The Anglican Church of Canada just completed their General Synod. One of the resolutions presented at this synod was for the 2016 General Synod to consider amending canon XXI on marriage to include same-sex marriage. At the moment there are nearly a dozen dioceses that have authorized same-sex blessings, and while it has been repeatedly emphasized that the blessings are not the same as marriage, critics have pointed out that it’s only a matter of time before the blessing ceremony is replaced with a marriage rite.
Malcolm, who attended the synod, notes that the process for voting on the resolution “went sideways”:
We had earlier dealt with a motion directing the Council of General Synod to initiate a process leading to a draft canon permitting Anglican clergy to solemnize same sex marriages. Several things went or nearly went sideways during the debate. Very conservative bishop Stephen Andrews and very liberal dean Peter Elliott combined to propose an amendment that outlined the consultative and theological work required. A brilliant bit of drafting, it offered some assurance to conservatives that their concerns would be heard. Unfortunately the original mover and seconded did not immediately understand what was being proposed and offered up a subamendment that would have cut the guts out of the very eirenic amendment. The subamendment, fortunately, was defeated.
After a very rational debate, the amendment passed. Then things decided to go sideways again. A very few people called for question after almost no debate at all on the resolution as amended, the Primate called for the vote and off we went for a break. When we returned, the Primate acknowledged this error, and also that he’d missed a valid request for a vote by orders….
The Anglican Journal has reflections from both sides, including Gene Packwood’s concern:
…changing the marriage canon to allow the marriage of same-gender couples in church would only hasten the decline in membership and revenues of the church. “I come from Alberta, and when the ELCIC [Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada] made a decision just for the same-sex blessings, 35 congregations left in Alberta alone and their budget declined by 25 per cent.”
I do remember how many folk on the other side of the argument about 10 or so years ago were at pains to point out this was about blessings, not marriage – marriage was not going to be touched. We were not fooled by that, even then.
As someone who is new to the Anglican tradition, I find all of this fascinating and perplexing. I’m left with so many questions.
Is it truly inevitable that the definition of marriage will be altered?
Is it possible to have two definitions of marriage on the books? Or does that become a logistical, theological and pastoral minefield?
If the resolution passes in 2016 and 2019, and the definition of marriage is changed, what does this mean for the conservative parishes and dioceses? Will more churches decide to align with either the ANiC or the Catholic Ordinariate?
What does this mean for the relationship of the ACoC with the broader Anglican Communion? Will this hasten the acceptance of the ANiC as a valid Anglican tradition in communion with Canterbury? Or will it further fracture the cracks in the broader Communion?
Is the definition of marriage merely a “non-essential” or does it in some way reflect larger, “essential” theological disagreements?
I’d love to hear thoughts from Anglicans from both sides of this issue.