Anglican General Synod delays final decision on same-sex blessings

The Anglican Church of Canada has deferred a decision on the blessing of same-sex unions for another three years to allow a review by the Primate’s Theological Commission.

General Synod, the church’s highest governing body, voted Wednesday evening to ask the commission to determine whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine and to report to the Council of General Synod by its spring 2006 meeting.  It also called on the council to distribute its report to each province, diocese and the House of Bishops for consideration.

The matter would then return to the next meeting of the General Synod in 2007.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the blessing of same-sex unions is also expected to issue its report later this year.

At the start of Wednesday’s evening’s session, General Synod’s more than 300 delegates faced a five-part resolution dealing with the blessings.  In moving the resolution, Rev. Alan Perry of the Diocese of Montreal, said the Council of General Synod had worked on it for many hours.  The subject had also been “discussed and debated in every corner of the country and every corner of the world”.

Four of the parts dealing with dialogue and the study of human sexuality were quickly approved.  It was part two, affirming the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same-sex unions that was most controversial.  Synod members voted to deal with this separately and eventually agreed to send it to the Theological Commission.

Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, said the motion provides an opportunity for the questions to be determined and allows further discussion in dioceses “with the hope that it will be decided”.

Archdeacon Pat Johnston of the Diocese of the Ottawa asked: “What are we afraid of at this time and how long will we have to wait ?”

In a debate that remained civil and respectful, some delegates wanted a “decision now” while others, especially native members, wanted more time for study.

There were still 16 people at the microphones waiting to speak when the vote was called.  The motion to send the issue to the Theological Commission passed with 142 clergy and lay votes for and 118 against; 22 bishops voted for an 12 against.

Debate on another motion by the Rev. Canon Garth Bulmer of the Diocese of Ottawa who wanted the addition of “Affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships” to the resolution was adjourned until today to allow more time for discussion.

Canon Bulmer, whose congregation includes a number of gays and lesbians, said he did not wish to return to his parish without “something for them”

The motion approved Wednesday affirmed:

– That despite deeply-held convictions on both sides of the same-sex blessings issue, “we commit ourselves to strive for that communion into which Christ continually calls us”;

– The value of continued dialogue;

– The principle of respect for the way in which dialogue takes place in “indigenous and various other communities within our church”;

– The principle that the Anglican Church includes all baptized people and the importance of maintaining fellowship and unity “including provision of adequate episcopal oversight and pastoral care for all”.

The Anglican General Synod is the church’s highest governing and legislative body.  It is made up of lay people, deacons, priests and bishops elected from each of the church’s 30 dioceses, and meets every three years.  It has been meeting in the Southern Ontario city since May 28.

The synod will end tomorrow with the installation of a new Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal.

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For more information, please contact: Vianney (Sam) Carriere, Director of Communications,  OR Brian Sarjeant, Media Relations, at the General Synod Media Room: 905-984-4868.  Mr. Carriere’s cell phone is 416-540-3653; Mr. Sarjeant’s cell phone is 613-558-5023


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