Canadian Diocese of Niagara allows same sex blessings

The Diocese of Niagara, which makes up the Southern part of Ontario, meeting at its annual synod, today voted by large margins to allow civilly-married gay couples, “where at least one party is baptized,” to receive a church blessing. The Anglican Journal has the details:

Bishop Ralph Spence, who had refused to implement a similar vote three years ago, this time gave his assent, making Niagara the third diocese since the June General Synod convention to accept same-sex blessings.

Of the 294 clergy and lay delegates, 239 voted yes, 53 said no and two abstained. In 2003, out of 319 delegates, 213 voted yes and 106 said no.

“The question has been asked, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Much consultation will take place … When and how this will be implemented will be dealt with in the days that lie ahead. We are aware of the vote’s ramifications,” said Bishop Spence, who also said he has been in consultation in the past week with Lambeth Palace (residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury), the Canadian primate (Archbishop Fred Hiltz) and his successor, Bishop Michael Bird, who takes office on March 1. Bishop Spence declined to say whom he had spoken with at Lambeth Palace.

The dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal recently passed similar motions and their bishops have said they will consult widely before deciding whether to implement the decisions. (The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has offered blessings since 2002.) Civil marriage has been legal for homosexual couples since 2003.

. . .

Asked if his action would jeopardize work he will take up in March in London and at the Lambeth Conference meeting of bishops next July in England, Bishop Spence said he did not think it would. “My role at Lambeth is not constitutional. I will be chaplain to all the workers and make sure all the safe church practices are followed,” said Bishop Spence.

More than 50 speakers came to the microphones during the 90-minute debate.

After the blessings vote, synod approved a motion that said bishops from other diocese may not exercise ministry in Niagara without the bishop’s permission and that parishes and clergy seeking oversight from another bishop may only do so with the Niagara bishop’s approval.

Read it all here.

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