April 2008
Roseanne Kydd, Ph. D.


This paper will focus on the grammar and meaning of two questions from General Synod 2007 addressed to the Primate’s Theological Commission via the Primate, The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz. The Canadian Anglican context of these questions is the dispute between two groups over the reception of same sex unions in the Church. Lambeth 1.10 has ruled in favour of the sanctity of exclusive male/female marriage and the Canadian General Synod 2004 has ruled in favour of the sanctity of same-sex unions. While same-sex unions are the presenting issue, the debate is much deeper, raising matters of procedure, authority, ecclesiology, doctrine, pastoral care, tradition and change. The unity of the Anglican Church of Canada and the whole Anglican Communion is at stake. It is my purpose to critically evaluate these questions which participate in this Communion dispute to assure maximum clarity in their structure and wording. My assumption is that questions with such wide-ranging ramifications must be free of ambiguity and bias, and agreed upon by the principal parties involved.


God puts great stock in words and language. Indeed the great capacity for speech is an outstanding mark of humanity. The first chapter of John’s Gospel expresses the culmination of God’s longing to reveal himself to his creatures, the Incarnation: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Christ as the Word is God’s answer to the forked-tongue serpent whose words beguile and deceive.

The twentieth century has seen the rise of a new focus upon words and the operations of language, described variously as a rhetorical turn, discourse analysis, cognitive linguistics, or the popular “double speak.” The Journal of Language and Politics epitomizes this shift, noting the basic assumption “that thelanguage of politics cannot be separated from the politics of language.” In American politics each party accuses the other of manipulating language. One Republican blogger writes, “Few areas of left wing perversion have been more successful than the conscious manipulation of language for ideological purposes.” On the other side, Democrat George Lakoff, professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, and founder of the progressive think tank, the Rockridge Institute, has made headlines with his foregrounding of the mechanisms of conservative political catch phrases using the concept of “framing.” He charges that Republicans owe their success to having defined the language structures. Each party races to outdo the other in mastering double-speak

Lakoff points to the example of gay marriage as a conservative rallying topic. By using “marriage” as the frame, the concepts of “marriage is about sex” and “gay sexuality” get collapsed, obscuring the more fundamental agreement among conservatives and liberals that none wishes to discriminate against gays. Homophobia seems not to be the issue. Lakoff proposes making the issue “freedom to marry” or “the right to marry.” “Very few people would say they did not support the right to marry who you choose. But the polls don’t ask that question, because the right wing has framed that issue,” says Lakoff. The fact that Lakoff himself is attempting to manipulate language to favour his own progressive agenda, by obscuring the sexual nature of gay distinctiveness and of marriage, escapes him. Surely a criterion for fair debate, as opposed to a calculating discourse that deliberately hides parameters, includes putting all the issues onto the table. Transparency is important — if not perfectly achievable — when truth matters more than winning.

Is language ever neutral? Can’t we just “Say it like it is?” Recognizing that words carry historical and political traces, that their meanings change over time and exhibit a certain fluidity, it does not follow that all propositional varieties are equal. Clarity of expression is a legitimate goal and failures in clarity have proved serious in many instances. Even the  most radical devotees of word play (or dancing Derridian différence) would acknowledge the importance of clear syntax under certain circumstances.

I offer the following question on Quebec sovereignty to illustrate the seriousness of word choice and sentence structure, and the wide ramifications of not constructing a statement whose clarity  {It like your 2nd suggestion} was agreed upon by the principal contenders in the debate. This example may strike one as over-inflated in comparison with our Anglican dispute over same-sex blessings. But think for a moment: the population of Quebec in round figures is 8 million in a country of 33 million. The population of the global Anglican communion is estimated at 80 million in over 160 countries. Decisions made in our small corner affect more Christians worldwide than Quebec’s vote affects Canada.

On October 30, 1995 a second referendum was held in Quebec to decide if the province should secede from Canada and become an independent state. The small margin of rejection, 50.58% to 49.42% was a wake-up call for Canadians. Many protested on the “No” side that the question itself was unclear. The Clarity Act grew out of this objection, was passed by the Liberal government and became law on June 29, 2000. Some would describe the redefinition of marriage within the Church as a social and religious phenomenon on a scale larger than the secession of a national province. Consider the excerpt from the Clarity Act in light of the questions we as Anglicans pose for decision making:

WHEREAS any proposal relating to the break-up of a democratic state is a matter of the utmost gravity and is of fundamental importance to all of its citizens;
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada has determined that the result of a referendum on the secession of a province from Canadamust be free of ambiguity both in terms of the question asked and in terms of the support it achieves …:
WHEREAS the Supreme Court of Canada has stated that democracy means more than simple majority rule, … and that a qualitative evaluation is required to determine whether a clear majority in favour of secession exists in the circumstances;

House of Commons to consider question
(1) The House of Commons shall, … consider the question and, by resolution, set out its determination on whether the question is clear.

No negotiations if question not clear
(6) The Government of Canada shall not enter into negotiations … if the House of Commons determines, … that a referendum question is not clearand, for that reason, would not result in a clear expression of the will of the population of that province on whether the province should cease to be part of Canada. [my emphasis]

The thrust of this Act was to ensure that all sides of the matter were convinced of the clarity and fairness of the question. This would require debate in the House of Commons and Senate where both sides of the dispute were represented. In light of the gravity of the situation facing the Anglican Church, the clarity of the language of the questions being considered becomes paramount. I will examine the Primate’s two questions under three headings: 1. Syntax, 2. History and 3. Critical Analysis.


In stressing “clarity” it is useful to recognize this term as a figure of speech. “Clarity” is a metaphor drawn from the sighted eye, stressing the eye’s capacity for visual sharpness and focus.
Some of its qualities are borrowed to express the mental “clarity” of other fields, like concepts, and language.

The following formulations were presented for consideration to the Primate’s Theological Commission by the 2007 General Synod:

1. the theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine;
2. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

Both are sentence fragments labeled “questions” that are neither interrogative (one meaning of “question”) nor in the formal structure of resolutions – “Be it resolved that …,” (another meaning of “question”). Assuming that a grammatically-correct sentence would produce greater precision, I will create anindicative sentence by inserting the verb, “is,” after “question.” A question, understood as something with an outcome to be determined, need not be in theinterrogative form. However, putting it as a direct interrogation heightens the either/or aspect expected in the response, but here entails dropping “the theological question.” It may be argued that “the theological question” is not a necessary part of the sentence where words like “Spirit-led,” “Christian,” and “doctrine” connote discussion related to God. (Later I will pursue some implications for categorizing this question as a theological one.) The sentences will look like this:

INDICATIVE SENTENCE: The theological question is whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine.
INTERROGATIVE SENTENCE: Is the blessing of same-sex unions a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine?

In the second fragment, the quickest means to a sentence is to change the first two words, “Scripture’s witness” to “Scripture witnesses.” A problem immediately becomes apparent: what is questioned — whether Scripture does witness to the integrity of every human person and so on – turns into an affirmative statement. Introducing “the theological question” might prevent turning what is under question into a statement. As these are the Primate’sQuestions for the Theological Commission, let’s make it into an interrogative question. A further modification removes “the question of the” to allow the parallelism of two prepositional phrases “to the integrity of” and “to the sanctity of” to balance each other. Inserting the “the question of the” interferes with the clearer association of “integrity” and “sanctity.” Here are the modified sentences:

INDICATIVE SENTENCE with parallel structure: The theological question is whether Scripture witnesses to the integrity of every human person and to the sanctity of human relationships.
ALTERNATIVELY: The theological question concerns/addresses/raises Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and to the sanctity of human relationships. (Here what is at stake is assumed, that Scripture doeswitness to the integrity of every human person and to the sanctity of human relationship.)
INTERROGATIVE SENTENCE with parallel structure: Does Scripture witness to the integrity of every human person and to the sanctity of human relationships?

Each of the adjusted sentences states with greater clarity what is being questioned. The alternative one epitomizes the problem of circular reasoning – assuming as statement what is under question and therefore must be rejected. The interrogative form more faithfully reflects the claim that these are questions to be answered. Insofar as a question is open-ended, an answer can be fairly expected in a positive or negative mode. Thus the word “whether” implies “or not” in the sentence. This addition would acknowledge more readily the possibility of the “either/or” expectation as built into the asking mechanism. “Whether/or not” matches “either/or” and expects “yes or no.”

However, this probing reveals yet another meaning embedded in the question: What isScripture’s witness with regard to the ideas of “the integrity of every human person” and “the sanctity of human relationships? This formulation avoids both circular reasoning and the greater expectation of an affirmative answer that comes with omitting “or not.”


The awkwardness of these two formulations raises some queries. Where did they come from and why these formats? Is there something in the history of these questions that justifies maintaining them in their present form?

1.The St. Michael Report
The General Synod [GS] of 2004, St. Catherines, Ontario, requested of the then Primate, The Most Rev. Andrew Hutchison, that he direct a question to the Primate’s Theological Commission ‘whether the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine.’ With The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews as chair, the St. Michael Report concluded that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being credal. The latter became resolution A186 and was passed by GS in 2007, Winnipeg.

2.A Statement to the Anglican Church of Canada from the Primate’s Theological Commission[PTC] A number of the resolutions presented by the Council of General Synod identified the resolutions with the St. Michael Report. This Statement, issued by PTC, was a correction to that error. It was only the first question above that became a GS resolution. The Statement highlighted two matters of importance:

The first is cited in the last sentence of the Report and succinctly states the doctrinal issue before the Anglican Church of Canada:
“It is now for the Church to decide whether or not the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-let development of Christian doctrine.”
In its report the Commission has drawn attention to a range of theological and biblical matters relating to how the Church determines whether such a matter is “a faithful Spirit led development of Christian doctrine.”

The second is a pair of questions from paragraph 16 of the Report. These questions are of similar theological significance to the life of the Anglican Church of Canada as the doctrinal issue itself:
“Is it theologically and doctrinally responsible for one member church of the Communion to approve a course of action which it has reason to believe may be destructive of the unity of the Communion?
“Is it theologically and doctrinally responsible to accept unity as the value which transcends all others, and therefore for a member church of the Communion to refrain from making a decision when it believes it has an urgent gospel mandate to proceed?”

The commissioners believe that these questions should be considered by the church, and most certainly by delegates to General Synod prior to General Synod’s discernment and determination on these matters.

3Bishops’ Pastoral Letter
The next setting for the re-appearance of this first question is the Bishops’ Pastoral statement to go to General Synod 2007 sent May 1.

Looking ahead, we ask the Primate and General Synod for a report on:
1. The theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine (St. Michael Report)
2. The implications of the blessing of same-sex unions and/or marriage for our church and the Communion (The Windsor Report)
3. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

We ask that this report be available in advance of General Synod 2010.
We commit to taking this ongoing conversation to the Lambeth Conference 2008.

4. New Primate’s Theological Commission
At the conclusion of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada held in Winnipeg in June 2007, the Primate, Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, was asked to refer two matters to the Primate’s Theological Commission for consideration:

1. the theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine;
2. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

The middle question from the Bishops’ Letter, “The implications of the blessing of same-sex unions and/or marriage for our church and the Communion” was dropped. It seems the implications are very serious.


Let us return to the first appearance of question one for the PTC 2007 from page 3:

1. the theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine

and compare it with its source in A Statement to the Anglican Church of Canada from the Primate’s Theological Commission:

It is now for the Church to decide whether or not the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine.” [my emphasis]

Only the italicized words remained in the new Primate’s Theological Commission question. What implications might flow from these adjustments?

1. First Adjustment: The elimination of “It is now for the Church to decide” has been replaced with “the theological question.”
a. A difference in syntax occurs with a sentence fragment resulting from the substitution of “the theological question” for “It is now for the Church to decide.” A full sentence is generally a vote for greater clarity. Either the original or the indicative sentence, “The theological question is whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine” is preferred in this respect.
b. The deletion has the effect of narrowing the frame of reflection from an ecclesiastical category of “the Church” to a theological one. While theoretically ecclesiology is a subset of theology, theology is itself a subset of the larger Church, a discipline in its service. This ideal may no longer hold as the philosophical leanings have gained ground to produce an autonomous field. What ramifications does this movement from “the Church” to “theology” entail?

i. The category of “Church” is a broader one than that of theology. It suggests a process of democratizing involvement of laity, clergy, and scholars, including theologians. It diminishes the control of decision-making of professional bureaucratic elites and committees to include lay people on a wider scale. It expresses the inclusivity of the Anglican Church of Canada.
ii. The category of “Church” can also suggest the ecumenical Christian Church. Christian unity and our ecumenical partners are not a small consideration for Anglicans. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral states: “That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own.” Has the Church changed its mind in this commitment?
iii. Having determined who is to be the agent, (the Church), the words “now” and “to decide” convey some urgency in making a decision. The substitute, “the theological question” drains away any notion of urgency or need to decide.
iv. A movement away from “Church” to “theology” runs the risk of privileging philosophy over exegesis, relegating the role of Scripture to a lesser one than is stated in Anglican historic documents including The Windsor Report. “Within Anglicanism, scripture has always been recognised as the Church’s supreme authority, and as such ought to be seen as a focus and means of unity” (TWR 27 # 53)

2. Second Adjustment: The words ,“or not” have been removed from their source in the Statement. A more transparent question will keep the “or not” as a means of acknowledging the possibility of either a negative or positive response. (See earlier discussion under SYNTAX.)

So far I have zeroed in on the removal of phrases from the PTC 2004, the St. Michael Report, to the questions before us for the PTC 2007. There is another word that is less than satisfactory and that is the use of “Spirit” as in “Spirit-led.” I would here want to add a word, and that is “Holy” to produce “Holy Spirit-led.” My concern arises from widening connotations of the word “spirit” as it has entered a popular discourse of the last twenty years. Jeremy Carrette and Richard King have written a compelling book on the hidden business of spirituality,Selling Spirituality: The Silent Takeover of Religion, 2005. The following collage of quotations amply illustrates the skepticism we ought to have with respect to a dangling “spirituality”:

“‘Spirituality’ has no universal meaning and has always reflected political interests” (30).
“There are perhaps few words in the modern English language as vague and woolly as the notion of ‘spirituality’ (30). “With the establishment of psychology as the pre-eminent ‘science of the self’ in the post-war period, we see an increasingly ‘non-religious’ understanding of spirituality emerge. This changing climate within modern capitalist societies has led many traditions, including established western ones such as Christianity, to ‘de-mythologise’, by moving away from the older cosmological and disciplinary language of the past and replacing this with the interiorised and psychologically inflected language of ‘spirituality’ (43). “Indeed, spirituality can be mixed with anything since, as a positive but largely vacuous cultural trope, it manages to imbue any product with a wholesome and life-affirming quality” (46). “Its vagueness and ambiguity allows it to mask the underlying ideologies that it is used to represent” (47). [Spirituality] “deflects criticism and obscures meaning” (49).

To recap this development: the movement of the first question from General Synod 2004 to the Primate’s Theological Commission which produced the (1) St. Michael Report’s conclusion, to a 2007 General Synod Resolution, its reappearance in the PTC’s (2) Statement to the Anglican Churchas a doctrinal issue before the AC of C, and then its incorporation directly into the (3)Bishop’s Pastoral Letter to GS 2007. I copy them below for reference:

1. The theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine (St. Michael Report)
2. The implications of the blessing of same-sex unions and/or marriage for our church and the Communion (The Windsor Report)
3. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

Here the first question of the Bishop’s Letter is identical to the one directed to the Primate’s Theological Commission 2007 with the modifications discussed above from its first appearance in the PTC 2004. The second question nods to the second set of questions from the PTC Statement above (on page 5) without spelling out the ends of the spectrum as the pair of questions from paragraph 16 do. Although this question along with its changes is of importance and cries for investigation, I will not address this disparity because it is not included in the two questions presented to the PTC 2007. The third question is the source of our second question, Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

In streamlining question two on page 3 of this paper, I proposed removing “the question of” to make visible the parallel structure of the prepositional phrases. Is there any reason to preserve “the question of?”  Where has “the question of the sanctity of human relationships” been raised before? It, too, has resonance with precedents, the removal of which might obscure this link. An amendment to a resolution from the General Synod of 2004 introduced by the Rev. Canon Garth Bulmer of the Diocese of Ottawa affirmed “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.” Let us compare these two expressions more closely:

GS 2004 affirms the integrity and sanctity → of committed adult same-sex relationships
Primate’s Theological Commission 2007 [considers] the integrity → of every human person and
the question of the sanctity of→ of human relationships

The earlier use of “integrity and sanctity” and “relationships” in the GS 2004 resolution acts as a frame for the PTC 2007 questions. By carrying over the structure and resonance of GS 2004, it raises the expectation/possibility that agreeing to the question may involve agreeing to the 2004 resolution, a still controversial statement. By virtue of its similarity to the former presentation,
this statement muddles the discussion and the fair presentation of alternatives that an unsettled question normally assumes.

The repetition of the words “integrity,” “sanctity,” and “relationships” draws attention to them, in a sense neon-ing them as either positively or negatively charged on the basis of one’s perspective. For the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered [LGBT] community, these are words of hope and encouragement; for those distressed by the haste of the resolution and this choice of words, these are untimely words precipitously determined. They serve to underscore tension and faulty procedure, emphasizing winning and losing rather than thoughtfulness and care.


On the surface, “integrity” seems to trade on the language of human rights. Article 3 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union 1999 affirms the “right to the integrity of the person.” However, the use of “integrity” is also divergent from earlier rights traditions that underscore “dignity.” The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, December 10, 1948, commences its Preamble with:

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Article 1. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. [my emphasis]

Similarly, Vatican ll “declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself.” [my emphasis] In the context of Anglican debate, “integrity” is a freighted word, loaded and primed. It is not a new word, but it does have a relatively new vocation as the name of an activist group of LGBTs within the Anglican Communion. The LGBT advocates have been deft in the reclaiming of words. Their rescue of “gay” and “queer” from terms of abuse to labels of “pride” testify to great skill and determination. The word “pro-life” has a decided political meaning that has transcended any specific lobby group to designate those who are opposed to abortion. Its capturing of the vibrancy of “life” gives the progressive Rockridge Institute a bad case of envy. In a conference report from November 2005, one reads, “Re-claiming the mantle of pro-life may be our greatest task.” When a word becomes so closely associated with one side of a deeply divisive issue, can the other side be expected to concur in statements coloured by the highly-charged words from one side of the debate? Can progressivists use “pro-life” apart from its current ownership by anti-abortionists? Similarly can those doubtful about Scripture’s witness to same-sex blessing agree to propositions where “integrity” is a key term?


Sanctity is a four-piece Thrash Metal band from Asheville, North Carolina, USA, formed in 1998 and still active. They have released one album, Road to Bloodshed, on April 24, 2007, containing such pieces as “Road to Destruction” and “Beloved Killer.” This is not the first meaning of “sanctity” that comes to mind, but words do slip and slide. The word is not typically part of the human rights discourse as are “dignity” and more recently, “integrity.” “The sanctity of life” slogan is prominent in pro-life and anti-euthanasia literature in advocacy for the unborn and the terminally ill. Its most common usage, however, stems from the religious realm. The Catholic Encyclopedia provides a succinct explication of sanctity:

The term “sanctity” is employed in somewhat different senses in relation to God, to individual men, and to a corporate body. As applied to God it denotes that absolute moral perfection which is His by nature. In regard to men it signifies a close union with God, together with the moral perfection resulting from this union. Hence holiness is said to belong to God by essence, and to creatures only by participation. Whatever sanctity they possess comes to them as a Divine gift. As used of a society, the term means: that this society aims at producing holiness in its members, and is possessed of means capable of securing that result, and that the lives of its members correspond, at least in some measure, with the purpose of the society, and display a real, not a merely nominal holiness. The Church has ever claimed that she, as a society, is holy in a transcendent degree. She teaches that this is one of the four “notes”, viz., unity, catholicity, apostolicity, and sanctity, by which the society founded by Christ can be readily distinguished from all human institutions.

The Scriptures witness to the sanctity of God, the Church, and Christians as participants in God’s gift of holiness.  I know of no obvious biblical witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships. It is much easier to locate Scripture’s witness to the sinfulness of every human person (Romans 3. 23) and the perversity of relationships. Certainly if one substituted in the sentence a word similar to integrity, like “righteousness,” the results would be even more unsatisfying. (“Our righteousness is like filthy rags.”) It seems the traditional Christian sense of worthines, integrity, or wholeness stems primarily from participation in the work of Christ, an act requiring personal decision coupled with grace, epitomized in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. The applying of “sanctity” as a description to human persons or relationships without qualification is at best dubious.


There are relationships and there are relationships. What kind of relationships is this question addressing? Until this is specified, affirming the question is a bit like signing a blank cheque. More refinement is required here if clarity is to be achieved. Does Scripture witness to the integrity and sanctity of sibling relationships? From Cain and Abel to James and John, these relationships prove to be competitive and less than perfect or sanctified.


On the basis of the critical analysis of the two questions for consideration by the PTC in this paper, I will substitute this formulation for the first question:

1. Is the blessing of same-sex unions a faithful, Holy Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine or not?

For the second question, I can restructure it with clearer syntax: “WhatisScripture’s witness with regard to the ideas of “the integrity of every human person” and “the sanctity of human relationships”? However, syntax does not solve the lack of transparency because of the problematic wording, plagued as it is with the hot terms “integrity” and “sanctity” along with the lack of specific meaning for “human relationships.” Framing it as a theological question makes matters worse because of the overwhelming witness of Scripture to human fallen-ness and depravity apart from Christ. I fail to understand the significance of this question as it stands, apart from its being a dubious sequel to the GS 2004 resolution affirming “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.” And if the idea presented in this question, with all its brimming connotations, is the only logical response and direction to take, it **is badly flawed **as a means of promoting honest investigation.

How we use language is important and it must be done with care, balance, and fairness. Ultimately, this debate is not about language. It is about substance. Language fails when it obscures the substance of the dispute and this is what has happened in the questions to the Primate’s Theological Commission. We can do better and we should.

Jesus: “Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes,’ or ‘No, No.’”