IN A MOMENT of high drama at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, a recount has shown that a motion to enable the Church to solemnise same-sex marriage was, in fact, carried this week.
It was reported on Monday that the vote had been lost by just one vote in the House of Clergy. A request on Tuesday for the list of votes to be made public resulted in a recount, which revealed that the vote of the general secretary of the Synod, Archdeacon Michael Thompson, had not been included. With it counted, the vote became 52 of 78 in favour, achieving the required two-thirds-majority.
The error had been caused by the electronic clickers used for voting: Archdeacon Thompson had not been included as a member of his Order in the electronic database. Three other members of the synod, all of whom were in favour of the motion, have come forward to say that their votes were not recorded at all.
“We actually have a two-thirds majority vote in the Order of Clergy,” the “somewhat dazed” Primate of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, announced, Anglican Journal reported online. Its report described the synod hall as a “cauldron of emotion”.
To succeed, the motion needed a two-thirds majority in each of the three Houses. In March, the House of Bishops had warned that it was “not likely” to be carried in the Order of Bishops (News, 11 March). The voting, after the recount, was: Bishops 68.42 per cent in favour; Laity 72.22 per cent; Clergy 66.6 per cent.
As a matter of doctrine, the motion requires a vote at two consecutive meetings to be passed. It will return to the synod in 2019, and cannot come into effect before 2020.
Even before the recount, the atmosphere at the synod was tense.
Before the debate on Monday, Archbishop Hiltz spoke from the altar to address reports of bullying.
“It has come to my attention as a pastor that . . . some members . . . have experienced bullying,” he said. “This kind of behaviour is not appropriate. It will not be tolerated. Surely, we can model a better way.”
The motion came to the synod after a long period of consultation. Three years ago, the synod carried a resolution requesting the drafting of a motion to change the canon to allow same-sex marriage, including a clause ensuring that “no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorise such marriages against the dictates of their conscience”.
The motion brought this week was amended to replace the original conscience clause with an opt-in: same-sex marriages could take place only if authorised by the diocesan bishop.
Both the Bishop of Ottawa, the Rt Revd John Chapman, and the Bishop of Niagara, the Rt Revd Michael Bird, said after Monday’s announcement that they would, with immediate effect, give permission to clergy in their dioceses who wished to conduct same-sex marriages to do so.
The Bishop of Caledonia, the Rt Revd William Anderson, told the Anglican Journal that this had demonstrated a “contempt for our synodical process”, which “begs the question, why are we even involved in a synodical process in deciding something like this if, to be very cynical, some bishops are going to make themselves mini-popes who can decide doctrine on their own?”
The process had been “immensely destructive of the unity of our Church”, he said.
In 2007, the synod agreed that the blessing of same-sex unions was “a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being credal”. In about half the Church’s dioceses, blessing of same-sex civil unions has been authorised.