Response from General Synod officials
[Anglican Church of Canada] Earlier today [Monday], the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada sent a communication to members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS). . . The communication takes place within the context of a continued engagement of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) in consideration of same-sex relationships going back at least 40 years.
More recently, the meeting of the General Synod 2004 adopted Resolution A134 affirming the sanctity and integrity of adult same-sex relationships. This resolution also affirms the crucial value of continued respectful dialogue and study and that all bishops, clergy and lay leaders be instrumental in that dialogue and study.
In 2010, the meeting of the General Synod adopted a statement acknowledging the diversity of practice across the Anglican Church of Canada regarding the blessing of committed same-sex relationships.
Then at the General Synod in 2013, the conversation moved from blessings to marriage. Resolution C003 mandated that General Synod “direct the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to prepare and present a motion at General Synod 2016 to change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience”. C003 also requires that the resolution include supporting documentation such as theological rationale and evidence of broad consultation.
Michael Thompson, General Secretary of the General Synod, spoke to any possible confusion about the responsibility of the CoGS to forward a resolution for the consideration of General Synod. “C003 was clear in requiring that a resolution proposing a change to the Marriage Canon to accommodate same-sex marriage be placed before General Synod in 2016. CoGS established a commission – chaired by the late Canon Robert Falby – to bring a report to the church. The Council of General Synod has received the report, This Holy Estate. It includes a draft resolution, the text of which will be reviewed by the Council of General Synod at its meeting that begins next Thursday, March 10.”
Dean Peter Wall of the Diocese of Niagara, co-chair of the Planning and Agenda Team for the Council, noted that he is asking members of the Planning and Agenda team to convene by teleconference to develop a process by which CoGS might engage the communication from the House of Bishops. In his additional role as Chair of the General Synod Planning Committee, Wall also affirmed that all the members of the General Synod, including the Order of Bishops, will be asked to listen to one another with care in preparing to address the resolution. “I do not believe that the work of the General Synod can be pre-empted by a meeting of the House of Bishops alone. It is when they meet as the Order of Bishops, in conversation with the Orders of Clergy and Laity, that bishops participate in the shared responsibility of all members of the General Synod to take a decision on this matter.”
In response to the House of Bishops’ call to increase engagement with the Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, the General Synod will be providing further opportunities and resources for members of the Church to consider the Report.
The Chair of the Canadian Anglican General Synod, Dean Peter Wall, here expresses his opinion that a recent House of Bishops Meeting which has related to the General Synod its inability to agree on the extant proposal being brought forward to the next Meeting of the G.S. should not affect the actual proposal being presented at that meeting:
” I do not believe that the work of the General Synod can be pre-empted by a meeting of the House of Bishops alone. It is when they meet as the Order of Bishops, in conversation with the Orders of Clergy and Laity, that bishops participate in the shared responsibility of all members of the General Synod to take a decision on this matter.”
In saying this, Dean Peter Wall is following the correct procedure for the conduct of the General Synod in the Canadian Anglican Church, which – like other General Synods of many national Anglican Churches – does not allow for one of the 3 Houses of the Synod (Laity, clergy or Bishops) to pre-empt the proceedings of the Synod. General Synod canonical procedures call for a mutual ‘conversation’ between the 3 Houses, in order for any decisions that affect the whole Church to be determined.
In this instance, it has obviously become clear the Canadian House of Bishops has been unable, so far, to reach a 2/3 majority needed for the Measure – to allow for Same-Sex Marriage in the Canadian Church – to become a reality in the minds of the Bishops.
However, this should not prevent the matter being debated in the General Synod; which is the only legal forum for legislation on any matter that the General Synod has already determined as being up for discussion and resolution at its next meeting.
New Zealand was probably the first Anglican Provincial Church to bring the tri-cameral Laity-Clergy-Bishops Synodical government process into being in the Anglican Communion. This ensured that every part of the Church – the Body of Christ – in our province, should be involved in local Church government. Other provinces of the Communion – even the Church of England, did not follow this pattern until later in their history. This scheme of Church government is in direct contrast to the magisterial type of some other parts of the Church Catholic, which depend on a central Magisterium.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand