Defending doctrine needs no cannons

Published March 1, 2003

Dear editor,

The last time I looked, God did not require the services of an Anglican priest in order to confer his blessing upon a true and abiding friendship. The fact that such friendships form, deepen and bring great joy and support to both partners is surely evidence enough of God’s blessing upon those things that are good in the relationship concerned. And so I wonder if, instead of seeking a ceremonial blessing of their union, friends of the same gender could not find a way, within the family of the church, to celebrate and give thanks for all that God has already done in their lives together?

Those of us in the pews are not necessarily aware of all the theological arguments for and against the blessing of same-sex unions. What we do know is that an obligation to carry out marriage-like ceremonies for partners of the same gender would put many of our clergy in a serious bind. At the time of ordination a priest vows to uphold the doctrine of the church. Anglican doctrine is rooted in scripture and many, though not all Anglicans interpret scripture as rejecting all forms of sexual intimacy outside of marriage.

When differences of this sort arise, it is natural for the church to close ranks and defend its doctrine. It sometimes does this using canons as if, you know, canon was spelled the other way.

In my experience, individual members of the clergy work best, not on the ramparts, but in quiet, private conversations where questions of moral conscience can be safely explored in a sensitive, truthful and respectful manner.

And so in our present difficulties I believe the church, too, needs to step back so that dialogue may continue in an atmosphere less emotionally charged and less politicized than that which presently exists. I think General Synod must take the lead by setting in motion whatever undertakings are needed to find a middle way.

Issues far more acute than this one have not broken the church in the past. If we can manage to step back; if we can then move alongside those with whom we have more similarities than differences, together listening to what God is telling us, our church will not be broken now.

Mary Richardson

Thunder Bay, Ont.


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