Thursday, April 5, 2007

Canadian Church Debates Same Sex Blessings

One of the mysteries about the Primate's Communique that came out of the conference in Dar es Salaam was why it focused exclusively on the American Episcopal Church. Truth be told, the American church was actually taking baby steps toward same sex blessing rites compared to the many in the Church of England and in Canada. Indeed, one diocese in Canada, the Vancouver-based New Westminster, allows such rites.

Well, the Canadian Church may well take an even bigger step at its General Synod in June. As reported in the Anglican Journal, the Synod will consider a resolution deferred that would allow dioceses to decide on an individual basis whether to offer blessing ceremonies for gay couples. This resolution was deferred at the last Synod held in 2004. This follows a report of the Primate's Theological Commission that concluded that such same sex blessing rites are a matter of doctrine, since they touch on the doctrine of marriage, but not such core doctrine as the divinity of Christ. As the Anglican Journal reports, however, the Synod will also need to consider its actions in light of its response to the Windsor Report, which asks that such blessings not be authorized until there is a consensus in the Anglican Communion.

I realize that this is old news to many readers, but the Anglican Journal article is worth a read for its discussion about the efforts that groups on both sides of this issue are undertaking to prepare for what should prove to be a spirited debate:

Two Canadian Anglican groups on opposite sides of the issue, Integrity (a group for gay Anglicans and their supporters) and Essentials (a group that upholds the traditional view that Scripture says homosexuality is sinful) will be present at General Synod.

Both have planned events leading up to Synod to gather support.

Integrity has scheduled an Ottawa conference to be held April 13 and 14 called The Whole Message, featuring an address by Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate of the Canadian church. According to the conference Web site, participants will “discuss means of ensuring that the Anglican Church of Canada reaffirm its commitment to the via media, the traditional broad path, to be an inclusive church.”

Ron Chaplin, conference organizer, said Anglicans “need to think about how a change in ecclesiology (the study of doctrine) will affect the way we do theology in the Anglican church.” On March 7, at a pre-conference speech in Ottawa, Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster said the church needs “a better theology of sexuality” that would involve a “better understanding of the complex role sexuality plays in our human nature.”

. . .

Essentials, meanwhile, has mailed a letter to synod delegates (which it said it compiled from public sources), inviting them to various events during the Winnipeg meeting. The letter, from Rev. Brett Cane of Winnipeg, chair of the Essentials initiative at the convention, noted that the group’s vision is “to be the theological and spiritual rallying point for historic orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada.”

The letter informed delegates that the Essentials presence at Synod is intended to assist delegates sympathetic with Essentials to bring that perspective to current issues and to help all delegates “in clarifying the issues and in developing a consensus that is faithful to Scripture.”

The letter was accompanied by a booklet from the Zacchaeus Fellowship that “contains testimonies of those who have experienced same-gender attraction yet do not commend its practice.”

Read it all.

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