Marriage canon commission members announced
Canon Robert Falby, chancellor of the diocese of Toronto and former prolocutor of General Synod, will chair the commission on the marriage canon. File photo: Art Babych
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, today announced the appointment of the members of a commission that will carry out a broad consultation about changing the marriage canon (church law) to allow same-sex marriage.
Canon Robert Falby, chancellor of the diocese of Toronto and former prolocutor of General Synod, will chair the eight-member commission. The other members are: Dr. Patricia Bays, Dean Kevin Dixon, the Rev. Dr. Paul Friesen, Canon Paul Jennings, Dr. Stephen Martin, Bishop Linda Nicholls and Archbishop John Privett.
In July 2013, General Synod—the church’s governing body—enacted Resolution C003, which will bring a motion concerning same-sex marriage to its next meeting in 2016. The resolution asked Council of General Synod (CoGS) to prepare and present a motion to change the church’s Canon 21 on marriage “to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples.” It also asked that this motion include “a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in our authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience.”
The resolution also directs that there be a broad consultation about the preparation of the motion. At its fall meeting, CoGS passed a motion to establish a commission on the marriage canon to carry out the consultation. At the meeting, Hiltz said membership of the commission would reflect “a diversity of theological perspective.”
In his letter to members of CoGS, Hiltz include a brief profile of the commission members.
He noted that Robert Falby has “an extensive knowledge of the workings of the church, its canons and constitution” and is “a devoted Anglican” who is also “calm, measured and fair.”
Patricia Bays, from the diocese of Ottawa, is a theologian and author, a former chair of the Windsor Report Response Group, and a former member of the Anglican Consultative Council.
Kevin Dixon, from the diocese of Huron, is dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ont., and has “extensive experience in facilitating dialogue over matters of human sexuality.”
Paul Friesen, from the diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, is the rector of St. Paul’s Church, Halifax, an associate fellow of King’s College, and is a “strong academic theologian” who is also known for his ability to bring people together.
A theologian from the diocese of Montreal, Paul Jennings was a member of the Primate’s Theological Commission and was formerly director of pastoral studies at Montreal Diocesan Theological College.
Stephen Martin, from the diocese of Edmonton, is associate professor of theology at King’s University College, an examining chaplain for candidates for ordination and a specialist in political theology and ethics.
Bishop Linda Nicholls, the suffragan bishop for Trent-Durham region, was a member of the Primate’s Theological Commission, a former member of the faith, worship and ministry committee, and is “sensitive to the ecumenical dimension to this conversation.” Nicholls is co-chair of the Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue of Canada.
Archbishop John Privett, bishop of Kootenay and Metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon, has “extensive training and experience in constructive dialogue” and is “mindful of the need for Communion-wide consultation.”
Hiltz noted that the commission may “invite submissions from specific individuals or groups” and may invite advisors to assist its work. The commission’s terms of reference also provide that any member of the church can offer written submissions about the matter. Hiltz also said that “to ensure the credibility of the commission and the transparency of its work, all submissions…will be posted on the national Church’s website.”
The commission is expected to submit a progress report on its work at the spring meeting of CoGS. Its final report, to be submitted at the fall 2015 meeting of CoGS, will include recommendations on the wording of the enabling motion called for in the C003 resolution and on the wording of the conscience clause.
This pro-active decision by the Anglican Church in Canada, to raise up a special Commission to look into the possibility of changing its rules on Marriage to consider the possibility of allowing for Same sex Marriage to take place in its churches, is timely.
While other Provinces of the Communion are lagging behind on this important issue, one must congratulate Archbishop Fred Hiltz and the AC of C for actually formalising a procedure for dealing with it.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand