Canada’s Anglicans voted Sunday by “the slimmest of margins” against letting priests bless same-sex marriages, but earlier in the day they also agreed the blessings do not conflict with their church’s core doctrine, a step opposing sides agreed opens the door to such ceremonies in the future.
The Anglican Journal reports that “Canadian Anglicans, meeting at their General Synod governing convention, voted by the slimmest of margins to defeat a proposal that would have permitted church blessing rites for gay couples.”
The Winnepeg Free Press said that
“some members of the Anglican Church of Canada were left in tears Sunday, after a motion to bless same-sex unions lost by only two votes.
The motion was supported by the majority of clergy and laity at the group’s national meeting, but two bishops who opposed the idea were the deciding factor. The motion was defeated by 21-19.
The decision shocked many same-sex supporters who thought the motion would pass since earlier in the day Anglicans voted same-sex blessings were not in conflict with the church’s doctrine.
Much of the sixth day of the synod was taken up with debate on the two questions, with dozens of people approaching microphones in the plenary hall to voice emotional opinions.
Both supporters and opponents agree that the two contradictory votes pose a problem for the Canadian Church.
Chris Ambidge, national spokesman for an Anglican group that supports same-sex unions, said, “What is wrong with having rights of blessing when you’ve already said it’s OK? I just don’t understand that.” He said the national meeting sent mixed messages to Anglicans across Canada and was confusing to everyone who voted.
Opponents to same-sex blessings agree. Cheryl Chang, a spokesperson for Anglican Essentials, a group which opposes blessing same-sex unions, called Sunday’s vote a “divisive tragedy” for the entire church.
Bishop Fred Hiltz the new Primate for the Anglican Church of Canada voted for the resolution. Afterwards he commented that ”There is no question that there was a lot of disappointment on the part of some people and a lot of pain, and some people will be saying, ‘How long, oh Lord, how long will this conversation continue?’ And it will continue.”
While those in favor of the measure said that the overall progess towards blessings was positive, the practical effect will be limited. ”We now have theological agreement that same-sex unions are not in opposition to doctrine and that’s a big deal,” said Chris Ambidge, president of the Toronto chapter of gay advocacy group Integrity. ”However, it’s just a 75 percent win because there’s no pastoral benefit to gay and lesbians with what has happened today. The church approved things in principle, but said we’re not going to do anything about it.”
Chang predicted that people on both sides of the issue were going to start looking for new churches to attend “tomorrow.”
Bishop Michael Ingham, of the Diocese of New Westminster, which has allowed for same-sex blessings since 2002, said the vote won’t make anyone happy. “A majority of people voted in favor. I think everyone’s a loser. Traditional Christians can’t take comfort in the vote and those who want to move on are held back by a small number of bishops. I think we need to look at the composition of the house of bishops and whether it properly reflects the Anglican Church of Canada.” There is a predominance of bishops from rural areas while the Canadian church is predominantly an urban church, he said.
Some churches have already said that they intend to pursue and carry out same-sex blessings no matter how the synod vote.