From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Episcopalians: Canadian Anglicans sort out implications of same-gender blessing decision
Thu, 20 Jun 2002 14:43:09 -0400
June 20, 2002
Episcopalians: Canadian Anglicans sort out implications of
same-gender blessing decision
by James Solheim
(ENS) Canadian Anglicans are sorting out the implications of a
decision by the Diocese of New Westminster at its meeting in
Vancouver June 15 to bless committed same-gender relationships.
The diocese had voted in favor of the motion at two previous
meetings, in 1998 and 2001, but Bishop Michael Ingham withheld
his consent until the vote was more decisive. The measure passed
by a vote of 215 in favor and 129 against.
Reaction immediately following the vote was swift and
visceral. A group of delegates and visitors walked out of the
meeting after Ingham announced the results. "This is a tragic
moment in history," fumed the Rev. Trevor Walters. "We must
declare a state of pastoral emergency." He called the vote
schismatic and said that parishes opposed to the action were
consulting with the primates of other churches in the Anglican
Dismissing a provision intended to protect dissidents by
providing an "episcopal visitor" from outside the diocese,
Walters said that the motion was illegal under church law,
contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture against
homosexuality, and defies a resolution of the 1998 Lambeth
Conference of the world's Anglican bishops warning against such
On the other hand, Steve Schuh, president of the Vancouver
chapter of Integrity, said, "At long last the church has found a
way to give us a space to recognize God's blessing in our life.
It's been a long time coming." His home parish, however, one of
the largest in the diocese, was among those that walked out of
The task of reconciliation
Addressing the meeting after the walkout, Ingham said, "No
one is being excluded from our fellowship today. We have not
taken sides with one group in our church against another. We
have chosen to live together in mutual respect. We are deeply
aware that there is much more work to do to build up mutual
understanding and reconciliation."
Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church in
Canada, said that Ingham had acted responsibly and that the
diocese had not acted contrary to church law. Refusing to answer
questions about his personal opinions, he did point out that the
House of Bishops was on record that it was "not prepared to
endorse" such blessings. Peers explained that "what I supported
was the way the bishop proposed to deal with people who would be
unhappy with the decision."
Responding to a proposal by opponents calling for a
jurisdiction with its own bishop, Peers said that is "not
possible." In a June 16 letter to other primates of the Anglican
Communion, he said that he recognized that the decision would
create tension, but he asked them "to recognize and to respect
the authority of the bishop and synod within the Diocese of New
Westminster." He reminded them that one of the major principles
common within Anglicanism is "the understanding that a bishop
has no authority to intervene in the life of a diocese other
than his or her own, unless the bishop of that diocese has given
permission to do so."
A source of confusion
A group of 13 Canadian bishops issued a statement expressing
"regret" over the decision which they said is "in conflict with
the moral teaching of Holy Scripture and the tradition of the
universal Church." They said that "matters of moral teaching and
Church order and discipline are beyond the jurisdiction of a
single diocese acting alone...It can only cause confusion for a
local expression of the Church to purport to bless that which
Anglicans globally and nationally have decided they cannot
bless." They called on the diocese to "withhold implementation"
of the motion.
And a letter signed by five current and two retired primates
from the Anglican Communion, sent before the vote, warned, "It
is important that you understand that the adoption of blessing
of same-sex unions by your diocesan synod would be viewed not
only as a grave affront but will also set in motion
deliberations on breaking communion" with other dioceses around
the world. Ingham told the synod that bishops in the Episcopal
Church in the USA have allowed blessings but that they were
still in communion with the archbishop of Canterbury and other
churches in the Anglican Communion. "The Anglican Communion
consists of those in communion with Canterbury and with its
bishop. There is an episcopal link which binds them together,"
he said, adding that many of the primates who signed the letter
come from "very different contexts" than the Diocese of New
Departure from tradition
Archbishop of Canterbury George L. Carey, appealed to
Canadian Anglicans to continue to work together over the
dispute. Responding to an appeal from Walters following the
decision, Carey said that he still stands firmly behind the
Lambeth resolution and that, despite criticism, "I do not accept
that homosexual relationships can be treated as being on a par
with the man-woman ideal portrayed in Holy Scripture."
He said that he was saddened and could "fully understand the
dismay this causes to those in the diocese who disapprove of
this departure from the Anglican moral tradition and the views
of the majority of their fellow believers throughout the
Anglican Communion." Yet Carey added that he was sorry to learn
of the walk-out and was "alarmed by the statements of those who
appear to be determined to look elsewhere for episcopal
oversight in place of the extended episcopal support which
Bishop Ingham has offered."
His letter concluded, "Let us make no mistake, these are
difficult and painful issues--both for those who hold strong
views on each side of the argument, and for those who remain
undecided." While the dialogue continues, he said that it was
wrong to walk away.
--James Solheim is director of the Episcopal News Service. This
report is based on coverage by the Canadian press.
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