|Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate
July 14, 2016
In light of decisions made at General Synod 2016 concerning the solemnizing of same-sex marriage, I pray our Church can and will take to heart Paul’s plea with the Christians living in Ephesus, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
Going into General Synod, the delegates knew there would be pastoral implications whether the Resolution to amend the Marriage Canon passed or not. In order to pass it would, according to the Declaration of Principles (General Synod Handbook), require a two-thirds majority in each of the three orders voting: bishops, clergy, and laity.
On Monday, July 11 the result of the vote was that in the orders of bishops and laity there was the required two-thirds majority but not in the order of clergy. The vote was very close. The pastoral implication was that LGBTQ2S persons and those who have accompanied them were disappointed and saddened. Many wept. The Synod sat in silence.
Because the vote was so very close, on Tuesday morning there was a request that the record of this vote be made public and Synod concurred. Analysis of the actual vote revealed that one clergy member’s vote was not properly recorded. The Chancellor then advised the Synod that according to the numbers we, in fact, did have a two-thirds majority vote in the order of clergy, and I announced the resolution had therefore passed in all three orders. The pastoral implication was that a number of members of Synod were disappointed and saddened. Many wept. The Synod sat in silence.
We have been deeply divided over the solemnizing of same-sex marriage for a very long time. That has not changed. In the midst of this division, I need to take to heart Paul’s counsel and I encourage our whole Church to do the same. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” writes St. Paul. He reminds us of our fellowship in Christ Jesus, through our baptism, and in the eucharist. He reminds us that we are “the Body of Christ, members one of another”, and that we, in fact, need each other, and need to find ways to make room for one another.
In keeping with the theme of Synod, “You are my witnesses” the question with which we must now wrestle is this, “For what kind of pastoral and prophetic witness can and will we be known?”
I pray that witness not be marred by fraction and breaking of communion with one another, but rather that “forbearing of one another in love” that “eagerness to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. More than ever we must make efforts not to turn away from one another but rather to one another, not to ignore but to recognize one another, not to walk apart but together. We need as a Church to work hard at maintaining our communion in Christ, for in his reconciling love is our hope and our life.
The Synod passed on first reading an amendment to the Marriage Canon to allow for same-sex marriage in our Church. Because it is a Canon about doctrine, consideration of the matter is required in “two successive sessions of the General Synod”. So the matter will be before the General Synod in 2019. In the meantime, it is referred “for consideration to diocesan and provincial Synods”.
I call the Church to seize this opportunity. I commend the General Synod’s reaffirmation by resolution of the 2004 General Synod Statement on the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships, and its call for a much wider and deeper engagement with the report, “This Holy Estate”. I will ask the Council of General Synod (CoGS) to give immediate attention to the matter of translation, at least of the executive summary of the report and frequently asked questions. I will ask CoGS to consider what other resources might be helpful. I will be asking the House of Bishops at their fall meeting to consider how we encourage “further consideration” of the matter, and to show strong leadership in their dioceses in hosting events, dialogues, and studies.
In all these conversations I want to encourage much more engagement with people who identify as LGBTQ2S. We have spent a lot of time talking about them. I believe we need to take much more time to talk with them and to learn of their lived experience of covenanted love in relationships that are monogamous and life-long. I know that will require of all of us a good deal of courage and grace.
Finally, I ask that without ceasing, we pray for one another, mindful always of the counsel of Paul.
“I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 1-3)
In the wake of the surprising overturning of the first result of the electronic voting system at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod Meeting this week, when the recount revealed a different outcome – leading to the passage of a motion to change the Constitution of the Church’s Marriage Canon – there was understandable confusion in the hearts and minds of all present at the Synod.
Naturally, the majority – who were for the motion – were shocked at the first result, which indicated that the motion had been lost by one clergy vote. However, after details had been released on the actual process, it was revealed that the General Secretary’s vote had not been counted in the clergy listing – owing to an error in procedural reporting. This meant that, when the G.S.’s vote had been counted, the 2/3 majority in the clergy division was actually attained. Not only that, there were 2 other clergy and one lay vote(s) – all for the motion – that also had not been recorded. This meant that the motion to allow for Same-Sex Marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada to go forward to the next and final vote of the general Synod was passed by all 3 Houses of the Synod.
In the following acclamation by those in favour of Equal Marriage, it seems that those who had voted against the motion (who were now, in their turn, dismayed by the new outcome) were not sufficiently dealt with pastorally by the Chair of the Synod. As a consequence, the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has now issued this statement that includes his profound apology to those who had hoped for the defeat of the motion.
In the following paragraph, the Primate sums up the situation:
“We have been deeply divided over the solemnizing of same-sex marriage for a very long time. That has not changed. In the midst of this division, I need to take to heart Paul’s counsel and I encourage our whole Church to do the same. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” writes St. Paul. He reminds us of our fellowship in Christ Jesus, through our baptism, and in the eucharist. He reminds us that we are “the Body of Christ, members one of another”, and that we, in fact, need each other, and need to find ways to make room for one another.”
Herein is surely an expression of the Primate’s desire for everyone to take the time to reflect on the situation as it has evolved, giving way to one another in love, in the hope that all can live together in peace – despite their differences.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand