of the couple’s relationship but is not a legal marriage ceremony). At that time Bishop Ingham, who is on the record as supporting same-sex blessings, withheld his consent to the Synod motion pending further consultation with the wider Anglican Church.† His Jan. 16 announcement comes after eight months of discussions with local, national and international church leaders.

In an address to church members gathered at Christ Church Cathedral today, Bishop Ingham paid tribute to gay and lesbian Anglicans.† “It is a constant wonder to me that gay Christians have kept faith with the church these many years despite the church’s unwillingness to affirm their relationships,
their commitments, their love,” he said.† “While more and more Anglican congregations across Canada are intentionally welcoming gay and lesbian
people as singles, couples or families, the fact remains that the majority of bishops, in Canada and throughout the world, are opposed to partnerships between people of the same sex.”

In his Jan. 16 announcement, Bishop Ingham outlined a five-point plan of action to take place before a final decision is made on same-sex blessings in two years.† This plan includes:

  • The creation of a Bishop’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Voices, to help parishes hear and understand the experiences of gay and lesbian Christians;
  • The ‘twinning’ of parishes within the diocese for intentional discussion and study on same-sex unions;
  • The creation of a Commission on Faith and Doctrine to prepare short study papers on biblical and ethical issues raised by same-sex unions, for use in parish study groups;
  • The establishment of a Canonical and Legal Commission to determine whether there are impediments under Canadian or church law to prevent a bishop from authorizing the blessing of same-sex unions; and
  • The preparation of a rite of blessing that could be used if same-sex blessings were approved in 2001.

Bishop Ingham said the blessing of same-sex unions is a complex issue and it is something on which Christians in good conscience can and do disagree.

“No generation is spared the struggle of interpreting the Gospel in a new era.† This always involves making decisions about whether to maintain the tradition unchanged or whether to adapt to new insights and learning. Anglicanism has proven itself very skilled in finding the right balance between conservation and progress.”† In calling for further dialogue before a second vote in 2001, Ingham told church members he has tried to find a way of proceeding by “evolution rather than revolution”.

Bishop Ingham urged church members not to view his decision as either a victory or defeat.† “It is my hope that the measures I have outlined today will further our dialogue rather than end it.”† He expressed gratitude to gay and lesbian Christians for their continued patience, and urged all members of the church to continue to listen to the needs and experiences of gay Christians with compassion.

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