Tuesday, 1 May 2007

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.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 1 May 2007 at 9:43pm BST | TrackBack
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion

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 two men (two women) kneeling before said priest, then the sky will fall???

I don't get it. :-/

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 5:45am BST

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 is doing anything else at this time consistent with "bearing one another's burdens"? They would, for starters, consider that you can no more say that prayer over two people of the same sex than you can baptize a chair. That "we" have made no more progress in making "them" see otherwise is, in part, because "we" have been more interested in defending "our" position as the great defenders of gay liberty against "them", the forces of tyranny. That "they" have been as bad if not worse (I would argue worse) is no excuse. Each side is guilty of refusing to see the other's point in favour of grabbing a chance to be victimized. This is an attempt at moderation.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 11:58am BST

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 views of sexuality, none of which should be condoned by the church. Witholding the nuptial blessing is a signal to the people that their choice is not sanctioned by God. This decision seems to be a very good compromise between the love Christ has for people and a need to maintain a witness that not everything is acceptable in the eyes of God.

Posted by: Chad Vandervalk on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 1:36pm BST

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 of GS or a change in the canons. At the next GS, a resolution to permit local option by diocese was tabled and a request was made to the Primate's Theological Commission for an opinion whether the matter was doctrinal or not. The PTC issued the St Michael Report in response, which argued that the matter was concerned with doctrine (although not core doctrine), that it should not be a church-dividing issue, and that it called upon us to re-examine a broad range of theological issues, including the status of the marriage canon. So now the original resolution will come back to the table at the upcoming GS in June, along with other motions arising from the St Michael Report and the discussion of it by Council of General Synod (CoGS).
Probably it's fair to say that the Report is an attempt to keep us all at the same table whatever we think on the presenting issue and that in general the Bishops are more conservative, while CoGS is more progressive.
I think the statement is an attempt to define the status quo in a generous way by saying this is where we stand going into GS: conservative parishes/clergy may not exclude couples in s-s marriages or their children from the sacraments, progressive parishes/clergy may not bless s-s civil marriages or perform s-s civil marriages.
But what happens in June at GS could potentially change all that -- GS could decide on local option, and if it does, then at the very least Toronto and Niagara will join New West in allowing the blessings.

Posted by: Abigail Ann Young on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 1:43pm BST

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

Posted by: Davis d'Ambly on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 2:24pm BST

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 the blessing of rings.

It is a compromise, sure to satisfy no one on either side, but yet a way of moving forward (however slowly). It's important to note that in Canada, the real issue is not same-sex blessings, but marriage.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 3:07pm BST

"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 stills think us to be the latter. Then we have had to come to the understanding that God actually DOES love us, something that some people never hear. Straight people do not have this experience. Thankfully, fewer and fewer gay people do nowadays. So, what seems relatively simple to a straight person, "do not be sexually active", is not exactly the same thing for us. It means that we have to go back, and, some would feel, deny the the things that it took us so long to sort out. It sounds like a grudging acknowledgement that God in His mercy can love someone so sick as me, but only so long as I can take on the shame that I fought so long to get rid of as I came to accept myself. All things being equal, if every gay child could grow up knowing that he/she is as worthy of love as a straight person, if we didn't have to go through all the other crap that straight people never even conceive of, then, yes, celebacy would be a valid choice to ask of us, just as it is to ask it of a straight person, perhaps it still is, but not if you see "being that way" as some sort of perverse choice in the first place.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 7:59pm BST

"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, in wisdom and true godliness***, that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord"

I still don't get it. :-(

[I *do* get that the AngChCanada is trying for a compromise. As such, I see an attempt at Gospel reconciliation. What I *don't* see, is the acknowledgment that what is being WITHHELD, "nuptial blessing", is yet another way of saying to same-sex couples, "Your love, no matter how dedicated to Christ it is, is still LESS THAN that of ours, the straight majority. You matter less. You are less. You're not truly Imago Dei."]

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 8:23pm BST

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 of blood sports...
How about in Canada?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 8:33pm BST

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?

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 9:05pm BST

What would moderation look like in practice?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 9:50pm BST

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 does not do this kind of objective harm. These comparisons reveal a soulless legalism which misses the point of the Gospel and easy to see through, which is why a growing number of Christians reject this thinking. And God hasn't "clearly" condemned monogamous homosexuality amongst Christians. He "clearly" condemns idolatry and sexual rituals that are used in the worship of other Gods.

Ford says: === will believe the white people are just behaving in their usual arrogant entitled way,===

Reply: That's funny, most of the gay couples in my church are black and Asian. Assuming gay people and their friends are white is quite racist.

On the resolution. It is a milquetoast statement guaranteed to please no one. Gay couples will still have a public recognition of their relationships in church, which will make conservatives unhappy but it won't be a marriage or blessing which is a 2nd class status and won't be accepted by gays.

I hope the GS rejects it.

Posted by: toujoursdan on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 10:03pm BST

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!

Posted by: Deacon Mark on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 11:18pm BST

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.


Posted by: Lou Poulain on Wednesday, 2 May 2007 at 11:43pm BST

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 why the same should not be offered to my relationship with my partner.

And on top of that, bigotry can be repented of. They can change. Being gay is who I am and who God intended me to be (and conservatives have ZERO right to say otherwise). So let's hear it. Why should wanting to exclude a whole class of people not be a cause for being excluded?

And if a few conservatives feel horrified at what I've said, well, then, stop, think about it, and see if the light doesn't come on and maybe you might even finally get it.

Posted by: Dennis on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 2:02am BST

"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.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 11:07am BST

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.

Posted by: Swedish Lutheran on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 11:24am BST

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 to pray a blessing on us to do just that.

We bowed our heads and did not look to see which bishop, priest, deacon, minister, friend or family member felt constrained to remain silent. On that day we were however truly blessed by their love and presence in our lives. For us God’s blessing on our family is a daily reality without which we would not survive and for which we constantly give thanks.

The Canadian bishops’ statement is trying to steer a careful course here by remaining fully in line with the Windsor Report. As Jim says we already see elsewhere that this statement is “sure to satisfy no one on either side”. I do not know how the Canadian General Synod will now move forward and we will all be watching and listening to what is said.

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.

We are, in general, far more willing to “bow our heads” and accept the silence, joyful just to be together. Those who demand such silence will have no joy at being associated with those who can, in good conscience, give voice to a blessing.

As Rowan Williams calls on us all to “be patient” – I sometimes feel it is this reality within our family of churches he is waiting for.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 11:46am BST

"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."


Posted by: Ford Elms on Thursday, 3 May 2007 at 12:33pm BST

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.

Posted by: NP on Friday, 4 May 2007 at 4:52pm BST

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 to learn more about how the world wags, and how things happen in different parts of the world.

There is still Synod in June. I pray cooler heads prevail, but they still may not. That the HOB has reached a concensus is one thing, whether the Canadian Church as a whole agrees is another matter entirely. On this side of the pond, the laity get a say. One important part of all this, if other dioceses are like ours, is that there has been a feeling that we must not be angling and plotting to get our way, but must allow the process of the Church to take its course.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 7 May 2007 at 1:43pm BST

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)

Posted by: NP on Friday, 11 May 2007 at 11:37am BST

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

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 11 May 2007 at 8:09pm BST
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