Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Anglican Church of Canada

For those of you who had some passing interest in the General Synod held in Winnipeg for the Anglican Church of Canada I recently came across an account that simplified and clarified what happened regarding the issue of blessing same-sex union. The General Secretary for my conference attended as an ecumenical presence and gave this brief account (for his full account read here).

Their Synod is comprised of delegates of three “houses”: the House of the Laity (137 were present), the House of the Clergy (116 were present), and the House of Bishops (40 were present). Any motion/resolution must pass in all three Houses in order to be accepted. Defeat in any House means that a motion is defeated.

One of the more critical procedural issues was fixing the percentage of votes required for passing the resolutions. The original resolutions suggested 60%. There were some who attempted to move this to 67% over two consecutive Synods. That motion failed. Others then moved to change it to 50% plus one. That motion passed. As it turned out, none of the key resolutions gained 60% in all three Houses.

The issue at hand was clearly defined. They were attempting firstly to resolve whether the church has the authority to bless same-sex unions, and secondly where the authority to decide would lie. They dealt with these questions by addressing three key resolutions:
1. Whether the blessing of same-sex union was a doctrinal or simply a pastoral issue. The Theological Commission of the Primate that had studied the matter proposed that it is a doctrinal issue, but that it is not a “core” doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada. The first resolution asked delegates to agree to this understanding.
2. Whether the blessing of same-sex unions, as a doctrine, is in conflict with (or consistent with) the core doctrine of the Church. The Theological Commission recommended that it was “consistent with” the core doctrine of the Church. This was amended by delegate process to read that it is “not in conflict with” the core doctrine. The second resolution asked delegates to agree to this understanding.
3. The authority to decide whether or not to bless same-sex unions would lie at the level of the diocese. The resolution was seen to be “permissive and not prescriptive,” i.e., that each diocese be given the authority to decide whether the blessing would be permitted or not. The third resolution asked delegates to approve this “local authority – permissive but not prescriptive – option.”

The first resolution passed in all three Houses.
The second resolution also passed in all three Houses (although it was a very narrow margin in the House of Bishops - 21 in favour and 19 opposed).
The third resolution passed by in the Houses of the Laity and Clergy, but was defeated by a narrow margin in the House of Bishops (19 in favour and 21 opposed).

There was confusion after this synod and I finally understand why. The church was not ready to put into practice what it affirmed doctrinally (i.e. that the issue was "not in conflict with the core doctrine" of the Anglican church)

Anyway, for any of you who may care to know.

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