Having driven thousands of people out of the pews through its obsession with same-sex marriage, the Anglican Church of Canada has decided to concentrate on “evangelism and discipleship and mission” instead.
This, of course, is unfamiliar territory for the ACoC. Nevertheless, I have every confidence that – just as it did during the decade of evangelism – the ACoC will spend the next 10 years or so trying to decipher what those terms really mean, having conversations about them and, after establishing a commission to study the numerous theological interpretations that can be ascribed to them, acknowledge that, as theological abstractions, they do actually exist.
After three years spent in intense debate over a resolution to allow the marriage of same-sex couples, the House of Bishops intends to shift its focus to “evangelism and discipleship and mission” in the next triennium, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, following the house’s September 22-27 meeting in Winnipeg.
“In the last number of years…the vast majority of our time in meetings was consumed by conversations about same-sex marriage,” said Hiltz in an interview. “And the bishops are saying, ‘We’ve just got to have a more balanced agenda.’ ”
Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, of the diocese of Montreal, agreed, saying in an interview that the same-sex marriage debate has taken up “way too much airtime” in recent years. She said she hopes the house can “get on with the mission of the church” by making it “more vital and adept” at creating disciples.
If the same-sex marriage vote had gone the other way at general synod, I very much doubt that the bishops would be so willing to adopt a “more balanced agenda”. As it is, liberals have their way and same-sex marriages are proceeding without having to wait for the 2019 vote to finalise the issue. In Ecclesiastical Newspeak, this is called an “interim pastoral provision”, permitting bishops to ignore pettifogging details like synods, votes, canons, the Bible, God and Jesus.
Hiltz said no attempt was made to place a moratorium on same-sex marriages until after the second vote in 2019. What he heard from some bishops who announced their intention to allow same-sex marriages in their dioceses was that such marriages could happen, but as an “interim pastoral provision” that would require “the bishop’s knowledge and permission.” The bishop would also have to authorize a rite to be used to solemnize the union since the current liturgies, in the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services, cannot be used until the marriage canon is formally amended.
When asked how this arrangement was received by the house, Hiltz said, “I didn’t see any major reaction. No blow-up, no pushback.” He said that the bishops understood this as a pastoral provision.
To qualify my second paragraph above a little: one bishop, at least – Montreal’s Mary Irwin-Gibson – does have a clear idea of what “discipleship” really means – hard to believe, I know. “Discipleship” is marrying more same-sex couples:
“I’m interested in marriage as a Christian avenue of discipleship”