There are several important and urgent concerns coming before General Synod next spring. The most contentious is the question of the blessing of same-gender unions and/or marriages. The Diocese of New Westminster, authorized by its Synod, was given permission by its Bishop for the blessing of such unions in parishes where it was requested by Rector and Vestry. This liturgy which was first celebrated in the Spring of 2003 was quickly followed by the change in the definition of marriage, brought about by the law courts of Ontario and B.C. and the federal government. Our church has responded to both the ecclesiastical and national transitions with a wide range of emotional outbursts and theological arguments. In the Province of Ontario two parish priests have officiated at same-gender “marriages” and have been disciplined. In the Diocese of Edmonton, we continue to obey the marriage canon of General Synod and there is no intention of following the direction of the Diocese of New Westminster in the blessing of same-gender unions.
The problem before our church has many sides. The Anglican Communion has a polity that recognizes the relative autonomy of individual provinces, such as the Anglican Church of Canada and the General Synod of our church in turn recognizes the independence of each Diocese and the internal ecclesiastical provinces (B.C.; Rupert’s Land; Ontario and Canada). For example when a bishop is consecrated, he/she promises obedience to the Metropolitan and not to the Primate. That is why Archbishop David Crawley has played such a major role in the proceedings in the Diocese of New Westminster. Every bishop has jurisdiction in his/her Diocese and is required to honour the jurisdictional authority of others. Consequently there has been acute distress over the desire of the parishes of the “Anglican Communion in New Westminster” to have episcopal oversight exercised by someone other than Bishop Michael Ingham and the offer of Bishop Terry Buckle to offer such oversight.
The purpose of this contribution to The Messenger is to offer a comprehensive list of resources on some of the topics that touch on the present debate over the blessing of same-gender unions and/or marriages. It isn’t an exhaustive list and it seeks to provide more than one point of view. It is provided in the hope that Anglicans in Edmonton will prepare themselves for the upcoming General Synod (May, 2004) and engage in conversation about the issues facing our church and communion. We will fail as disciples however if we only study and discuss these matters. We are called to be a people of prayer and I ask every Anglican and parish to include these concerns in their prayers.
Almighty and everliving God, source of all wisdom and understanding, be present with those who will take counsel in General Synod for the renewal and mission of your Church. Teach us in all things to seek first your honour and glory. Direct our discernment that we might perceive what is right, and then grant us the courage to recognize it and the grace to follow it; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
(Adapted from the BAS page 676)