Statement After General Synod Vote on the Marriage Canon
POSTED JULY 11, 201
STATEMENT BY THE BISHOP OF NIAGARA
The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada has narrowly voted against a change in the marriage canon that would have enshrined equal marriage within our national canons. This decision is deeply regrettable and inconsistent with the ever more inclusive witness of our Church that has inspired this synod’s theme: “You are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43).
The Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, ‘This Holy Estate’, provides a sound and compelling mandate to move forward with an understanding of the sacrament of marriage that is inclusive for all people, regardless of sexual orientation. Over the past few months I have heard from an unprecedented number of faithful people from across the Anglican Church of Canada expressing support for this vision which upholds the dignity of every human being. I am also mindful that it has been over a decade, in 2004, that our Church affirmed the “integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”
In the words of David Jones, the chancellor of General Synod, our current marriage canon “does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage.” At the same time, it is clear that our Anglican conventions permit a diocesan bishop to exercise episcopal authority by authorizing liturgies to respond to pastoral needs within their dioceses, in the absence of any actions by this General Synod to address these realities.
Accordingly, and in concert with several other bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, it is my intention to immediately exercise this authority to respond to the sacramental needs of the LGBTQ2 community in the Diocese of Niagara. In the absence of any nationally approved liturgy, I am authorizing The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage and The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2 for use in our diocese. These newly created rites of The Episcopal Church in the United States of America may be used for the marriage of any duly qualified couples. Clergy intending to use these rites will, for the time being, be required to notify the Bishop’s Office in advance.
I offer this witness to the transformational power of God’s inclusive love while acknowledging the considerable differences that exist within our beloved Church. My sincere hope is that God’s grace will inspire all Canadian Anglicans to continue to break bread together in the days ahead. I want to say, as a bishop charged with guarding the faith, unity and discipline of the Church, that I solemnly pledge to do my part to ensure that this is indeed the case.
Please join me in praying for God’s constant presence, guidance, and comfort as we move forward. Pray for our Church: local, national and universal; as its discernment continues on this matter. And my dear friends pray especially for the global LGBTQ2 community that continues to face unjust and often horrific discrimination, oppression, and violence for openly being the people God created them to be.
Prophetically, perhaps (even before the about-turn in the results of the voting on the issue) some Bishops in the Canadian Anglican Church decided – despite the fact that at the time of their announcements the votes had seemingly gone against the Motion to change the Constitution to allow for Equal Marriage – to facilitate the Celebration and Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages within their dioceses.
Now that the actual votes cast have been discovered to have been misrepresented by the electronic system (a careful recount has led to the discovery of a majority of votes in all three houses of bishops clergy and laity to have supported the Motion) the Anglican Church in Canada has been officially declared as supporting a change to the extant marriage regulations, thus – opening up the possibility of the Celebration and Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages in its churches.
The obvious sincerity with which the Bishop of Niagara, and other bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have stated their case for this radical prospect of inclusion of faithful Same-Sex married relationships within the family of the Church is buttressed by their desire not to incite the possibility of schism, but rather to continue to dialogue with those in the Church who find this new pastoral approach to the complex situation of Same-Sex relationships difficult. Like other substantial changes to the policy of the Church (for instance divorce and re-marriage), this new initiative to bring the policy of the Church in line with the law of the land will gradually be seen to be a positive move towards the pastoral integration of a formerly marginalized community into the Church
Besides the Bishop of Niagara, these 3 Bishops also declared their intention to go ahead with special pastoral provision for Same-Sex Marriage in their dioceses:
Statement by the Bishop of Toronto – (please view this video)
Now will the positive signal of its intention to change the Constitution to allow for equal Marriage in the Church of Canada, these 4 Diocesan Bishops will be recognised for their prophetic witness – before the final vote count – to the need for change that has now been signalled by the Church majority.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand