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CANADA: Anglicans Prepare For Watershed Decision On Same-Sex Blessings

CANADIAN ANGLICANS PREPARE FOR WATERSHED DECISION ON SAME-SEX BLESSINGS

News Analysis

By David W. Virtue

ST. CATHARINES, ONT---As Canadian Anglicans debate the blessings of same sex unions, liberals fear it will be a watershed synod while conservatives hope it will be.

For liberals it is a desperate attempt to keep up with the culture - a culture that now recognizes same sex marriages.

The 5-part resolution wants to affirm the jurisdiction and authority for diocesan synods with the consent of their bishops to bless committed same sex unions, but not marriage rites. That presumably would come later.

The general predictions are that the preparations for synod and the tactics of persuasion have been sufficiently successful that the resolutions of the Council of General Synod (COGS) will see these resolutions pass.

All the language of Canadian jurisprudence is going towards same sex marriage not unions, that is, registered domestic partnerships. The Anglican Church of Canada wants on the bandwagon.

The church's liberals want to keep marriage separate from blessing same sex unions and not a marriage liturgy, if it is in the canons. The canons forbid it.

But if it is canonical on marriage then it is doctrinal.

So for political reasons the liberals have made a firewall by calling them committed life long relationships. In doing so, however, they have become obsolete trying to keep up with culture. A union is only a union it is not a marriage.

The lawyers for the liberal side will push for the integrity of these motions and for the integrity of unions not marriages. They arguing that it is not a doctrinal issue but a matter of order with the final say by the local bishop.

The COGS resolutions are shaped to avoid any substantive discussion or resolution of the theological or doctrinal issue of homosexual marriages; rather they are phrased to be exclusively procedural. It is to affirm the jurisdiction of the diocese to decide the issue on
these unions. Basically COGS wants dioceses to make the decision and not the national church.

From the conservative side these tactics have been deemed unconstitutional and a legal opinion argues that questions of same sex unions properly belong in the counsels of General Synod of the ACC, the only place they can be decided and not at a diocesan level.

The resolution recognizes that some think this a doctrinal resolution and they are asking General Synod what do jurisdiction and authority diocesan synods have.

The Synod, however does not want to shape the arguments preferring dioceses to handle the hot potato issue.

If conservatives get these resolutions turned down then they will want to ensure clarity that this forbids dioceses to proceed with the blessing of same sex unions.

The resolution as it now stands avoids substantive discussion and through procedural manipulation affirms the diocesan jurisdiction and therefore local option.

But as one church historian noted, local option leads to congregationalism.

By COGS avoiding substantive Scriptural debate and affirming the autonomy of the diocese to proceed down this path it will hope to avoid any disapproval from the Global South Primates

If the resolution fails it means the Diocese of New Westminster will have the authority to continue performing same sex unions. Some 13 orthodox bishops are expected to resist local option and want COGS to decide on the motion. There are 30 diocesan bishops and 8 suffragan bishops, making COGS overwhelmingly in the hands of the liberals.

The mind of COGS is clearly not about clarity but obfuscation. Conservatives would like to see the motion clearly defeated with a clarity that does not allow diocesan synods the freedom to act as they please.

Essentials Canada, the orthodox wing of the Canadian Anglican Church has called for a moratorium on same sex unions.

What might catch up with them all is what is taking shape in the Global Anglican Communion.

If the Anglican Church of Canada allows same-sex unions to be decided locally it will be easier for the Global South bishops to declare themselves in impaired communion on a diocese by diocese basis as they have done with the Diocese of New Westminster.

In short the global Anglican Communion will accomplish what orthodox Canadian Anglicans have failed to achieve - a discipline of their own house - a house that looks more and more each day like a house of cards that is ready to fall.

END

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