The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada say that they recognise the “deep pain” that will be caused by next year’s General Synod vote on allowing same-sex marriage in Church; and question whether the Synod’s parliamentary-style procedures are “the most helpful way to discern the mind of the Church, or of the Spirit, in this matter.”
In 2013, Canada’s triennial General Synod approved a resolution asking its Council to prepare and present a motion that would to change the church’s Canon 21 “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples” with “a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”
That motion is due to be debated when the Synod next meets in Toronto from 7 to 13 July 2016. As a doctrinal matter, if approved, the motion would be sent to the provincial synods for information and would need to approved again by the General Synod in 2019 before it would take effect.
The Primate of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, said in July that if the motion falls in July, “then for a time the conversation is done in some form or another.”
Now, in a communiqué, the House of Bishops say that they have discussed the issue in each of their meetings since the 2013 Synod; and they will devote an entire meeting to discussions on the subject in February.
“Our conversations to this point have been marked by openness and charity,” the bishops say, “and this has enabled us to discuss frankly the range of hopes and fears that we are experiencing as we anticipate debate on this motion at our next General Synod, and the likely pastoral challenges we face if the motion, as it stands, passes or fails.
“We are mindful of the deep pain that either the passage or defeat of the motion will bring to our Church.
“We are concerned that parliamentary procedure may not be the most helpful way to discern the mind of the Church, or of the Spirit, in this matter, and we would ask those in charge of designing the process whereby the draft resolution comes to the floor of General Synod to consider ways in which trust and understanding can be promoted and deepened.”
At their February meeting, the bishops will “pay particular attention to the theology of marriage, the nature of episcopacy, and the synod’s legislative process,” they say. “As we continue to wrestle with how to honour our roles as guardians of the Church’s faith and discipline and signs of unity both locally and universally, we hope to gain greater clarity and conviction about how most faithfully to provide leadership in our dioceses and the Anglican Church of Canada.”
They have called on “all members of our Church to uphold all members of General Synod in their prayers as we seek to give expression to the unity we have in Christ where there is real disagreement.
“We would also encourage every Anglican to study the Commission report, using the study material supplied, and graciously speak to or consult with their bishops and synod delegates.”