THE Anglican Church of Canada has stepped back from making a legislative decision on same-sex blessings. Instead, it has issued a statement in which it says that churches “are passionately committed to walking together”, despite serious differences.
In a break with tradition from previous synodical discussions on the same-sex issue, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod, held on 3-11 June, organised discernment sessions on human sexuality in which nearly every delegate took part. The move was a deliberate attempt to stave off bitter adversarial clashes (News, 11 June).
The discussions have resulted in a pastoral statement, approved by the Synod on 10 June, which acknowledges the huge differences of opinion on the sexuality issue, and says that the Church is not yet ready to make a legislative decision.
The Primate, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, acknowledged at a press conference afterwards that the “local option”, which has been exercised by some dioceses in the past to permit same-sex blessings, could be used again, although “it’s not the local option approved by the national Church.”
He went on: “We’re not ready as a national Church to say, ‘We’re building this into our doctrine that we approve of same-sex unions.’ What Synod did say was: ‘We need to have more conversations, and that’s an action.’”
The statement says: “For many members of General Synod, there is deep sadness that, at this time, there is no common mind. We acknowledge the pain that our diversity in this matter causes. We are deeply aware of the cost to people whose lives are implicated in the consequences of an ongoing discernment process.
“For some, even this statement represents a risk. For some, the statement does not go nearly far enough.”
Three years ago, a motion that would have established a legal “local option” for dioceses wanting to go ahead with same-sex unions was passed by clergy and lay delegates, but narrowly defeated by bishops. Despite the failure to get the resolution adopted, some dioceses have continued to bless same-sex unions ever since.
The Primate called the Synod’s pastoral statement a “watershed” moment for the Anglican Church of Canada, saying that it marked a stage of healing. Although supporters of same-sex unions felt that the statement did not go far enough, most backed it. And those opposed to same-sex unions were supportive.
The Ven. Vicars Hodge, Archdeacon of St Andrews in the diocese of Fredericton, said: “I am deeply moved and deeply grateful for the process that led to such a wise pastoral statement. In my discussion group, when it became clear that we were being heard, and the mutual listening and respect that was present here, it was so remarkably different from the adversarial, controversial style that we lived through in Winnipeg.”
The Canadian General Synod also became one of the first provinces to debate the Anglican Covenant. It approved a resolution to receive the final text of the Covenant, and asked its council to recommend whether it should be adopted in 2013.