Mixed messages

Integrity Canada offers some responses to the Canadian House of Bishops statement that illustrate a perceived conflict in how they will treat the question of gays in the church.

…the bishops claim to support “the most generous pastoral response possible” toward gay and lesbian couples while they also signal they will veto attempts to clarify the church’s teaching.

On the one hand, says the release from Integrity Canada, there is good news in this:

“As limited as the proposal is,” observes Chris Ambidge of Integrity Toronto, “in some jurisdictions this would be an improvement. In some places children of gay parents are denied baptism, gay people are turned away from the communion rail, and the bishops know that. We’d expect them to implement their earlier policy that it is unacceptable to deny baptism to children to discipline their parents, but until then any tentative statement in that direction is welcome.”

But the bishops stop short of advocating that same-sex unions be recognized in the church. Integrity also notes that the line may be more political than pastoral, and may reflect an urban/rural divide:

But while other church sacraments are open to gay church members, the bishops draw the line at marriage, even disallowing prayers for God’s blessing on civilly married same-sex couples. Without promising any particular action, the bishops suggest that “intercessory prayers” may be allowed for gay couples who make their covenant promises elsewhere, but not a “nuptial prayer.” Although official church teaching affirms the sanctity of committed same-sex relationships, the bishops insist “the doctrine and discipline of our church does not clearly permit further action.”

It is unclear, however, whether the proposal offering special prayers for married same-sex couples can be taken seriously, whether this is a pastoral or a political gesture. Which bishops would actually implement this suggestion? For the conservatives it goes too far, and in most urban centres it is far too little, far too late, and only further alienates gay and lesbian people.

Read more about this and how the HoB’s stalling on this issue is causing people to leave the church on both ends of the spectrum at Walking With Integrity.

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