Saturday, 31 January 2009

Toronto: Same-sex Unions

The bishops of the Diocese of Toronto are proposing to respond pastorally in the matter of committed same-sex relationships.

See the press announcement: Bishops propose pastoral response to committed same-sex relationships.

See the Draft Discussion Document for Consultation (PDF).

The press statement includes:

The bishops’ proposal in offering a pastoral response is as follows:

  • Episcopal permission be given to a limited number of parishes, based on Episcopal discernment, to offer prayers and blessing (but not the nuptial blessing) to same-sex couples in stable, long-term, committed relationships, as an extension of the current pastoral norms.
  • Episcopal guidelines on the nature of the prayers/blessing will be established. A particular rite will not be authorized.
  • Episcopal permission for blessings will be required.
  • Evaluation of this pastoral response will be undertaken after one year.
  • No parish or clergy will be required to participate.
  • A Bishop’s Commission will be formed to create the guidelines, monitor activity and review.
Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 2:47pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Canada
Comments

I was never convinced by the phenomenon called 'the Toronto blessing' all those year ago. But how lovely to be able to reclaim the idea of the Toronto blessing from the charismatics!

Posted by: Neil on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 3:04pm GMT

Yes, but a blessing hedged around with reistrictions and caveats, it woul apppear.

Still far, far from any kind of equality.

How many heterosexual lovers would rejoice at such an 'offer' ? At being called on to submit to such a process ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 6:24pm GMT

Two points stand out from the text:

"The current status of the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Diocese of Toronto in particular, is adherence to the Pastoral Statement of the House of Bishops of 2007 within which a wide pastoral generosity has been encouraged."

This is problematic in that it elevates a "Pastoral Statement" to something akin to law which demands "adherence". The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada has no constitutional existence, let alone any authority, and so whilst it may issue any number of communiques, pastoral statements or what have you, these should not be confused with authoritative instruments, any more than Lambeth resolutions should. Proper form here would be to indicate that the Bishop of Toronto is promulgating the Pastoral Statement of 2007 as his own. That is the only way for it to have any authority such that it would demand "adherence".

Second, the proposal is to "offer prayers and blessing to same-sex couples in stable long-term committed relationships." Given that there is no mention of Civil Marriage, I take it that couples who are cohabiting but not civilly married may request such prayers and blessing, creating a right for same-sex couples that is not extended to heterosexual couples, who must marry in order to avail themselves of the prayers and blessings offered by the Church.

Finally, it is unfortunate (though not terribly surprising) that Toronto has decided to act on its own. Five other Canadian dioceses have adopted identical motions at their respective Synods in the past year and a bit, requesting permission for the blessing of same-sex civil marriages. The five bishops have yet to act on these requests, but at least they are trying to co-ordinate both the request and the response. Toronto seems not to value this collegiality. After a century and a half of Synodical government in Canada, some bishops apparently still believe themselves to be a law unto themselves.

That said, this now means that there are seven dioceses prepared to move forward now with blessings, one of which, New Westminster, has already done so some time ago. An eighth, Rupert's Land, has also indicated its willingness to go ahead once it feels it has a green light from the General Synod (ignoring the green light from the 2007 meeting).

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 7:11pm GMT

Oh brother: nearly 6 years after Civil Marriage (for same-sex couples) was permitted in Canada---and lo, the sky did not fall!---and THIS is the most the DioToronto can offer?!

[Yes, yes, I know: such miniscule baby-steps will STILL give GAFCON the vapors...]

The sooner we can get that d*mn "Prop H8" (ssm ban) overturned in California, the sooner TEC can go back to showing the AC "how it's done"! [Hint-hint: it begins on p.422 of the '79 BCP---w/ only *minor* changes]

Posted by: JCF on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 8:05pm GMT

I suppose this action of the bishops in Toronto could be seen as, at least, an opening up of the Church towards the recognition of same-sex relationship - as being a part of God's ordinance for the Church as well as the world. Will this provision for 'blessings' be extended to include *marriage* one wonders, once the intended proposal of President Obama in the US (to allow equal rights of 'maairage' to gay couples) becomes law in Canada's neighboring country?

Perhaps what really needs to be discussed more fully at this point is the theology of marriage, where, formerly, there was an expectation of the possibility of a procreative element in marriage (of heterosexuals), but this seems to have been overlooked in the case of older, or sexually incapacitated heterosexual marriage partnerships.

In an era where many heterosexual couples are not necessarily looking to the sacrament of Holy Matrimony for affirmation of their relationship, one might ask whether gay couples, necessarily, need to go through a ceremony of 'Holy Matrimony' in order to receive the Blessing of God in the Church.- A very difficult and perhaps contentious subject, I know, but one which might need some clarification at some point.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 31 January 2009 at 11:43pm GMT

Incredible , when one considers that until the 1960s Canadian Anglicanism forbade the re-marriage of divorced persons.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 6:40am GMT

'Second, the proposal is to "offer prayers and blessing to same-sex couples in stable long-term committed relationships." Given that there is no mention of Civil Marriage, I take it that couples who are cohabiting but not civilly married may request such prayers and blessing, creating a right for same-sex couples that is not extended to heterosexual couples, who must marry in order to avail themselves of the prayers and blessings offered by the Church.'

I feel for those poor heterosexual couples with their burden of discrimination. May their burdens soon be eased...


Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 12:22pm GMT

"Incredible, when one considers that until the 1960s Canadian Anglicanism forbade the re-marriage of divorced persons."

What was that? changing the subject... Some kind of slippery slope trick?

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 1:05pm GMT

"I feel for those poor heterosexual couples with their burden of discrimination. May their burdens soon be eased..."

The point was not that there are large numbers of heterosexuals suffering from inordinate discrimination, but that the Canadian General Synod had a debate in 2001 with respect to the blessing of cohabiting but non-married couples and decided against it. I don't see how it is consistent to offer such a blessing to a cohabiting couple who are of the same sex when it would be withheld from a heterosexual couple. Equality demands that the requirement should be the same, does it not?

Obviously the step that should be taken is to amend the marriage canon to permit same-sex marriage, and thus bring same-sex couples formally under the same pastoral regime that exists for heterosexual couples. But a diocese cannot amend the canon, and must take what baby steps it can within its own jurisdiction.

Posted by: Nom de Plume on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 2:59pm GMT

Personally, whilst I think that any move forward has to be positive, I can see no reason why any gay couple would want to bother when the state gives is so much more - really, it just demonstrates how redundant the Church is to me and to many others who once saw themselves as believers.

Quite honestly, life is really so much better without having to bother with this nonsense.

As the sign on the bus said - there's probably no God, so get on and enjoy your life - as a gay couple with the statutory rights we all worked so hard for.

And recognise , those of you who do not yet have those rights - the best way to get them is to work for the downgrading of the importance of religion.

I know some of you won't like hearing this, but it's true. Progressive secularism is better for gay rights than religious influence. Go on, give it a go - its amazing how quickly one realises that religion and gods are not necessary.

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 4:56pm GMT

"I feel for those poor heterosexual couples with their burden of discrimination."

When did sharing a privilege and expanding a right become discrimination?
Poor me, I have to share a building and a city with other inhabitants, with people I don't know and don't like. I feel so put upon! The very idea that other people might have fully as legitimate a claim on this world as my own makes me feel diminished.

Posted by: counterlight on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 6:45pm GMT

Point well taken Pen Name, what's good for the goose is good for the gander and for Canadian to allow such a loophole in the law feeds the "special rights" arguments of the gay bashing right wing in North America.

Merseymike, I had a "go" at it in my mid-twenties, and it was a hollow, shallow, self-indulgent life that ended up in on one bar stool after another. You sound amazingly like George Bush I's saying of "don't worry, be happy" mantra.

It is our love of Christ that many of us refuse to let Christianity be perverted by psychological misfits and power-mongers that use it as a weapon against our LGBT brethren. The Gospel is never easy for anybody to hear, and the fight within Christianity is exactly that, and some of us aren't going to go quietly and forget that Christ still loves us, even though we thought that we got over that as well.

Posted by: choirboyfromhell on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 6:48pm GMT

Collapsing big tent Anglican spaces globally and inviting the rest of us to become invisible and silent, or leave - this is more or less what the conservative Anglican realignment is mainly doing.

Educated citizens are being told that they only way they can be in communion with an impoverished African believer in, say, Darfur is to burn any degrees or certificates, abandon one's professional work (or at least fall scrupulously silent about being involved daily at work with modern best practice tool kits), and delight in having all manner of pat conservative biblicisms preached as closed, eternal good news.

Beneath all that first tier business, Anglicans will then have to endure local to regional norms which would violate the human rights of, say, queer folks or women all around the planet. Given civil marriage in Canada for queer folks, this or that Canadian diocese wrestles with just that end of the human rights shift which is completely impossible, by first tier proposed new Anglican standards. How stunned straight people act when they finally realize that some wholesome, competent, gifted co-worker or co-believer just happens to be a queer person. What does that shock - and above all that intellectual-emotional paralysis moment - still measure for us? The news from that process is that surprisingly wide-spread shifts are manifesting in several dioceses. God bless our lovely Canadian mess, then.

Funny thing is that Anglican bishops are almost always reliable, official brake pullers so far - seemingly terrified that some change (like making lifelong ethical commitments? like being involved daily at work with modern best practices of inquiry and scholarship?) will so frighten the horses that all of us will be driven tragically over the nearest steep cliffs.

What the GAFCONite believers simply cannot understand or recognize is that for many of us, TEC or maybe ACCanada were welcoming after we had been excommunicated and reviled inside our childhood-family USA Bible Belt or conservative Canadian churches. Or, that progressive believer venues in the global big tents were more intellectually compatible with the rest of daily life for an educated citizen in a western modern democracy in USA or Canada, more effective and intellectually rigorous than anything GAFCON has offered so far in its pat conservative Anglican witness, let alone in its studied antigay meanness.

Posted by: drdanfee on Sunday, 1 February 2009 at 9:12pm GMT

"Perhaps what really needs to be discussed more fully at this point is the theology of marriage, where, formerly, there was an expectation of the possibility of a procreative element in marriage (of heterosexuals), but this seems to have been overlooked in the case of older, or sexually incapacitated heterosexual marriage partnerships."
Hear, Hear!
In the Catholic Church perpetual impotence and not infertility is an impediment to marriage. To some this may seem arbitrary or discriminatory; to be sure, compassion should be offered to anyone suffering from either condition. However marriage is defined, as a result one will discriminate between those who are married and those who are not.
Marriage is certainly about more than just heterosexual intercourse, but what does it mean to talk of marriage without it? Consider a soufflé: it certainly contains more than just eggs, but what is a soufflé without eggs?

Posted by: Ley Druid on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 5:31am GMT

"Marriage is certainly about more than just heterosexual intercourse, but what does it mean to talk of marriage without it?"

Unless you're policing it, it makes no sense to talk about sex at all. You can theorise and moralise all you like, every child born is possibly proof of one act of heterosexual intercourse, and that's as close as anyone gets to evaluating the role sex plays in a marriage.

It's about time we left sex to the people involved and talked about other goods and functions of marriage.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 10:39am GMT

"can see no reason why any gay couple would want to bother when the state gives is so much more"

I was unaware that any state gave us freedom from sin and death, access to free grace, and citizenship in the Kingdom of God. I know Canada might look like Heaven on Earth to those outside our borders :-) Trust me, it isn't.

Posted by: Ford Elms on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 12:15pm GMT

So Ley Druid you advocate (do you) that if you (one) can't get it up, then you can't get married ? Bit odd.

And anyway how would anyone -- let alone a minister RC or otherwise, know such personal information ? !

Religion can be decidedly odd...

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 2:19pm GMT

But I just don't believe all that super-spiritual flim-flam any more, Ford. Neither do I think the only alternative to Christianity is hedonistic alcoholism, choirboy. Try intellectually credible humanism. It works for me.

But all the same, I'm glad you are there to speak out for justice, even though I think you are ultimately on to a loser - religion in the west will become ever more the laager for the prejudiced and backward looking

Posted by: Merseymike on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 4:29pm GMT

As a protestant, I am not clear that 'the Church' 'gives' these 'things' either.

Also, questions of meaning and spirituality are raised,for my self.

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 4:45pm GMT

Well said, choirboy & Ford.

Merseymike, I was enriched by your posts here for quite a few years---now, it's really time for you to move on. May you find what you're looking for out in that great godless world(view). We'll leave the light on for you, if it's less than advertised.

Posted by: JCF on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 7:08pm GMT

"It's about time we left sex to the people involved and talked about other goods and functions of marriage."

I would be curious to know what the present Bishop of Rome would have to say about the woman here in the US who just had octuplets. And has six young children at home - she is 33 and divorced and lives with her parents - ALL of her children are the result of in vitro fertilization.

Lots of ethical questions about that.

I've not heard of any gay couples with 14 in vitro children!


Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 7:43pm GMT

Ley Druid, as you note, it is impotence, not infertility, the impedes marriage among Roman Catholics. So it is quite possible to have the marriage soufflé without eggs.

If you insist that heterosexual intercourse is the sine qua non for marriage, then obviously there would be no marriage without heterosexual intercourse. But that predicate is not conceded, if for no other reason than, for example, Canada thinks otherwise. You may think this ought not be, but it is. Marriage, in Canada, does not require heterosexual intercourse.

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Monday, 2 February 2009 at 8:47pm GMT

Mike
"But I just don't believe all that super-spiritual flim-flam any more"

That's perfectly ok, but it has little to do with the lgbt issue.
That people get God wrong and use religion as an oppressive tool is one thing.
That God doesn't exist quite another.
You're intelligent enough to understand the difference.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 3:50am GMT

Tobias Haller,
Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, may bestow her Royal Assent and enact legislation.
In her infinite wisdom, she has decreed that: "No person shall marry another person if they are related lineally, or as brother or sister or half-brother or half-sister, including by adoption." Sorry, but I find it more than a little disingenuous not to talk about sex in marriage. Surely two siblings or parents and children could enjoy the other goods and functions of marriage. Is this law merely an anachronism from the bad old days when people talked about sex and marriage? Or does this point to truths about marriage beyond the law?

Lest there be any confusion, I am NOT imputing any characteristics of incest to any other definition of marriage, except for the necessity to include a discussion of sex for its full understanding.

Posted by: Ley Druid on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 5:41am GMT

"Or does this point to truths about marriage beyond the law?"

It points to biological truths beyond the law, i.e. that there is an increased likelihood of genetic defects if close relatives marry.

No-one denies that sex is or can be a part of marriage, the question is whether it has to be the sole and overriding part to the extent that it even defines marriage.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 9:25am GMT

"But I just don't believe all that super-spiritual flim-flam any more, Ford."

We know. You've made it abundantly clear. So why do you feel the need to keep proclaiming it? And why do you look down your nose at those who do? Why is spirituality anathema for you? You seem to think the Church is nothing more than some sort of club to give social acceptability to human behaviours and you're all upset because they won't give you their imprimatur. Well, that isn't what the Church is. No-one's forcing you to be a Christian, nor is anyone forcing you to hautily infer your superiority in not believing that sort of abstract, superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Personally, I think you're ignoring a side of your humanity that is vital. And no, that's not your immortal soul that God will roast for all eternity. He won't. It's the part of you that reaches out for something deeper and more "real" in some sense than what can be perceived and grasped, your "spirit" for want of a less emotionally charged word. Oh, you don't need to be a Christian to do that of course, I often think Buddhism is a better fit for people who, for whatever reason, harbour such anger for the Church that they can't even look at the abstract spiritual side of what it is to be human. So, go ahead, look down at us superstitious primitives if you want, you're still allowing a big chunk of your humanity to wither because you can't get past whatever it is that has made you so angry. Seriously, give a bit of thought to Buddhism, you might find some peace in your soul, 'cuz there doesn't seem to be much there now, and you appear to need it. This isn't the first place I've encountered you, and you are still making the same comments, still venting the same anger. There has not been one shred of healing in you, from what I can see. Rubbing your scorn for other people's beliefs in their faces really has not moved you on the path to healing, has not given you any peace. Isn't it time to maybe try a new tactic?

Posted by: Ford Elms on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 1:44pm GMT

Ley Druid,
You are confusing me here. I'm talking about what you referred to above -- "heterosexual sex" -- which you said was essential to marriage, unless I'm misunderstanding you. My allegation is that sex is indeed a part of marriage, but that it can and does take place within a same-sex relationship. This is what Canada recognizes. Marriage is to some extent about sex -- not procreation -- which is why the incest rule still holds. Sex between related persons is proscribed by law whether same- or mixed-sex, and regardless of fertility. (With the exception, in certain parts of the world, to permit Uncle-Niece marriage, which is allowed under Jewish law. In some places such marriages are only permitted to Jews, and then only with proof of infertility or advanced age.)

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 3:39pm GMT

I am baffled, frankly, by both Merseymike and Robert Ian Williams. Both of them have "moved on" from Anglicanism, yet both are constant (and often caustic) posters here. Curious.

Posted by: Malcolm+ on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 6:09pm GMT


re Mike and Robert -

Would it do if we were all the same I wonder ?

Posted by: Rev L Roberts on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 8:58pm GMT

I guess, Malcom+, that there is much more going on in the environment of Anglicanism at the moment than both Merseymike and Robert I Williams are able to discern within their own respective areas, of either: Church - Robert, RCC; or world atheism - Merseymike. Sometimes, it is easier for outsiders to comment on important activities outside of their own experience, than it is to try to discover what it is within their own particular milieu that might be at all interesting to anyone else.

Perhaps both are so absorbed with the fact that the Anglican Communion still has something worth commenting upon - in the way of real interest in the real world - that they are jealous and want to beome part of it?

Well! Comment is free - as long as it doesn't do anyone else any harm. (But, one does wonder?)

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 3 February 2009 at 10:20pm GMT

I find it very odd that just because someone isn;t part of an organisation any longer, that it should then follow that one has no interest in what goes on within it.

As an advocate for gay equality I find the position of the Church fascinating as the main institution in the UK which is refusing to accept or even live with the changes of recent years. That interests me sociologically and personally.

Ford: I really don't think that 'healing' and 'peace' are on my agenda, politically. On a personal level, anything to do with the church is now somewhat abstract, but politically - anything but. Its absolutely right to be angry because of homophobia, and absolutely wrong to give succour to those who are prepared to compromise with it. Its this sheer wimpiness which always exasperated me about liberal Anglicans!

Whilst the Anglican Communion actively works against equality for gay people then I think I have every reason to comment upon it.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 6 February 2009 at 5:48pm GMT

Mersey
"As an advocate for gay equality I find the position of the Church fascinating as the main institution in the UK which is refusing to accept or even live with the changes of recent years. That interests me sociologically and personally."

I'm almost on my way out of the Anglican Church. Partly because I find their stances on political issues so irrelevant, it's almost comical. And once something doesn't make political or humanistic sense anymore it simply makes no sense.

God created this world, us within this world, and if you believe in the incarnation, he came as a part of this world. So I really really really don't do this "selling out to the world" stuff.

But one thing I know. Although the church is almost irrelevant, my faith isn't. If that were too, there's not absolutely no reason to hang around on Christian blogs. Or Hindu ones. Or Buddhist ones... it's a faith thing.

Especially in our society where engaging with the church is going against the stream.
Academic interest? Maybe. But it wouldn't be enough to keep me reading and posting on TA. Or do you post as much on Roman Catholic sites for sociological and personal reasons?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 6 February 2009 at 11:13pm GMT

If something makes me annoyed it is the charge that if someone leaves the faith or the Church of the faith then they have unresolved issues or something spiritual not being met etc..

There is bound to be some anger, at least frustration, that something you - as an individual - once attempted to reform becomes an institution largely of negative social impact. In the UK the Church of England retains an influence that is newsworthy, so it is right to maintain comment upon it at least until disestablished.

I don't think I can maintain the label Christian any more, but I still practice Christianity. I really do not want to have any association with the likes of Orombi and Venables (etc.). Nor do I think I should simply vanish into making up the numbers in a local church, the passivity of a second class worshipper.

It does become increasingly difficult to comment on structural issues when, frankly, what the Anglican Communion ends up doing is of little concern. What the Church of England does remains of concern. Still, it is a social world and I can see that quite a few mainstream, broad, liberal Christians will find Orombi and Venables's latest thoughts utterly offensive, as they are on the wider human stage.

http://pluralistspeaks.blogspot.com/2009/02/being-offensive.html

Posted by: Pluralist on Saturday, 7 February 2009 at 4:30am GMT

"If something makes me annoyed it is the charge that if someone leaves the faith or the Church of the faith then they have unresolved issues or something spiritual not being met etc.."

Who is saying that?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 7 February 2009 at 1:36pm GMT

Erika - no, but then I have never been a Roman Catholic - and remember that I am English, and the Anglicans are the established church here. So, like it or not, they have influence on me and others like me.

Pluralist explained that quite well.

It wasn't something I planned, Erika - juat realised that it didn't make sense to me any more

Posted by: Merseymike on Sunday, 8 February 2009 at 9:30pm GMT

Merseymike

Well, maybe a part of something "not making sense any more" is that you have to slag it off as "flim flam" and ridicule those who still find it meaningful on a forum that is supposed to be for constructive conversation.

As for Anglicanism being the established church - I'm not sure I understand the argument Pluralist makes.

The church has very little influence, only in its own realm is it still allowed to discriminate against people on spurious "religious" grounds.
In any other aspect of politics it has become almost irrelevant and because of its squabbles and anti-human justice views, it isn't even a serious partner in public political discourse any more.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Monday, 9 February 2009 at 8:10am GMT
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