Angli­cans bat­tered but on the side of right

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPIN­ION - Howard El­liott

It was nearly 25 years ago that the United Church of Canada be­came the first ma­jor Cana­dian Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tion to en­dorse same-sex mar­riage. It was a wrench­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, in part be­cause the push for equal rights was less ma­ture. The de­bate ended with the right de­ci­sion but many pre­dicted the church would suf­fer lin­ger­ing dam­age and loss of ad­her­ents.

United Church con­gre­gants must have re­flected on that this week watch­ing as the Angli­can Church of Canada went through its own cru­cible. Hope­fully they felt some em­pa­thy. Angli­cans had even more trauma to en­dure when the vote on the is­sue ini­tially went against sup­port­ing same-sex mar­riage. It took the dis­cov­ery of a vot­ing ir­reg­u­lar­ity to turn that de­ci­sion around, and only by a nar­row mar­gin.

The good news for the church and for Canada is that it did end up the right way with Angli­cans be­com­ing the sec­ond de­nom­i­na­tion to rec­og­nize and sup­port same sex mar­riage. There was bul­ly­ing on both sides, ap­par­ently. Some Angli­cans were left feel­ing em­bit­tered and some pre­dict the schism cre­ated and pub­li­cized will take a long time to heal.

Let’s hope that is not the case, but re­gard­less, this is un­ques­tion­ably the right de­ci­sion. It’s worth not­ing, and be­ing en­cour­aged by, the fact that even when it ap­peared the vote was against same-sex mar­riage, the Angli­can dio­cese of Ni­a­gara, which over­sees Hamil­ton, Hal­ton, Haldimand and Welling­ton coun­ties un­der the lead­er­ship of the Right Rev­erend Michael Bird, planned to break with the na­tional church and im­me­di­ately “re­spond to the sacra­men­tal needs of the LGBTQ2 com­mu­nity in the Dio­cese of Ni­a­gara.” It can­not have been easy to come out on the other side of the na­tional church, and Angli­can lead­ers and parish­ioners in this area de­serve credit for their po­si­tion.

A re­al­ity check is in or­der. Any church, or other in­sti­tu­tion, that con­tin­ues not to rec­og­nize the le­git­i­macy and value of same sex mar­riage and re­la­tion­ships is in­creas­ingly out of touch with mod­ern re­al­ity. A Fo­rum Re­search poll con­ducted last year found same-sex mar­riage has the sup­port of three quar­ters of Cana­di­ans 18-34, and 78 per cent of those aged 35-44. An­other poll, ad­mit­tedly Amer­i­can, found 69 per cent of mil­len­nial re­spon­dents be­lieve re­li­gious groups are “alien­at­ing young peo­ple” by be­ing judg­men­tal about life­style is­sues.

So not only is the Angli­can de­ci­sion right for al­tru­is­tic, dare we say, Chris­tian rea­sons, it makes sense in terms of the church’s rel­e­vance, which is al­ready in ques­tion in the minds of many.

Change is hap­pen­ing and that won’t stop. Even Catholic lead­ers have adopted more in­clu­sive at­ti­tudes and lan­guage. Ev­ery­one knows, or should know, that the drive for eq­uity and mu­tual re­spect won’t be turned back. Get with it or get out of the way.

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