THE Primate of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, has said that he cannot prevent diocesan bishops in Canada from solemnising same-sex marriages, even though canon law cannot be changed until 2019.
Before a recount revealed that the Church’s General Synod had voted to pass a motion to change the marriage canon (News, 15 July), several diocesan bishops announced that they would allow clergy to perform same-sex marriages, with immediate effect. 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.
“As Primate, I have no authority to say to a bishop, ‘You can’t do that, and you must not do that,’” Archbishop Hiltz told Anglican Journal last week.
Bishops were “under huge pressure from their parishes and their clergy to proceed” with same-sex marriage, he said. “There is a part of me, I think, that would say, given their pastoral context, I understand where they are coming from.”
Bishops wishing to proceed have cited the General Synod’s chancellor, who has advised that the marriage canon in its present form “does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage”.
After the recount, seven bishops issued a statement of dissent. General Synod had “taken a further step in ordaining something contrary to God’s Word written”, which “imperils our full communion within the Anglican Church of Canada and with Anglicans throughout the world. We believe that our General Synod has erred grievously and we publicly dissent from this decision.”
The “flawed” process culminating in the vote had “inflicted terrible hurt and damage on all involved”, they said, and the resolution “does not provide adequate protection for the consciences of dioceses, clergy and congregations”. They urged both the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop Hiltz to “seek ways to guarantee our place within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion”.
The general secretary of GAFCON, Dr Peter Jensen, said this week that the vote to change the canon was another example of “tearing the fabric of the Anglican Communion. . . Over more than a decade, they have been presented with many opportunities to repair the damage they have caused, but instead have only grown more bold in their defiance of the the Bible and Anglican teaching.”
In a statement issued after the recount, Archbishop Hiltz urged members of the Church “not to turn away from one another but rather to one another, not to ignore but to recognize one another, not to walk apart but together”. He also called for greater engagement with the LGBT community: “We have spent a lot of time talking about them. I believe we need to take much more time to talk with them and to learn of their lived experience of covenanted love in relationships that are monogamous and life-long.”
Further evidence of problems with the Synod’s voting emerged this week when Anglican Journal revealed that none of the votes cast by the National Indigenous Bishop, the Rt Revd Mark MacDonald, had been recorded.
The general secretary of the Synod, Archdeacon Michael Thompson, admitted that “the integrity of voting at General Synod has come perilously close to breaking”.
Bishop McDonald’s vote would not have changed the outcome of the vote on same-sex marriage. It would have increased the number of bishops opposed from 12 to 12, leaving two-thirds still in favour.