In comparison with seeming reluctance of the Church of England to follow the change in social attitudes towards the disenfranchised of society that has been brought about by a more pastoral understanding of all people on the margins of the Church’s ministry and administration; it is often other Provinces of the Anglican Communion that have ushered in a new era of social justice for ALL their members – based upon new theological, pastoral and social research that has brought in new possibilities for how we treat the marginalised and neglected in a new era of human rights and a revised Biblical hermeneutic that has arrived on our doorstep. This difference in pastoral accommodation has been made possible because of the separate constitutions and jurisdiction of the independent Churches of the world-wide Anglican Communion. Despite efforts to align the discipline and culture of the individual Anglican Churches with that of the Mother Church of England in the Canterbury Province – in an aborted attempt to raise up the ‘Anglican Covenant Movement‘; which failed to get off the ground because of its critics being only too wary of the desire of some of the more conservative Provinces to lock the A.C.C into the outdated ethos of the original ‘XXXIX Articles’, which had been formed in the early years of the Church of England after the split from Rome at the Protestant Reformation, the 39A have now been effectively relegated by most Provincial Churches to the status of the ‘39 Artifacts‘.
It should not be too surprising that, along with the United States and Canada – both nations which seek to keep up to date with human flourishing and relatively free from ancient shibboleths which tend to hold back the justice systems of some older civilisations such as Britain and its Colonial outposts in the ancient world in Africa and the Global South – these two countries of North America, along with countries like Australia and New Zealand, should seek to adjust their moral and spiritual temper towards a more just and equitable society.
This is not an entirely different situation from that which existed in the time of Jesus. The exigencies of the Jewish Law and Tradition needed modification (sometimes quite radical modification) from that which held sway under the Temple Officials of the Jewish capital, Jerusalem. Certain laws – apart from the Ten Commandments, of which Jesus stressed the observation of just two (Love God; Love your neighbour as yourself) – Jesus set about reforming the Law to comply with the basic principle of loving God and loving one’s neighbour in ways that would contribute to the best good for ALL, in a fallen world where God alone could rescue us from the consequences of our human sin and waywardness and our common forgetfulness of the need to embrace a code of justice tempered with mercy for everyone.
Jesus said: “They will know you’re my disciples by your love”.
The Anglican Church of Canada – together with the Episcopal Church of the USA- were much earlier in their speculation about the value of women sharing the ministry of priesthood in the Church – something which some other provincial Anglican Churches (including the church of England) were slow to take into their own ethos. They were also not slow to understand the need to include the emerging LGTB community in the membership and ministry of their Churches – a situation which began, substantially, in TEC when that Church ordained its first ‘Gay Bishop’ in America; and then other ‘Gay Bishops’ were ordained in Canada. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand the reason behind the Anglican Church of Canada’s nuanced response to the decision of the Church of England’s bishops to open up to the possibility of same-Sex Blessings in that Church, when the Anglican Church of Canada already allows for Same-Sex Weddings in church.
(The Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Australia, does not allow women priests amongst its clergy, neither does it ordain same-sex-partnered clergy, and is hostile to the C. of E.s openness to S/S./Blessings)
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand
Canadian Primate: On recent same-sex marriage recommendation in the Church of England
BY ARCHBISHOP LINDA NICHOLLS ON JANUARY 20, 2023
After several years of learning and discussion into human identity, sexuality and relationships through the study entitled, Living in Love and Faith, the Church of England General Synod will consider recommendations from their bishops. On January 20, the bishops issued their recommendation that prayers that may be used to bless civil partnerships, civil marriages and covenanted friendships, but they have not offered support for same-sex marriage within the Church. Their General Synod will meet in a few weeks to receive their decision.
The release of this recommendation has been difficult for many to receive. Some are deeply disappointed that the bishops have not supported marriage. Others are upset that any change is being proposed to affirm same-sex relationships. The bishops have indicated that there is ongoing discussion and study that needs to continue. This discernment process is one very familiar to the Anglican Church of Canada and equally painful.
We strongly affirm the dignity and place of 2SLGBTQI+ members in our church. In 1978, the Canadian House of Bishops affirmed:
“We believe as Christians that homosexual persons as children of God, have a full and equal claim, with all other persons, upon the love, acceptance, concern and pastoral care of the Church. The gospel of Jesus Christ compels Christians to guard against all forms of human injustice and to affirm that all persons are brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. We affirm that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection under the law with all other Canadian citizens.”
General Synod 2004 affirmed “the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”
We have had painful, divisive debates on the matter of same-sex blessings and marriage and have been unable to find agreement. Some dioceses, after lengthy theological reflection and discernment, have made pastoral provisions for the blessing of same-sex committed relationships or marriage.
As part of the Anglican Communion, the decisions of one part of the family affect other parts of the family. The news from the Church of England will open painful wounds for many about our discussions and our inability to discern a way forward together.
We affirm the presence, dignity and gifts of 2SLGBTQI+ members of our churches. We oppose homophobia, transphobia and discriminatory practices based on sexual identity or orientation. We continue to listen together for the voice of the Holy Spirit in discernment about committed relationships.
I ask your prayers for our Anglican family.
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Canada