Thursday, 10 June 2010

Canadian General Synod - Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment

Updated Friday morning

The Canadian General Synod discussed sexuality this morning. Here is the official report of the debate.

Resolution A115: Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment Carried

Resolution A115: Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment Carried
June 10, 2010

On Thursday, June 10, members of General Synod 2010 passed resolution A115 — Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment. The resolution affirms a statement on the discussions that took place at General Synod on human sexuality and, “requests the General Secretary to forward it to the Diocesan Bishops with the request that it will be distributed within each diocese.”

The statement was first distributed for review and consideration on Wednesday evening, June 9, after members had been provided with time on the agenda in the morning to meet in the discernment groups for further discussion on this topic. The feedback recorded during the morning provided the context for the statement.

While there was no resolution on the topic of human sexuality on the agenda prior to the start of General Synod 2010, throughout the course of the proceedings members were advised that resolutions on the topic of human sexuality had until 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 9 to be submitted to the chair of the resolutions committee.

Resolution A115 was passed by a wide margin. Thanks and appreciation was extended for all who were involved in the development of the statement.

This is the full text of the adopted resolution.

A115: Affirmation of Sexuality Discernment
Be it resolved that this General Synod:

Affirms the attached statement of its discussions on human sexuality and requests the General Secretary to forward it to the Diocesan Bishops with the request that it will be distributed within each diocese.

The “attached statement” is copied below the fold.


There is now a second article on the ACoC website: Human sexuality statement produces historic moment in the life of the church.

Here is the Anglican Journal report: Hope within diversity. No legislative decision on same-sex blessings but an open spirit enters discussions.

And Tobi Cohen writes in the Vancouver Sun: Anglicans fail to resolve gay-marriage debate.

Sexuality Discernment report, June 9, 2010

Discernment on Sexuality
General Synod 2010

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in Halifax, Nova Scotia in June of 2010. Together we entered into intentional conversations in order to hear where our Church is at this time in its life in relation to the matter of blessing of same gender unions. Our conversations were marked by grace, honesty and generosity of spirit towards one another. There was robust participation in the conversations. In dialogue we shared our passion for the mission of God in the world and our thoughts, feelings and convictions. We were attentive to each others’ perspectives, experiences and stories and we shared a commitment to continued theological reflection and scriptural study as a foundation to our ongoing dialogue and discernment.

We engaged these conversations within the particularity of our Canadian context – a country that is diverse and many cultured. Canadians have been learning how to dialogue across their diversities over the course of our national life. We do so with deeply held commitments to transparency and openness, an approach that is not without risk and that we affirm as a great gift. Often, in processes of discernment, the task is to see our way through a paradox.

Our conversations affirmed the full inclusion of gay and lesbian members in our churches, aboriginal voices in our midst, and the wide range of perspectives on the issue of same gender blessings across all dioceses. Our dialogue has been a positive and helpful step in our discernment. At this time, however, we are not prepared to make a legislative decision. Above, in and through all of this, and despite all our differences we are passionately committed to walking together, protecting our common life.

We acknowledge diverse pastoral practices as dioceses respond to their own missional contexts. We accept the continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral responses. We recognize that these different approaches raise difficulties and challenges. When one acts there are implications for all. There can be no imposition of a decision or action, but rather we are challenged to live together sharing in the mission of Christ entrusted to us, accepting that different local contexts call at times for different local discernment, decision and action.

We are in a time of ongoing discernment which requires mutual accountability through continuing dialogue, diocese to diocese and across the wider church. It also requires continued theological and scriptural study and dialogue on the wide range of matters relating to human sexuality.

For many members of General Synod there is deep sadness that, at this time, there is no common mind. We acknowledge the pain that our diversity in this matter causes. We are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process. This is not just an ‘issue’ but is about people’s daily lives and deeply held faith commitments. For some, even this statement represents a risk. For some the statement does not go nearly far enough.

In the transparency and openness we have experienced with one another, we have risked vulnerability but it is in such places that we grow closer in the body of Christ and behold each other as gift. Abiding with each other, and with God we are sustained through struggle, patient listening, and speaking from the mind and heart together. We have experienced these conversations as a gift for us here at Synod and hope that they will be a further gift to the Anglican Church of Canada and to the wider Church.

Posted by Peter Owen on Thursday, 10 June 2010 at 8:00pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Canada

It has been an amazing day. Best to read the statement in the context of the video - go to to check out video (both live and archived) from the floor of General Synod. We kinda value our transparency here in Canada!

Posted by: Eileen Scully on Thursday, 10 June 2010 at 8:45pm BST

Folks may be interested in the take of the Vancouver Sun

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 11 June 2010 at 3:15am BST

Rod Gillis posted the following comment in a thread that wasn't Canadian, so I am showing it below.

"I think one could differ sharply with Eileen Scully about the state of transparency in Canada. Many of us value synodical government. Some of us among that number evaluate the outcome of General Synod, and the process utilized to achieve that outcome, as a step backwards. One characteristic of what has taken place at Canada's General Synod is that it was based on the premise that open debate was not to be trusted, was not subject to finesse and management, and juxtaposed " heated passion" with "respectful dialogue". It's a false dichotomy. Democracy is as messy as it is transparent; it just happens to be outside the comfort zone of most churches. While I'm sure the majority of delegates to GS will recount a feel good experience, to some of us at least, it is, with more appeals to "study" the issue, simply a cop-out. Question: Who are we we most committed to, the foreign prelate off shore or the gay and lesbian person in the pew next to you? Rhetorical affirmations to the contrary, The Canadian Church has answered the question in favor of the former.Pardon me for engaging in a small bit of prophetic diakonia of my own."

Rod Gillis 2010-06-11 00:53:18

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Friday, 11 June 2010 at 6:39am BST

Chris Ambidge at Integrity Canada has a moving take on this. He seems to think it's a good deal.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Friday, 11 June 2010 at 2:55pm BST

It's a non legislative decision to affirm local discernment and will be interpreted differently in different dioceses. Some bishops are saying this effectively non-legislatively affirms their ability to move forward with blessing of same sex civilly married couples; others also affirm this and say they're pleased that it does not endorse such as the General Synod teaching to which they would be bound. Others, further will want maintenance of moratorium. The transparency is in continuing to hold together with respect that there is and is going to be continued disagreement. Only time is going to tell what the actions of some dioceses are going to be.

Posted by: Scully on Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 1:04am BST

Eileen, from all reports the meeting of General Synod was subject to a close management of debate from before the get-go, and now post GS spin doctoring. I hear it was a love-in, as we used to say. There has been lots of talk about a statement that does not have "winners and losers", but in fact one of the winners is the Canadian House of bishops as a group. They emerged from the previous synod in 2007 as the spoilers who effectively vetoed a decision by lay and clergy delegates to allow dioceses a local option. Now,of course, the heat is off because the responsibility for our current situation has been taken on by GS. Transparency goes to the root of the procedures utilized. Replacing open debate from the floor with filtered small groups is at the heart of the transparency issue. I fully expect this "process" will be used next time. The condescending description of debate by advocates of conversation minding is alarming. Transparency is related to trust, and the message is GS delegates can't be trusted with open debate and opinion on the floor, rather big brother needs to hold their hand. It's a sad day for governance by synod. When you add this to the growing trend in the Communion towards a hierarchical ( which means patriarchal) church, and I include Canada in that based in part on our recent GS, we are losing something very precious.
If we wanted an honest statement on where the Canadian Church is on sexuality issues, we had that prior to GS 2010 i.e. a majority of clergy and laity in favor, a slim majority of bishops opposed, and dioceses in the urban corridors moving as their context dictated. Your comments above seem to indicate that we still have that, except its buried in this new statement under a lot of group hug rhetoric.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 12 June 2010 at 2:22pm BST


When I first heard the statement read out I was very upset. I felt it did not go far enough (I still don't think it does.) And originally I did not believe that it did reflect the discussion of my group. But after a short bit of sleep that night I sat down and took another look at it.

I remembered a fair amount of the discussion in my group being around the idea that we did not want local option coming in as legislation. And yes, this is not fair to our GLBT brothers and sisters. But, to push for it would also not be fair to our brothers and sisters who are not able to support it at this time.

I guess that we want our cake and eat it too. We want to have local option and we want to stay together as a national church. There was a lot of talk about paradoxes in what was being put forward. The statement very accurately reflects where the Canadian Church is right now.

If we had pushed the local option bit I believe it would not have passed and the door would still remain closed. The House of Bishop's statement from 08 would have remained in effect as our guideline and limits. In supporting this statement we have opened the door to the possibility of local option while still moving together as a church. It allows us more time for discernment and that will be a discernment more people will listen to with open hearts.

No, the statement is not ideal from our point of view and we all realized that. But it does accurately reflect what happened and that is really all it says it does.

Love and Prayers,
Ann Marie

Posted by: Ann Marie Nicklin on Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 12:01am BST

Thanks Anne Marie (Nicklin) for your post. It’s reflective and irenic. I'm grateful for your comments. It’s interesting to read the comments coming forward from GS delegates in the wake of Synod. Posts on several sites indicate that the Statement is tacit permission for continuing the local option. However I'm not on side with what GS has done. GS does not exist to make life more comfortable for bishops, or even delegates. The process used has a strong streak of paternalism in it. "There, there, let me guide you through this conversation so you are not wounded by the subject matter." Its bishops as IN LOCO PARENTIS. No thank you. I’m an adult now your grace. I think you express the dilemma well, "We want to have local option and we want to stay together as a national church." The statement is strong on the peace and unity of the church perhaps, but it does not hunger and thirst for justice for those excluded. Who benefits most from this approach? Going back to Gutierrez and the Medellin Conference, social teaching has proceeded on the basis of the "preferential option for the poor." We are called to see the struggle for liberty through the experience of the oppressed. In any struggle between privilege and oppression, the oppressed have preferential priority on the basis of the claims the Gospel makes upon us. The principle can be applied to members of the gay and lesbian community within the churches. The GS Statement is really about giving priority to institutional harmony. It sees the issue first and foremost from the perspectives of bishops, National Staff, and a majority who are not members of the gay and lesbian community.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 13 June 2010 at 4:55pm BST
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