In July 2019, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in Vancouver for the first time since 1965. A number of decisions were made that will take their place in church history, such as the establishment of a self-determining Indigenous Church within the national church and the election of our first female Primate, Linda Nicholls.
Also on the agenda was the second vote regarding an alteration to the marriage canon, explicitly accommodating same-sex marriages. While this motion passed at the previous Synod in 2016, Synod’s rules of governance dictate that such canonical changes undergo a second vote at the next meeting. On both occasions, a two-thirds majority in each of the house of laity, clergy, and bishops must be reached in order for the motion to pass. This summer, the vote was approximately 75 per cent in favour overall, but the motion failed as it fell short of the required two-thirds majority in the house of bishops. Notably, three bishops (including our own Archbishop Melissa) were absent due to illness and the rules of Synod do not allow for proxy ballots.
As a result, many headlines in the mainstream media stated “Anglican Church rejects same-sex marriage.” These headlines were not entirely accurate. Earlier in the week, Synod delegates had voted overwhelmingly to adopt the “Word to the Church” document, endorsing the “local option” approach to same-sex marriage. This “local option” grants bishops the right to exercise their pastoral judgment in deciding the matter within the context of their own diocese.
Since then, Archbishop Melissa Skelton has issued a statement empowering clergy within the Diocese of New Westminster to perform same-sex marriage services should they choose to do so. You can read her statement here.
St. Clement’s mission statement, voted upon by Parish Council in September 2018, is be an “inclusive, welcoming Christian community, faithful to Christ’s call to love God and serve the contemporary needs of a changing world.” This desire to be inclusive and welcoming has been affirmed by our church members over many vestry discussions and visioning exercises. At its meeting of September 24, 2019, Parish Council expressed its view that offering the sacrament of marriage to same-sex couples is an extension of St. Clement’s mission to be inclusive and hospitable, and supports our desire to offer the benefits of Christian community to all. Should you wish to share your thoughts on this matter, please be in touch with Philippa or a member of Parish Council.