Anglicans may have a better idea of what sort of amendment, if any, is likely to be proposed to a resolution on same-sex marriage in less than two weeks, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
“Whether or not we have any kind of an amendment will be one of the things that the Council of General Synod will have to wrestle with in their November meeting and in their March meeting next year,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal last week, after a meeting of the House of Bishops in Charlottetown, P.E.I., October 25-30.
Council of General Synod (CoGS), the executive body of General Synod, is slated to hold its fall meeting November 23-25.
A resolution to amend the marriage canon to allow same-sex marriages was approved at General Synod 2016, and will need to pass a required second reading at General Synod’s next meeting in July 2019 in order to become church law. In the meantime, the House of Bishops has been discussing the idea of an amendment to the amendment—adding wording to the resolution that would include protections for Anglicans holding a traditional view of marriage.
Some traditionalists say they fear that the resolution, if passed, would make them outsiders within the Anglican Church of Canada or the Anglican Communion; others are concerned that refusing to perform same-sex marriages would expose them to human-rights complaints or disciplinary measures by the church.
The idea of amending the amendment has some strong support among the bishops, Hiltz said.
“I would say there’s…a deep yearning within the House that…we get to General Synod with maybe some kind of amendment to the amendment that actually speaks to the reality that there are a variety of views of marriage in our church—an amendment that could possibly get worded…to reflect the fact that people of a conservative view of marriage would feel absolutely free to continue to aspire to that view—teach it, uphold it and practice it. And that liberals would understand that,” he said. “And then on the other side of the coin, that liberals would have the blessing of the church to proceed with same-gender marriages with an assurance that people of a conservative view understand that and respect it. And that neither is imposing their view on the other,” Hiltz said.
Many bishops continue to wish the divisive issue could be resolved in some way other than voting on a resolution, which tends to make people feel like either winners and losers, Hiltz said.
“If we didn’t have to have a legislative process, everybody would be a lot happier,” Hiltz said. “That was also clear. There was among the bishops some considerable yearning for, you know…another way.
“There’s still a live conversation around…Could we have this conversation without legislation?’ ” he said. “And then there are others that say, ‘Well, you know, notwithstanding this deep yearning, this deep desire, the reality is until we change that kind of way of making decisions of that sort, we have to deal with this legislative process.’ So there was that sort of reality check in the room.
“I don’t think there’s any question some people would rather just have the thing tabled,” he said. “But if we do that, then that means…there are some dioceses that have made decisions, and the reality is, they’re not going to change their mind.”
Since the 2016 vote on the resolution, at least three dioceses have allowed same-sex marriages before the required second vote, citing General Synod chancellor Canon David Jones (lay), who has said he believes the marriage canon as it now exists does not actually prohibit same-sex marriage.
Anne Germond, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario and bishop of the diocese of Algoma, said the bishops spent almost a whole day discussing the marriage canon in small groups and reporting back to the wider gathering on their conversations.
“I found that wherever my colleagues are on the proposed change to the canon, our conversations were respectful and I sensed a deep desire for us to keep walking together following [the vote at General Synod], regardless of the outcome,” she said.
The bishops also, Hiltz said, heard a report on the August 2018 meeting of Sacred Circle, the deliberative body of the church’s Indigenous Anglican members.
It seems likely, the primate said, that the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), which guides Indigenous ministry in the church, will want to bring a number of items discussed at Sacred Circle to General Synod when it meets in July, including legislative changes to develop an Indigenous Anglican church within the Anglican Church of Canada. Since ACIP will meet shortly before CoGS meets this month, it’s expected that CoGS will also learn in more detail about these proposals at its coming meeting, he said.
David Lehmann, bishop of the diocese of Caledonia, said the reflections on Sacred Circle were “inspiring and exciting,” and a highlight of the bishops’ gathering.
The bishops also discussed confirmation, Hiltz said. In recent years there has been a lack of clarity around who confirms whom in joint Anglican-Lutheran parishes, he said, given that in the Lutheran tradition, local pastors confirm, whereas in the Anglican tradition, confirmation is performed by bishops. The House of Bishops, Hiltz said, felt a need to state definitively that confirmation in such parishes should be done by bishops only.
“We hold an obligation as bishops of the church…to uphold the Anglican tradition of bishops confirming, and not delegating that to presbyters or pastors,” he said. “There’s a small group of bishops that I’ve appointed to do a bit of work on this, and we feel that out of respect for our full communion relationship, we owe it to the ELCIC to come to a definitive statement on this.”
Since 2001, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have had a full communion relationship, which allows members to worship and take communion in each other’s churches, and clergy from each church to preside at one another’s services.
“As I said at the meeting…and others spoke to it as well, the nature of full communion is that we’re not one church; we’re not a merged church,” Hiltz added. “We are two autonomous churches who feel called to be in a full communion relationship while respecting the polity and practice of both churches, even though they may be different.”
Hiltz said he also asked—and received—feedback from the bishops on what topics they would like to see addressed at the next Lambeth Conference, which gathers bishops from across the Anglican Communion, slated for 2020. Hiltz said he would take this feedback to a meeting he will be hosting of primates from the Americas and the Caribbean, scheduled for November 26-29. The meeting, announced in a reflection released last October, is one of a series of regional meetings of primates that will take place across the Anglican Communion in advance of the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, is among those expected to attend.
The bishops also, Germond said, discussed the upcoming process of choosing a successor to Hiltz, who will resign on the final day of General Synod. The bishops will hold an extra meeting this January, she said, during which Hiltz will speak to them about the primacy.
“Each of us will be prayerfully considering the character and qualities we want in a primate for this time in the life of our church,” she said. Candidates will be nominated during the March meeting of the House of Bishops, she said. The election itself will be held during General Synod.
The bishops also released a statement, on October 30, on the mass shooting three days earlier at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The statement quotes an address by Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of Great Britain, to the 2008 Lambeth Conference: “If you cannot recognise the image of God in a person who does not look or think like you, then you have made God into your own image and have begun to worship an idol.”
Anti-Semitism, the bishops state, “has a long and terrible history in our Christian tradition,” and is “still alive in too many places and in too many hearts.” The bishops ask for prayers for people killed in the shooting or grieving the loss of loved ones, as well as for those “caught in the web of anger and hatred.” The statement calls on Canadian Anglicans to “challenge words of prejudice and hatred” that they might encounter, to offer friendship and compassion to strangers as well as friends, and to “act for reconciliation in places of brokenness and pain.”
The statement concludes by citing the teaching of Jesus: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”