Angli­cans re­verse same-sex mar­riage vote, cite mis­take

Lo­cal dio­cese was pre­pared to buck church, al­low unions re­gard­less of ori­en­ta­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN PERKEL

TORONTO — Ques­tions about the in­tegrity of the vot­ing process in which Angli­cans nar­rowly re­jected a res­o­lu­tion to al­low same-sex mar­riage emerged Tues­day, lead­ing to a stun­ning re­ver­sal of the re­sult.

Some mem­bers stood up to say their votes had not been recorded dur­ing vot­ing late Mon­day — when pas­sage of the res­o­lu­tion failed by a sin­gle vote.

“That is an is­sue of con­cern,” said Arch­bishop Fred Hiltz, pri­mate of the church. “We can­not leave this synod with this kind of con­fu­sion.”

To pass, the res­o­lu­tion re­quired two-thirds of each of three or­ders — lay, clergy and bish­ops. The clergy

failed to reach that thresh­old by one vote that was ap­par­ently not counted be­cause it was counted in the lay or­der.

The er­ror was dis­cov­ered af­ter del­e­gates re­quested a de­tailed hard copy of the elec­tronic vot­ing records.

Hiltz then de­clared the res­o­lu­tion in favour of same-sex mar­riage passed.

The ap­par­ent fail­ure on Mon­day night — which fol­lowed a bit­ter and di­vi­sive de­bate — stunned those on hand into si­lence. Some wept openly, oth­ers em­braced. Some were clearly in an­guish.

On Tues­day, sev­eral bish­ops said they planned to go ahead with same-sex mar­riages re­gard­less of the vote. In a se­ries of state­ments, they ex­pressed dis­may at the de­feat. At the same time, they leaned on a state­ment from the chan­cel­lor of the Gen­eral Synod, who said the cur­rent mar­riage canon does not specif­i­cally ban sol­em­niz­ing same-sex mar­riages.

The Angli­can Dio­cese of Ni­a­gara, which serves com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing Hamil­ton and Hal­ton and is head­quar­tered on James Street North, was pre­pared to buck the church and go ahead with same-sex mar­riages even though the res­o­lu­tion was not ini­tially thought to be passed.

Bishop Michael Bird said in a state­ment posted to to the dio­cese’s web­site that he would al­low mar­riage for all peo­ple, re­gard­less of sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

“I hope that sends a very strong sig­nal that our church believes the ma­jor­ity and I, cer­tainly, and peo­ple in the Dio­cese of Ni­a­gara be­lieve that the LGBTQ2 mem­bers are full chil­dren of God, and we want them to have all the ac­cess to our sacra­ments so we’re mov­ing for­ward with that,” Bird told the Scott Thomp­son Show on CHML.

“No one ex­pected that pos­si­bil­ity,” Rev. Bill Mous said of the re­ver­sal.

In a state­ment, Bishop John Chap­man of Ot­tawa said he planned to pro­ceed im­me­di­ately with such unions in his dio­cese — al­though no one would be forced to of­fi­ci­ate at such a cer­e­mony.

“It is time my friends,” Chap­man said. “It is past time.”

“Take heart,” said Rev. Melissa Skel­ton, bishop of New West­min­ster, B.C. “This is not over.”

The res­o­lu­tion still needs af­fir­ma­tion by the next synod in 2019 be­fore it be­comes church law.

North­ern rep­re­sen­ta­tives com­plained about feel­ing bul­lied, while Larry Robert­son, Yukon bishop, left the floor in protest, say­ing he was an­gered at what he called the ad­ver­sar­ial process.

Hiltz ac­knowl­edged the “deep dif­fer­ences” that ex­ist around the is­sue.

“We some­times find our­selves very much be­ing pulled apart,” Hiltz told del­e­gates on Tues­day.

“Our work on this mat­ter is not done. It’s not suf­fi­cient for us to sim­ply say we dealt with the res­o­lu­tion.”

While some fret­ted that the fail­ure of the res­o­lu­tion would cause a rup­ture in the church and spark an ex­o­dus of mem­bers, oth­ers said they be­lieved the church would hold to­gether de­spite the bruis­ing na­ture of the de­bate in which some used terms such as “abom­i­na­tion” in ref­er­ence to the LBGT com­mu­nity.

“It was painful process, it was a dif­fi­cult process, but at the end of the day, we’ve ended up mov­ing for­ward,” Bri­tish Columbia Bishop Logan McMe­namie said Tues­day.

Synod del­e­gates did ap­prove a mo­tion af­firm­ing the sanc­tity of same-sex re­la­tion­ships — a po­si­tion the church adopted in 2004.

Toronto Arch­bishop Colin John­son called same-sex mar­riages — at the dis­cre­tion of the bishop and with agree­ment of lo­cal clergy — a log­i­cal step in the evo­lu­tion of the church that he said he would be con­sid­er­ing in the com­ing weeks.

“I am ad­vised that this op­tion would not con­tra­vene the mar­riage canon,” John­son said.

“I am con­fi­dent it would be sup­ported by the ma­jor­ity — even if not all — of our bish­ops, clergy, laity and the wider com­mu­nity.”

About 1.6 mil­lion Cana­di­ans iden­tify them­selves as Angli­can, ac­cord­ing to Statistics Canada, and church fig­ures in­di­cate more than 500,000 of them are part of about 2,800 con­gre­ga­tions across the coun­try.

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