Thinking Anglicans

Canadian bishops move on St Michael report

The following is excerpted from a Report from the House of Bishops, Oct. 23 – 26 by Vianney (Sam) Carriere

St. Michael Report

Bishop Victoria Matthews reviewed the work of the Primate’s Theological Commission leading up to the St. Michael Report that concluded that same-sex blessings is a matter of doctrine, but not of core doctrine. She also described the process whereby dioceses of the church were encouraged to consider the report and to comment on it. The question she asked bishops to consider in small groups was whether or not they “buy” the report’s central conclusion. All of the table groups reported back that they agreed with the report’s finding that the issue is doctrinal, but not one of core doctrine. “I won’t guess where that takes us,” Bishop Matthews concluded, “but I think it is important that we know this about ourselves.”

Ontario resolution

After considerable discussion, bishops approved the following statement on a process to bring the St. Michael Report to General Synod next year which was drafted by bishops from the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario. The statement is as follows:

We believe that as bishops we are called to exercise special responsibility in maintaining the unity of the church. We seek to provide leadership as we grapple with the issues posed by our continuing debate around human sexuality.

We believe that the Canadian Church will be looking for one or more significant decisions on these matters at General Synod 2007, and that further inaction, or the perception of stalling, may result in widespread disobedience in many parts of our Province and possibly further impair our relationship with the Anglican Communion.

We are aware that we occupy different places in the spectrum of convictions and hopes in the Canadian Church. We are happy to share the experience of affirming much that is common between us.

We welcome the work done by the St. Michael Report and the Windsor Report, particularly their identification of the nature of the doctrinal issues involved. We believe General Synod resolutions on these matters that engage their recommendations seriously will increase our credibility both within the church and within the communion. We believe the converse will also apply.

Our assessment of the current situation is that, doctrinally, there is no common mind in the church concerning the grounds for giving or withholding the blessing of same sex unions. Substantial numbers of our church, however, believe passionately that those doctrines have already been decided. We believe that further argument alone is unlikely to move people from their positions at this time. We believe the task of General Synod 2007 is to find an appropriate course of action for our situation. Paradoxically, if a way to live together as a church can be found, a theological consensus might develop within a framework of stability.

We advise against a change in the marriage canon at this time.

We believe that we should undertake intentional diplomacy in our international relationships within the Anglican Communion.

We urge the Church to show pastoral understanding and sensitivity to all same-sex couples, including those civilly married. As the National House of Bishops we agree to develop pastoral strategies to give effect to the acceptance of gays and lesbians to whom we are already committed by previous General Synod and COGS resolutions, House of Bishops guidelines, and Lambeth Conference statements.

We recommend the following processes for the consideration of the 2007 General Synod:

  • We believe that it is essential that there should be adequate time to consider what will be on the table. To assist in promoting useful discussion, we recommend substantial use of the Synod sitting as Committee of the Whole.
  • We share great wariness about the possibility of surprise motions, and urge attention and sensitivity to energy levels and emotions around important issues, and an avoidance of the passage of contradictory motions.

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J. C. Fisher
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J. C. Fisher

“We believe that further argument alone is unlikely to move people from their positions at this time.”

I agree with this. Only the *example* of faithful, same-sex couples—couples who DESERVE a blessing FROM the church, because they ARE a blessing TO the church—will “move people” (well, they—along with the Holy Spirit—will! :-D)

Jim Pratt
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Jim Pratt

J.C.,
Quite right. One of the helpful (and frequently overlooked) points the St. Michael Report makes is that doctrinal and liturgical development often go hand in hand, that doctrine need not be settled and decided before new liturgies are introduced.

I hope that the experience of New Westminster (and a few places that are operating beneath the radar) will set an example and help move us from argument to living the Gospel. Unfortunately, I don’t think anything much beyond maintaining the status quo is going to happen at GS’07 (or even ’10 for that matter).