Thinking Anglicans

Canada: HoB statement on same-sex blessings

The Canadian House of Bishops has issued a Statement from the House of Bishops to the Members of General Synod.

See press release: Bishops’ pastoral statement to go to General Synod. The full text of the statement is reproduced here, below the fold.

See also this Anglican Journal report Bishops prepare for synod aftermath. And this report Groups issue cautions on same-sex resolutions.

More on the resolutions themselves can be found in CoGS resolutions on the St. Michael Report and the blessing of same-sex unions.

The St Michael Report itself is here.

Statement from the House of Bishops to the Members of General Synod

Pursuant to section 25 a) of the Constitution of the General Synod the Primate gives notice that the House of Bishops desires to submit to the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod 2007 the following statement which is concurred in by the House of Bishops:

In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, meeting from April 16-20, 2007, once again discussed the question of the blessing of same-sex unions. Once again a number of diverse opinions were expressed. Again questions were raised about theology, scripture, discipline, and our church’s constitution. However we did find a common strong concern for the pastoral care of all members of our church. While not all bishops can conceive of condoning or blessing same-sex unions, we believe it is not only appropriate but a Gospel imperative to pray with the whole people of God, no matter their circumstance. In so doing we convey the long-standing Gospel teaching that God in Christ loves each person and indeed loves him/her so much that Christ is calling each person to change and grow more fully into God’s image and likeness. To refuse to pray with any person or people is to suggest God is not with them. All of us fall short of the glory of God but all are loved by God in Christ Jesus. We believe that in offering the sacraments we invite God’s transformative action in people’s lives.

  • We certainly hope no child is denied baptism solely on the basis of the sexual orientation, or the marital status, of the parents. It is inconsistent and unacceptable to deny baptism to children as a way of imposing discipline on the sexual behaviour of the parents.
  • We hope no baptized Christian will be denied communion or confirmation because of being in a committed homosexual relationship or because of their marital status.

We are committed, as bishops in Canada, to develop the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teaching of the church. We offer the following examples of possible pastoral responses:

  • When a civilly married gay or lesbian couple seeks our church’s reception of their civil marriage and asks their parish’s recognition, it may be possible, with their bishop’s knowledge and permission, to celebrate a Eucharist with the couple, including appropriate intercessory prayers, but not including a nuptial blessing.
  • When a gay or lesbian married or committed couple seeks to hold a reception or celebration in a church for their life in Christ, again intercessory prayers for their mutual fidelity, the deepening of their discipleship and for their baptismal ministry may be offered, not including the exchange of vows and/or a nuptial blessing.

To the gay and lesbian licensed clergy of our church, we again affirm your ministry as deeply valued and appreciated, and we acknowledge the pain and conflict that many of you live with daily in your ministry in Christ.

To those who experience these pastoral statements and possible pastoral provisions as inadequate or insufficient, we recognize that they are less than the blessing of same-sex unions or marriage. However it is the discernment of the majority of the House of Bishops that as of today the doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit further action, although we acknowledge that General Synod 2007 will vote on several resolutions on the blessing of same-sex unions.

To those who fear that these pastoral provisions have gone too far, we assert that this discipline is entirely consistent with the doctrine of the Church and with our membership in the Anglican Communion, and fits within the pastoral guidelines of the Windsor Report (paragraph 143). We call upon every member of the Anglican Church of Canada to continue in their faithful discipleship and the work of theological and scriptural reflection and dialogue. We are each called to participate in God’s mission in the world and we believe we will do this by the grace of the Risen Christ and the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

Looking ahead, we ask the Primate and General Synod for a report on:

  1. The theological question whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine (St. Michael Report)
  2. The implications of the blessing of same-sex unions and /or marriage for our church and the Communion (The Windsor Report)
  3. Scripture’s witness to the integrity of every human person and the question of the sanctity of human relationships.

We ask that this report be available in advance of General Synod 2010.

We commit to taking this ongoing conversation to the Lambeth Conference 2008.

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JCF
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JCF

So if a priest says something like “O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send therefore your blessing upon these your servants, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.” [“The Blessing of the Marriage”, p.431, 1979 BCP (U.S.), *verbatim*] …over… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

No, the sky won’t fall. What will happen is that a large number of Anglicans, I do not use the word “majority”, will be deeply offended, will believe the Gospel is being discarded, will believe their cultures are being disrespected, will believe the white people are just behaving in their usual arrogant entitled way, and many of them will be given another cause to fear for their lives. Another group, well represented here, will start looking for catacombs to worship in for fear the Roman soldiers are about to tie them up to tarred crosses along the Appian Way! How… Read more »

Chad Vandervalk
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I do not think it is a question of whether the sky will fall or not, but what is holy, just, and righteous in the eyes of God. He has clearly condemned the practice of homosexuality, as with many other sins. I do not think it would be appropriate for a priest to bless an alcoholic in his lifestyle, or someone who perenially cheats on his or her spouce, or someone who continually steals, or … We are all called to live lives that adhere more and more to the norms set forth in scripture. All of us have broken… Read more »

Abigail Ann Young
Guest

No, of course the sky won’t fall! But the bishops are, I think, trying to define the current state of affairs in the ACC as we wait for General Synod to make a determination. In Canada, the ‘presenting issue’ was not the consecration of a partnered gay man as a bishop, but the attempt by the diocese of New Westminster to do an end run around the marriage canon by claiming that the blessing of s-s unions or civil marriages was pastoral rather than doctrinal and therefore a matter for local option by dioceses, not one that needed a resolution… Read more »

Davis d'Ambly
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Davis d'Ambly

I call it a step in the right direction at least.

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

JCF, The interesting contrast between the American and Canadian churches is this: In the American BCP, if a deacon presides at a marriage, the nuptial blessing is omitted. In the Canadian BAS, if a deacon presides, the “nuptial blessing … shall be appropriately changed”. I would see it as possible to appropriately change the nuptial blessing (changing the phrase “send therefore your blessing” in the form taken from the American BCP, or the phrase “pour out the abundance of your blessing” on the alternative blessing) to make it a prayer rather than a blessing. Also, the directives are silent on… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“their choice” See, I hear this and it seems to mean “You have chosen to be gay, so you deserve what you get.” If this isn’t what you mean, say so. Also, the choice to whether or not to be celebate is spurious. It ignores the fact that, for most gay people of my generation, there has been a lot of fear and anguish in coming to terms with our sexuality. We have had to come first to the realization that we ARE, in fact, human, not sick perverse predators of young children, in the context of a society that… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

“I do not think it would be appropriate for a priest to bless … someone who perenially cheats on his or her spouce” But Pastor Chad, that’s precisely what the covenant (to be blessed) is designed to AVOID! [One Michiganian to another] Can’t you see the contradiction here? Or are you so obsessed w/ the ConEv *ideological construct*, “the practice of homosexuality”, that you fail to see that THIS IS NOT THE ISSUE AT ALL, rather (as stated) “Send therefore your blessing upon ***these your servants***, that they may so ***love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience,… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

In some parts of the United States, Episcopal priests bless the hounds and horses and riders [but maybe not the foxes – I’ve never been to one] at the beginning of fox hunting season, In some partof the States, Episcopal clergy bless fishing fleets and fishermen. In lots of places in the States, Episcopal priests bless all manner of animals near ST. Francis’ day … in Canada, too? And where is the scriptural warrent for blessing all of these? I have no issues with the fishing boats or the animals – I wonder about blessing the beginning of a season… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Really, if this conservative God doesnb’t’approve’of my relationship, who would wish to believe in such a ‘being’ in any case?

But the idea that there is this ‘God in the sky’ figure is simply ludicrous. It makes sense given what we know about the origins of the world and matter. God is a human creation.

Traditional Christianity really is such a collection of mythological tales – why are people naive enough to swallow such a set of stories?

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

Ford,
What would moderation look like in practice?

toujoursdan
Guest

Chad says: ===He has clearly condemned the practice of homosexuality, as with many other sins. I do not think it would be appropriate for a priest to bless an alcoholic in his lifestyle, or someone who perenially cheats on his or her spouce, or someone who continually steals,=== Reply: Obviously alcoholism and breaking a covenant you make with your spouse by cheating on him/her can’t be blessed because they cause obvious harm to people in broken trusts and destroyed families. Stealing also involves a breaking of trust and taking property that is lawfully owned by someone else. A gay couple… Read more »

Deacon Mark
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Deacon Mark

Scripture, or actually the words of Jesus Himself absolutely and clearly forbid divorce. But the Church (the ABC himself) seem to have tidily gotten around that one. Which is not to mention the eating of pork and usary. What a bunch of hypocrites!

Lou Poulain
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Lou Poulain

Others have spoken here better than I can but it irks me that some people think that s-s blessing is the blessing of a “lifestyle” any differently than a nuptual blessing. Both bless mutual commitment and fidelity, the promise to love, honor and cherish and the commitment to be for-each-other. THAT’s the lifestyle being blessed. In our parish a man buried his partner of 25 years after nursing him thru terminal cancer. That lifelong fidelity love and sacrifice is, in my view, a holy thing and worthy of blessing.

Lou

Dennis
Guest

I really and truly believe that it is time to start campaigning for the refusal of the church to bless any open conservatives. They have chosen to be the way that they are. They exhibit a desire to exclude others which is contrary to the gospel. And perhaps if they had to beg for their very humanity to be recognized and their relationships and place in the church blessed they might stop all of this nonsense. It is time. I want to see some justification of why the church should offer any rites or blessings to conservatives and then hear… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Assuming gay people and their friends are white is quite racist.”

Indeed it is. I was making reference to what I see as the not very well concealed motivation on the part of +Akinola and his comerades, which is a kind of revenge against the white Western descendents of European Imperialists. You don’t have to read too much of what he says to see. Sometimes it’s couched in what sounds like a call for self sufficiency in African Churches, a laudable goal, but it’s pretty blatant most of the time.

Swedish Lutheran
Guest
Swedish Lutheran

This is hardly the proper time or place for “moderation”. Seeing the other side’s point of view is fine when there are two competing, legitimate perspectives.
But exclusion and discrimination are never legitimate, they are outpourings of the dark side of humanity. The darkness that resides in each and every one of us, but which some are wise enough to transcend (at least most of the time).
The Canadian bishops need to acquire some backbone.

Martin Reynolds
Guest

When we came to our Civil Partnership my Roman Catholic partner and I thought long and hard about what we would do to celebrate it before our family and friends. We have been together close to 30 years and because I am a priest many of our friends are in Holy Orders and minister in a wide range of traditions. The invitation list, as you might imagine, reflected this. Due to our son’s complex problems and my mother’s frailty we held our celebration in the garden and after the exchange of vows and rings we invited all those who wished… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“But I am increasingly aware that the “moderate” position of Canadian bishops will eventually prove more distasteful to the suffering conservatives than it will to the suffering liberals.”

Amen!

NP
Guest
NP

Well, Rowan has got the Canadians to two his line…..

– now, when he flies into the US in September, will he be able to bend the TEC HOB to his will?

Maybe – TEC HOB members don’t really seem to have the courage to go it alone and lead a global liberal church of a few million people….maybe Rowan can bend them to his will too.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

NP, You are living in a world of your own making! Step into the light, my brother! The Canadian House of Bishops has been meeting for quite some time, praying, discussing, not screaming and yelling at one another like happens elsewhere. I’m sure their meetings have had their share of discord, and the HOB is not united on its stand WRT homosexuality. They have not “obeyed” the AbofC, they have reached a concensus. That they are in line with +Rowan is a good thing, but if you think it was simply matter of acquiescing to his will, you really need… Read more »

NP
Guest
NP

really, Ford…..what do you think the ABC’s agenda will be when he flies into TEC’s meetings in Sept??

(clue: he loves a good fudge)

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

The Anglican Church of Canada is NOT part of TEC, NP.