Canadian dioceses marrying same-sex couples

There are presently three Canadian dioceses that have performed same-sex marriages and at least another three which plan to – assuming, after scouring the land, they can find some willing couples. Others will undoubtedly follow.

This is all happening before the vote in 2019 to finalise approval of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada. If it seems chaotic, it is because it is: Fred Hiltz says he has no authority to prevent it, Michael Bird and other bishops have cheerfully declared they can proceed because no one can find anything in the canons that says they can’t and, even though synod has pronounced same-sex marriage a matter of theology, Bird et al. have effectively said, no it isn’t it’s pastoral.

Considering the energy, time and passion invested in this, and the ensuing mayhem, it would be reasonable for an outsider to assume that there are thousands or, at the very least, hundreds of same-sex couples clamouring to be joined in unholy matrimony in an Anglican church. But no: there have been eight so far.

Eight! That’s 0.000044% of the population; on the positive side, it a beautiful illustration of how effective the ACoC’s efforts to be relevant are to average Canadians.

Read it all here:

Since the first reading at General Synod 2016 of a resolution to allow for the solemnization of same-sex marriages, eight couples have been married in three Anglican Church of Canada dioceses—with more planning on walking down the aisle in the coming year.

Four weddings of same-sex couples have taken place in the diocese of Niagara, three in the diocese of Toronto and one in the diocese of Ottawa, according to the offices of the respective diocesan bishops. Toronto and Ottawa also noted that several other same-sex couples in their dioceses are in the process of preparation for marriage.

Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, of the diocese of Montreal, said she is currently going through a discernment process with four same-sex couples considering marriage.

Bishop Logan McMenamie, of the diocese of British Columbia, announced at a diocesan synod in autumn 2016 that he will “move forward with the marriage of same-sex couples in the diocese” on a case-by-case basis. When the Anglican Journal contacted his office in March 2017, no same-sex couples had yet approached the diocese about the possibility of marriage.

Following the first reading of the motion to change the marriage canon (church law) of the Anglican Church of Canada to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples—which was initially, but incorrectly, declared as being defeated in a vote—several bishops publicly announced they would nonetheless marry same-sex couples.

Niagara Bishop Michael Bird, Ottawa Bishop John Chapman, Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson, then Huron Bishop Bob Bennett and then Coadjutor (now diocesan) Bishop Linda Nicholls all stated that they would marry same-sex couples as a pastoral measure, citing an opinion by General Synod Chancellor David Jones, that the marriage canon as it stands does not actually bar same-sex marriage.

Following discovery of a voting error, which showed that the motion had actually passed its first reading, Bird, Chapman and Johnson said they would still go ahead with same-sex marriage. However, Bennett and Nicholls issued another statement, clarifying that their diocese was “committed to ongoing consultations” as required by the same-sex motion. At press time, no changes to diocesan policy regarding the marriage of same-sex couples had been made.

Roman Catholics and Anglicans continue their ecumenical dance

Justin Welby met with Pope Francis for more ecumenical dialogue recently. The conclusion was that the denominations are still divided.

A great deal of expense and carbon emissions could have been avoided by a close inspection of the invitation list. It included Fred Hiltz from Canada who, not only has no influence over healing divisions between Catholics and Anglicans, but has spent most of the time during his tenure in his own denomination promoting division in it. Justin Welby, seemingly eager to learn from the colonies, is about to follow suit.

What a waste of time, energy and resources.

From here:

While the decision by some provinces in the Anglican Communion to accept the ordination of women and same-sex marriage have posed new obstacles to formal unity between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, a common declaration issued by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Pope Francis October 5 reaffirmed their commitment to ecumenical work.

“While…we ourselves do not see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred,” the declaration says. “We are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his church.”

[….]

Representing Canada were Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and Bishop Dennis Drainville, of the diocese of Quebec.

Fred Hiltz responds to dissenting bishops

Once the vote to change the marriage canon to permit same-sex marriage passed at General Synod, a number of bishops released a statement expressing their disagreement with both the process and the outcome. They also reaffirmed their commitment to stick with the Anglican Church of Canada come what may, a resolve that does little to fortify any influence they may think they have.

Now Fred Hiltz has responded to the statement. He makes his support for same-sex marriage quite clear and, reading between the lines, in spite of protestations to the contrary, I can’t believe there will be much tolerance for dissent.

From here:

While he affirmed the bishops’ commitment to offer “pastoral care and loving service to all irrespective of sexual orientation,” he noted that for many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) Anglicans, “pastoral care” would include the solemnization of their marriages—which the bishops have expressly said they will not do. “For me, my brothers, the question you ask is really a question for all members of the church. To what extent can we and will we make room for one another? To what extent will we pastorally accommodate one another?” Hiltz said in his letter.

The bishops are, rightly, worried about the conscience clause:

Hiltz also challenged their claim that the resolution, which contains a conscience clause, “does not provide adequate protection for the consciences of dioceses, clergy and congregations.” He asked the bishops to explain what such protection would look like, and how it would apply for those in their dioceses who are in favour of same-sex marriage.

One answer to Hiltz might be this: when a bishop or clergyman refusing to marry a same-sex couple is either hauled before the Human Rights Commission or is civilly sued, the ACoC must pay for his legal defence. Of course, that won’t stop liberal bishops refusing to hire orthodox clergy or making their lives so disagreeable that they quit for a saner environment – but some things are too much to hope for.

Primate Fred Hiltz is unable to prevent his bishops performing same-sex marriages

The truth, I suspect, is that Hiltz has no interest in stopping a bishop performing same-sex marriages because he is entirely sympathetic to the idea. A plea of impotence is rather convenient for him since he hopes it will absolve him from any culpability that could result in consequences imposed by the next up the chain in ecclesiastical eunuchs, Justin Welby.

From here:

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, says he understands why some bishops have chosen to go ahead with the solemnization of same-sex marriages, even though the marriage canon (church law) cannot be officially changed until it is voted on again at General Synod 2019.

He also stressed that he has no jurisdiction over diocesan bishops to stop them from doing what they want on the issue.

“As primate, I have no authority to say to a bishop, ‘You can’t do that and you must not do that,’ ” he said.

Primate Fred Hiltz suspects there might be stress at General Synod over same-sex marriage

Fred Hiltz, as perceptive as ever, has realised that, whichever way the vote over same-sex marriage goes in July, some people will leave aggravated. A vote for will upset the few remaining conservatives and a vote against will upset the disproportionately high number of homosexual clergy. This is all a repeat performance of the lamentations and appeals for unity that accompanied the voting over same-sex blessings in prior synods. Then, as now, the so-called unity is bogus. Also bogus were the assurances that same-sex blessings would not lead to same sex marriage. Does anyone truly believe that priests will not be compelled to perform same-sex marriages if the vote goes that way?

Hiltz has as much as admitted that the whole synod exercise will be a vacuous farce since, even if the same-sex marriage motion is voted down – as it probably will be – dioceses will go ahead with it anyway.

Still, at least the synod will be green, that’s the main thing.

From the Anglican Journal:

“No doubt in this synod there will be some stress and some strain, but I hope and pray that in the grace of the waters of baptism in which we have been made one with Christ, that we will be able to continue to do our work in synod and that we’ll know that in the midst of it all, we are, in fact, members one of another.”

This General Synod, the 41st in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada, is expected to be momentous, involving as it does a vote to change the church’s canon (law) on marriage.

“That’s a fairly huge issue for our church, so I think people who come to this General Synod will rightly have some anxiety about that,” says General Synod Deputy Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner, in another video released by the office of General Synod.

It also seems likely that, whichever way the estimated 269 delegates assembling in Thornhill, Ont., July 7–12 vote, the impact will be felt in Anglican churches across Canada. In an April 12 interview, Hiltz told the Anglican Journal that bishops are concerned that clergy and parishes may decide to leave the church if the vote is not acceptable to them. (Avowals to this effect have also been made by followers of the Journal’s Facebook page.) Hiltz also said he believed some clergy, if faced with a “no” vote, might decide to marry same-sex couples anyway.

As a fitting summary of the mess, Hiltz utters two tautologies followed by an appeal from the Beatles:

Hiltz said that as he reflected recently on the upcoming General Synod, the words from an Anglican night prayer came repeatedly to mind: “What has been done has been done. What has not been done has not been done. Now let it be.”

Some priests likely to marry same-sex couples even if marriage canon change fails to pass

Fred Hiltz has suggested that even if the vote to change the Marriage Canon fails to pass at General Synod, some priests will ignore the fact and go ahead with same-sex marriages anyway. Although Hiltz frames it as “civil disobedience”, I am left with the impression from the article below that, by mentioning it at all, he is dropping a broad hint to liberal dioceses as to how they should proceed.

The same strategy was adopted by the national church in 2010 when at the General Synod, while approval was not given for dioceses to start blessing same-sex unions, it was understood that many dioceses would still do so. And they did. An easy solution for Hiltz, since he was absolved of responsibility and liberal dioceses got what they wanted.

In 2010 we had the local option for same-sex blessings, along with the assurance that there would be no same-sex marriages.

In 2016 we will have the local option for same-sex marriages along with the assurance that no priests will be compelled to perform them.

In 2022 we will have…. well, you get the drift.

Some bishops have expressed concern about the possibility that some priests may go ahead and marry gay couples in the event that a resolution changing the marriage canon to allow same-gender marriages is rejected at General Synod this summer, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

“If it’s not approved, then, as we sometimes, say…there could be some ‘civil disobedience’ on the part of clergy and parishes, and the bishops are going to have to handle that, because all of us that are ordained make a solemn promise to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Anglican Church of Canada,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal April 12. Hiltz made the comments during an interview on the House of Bishops meeting last week, April 4–8.

Asked to clarify if by “civil disobedience” he meant same-gender marriages in defiance of a “no” vote, Hiltz replied, “That’s a possibility. Bishops are aware of that. We’re mindful of our need to reach out to those who are going to be hurt or offended by a decision of General Synod.”

Fred Hiltz is tired of talking about sex

Hard to believe, I know.

From here:

“I long for a time in our church when there is as much attention and conviction and passion and voice and action from the rooftops about sexual exploitation, about gender-based violence, human trafficking for the sex trade, missing and murdered Indigenous women, pornography, religiously-based violence around the world, our violence against creation itself, and the greed and the reckless consumption that drives it,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

The irony in all this is that Hiltz wants to direct the passions of the Anglican Church of Canada towards things over which it has absolutely no influence or control and in which it has no expertise, while at the same time being unable to come to a decision on whether to change its own marriage canon – something that has been a church speciality for 2000 years.

A fitting parable of ecclesiastical impotence.

Squabbling bishops

It appears that Anglican Church of Canada bishops are having a difficult time keeping their stories straight on exactly what happened at the recent House of Bishops Meeting.

In Anglican-speak, this is called walking together.

From here:

The head of the Anglican Church of Canada says a bishop in eastern Newfoundland has made inaccurate statements about the church’s internal debate over the blessing of same-sex marriages.

Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate of the Canadian wing of the church, is challenging Bishop Geoff Peddle’s assertion that the church is unlikely to allow the practice because indigenous bishops and the people they represent are opposed to the idea.

Peddle’s comments were made earlier this week during an interview broadcast across Newfoundland and Labrador by radio station VOCM.

He could not be reached for comment today.

Hiltz says the church’s 45 bishops in Canada have made it clear they are unlikely to reach the two-thirds consensus needed to change the church’s rules at its next General Synod in July.

However, Hiltz stressed that it would be inaccurate to suggest that the church’s three indigenous bishops are largely responsible for that position, saying there are plenty of non-indigenous bishops who also hold conservative views.

Fred Hiltz on the Primates’ gathering

Fred Hiltz tells us what he thinks about the 2016 Primates’ gathering, here.

It seems that Hiltz has taken some heat for not standing “in solidarity with The Episcopal Church. Hiltz assures us that he feels empathy for Michael Curry but not quite enough empathy to accept the “consequences for our own Church”

To make up for this lack of spine, Hiltz apologises profusely to the ACoC homosexual contingent. Over and over.

In case anyone is labouring under the misapprehension that the issue at stake is one of Biblical truth or the definition and meaning of marriage, Hiltz sets us straight: it’s really all about “the very diverse political, cultural, social and missional contexts in which we live”. Or, to put it more plainly: “We are enlightened, they are not.”

The rest of the missive – which is not copied below – is about the usual temporal matters that are so dear to the heart of the Primate of Canada’s Christianity-Lite Anglicans: global warming, and so on.

Throughout the meeting of the Primates last week, I thought much about St. Paul’s teaching about the Church being the Body of Christ in the world.  It is the image at the very heart of Anglican ecclesiology.  It informs the manner of our relationships in the Church local, national and global.  In 165 countries we are 85 million people proclaiming the Gospel of Christ in more than 1000 languages.  We are a family of autonomous Churches that understand ourselves to be “Formed by Scripture, Shaped by Worship, Ordered for Communion, and Directed by God’s Mission”.  We are bound together by the long held principle of “Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ” articulated at the great Anglican Congress of 1963 in Toronto.

While for the most part this principle inspires our common work and witness, there are times when our capacity to abide by it is deeply challenging given the very diverse political, cultural, social and missional contexts in which we live. While being ordered for communion, we recognize that in the face of deep difference of theological conviction over certain matters of faith and doctrine the bonds of affection between us can be strained, sometimes sadly so, to the point of people speaking of a state of impaired communion.

This meeting of the Primates was particularly challenging with respect to the tending of our relationships in light of the developments in The Episcopal Church regarding the change in its Canon on Marriage making provision for the blessing of same sex marriages.  I, of course, was deeply mindful of a call from General Synod 2013 for the enacting of a similar change in our own Canon, the first reading of which is scheduled for our General Synod this summer.

Since returning home, I am especially mindful of the pain the LGBTQ community within our Church is feeling.  I am very sorry.  I acknowledge their frustration and that of their supporters in being made to feel like the sacrificial offering on the altar of the Church’s unity.  I recognize that many are angry and deeply disillusioned with the very Church in which they endeavour to live out their lives as disciples of Jesus.  I know that for some it is in fact very difficult to remain within its fellowship, and that it will take a great resolve of will and courage to do so.

I apologize for the manner in which the Church has often regarded the LGBTQ community and condemned their lives with very harsh language. I call on our Church to re-affirm its commitment to rejecting anywhere in the world criminal sanctions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or queer or questioning people. I call on our Church to renew its resolve in listening to the voices and the stories of its LGBTQ members as we wrestle through conversations regarding the pastoral care we are called to provide for all people. I ask the prayers of the whole Church for the LGBTQ people in the midst of the hurt they are bearing and the hope to which they cling for the recognition and sacramental blessing of their relationships.

I am aware of sharp criticism over what some regard to have been a failure on my part to stand in solidarity with The Episcopal Church in openly rejecting the relational consequences it bears as a result of The Primates’ Meeting, or in accepting similar consequences for our own Church.  Allow me to comment on each of these matters.

First, in relation to The Episcopal Church, I empathize with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry as he faces a firestorm of reaction in the United States. I recognize a need for a space of time in which that Church will respond through its National Executive Council. Notwithstanding the call of a majority of the Primates for the “consequences” named in the Communiqué, I recognize that there could well be a response from the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council.  I know The Episcopal Church to be very committed to the work and witness of the Communion as a whole, and I recognize the frustration they will feel in not serving in a representative way on our Ecumenical Dialogues for example. I recognize that if The Episcopal Church is not allowed to vote on a matter of doctrine or polity that the life of the Communion is diminished. I am grateful however, that they will still have a voice in the discussions of such matters.

I have covenanted with Bishop Curry to uphold him and The Episcopal Church in my prayers, and I would ask the same of our whole Church. I was deeply impressed by the grace with which he spoke at The Primates’ Meeting. While declaring in no uncertain terms the pain he was feeling for the Church he leads, he was absolutely convinced that in good faith the General Convention acted.  He recognized the strain that places on relationships throughout the Communion, and he declared his unwavering commitment – in spite of the said consequences – to walk together in the hope of “healing a legacy of hurt, rebuilding mutual trust, and restoring relationships”. He was a stellar example of leadership under pressure, of courage with grace.

Secondly in relation to our own Church. For me to have entertained any thought of accepting consequences for our own Church would have been an overstepping of my authority. To do so would have been a betrayal of my office as President of The General Synod. I was not and am not prepared to take any action that would pre-empt the outcome of our deliberations at General Synod in July. As the report “This Holy Estate” declares, “It is for the General Synod to decide the matter” in accord with the jurisdiction given it regarding “the definition of doctrine in harmony with the Solemn Declaration”. (The Declaration of Principles, 6. Jurisdiction of The General Synod [j]). I believe in the synodical process and by the ministry entrusted to me, I am obliged to uphold it.

In this entire matter our Church has faithfully honoured the call within the Resolution (C003) of General Synod 2013 for broad consultation across our Church, throughout the Communion and with our ecumenical partners.  Alongside all the counsel received and noted in “This Holy Estate”, including that of the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) one could indeed regard the outcome of The Primates’ Meeting as another piece of information.

I ask your prayers for the members of the Council of General Synod in the task mandated to them to bring forward a resolution to the General Synod to affect a change in the Marriage Canon. I ask your prayers for the General Synod Planning Committee in the care they will take in designing a process for our consideration of this matter. I ask your prayers for all the members of General Synod that they will enter into their work well prepared and with a commitment to speak and listen respectfully and in openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

While the meeting of the Primates was particularly challenging with respect to relationships throughout the Communion, there was about midway through a declared unanimous continue walking together and not apart. This meeting could have been marked by calls for exclusion of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and me. It was not. It could have been marked by walk-outs as some had anticipated. It was not. It could have been marked by ranting and raving.  It was not. Instead it was marked by perseverance to remain in dialogue that was frank but respectful. It was marked by a generosity of grace and patience, with one another. It was marked too, by renewed commitments in the consideration of matters of doctrine that could be of a controversial nature, to consult broadly in the seeking of advice and counsel.

We were reminded once again of the principle named by the Windsor Continuation Group that “when the Primates speak collectively, or in a united or unanimous manner, their advice – while it is no more than advice – nevertheless needs to be received with a readiness to undertake reflection and accommodation”. While there have been calls through the years for “an enhanced authority” on the part of The Primates’ Meeting, there has been – and rightly so – a resistance to the meeting becoming a Curia for the Communion. We recognize that we are but one of The Instruments of Communion which is the only body with a Constitution outlining its objects and powers, all of which are focussed in one way or another on our relationships in the service of God’s mission in the world.