“FORBEARING ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE”
“FORBEARING ONE ANOTHER IN LOVE”
POSTED JULY 11, 201
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
This press release was issued yesterday by LGBTI Mission:
LGBTI Mission calls on Church of England to move forward following completion of Shared Conversations
The LGBTI Mission rejoices that almost all General Synod members were willing and able to engage in conversation and listening about human sexuality. We commend David Porter and his team for their excellent work in bringing this about. It is also clear that very many throughout the Church of England want to see change soon, as a priority for mission.
We call on the House of Bishops to bring forward bold proposals that enable the Church of England to move towards LGBTI equality, of course with proper safeguards for those who cannot, in conscience, accept any such changes.
Same-sex marriage is only one item on the table. There are other important issues, which could be resolved sooner and more easily. Some do not need synodical approval. We urge the bishops to review urgently all the areas listed in our LGBTI Mission launch document.
We also ask bishops to consult fully with their own LGBTI laity and clergy who are directly and personally affected by current discriminatory policies.
Simon Sarmiento, Chair of the LGBTI Mission said: “Now is the time to move forward and take action. Church leaders and LGBTI church members, of all convictions, need to work together to devise answers to these problems. We now have an opportunity to change the way that LGBTI people are treated in the Church. A good start would be to have a staff member funded to coordinate work in this area and show that the national Church is serious about change.”
Two specific examples of other urgent issues are:
There is a Blackburn Diocesan Synod Motion (see text below) awaiting General Synod debate, which asks the Church to improve its welcome to Transgender people and for the House of Bishops to recommend suitable rites and prayers to mark their transition journeys. Debate on this was recently deferred a second time. We urge the bishops to endorse that motion and to ensure it is debated without further delay.
An issue not requiring synodical action is the current ban on clergy entering same-sex civil marriage, contained in paragraph 27 of the House’s February 2014 Pastoral Guidance on Same Sex Marriage. The widely inconsistent application of this has brought the Church into serious disrepute. It must be reconsidered urgently.
Media reports suggest the bishops may revive the 2013 Pilling Report recommendation (see Recommendations 16 and 17 on page 118) to allow clergy who wish to do so to “mark the formation of a permanent same-sex relationship in a public service” but only as a “pastoral accommodation” without authorizing any formal liturgy. This would be welcome as an interim step towards the long-term goal of enabling same-sex marriages in the Church of England. But the addition of approved liturgical forms would improve clarity and give clergy protection against unwanted disciplinary complaints.
The Blackburn Diocesan Synod motion is as follows:
WELCOMING TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
…to move on behalf of the Blackburn Diocesan Synod:
‘That this Synod, recognising the need for transgender people to be welcomed and affirmed in their parish church, call on the House of Bishops to consider whether some nationally commended liturgical materials might be prepared to mark a person’s gender transition.’
Statement following conclusion of Shared Conversations Process
12 July 2016
Over the last 2 days members of General Synod have met in an informal setting in which they have listened and been heard as they have reflected together on scripture and a changing culture in relation to their understanding of human sexuality.
Throughout these conversations, deep convictions have been shared and profound differences better understood. The Shared Conversations over the last two years now come to a conclusion with over 1300 members of the church directly involved. It is our hope that what has been learned through the relationships developed will inform the way the church conducts whatever further formal discussions may be necessary in the future. It is our prayer that the manner in which we express our different views and deep disagreements will bear witness to Jesus who calls us to love as he has loved us.
In comments to members of Synod at the end of the Shared Conversations the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said:
“At the heart of it is to come back to the fact that together we seek to serve the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead and in whom there is never despair, there is never defeat; there is always hope, there is always overcoming; there is always eventual triumph, holiness, goodness, and grace.
That is for me what I always come back to when it all seems overwhelming.
Thank you so much for your participation. Let us go in confidence. Confident in the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Fr Harry Williams was a Cambridge don, tutor to the Prince of Wales, who, aged 50, entered an Anglican religious community. This is his autobiography. It is fair to say that it caused a stir when p…
So that Group of Sessions ended. The formal word is ‘prorogued’ which simply means bringing it to its end. But it felt odd to know that the Synod had ended but we were still meant to be here.
When I was a kid, going to the pictures was a bit of a bargain – unlike today – you got a film to watch before you saw the main feature, the film you had really gone to see, and, of course, you still had the adverts, for the local Indian or Chinese restaurant. They were called ‘B’ movies, they were of variable quality, sometimes rubbish, but it was something to watch or eat your sweets through. Well, this Synod has taken me back to those days in the Magna Cinema in Wigston where I was brought up and where I went with my sister every Saturday for the children’s film club.
The business of Synod, though interesting and important, felt like the starter to a meal, the film before the main feature. We all knew that the Shared Conversations would be the thing that we would remember most about the July Synod in York in 2016. It could be, by the grace of God, a positive turning point for the Church of England, it could be the ultimate car crash, or, of course, (and perhaps most likely) as indeterminate as most things can be in Synod life until, as with women bishop’s, the rubber finally hits the road.
So, the legislative business ended, a revision committee will look at the Amending Canon on vesture and the burial of those who have committed suicide. The talent pool will continue to be stocked with promising new people, leaders will be trained for leadership, the Archbishops’ Council will do its work, schools will continue to offer excellent education and the budget has been passed so that we can spend money creatively for mission and ministry. Life goes on.
In the evening yesterday news came through that the URC Church had made the decision, by a large majority, to allow same-sex marriages to take place in those churches who wish to conduct them. It was a timely reminder that society and the church is moving on around us and we are looking more and more isolated. I’m proud of the Methodists, some of the Baptists, the Church of Scotland and now the URC for having the courage, confidence and vision to take this step.
How do I feel as we embark on these two days? This will be my third set of Shared Conversations, so in one sense I know a bit of what will happen. But the regional one and the diocesan one that I took part in were not with people who would have to create some kind of outcome. Members of the General Synod are here to be part of the governance of the church and to make decisions about its future. We all know that. We also know that we will be together as a Synod until 2020. So it is different and I suspect it will feel different. But I entered those other two conversations positively and trusting in the Protocol and the process and my trust was well placed. So, despite all the undercurrents of negativity that sweep around Synod, I enter these conversations positively and trusting in the God I always trust and who I know loves me, for that God created me, my ultimate father, my ultimate mother.
We are asked not to blog and Tweet during the process but afterwards we can share some reflections. So, until then I’m being prorogued …. but I promise, I’ll be back!
This verse from the hymn by Jan Struther I’m making my prayer as we begin this journey.
Lord of all hopefulness, Lord of all joy,
whose trust, ever childlike, no cares could destroy:
be there at our waking, and give us, we pray,
your bliss in our hearts, Lord, at the break of the day.