CoGS approves plans to enable same-sex marriage discussion

General Synod prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner fields questions about CoGS' responsibility to encourage provinces and dioceses to discuss the marriage canon with planning and agenda team co-chair the Rev. Karen Egan (right). Photo: André Forget
General Synod prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner fields questions about CoGS' responsibility to encourage provinces and dioceses to discuss the marriage canon with planning and agenda team co-chair the Rev. Karen Egan (right). Photo: André Forget
Published November 20, 2016

On November 20, Council of General Synod (CoGS) passed four resolutions related to how it will deal with the same-sex marriage resolution in the triennium before General Synod 2019.

CoGS resolved to translate the materials related to the motion into Indigenous languages, to have its members encourage consideration of the motion in the synods of their home dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces, and to have the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, appoint a task group from the members of CoGS to facilitate consideration of the motion to change the marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage.

It also voted to have its members invite their dioceses to share resources they found helpful in learning about the proposed change to the marriage canon with the office of the general secretary, and to indicate if further resources are needed.

The resolutions came out of sessions on November 18 and 19, in which CoGS members discussed the best way for the council to encourage dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces to continue the discussion on same-sex marriage in advance of the second and final vote on the matter at General Synod 2019.

The council had originally planned to act on the resolutions during a legislative session on November 19, but passionate debate about the appropriate wording caused the vote to be pushed to the next day to ensure the wording of the resolutions reflected CoGS’ intent.

The resolution calling CoGS members to encourage their dioceses and provinces to continue to consider the marriage canon had originally asked CoGS members to serve as “ambassadors.” However, some members expressed concern that this would put them in the role of advocating for a change to the marriage canon.

“Are you going to make me go out and promote this resolution to move forward? Are you expecting me as a member of CoGS to give copies to other people?” asked the Rev. Vincent Solomon, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, before adding that he would prefer not to.

A similar concern was raised by John Rye, also of Rupert’s Land.

“Where a number of us have been publicly identified as advocates who clearly will be doing advocacy during this process, are we really the right people to be saying, ‘We come from CoGS, and we want you to consider this’?” he asked.

General Synod prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner said members are not being ordered to do anything, but are being “invited” to encourage a discussion to happen.

“We are in a position where the dioceses and provinces are bound by the constitution to consider a motion that has passed first reading in preparation for its second reading,” she said.

“The intent of this motion is that the members of the Council of General Synod [will] enable that consideration to happen.”

The resolution calling CoGS to encourage consideration of the resolution notes that this was “in accord with the provision in the Declaration of Principles ‘that between first and second reading the matter be referred for consideration to diocesan and provincial synods.’ ”

Concerns, nevertheless, remained, particularly around the question of translation.

Bishop Larry Robertson, of the diocese of Yukon, raised concerns about how much it would cost, noting that in his own experience, it is “not cheap” unless done by volunteers.

Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, said the national office has looked into the professional costs of translation, and said the officers of General Synod are considering using money from the contingency fund to pay for it.

National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald said that while he supported the motion, CoGS needed to be aware that many Indigenous communities don’t even have such basic liturgical resources as the Bookof Common Prayer and the Bookof Alternative Services in their own language.

“For us to show up with all sorts of glossy prints of something, when we haven’t followed through on a lot of other things…it doesn’t look very good,” he said. “I am hopeful that this indicates a commitment on the part of Council of General Synod and the Anglican Church of Canada for adequate and just translation as a policy.”

Haines-Turner responded by noting that the resolution, which includes a clause requiring translation to be done in consultation with Indigenous partners, is worded in such a way as to allow General Synod’s management team to provide Indigenous Anglicans with the desired resources in a way that is appropriate.

The November 20 legislative session also saw a motion brought to the floor by two of its first-time members, Melanie Delva and Dale Drozda, both from the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon.

The resolution, which passed by consensus, called on the Canadian Anglican church to “reaffirm” its commitment to the right to free, prior and informed consent enshrined in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and in the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It asks the Canadian church to express its support for Indigenous peoples, and to “assert and advocate their right for free, prior and informed consent,” and to “acknowledge and respond to their calls for solidarity.”

Delva said the motion was inspired by a conversation she had with the Rev. Laurel Dykstra, who spent a week with the Indigenous “water protectors” resisting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

She noted that similarly controversial resource extraction projects, such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline, are currently under consideration in Canada.

“We wanted to honour and name that this is a time of heightened conflict over resource development,” she said.


Editor’s note: The first paragraph of the story has been revised for clarity.


  • André Forget

    André Forget was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2014 to 2017.

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