The Council of General Synod (CoGS) has agreed that all submissions to the Commission on the Marriage Canon will be posted, with attribution, on the Anglican Church of Canada’s website, anglican.ca.
The commission was created to conduct broad consultation about a motion to change the church’s law to allow same-sex marriage, which will be presented to the church’s governing body, General Synod, in 2016.
CoGS’ decision was made after questions were raised by some members about whether exceptions could be made for people who fear that there might be consequences for them if they express opinions that might be contrary to their parish or community.
Members spent some time discussing various options, which they narrowed down to four:
- All submissions will be posted to the web with attribution.
- All submissions will be posted to the web with attribution. However, prior to receiving submissions, the commission may for good reason grant a request that a submission be posted without attribution.
- Submissions to the commission, while signed, will not be publicly associated with the name of the person making the submission.
- Two lists will be made public—first, a collection of submissions to the commission, and second, a list of those making submissions.
It took a while for CoGS to achieve consensus on the matter as members expressed varying opinions.
Jennifer Warren, from the ecclesiastical province of Canada, said not identifying the authors of submissions “compromises the trust” given by members of the 2013 General Synod who voted on the marriage canon resolution with amendments that included a broad consultation.
“I think that if people want to have a say, they should feel safe enough to say that, and hopefully the Spirit can help them to feel comfortable to find the courage to come forward in views that may not be popular amongst their immediate colleagues or in their parish,” said Warren.
The Rev. Canon Terry Leer, from the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, urged members not to support unattributed statements, saying that there needs to be a level of transparency and accountability. He acknowledged that in dioceses like his own (Athabasca), holding to a more tolerant or liberal approach to scriptures “can, in fact, be dangerous to your career, to your pastoral relationships inside your parishes.” But, he said, “The gospel and the tradition says that it is costly.”
Major the Rev. Marc Torchinsky, Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada, said if there is no transparency “we are only going to create more confusion…more anger and more suspicion amongst those who are looking for it.”
Diocese of Edmonton bishop, Jane Alexander, from the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, suggested that the commission simply publish a list of contributors. “It doesn’t have to say what they said or what they did, but just [be] a list of everybody who submitted, with the diocese that they’re from, so that it can be seen by the church that the whole church has contributed to the work of the commission.”
Diocese of Ottawa bishop, John Chapman, agreed that there should be no anonymous submissions, but said he was uncomfortable with the fact that anything on the Internet stays there forever, even as people’s opinions might change and evolve.
Alex Starr, from the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia, said that while it was important “to take responsibility for the words we say,” they often come from a position of privilege.
Canon Robert Falby, chair of the commission, also assured CoGs that submissions will be vetted so that those containing offensive language will be invited to amend them.
– With files from Leigh Anne Williams