There are now three bishops who have declared that they will proceed with same-sex marriages in spite of the synod vote that failed to approve the marriage canon change: Michael Bird Diocese of Niagara, Colin Johnson Diocese of Toronto and John Chapman Diocese of Ottawa.
I am sure you will not fail to notice the similarity in the wording of the various bishops’ statements, a similarity that speaks of collusion before the synod was even in session.
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
General Synod is nearing its conclusion. As soon as I am able, I look forward to sharing with you some of the wonderful ministries in which the baptized across our great land continue to engage.
You will be pleased to know that our delegates represented the interests of our diocese ably and well. On behalf of our diocese, may I thank The Venerable David Selzer, The Rev. Beth Bretzlaff, Kim Chadsey, The Rev. Mark Whittall, The Rev. Monique Stone, John McBride, Audrey Lawrence, Jordan Sandrock and Ron Chaplin.
While there is much I would like to tell you now, I think it is safe to say that many of you have followed with interest the conversations, debate and vote concerning the proposed change to the Marriage Canon to allow same sex couples to be married in the church. What follows outlines my pastoral response to this long-standing struggle among the people of God and to the result of today’s vote on the resolution.
First, it is important to be aware of the various comments and decisions that have been made concerning the “place” of LGBTQ individuals within the body of our Anglican family these past number of years. These include:
General Synod 2004 received and passed a resolution stating that we, Affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships.
General Synod 2010 allowed with a consensus decision, that each diocese within our Anglican Church of Canada may choose to bless same sex unions.
The Council of General Synod 2016, our “Synod” between General Synods, said to the Church in March 2016 regarding the proposed change to our Marriage Canon that:
We recommend the greatest pastoral response possible, allowing same-sex couples to be fully included in the life of our church with full and equal access to its liturgies and pastoral offices.
The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz said in his challenging and wise sermon at the opening Eucharist of General Synod:
This [General Synod] is the body that through its history has also wrestled with numerous issues within the Church and in the world at large over which we have often found ourselves in deep disagreement. Many of the issues have centered around inclusion—the place of women in the councils of the Church, the place of women as priests and bishops, the place of young people and their voice and vote, the place of children at the Eucharistic table, the place of those married and divorced and wanting to marry again, the place of religious communities whose life transcends diocesan boundaries, the place of Indigenous Peoples from status as observers, to guests, to partners, to members in Synod, and the place of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and questioning people within the Church and their equality of access to all the ministrations of the Church including the solemnizing of their marriages.
The Parliament of Canada, in 2005 introduced Bill C-38 The Civil Marriage Act, providing for the marriage of same sex couple. This was passed by the House of Commons in June of 2005, and in July of 2005 passed the Senate of Canada, received Royal Assent and affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada. While these institutions are not ecclesial in nature, they are of course entrusted with the well-being, safety and inclusion of all Canadians, all the people of God. As people of God, we know that God calls our civic representatives to the work that they do on behalf of us all.
It is time my friends. It is past time.
When the vote was announced I was extremely disappointed. However it is also true that a very significant majority (70%) of General Synod delegates have voted in favour of authorizing same sex marriages. This is good news. Unfortunately, a change to Marriage Canon XXI will not happen at this time. While a strong majority voted in favour in each of the orders of Bishops, Clergy and Laity, the two-thirds threshold required in the Order of Clergy for changing a Canon fell short by one vote.
It is now up to and within the authority of a diocesan bishop to respond in a manner that they deem appropriate.
It is my intention, in consultation with and in partnership with a number of other diocesan bishops to proceed with same sex marriages immediately within the Diocese of Ottawa. While no clergy will be required to officiate at a same sex marriage, those willing may do so with my permission.
This is a pastoral decision that is necessary at this time in our history as a diocese and as a church.
My sisters and brothers, I continue to pray for our church and for our diocese as we strive to respond faithfully to the great work that we are called to do in the name of Jesus in these changing yet exciting times.