Algoma debates sexuality

Published March 1, 2003

(clockwise, from top left) Algoma synod members: Mel Malton, lay member, All Saints, Huntsville, Ont; Rev. Richard White, incumbent of Algoma’s Northern Lights parish; Bishop Ron Ferris; Rev. Jody Medicoff of Elliot Lake, Ont.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Delegates to the Algoma synod solidly defeated a motion declaring that God designed human sexuality exclusively for heterosexual marriages.

The vote on the motion was taken by orders and by ballot rather than a show of hands, with the laity most strongly coming out against the motion, 88 to 42. Clergy voted the motion down with 31 voting no and 21 in favour.

A second part to the motion stating that “adultery, fornication and homosexual unions are intimacies contrary to God’s will and design” was subsquently withdrawn by the mover, Rev. Richard White, of the three-point Northern Lights parish.

Some expressed surprise that the motion was even on the floor, only a day after the synod began what was intended to be a general discussion about which part of the church should make decisions about same-sex unions.

In October the house of bishops asked dioceses not to make any decisions on same-sex blessings until General Synod in May, 2004.

Ross Cutmore of St. James, Goulais River, Ont., said “I feel this is a back-door manner to bring same-sex unions to this synod. I’ve been to four synods and I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Rev. Shaun Turner, of St. Thomas, Bracebridge, Ont., said the motion would be viewed by the house of bishops “as blatantly disregarding their request to not move unilaterally.”

The diocesan bishop, Ron Ferris, replied that the intent of the motion was to be an expression of opinion, and not an act of setting doctrine.

Bishop Ferris is known to oppose same-sex blessings and was one of 13 bishops who signed a statement of regret following the decision last June by the diocese of New Westminster to allow same-sex blessings. Much of his charge to synod was taken up with an argument opposing the blessings.

The northern Ontario diocese also approved the financial agreement reached last November between the federal government and General Synod, the church’s national office; Algoma will contribute $725,000 to the $25-million residential schools settlement fund (see Schools, p. 1).

Introducing his motion on sexuality, Mr. White said that more than 200 articles and letters to the editor on matrimony, marriage and fornication had appeared in the Anglican Journal.

“We in the pastorate are finding fewer couples who are marrying and more living common-law,” he said. “The media are treating the issue of infidelity very lightly.”

His seconder, Rev. Tom Carman of St. Brice, North Bay, Ont., said, “sexual expression is a wonderful gift of God – it blesses us and wounds us deeply.” Mr. Carman said that census data shows “common-law relationships break up twice as often as marriage,” and that women in common-law relationships “are more likely to wind up abused and murdered.”

Stephen Kitzul of St. John the Divine, North Bay, said, “I would be very careful to present a statement like this to General Synod. It’s so restrictive and exclusive. God designed human sexuality. I cannot tell someone else how to express their sexuality.”

Also speaking against the motion, Mel Malton, of All Saints, Huntsville, Ont., said, “I am concerned about the degree of disunity and chaos that is manifest in this motion. Fear is winning this debate. Don’t make a leap of fear but a leap of faith.”

Rev. Jody Medicoff of St. Peter the Apostle, Elliot Lake, Ont., said the motion “will stop my journey of discernment. This motion will put an end to the discussion that I need in order to keep on journeying.”

Synod carried another motion asking the diocese to begin exploring the issue of same-sex blessings. The motion encourages each parish and General Synod delegate to study the role of Scripture, the church’s constitution and the historical documents of Anglicanism (the Solemn Declaration of 1893 and the 39 Articles) in addressing the issue..

John Smale, of St. Luke, Sault Ste. Marie, asked, “are we going to wander in the wilderness for 40 years? Do we favour homosexual marriage or not? That’s the question.”

Delegates also passed a motion calling on General Synod to resolve the issue of same-sex blessings.


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