Anglicans battered but on the side of right
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.