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General Synod re-affirms ‘integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships’

By André Forget on July, 12 2016

The primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, confers with Chancellor David Jones about rules and procedures for voting, as Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, listens.
Photo: Art Babych

Richmond Hill, Ont.
After voting against a motion to allow the solemnization of same-sex marriages in the Anglican Church of Canada July 11, General Synod passed a motion this morning to “reaffirm the 2004 General Synod statement on the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships.”

The motion, brought from the floor by Bishop Jane Alexander, of the diocese of Edmonton, also called on the church to “engage fully with [the Commission on the Marriage Canon report] This Holy Estate at every level.”

Speaking to the motion, Alexander said she thought it was necessary for synod to send a pastoral message to those who are watching.

“The church is hurting, and this might be a way of sending a message of support,” she said.

Canon Travis Enright, an Indigenous priest from Edmonton who seconded the motion, said he feels that many are not engaged functionally in debates about the place of LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questiniong] people in the church.

“Conversations should happen, but they should actually be happening,” he argued, noting that the synod has long called for churchwide discussion of the issues.

The 2004 statement was a product of debates about whether or not the Canadian church should allow the blessing of same-sex marriages. In it, General Synod adopted a resolution noting that the church “Affirm[s] the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships.”

Not all current members, however, were willing to re-affirm it.

“I will not approve this,” says Arctic Bishop David Parsons. “[But] I will be pastoral to everyone.”
Photo: Art Babych

Bishop David Parsons, of the diocese of the Arctic, said he was frustrated that affirming the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships was conflated with being pastoral.

“I will not approve this,” he said. “[But] I will be pastoral to everyone.”

The Rev. Chris VanBuskirk, of the diocese of Fredericton, moved an amendment asking that instead of asking General Synod to reaffirm the 2004 statement, the primate should make a pastoral response to the church on behalf of the synod, but this amendment was ruled to be a separate motion, and the vote on the original motion went ahead, after a vote to call the question was passed by a 2/3 majority of synod. 

It passed in a vote of 157-45 in favour.

 The motion came after an hour-long period of community reflection following the same-sex marriage vote, in which members were asked to discuss how they thought synod should proceed in the aftermath of the decision.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, noted that members need to prepare themselves to speak with their dioceses and parishes about what synod’s decision on marriage means for them. 

“We, as a synod, our work on this matter is not done,” he said. “It is not sufficient for us to simply say, we deal with the resolution, period…we need to think, what now? What do we say when we go home?”

Hiltz also noted that there had been some “some deep frustration over the way in which we wrestle through discernment in making major decisions.”

Despite the fact that many found the discussions that happened in neighbourhood groups helpful and unifying, once the time came for the question to be decided, members found themselves “very much being pulled apart,” said Hiltz.

Indeed, Bishop Larry Robertson, of the diocese of Yukon, announced at the end of the session that he was so unhappy with the divisive nature of the system, he would no longer be voting at all.

“I cannot participate in a decision-making that pits soul against soul, brother against brother,” he said. “I will neither vote yea or nay, and I will not be abstaining. I will not participate in the decision-making; I will participate in this house as a bishop of this church, I will continue to proclaim the gospel.”

After talking in table groups, members were asked to write down their thoughts and suggestions, which will be recorded and sent on to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the House of Bishops for consideration.


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By André Forget| July, 12 2016
Categories:  News|National News

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.

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