Archbishop appeals for ‘civil’ debate as Anglicans prepare to consider same-sex blessings

In an opening address to more than 300 Anglican members of the church’s highest governing body, Archbishop David Crawley, the Acting Primate, urged them to move away from the “harsh, vituperative and unacceptable” language that has often been used on both sides of the debate over the blessing of same-sex unions.

“We all feel deeply about this issue”, Archbishop Crawley said, “but that is no excuse to descend into the depths.  The judgmentalism and the profoundly personal nature of some comments, both private and public, could never reflect the nature of the Realm of God, no matter what you understand it to be”.

Archbishop Crawley, who has been Acting Primate since Archbishop Michael Peers retired in February, was speaking at the opening session of the 37th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.  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.  The synod has gathered in this Southern Ontario city to conduct the church’s business for the next nine days.

Among the tasks that General Synod members have before them is the election of a new Primate, or leader, on Monday, May 31 [2004].

They will be dealing with the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions on May 29, June 1 and June 2.

During that debate, Archbishop Crawley said, “it is imperative that we maintain a high degree of civility.  He reminded members that applause after speeches is not allowed, and suggested that a few moments of silence be observed after each speaker to “help give the debate a measured dignity”.

He also stressed the importance of this gathering making a decision on the issue, regardless of what the decision is.  The church, he said, cannot afford a three-year continuation of the debate and controversy.

Archbishop Crawley highlighted other matters that will be before General Synod members:

– The relationship between indigenous and non-indigenous church members in light of an agreement signed with the federal government over native residential schools litigation;

– A presentation on HIV/AIDS, including a speech by Stephen Lewis, Special Envoy to the UN secretary general on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Archbishop Crawley urged General Synod members to accept the fact that although they are all members of one church, they will never be, nor should they be, members of a homogeneous church.  “True community can only be built on diversity,” he said.  “Diversity strengthens; homogeneity weakens”.

He noted that the church faces “momentous decisions, difficult times and hard work”, but told General Synod members that although they may forget God some times, God never forgets nor forsakes them.

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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 416-540-3853; Mr. Sarjeant’s cell phone is 613-558-5023.


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