Bishops admit division on same-sex issue

Published December 1, 2002

Bishop Don Phillips of Rupert’s Land talks to Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton.

Mississauga, Ont.

Canadian Anglican bishops, at their regular fall meeting, acknowledged they are deeply divided on whether to offer blessings to gay couples and urged eight dissident parishes to seek reconciliation with the diocese of New Westminster, which has approved such blessings.

Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster said in an interview that he hopes the diocese and the eight parishes can agree on a facilitator to begin a process of discussion.

Bishop Ingham also said that the diocese is developing a rite for same-sex blessings and that three parishes have formally asked to use such a rite. ?There are couples waiting? for this action, he said.

Bishop Ingham was urged in open session not to go ahead with same-sex blessings, but said in an interview he would proceed. He later said that he had decided to delay implementation. (See article on page 1.)

The bishops? meeting, held Oct. 25-29, was dominated by the issue, which was tackled in three days of closed-door debate. After the bishops considered the results of the closed sessions, a six-member subcommittee drafted a ?message to the church? that said, in part, ?We are unable to speak with a unanimous voice on this issue of national concern, especially with regard to the subject of homosexuality in the light of Scripture.?

The statement proposed that the eight New Westminster parishes, which are withholding their diocesan contributions, and the diocese pursue discussions ?before the fracture widens.?

The statement also said the bishops agreed that ?we will not make individual decisions in any additional dioceses before General Synod, the church?s governing body, meets in 2004.? They referred the matter to General Synod ?for discussion and, if possible, resolution.?

The statement also said that until the matter is resolved, ?all bishops are asked to uphold the 1997 guidelines of the house of bishops on human sexuality.? The guidelines state that bishops ?do not accept the blessing of homosexual unions.?

In open session, several bishops, including Terrence Buckle of the Yukon and William Anderson of Caledonia, said they could not accept the statement if Bishop Ingham did not assure them he would not proceed with gay blessings. Bishop Ingham did not respond in open session to those statements. Bishop Ron Ferris of Algoma said that if New Westminster does proceed, it ?will be breaking communion with a large part of the Anglican world.?

Among the supporters of the statement, Bishop Barry Hollowell of Calgary said gay and lesbian Christians ?are baptized and there is not a two-tier baptism.?

Bishop Don Young of Central Newfoundland said he had thought same-sex blessings were not an issue in his diocese until he heard support for the idea from people he thought would be opposed. ?There are families of gay and lesbian people waiting to hear from us,? he said.

Bishop Caleb Lawrence, noting that he has ?grown old in this house during discussion of this issue,? said that if the blessing of gay unions ?is not of God, it will not stand and if this is of God, this house of bishops will not be able to prevent it.?

Twenty-eight bishops voted to accept the statement, nine voted against and Bishop Ingham abstained.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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