Diocese of Ottawa appoints committee to consider blessings

Published April 1, 2009

The bishop of the diocese of Ottawa, John Chapman, has appointed a doctrine and worship committee to determine whether same-sex unions can be blessed on a limited basis in the diocese. If the committee recommends that such blessings be allowed “in the spirit of experiential discernment,” Bishop Chapman said it would only be offered in one parish, St. John the Evangelist, an inner city parish that has long advocated for the rights of gays and lesbians.

“In the event that I instruct the parish of St. John the Evangelist to proceed, this is as far as I am prepared to move on the matter until General Synod 2010,” he said in his March column in the diocesan newspaper, Crosstalk. Bishop Chapman said that he has asked the committee to “create a liturgy, appropriate protocols and procedures, and an evaluative process.” The process “will determine whether or not the blessing of same-gender couples civilly married will become a practice among supportive parishes within the diocese of Ottawa, as requested by the 2007 synod of the diocese of Ottawa.”

Meanwhile, in the diocese of British Columbia, parishioners in two parishes voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC).

A majority of the members of the congregations of St. Mary’s Anglican Church in Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, and St. Matthias Anglican Church in Victoria, B.C., have placed themselves under the authority of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

The votes are “illegal,” according to Archdeacon Bruce Bryant Scott, the bishop’s commissary and diocesan executive officer.

In a related development, the bishop of the diocese of Niagara, Michael Bird, said he met in January with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to brief him about recent developments around same-sex blessings in his diocese, including his intention to give permission for them to begin to take place.

Bishop Bird said that he gave Archbishop Williams “a full account of our dealings with dissenting parishes and the court proceedings we have been involved in.”

He said that he shared  “our experience of the incredible contribution that gay and lesbian people have made and continue to make in every aspect of our church’s life and witness, and expressed the overwhelming desire on the part of two synods to move forward with the blessings of committed same-sex relationships for couples who have been civilly married.”

In a letter to his diocese published in the March issue of the diocesan newspaper, Niagara Anglican, Bishop Bird said one of the “powerful moments” during his 50-minute meeting with Archbishop Williams was a discussion on the New Vision developed by the diocese. “…I indicated that it was my sense that the challenge the Vision offers us around the work of prophetic justice-making has made us even more determined to become a more open and inclusive church.”

Bishop Bird visited Lambeth Palace during a two-week visit to the United Kingdom, which included his attendance at the Canterbury New Bishop’s Program at Canterbury Cathedral.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he has adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the proposal recently adopted at the primates’ meeting for a “professionally mediated conversation” among churches at odds over the issue of sexuality.

Archbishop Hiltz said he indicated the Canadian church’s willingness to participate in such a conversation, both in person and in writing to Archbishop Williams.

He underscored that such a conversation will only be successful if all parties agree to come to the table.

He reiterated his “frustration” that a meeting among primates involved in cross-border interventions did not take place at the recent primates’ meeting in Alexandria, Egypt.

Briefing staff at the national office in Toronto, Archbishop Hiltz said that he left the meeting with a sense that, for a majority of the primates, the debate over sexuality “was not a communion-breaking issue.”


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