The Council of General Synod (CoGS) was mandated by General Synod 2013 to bring forward a motion for consideration at General Synod 2016 to provide for same-sex marriage in the same way that opposite-sex couples are married within our church. As a result, CoGS formed the Commission on the Marriage Canon to fulfill that mandate. That commission, which reflected diverse theological perspectives, conducted broad consultation and provided biblical and theological rationale for this proposed canonical change. We received the report, This Holy Estate, from the commission in September 2015 and spent a day with them engaging its content.
We have been in conversation for some 40 years about matters of human sexuality. At General Synod 2004 we affirmed as a church “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships”. At General Synod 2007, our church resolved, “the blessing of same sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine (in the sense of being creedal) of the Anglican Church of Canada”.
In Halifax, General Synod 2010 stated in the sexuality discernment statement “we are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process. This is not just an ‘issue’ but is about people’s daily lives and deeply held faith commitments.”
In the midst of our diversity of opinion and perspectives, the Council of General Synod has been a witness to the wider church that, no matter what the outcome, we are united in Christ. The church has engaged with contentious issues in the past such as the re-marriage of divorced persons and the ordination of women. Agreement is not the source of our unity; our unity lies in the faithfulness of Christ.
Decisions around the marriage canon are the work of the General Synod as a whole. We believe in the Holy Spirit at work in community; the Spirit will be at work at the meeting of the General Synod in July.
In their statement, the House of Bishops wondered if a legislative process is “the most helpful way of dealing with these matters”. The Council of General Synod is bringing forward a resolution to General Synod 2016 as it has been directed. The Council has also considered the possibility of other options. The General Synod may discern a legislative option is not the most helpful, and if so, we faithfully hope that through dialogue at General Synod an alternate way will emerge. We recommend the greatest pastoral response possible, allowing same-sex couples to be fully included in the life of our church with full and equal access to its liturgies and pastoral offices.
Our hope is that going into General Synod our whole church will have read and engaged with This Holy Estate. We have encouraged the House of Bishops to ensure that members of their diocese and delegates to General Synod do so.
In recognizing the complex theological and cultural differences in the Anglican Church, the Council has prepared a process for General Synod 2016 that will help us hear one another, maintain open hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit, and hold each other in the love of Christ.
We continue to hold members of the church in our prayers, and ask that the whole church uphold the work of the Council and of General Synod 2016 in their prayers.
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