Emotions run high after blessings defeated

Published June 25, 2007


There were tears in the eyes of some, others bowed in prayer, and some quietly walked out of the plenary room shortly after the defeat on June 24 of the motion to allow the blessing of same-sex unions, only to face church and secular media who wanted to know how they felt about the decision.

“I think they (bishops) were trying to respond to what they heard in Synod, people wanting more study, time for discernment,” said Bishop Fred Hiltz, primate-elect of the Anglican Church of Canada, who had voted in favour. “I have my own personal opinion, as you know, but my responsibility is now to work with this decision. There needs to be a pastoral response. We have a very divided church, and no doubt many, many people will be disappointed by this vote. I will try and reach out pastorally to those who are disappointed.”

Bishop Michael Ingham, whose Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster authorized rites for same-sex blessings in 2002, said, “No one can take comfort from this vote because the majority voted in favour of local option. For many, there would be a sense of betrayal.”

Bishop Sue Moxley said she was “just really disappointed” that the house of bishops “would be holding back when it’s clear other people are ready to go.” She said some dioceses might simply go ahead and allow same-sex blessings.

Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton, chair of the Primate’s Theological Commission, said, “I don’t think there were any winners. We know that people on both sides … leave tonight with a profound sense of sadness that the body of Christ is broken.”

Hugh Matheson, of the diocese of Keewatin, said, “It was in some sense a predictable decision. The house of bishops indicated that there wasn’t enough support for it in their house. I thought that the discussion that we should go ahead was more articulate, this Synod. It will come up again.”

Bishop George Bruce of Ontario said, “The bishops didn’t have enough of a sense of the house. In New Westminster, Michael Ingham didn’t consent until he had 60 per cent (approval).”

Other reactions:

Canon Garth Bulmer, diocese of Ottawa
I’m delighted that the first resolution passed. I think it was another big step in terms of protecting and affirming gay people in their relationships. (I’m) disappointed obviously that General Synod decided not to include the method of implementing it. I think it was a big mistake on the part of the bishops because I think it’s going to happen anyway. I believe there’s an interpretation that it’s not core doctrine and the diocese can decide it.

Canon Murray Still, Diocese of Rupert’s Land
“There’s going to be disappointment on both sides. I think in large part we’re trying to wrestle with our relationship with the Anglican Communion. We voted for the Communion and our relationship with the global Anglican family.”

Rev. Jamie Howison, Diocese of Rupert’s Land
“I was not surprised. They (bishops) do function as the sober second thought. (The motion) was approved by a decent majority by clergy and laity, so the conversation continues.

Bishop Phillip Poole, diocese of Toronto
I think the synod considered the issue very carefully, thoroughly and very respectfully…The house of bishops has said that it’s not prepared to move at this time.

Bishop Anderson, diocese of Caledonia
I think that the bishops have recognized that our church is really divided, that before we do anything to implement the provisions of this motion we have to build consensus and have further conversation, otherwise it’s simply too destructive. I doubt that the bishops are going to be very popular because of this (discussion), but they displayed a lot of wisdom and courage on their part.

Richard Leggett, diocese of New Westminster
I was encouraged by the votes of the laity and clergy but I understand the difficult position the bishops are in. The clergy are representing the people on the ground, but the bishops are providing for the needs of the wider church.

Steve Schuh, diocese of New Westminster
I was extremely disappointed with the bishops. We had a good debate, it was very respectful and I very much appreciated it.

Bishop Barry Clarke, diocese of Montreal
I’m disappointed. However, this is democracy in some way, shape and form and it worked. We’ll work through it and see where it leads us. At the moment I know that I have to provide pastoral care for my delegates here because some of them are hurt and my responsibility is to care for them at the moment. When I return to the diocese I will be facing, like many bishops, the real challenges as was mentioned.

Bishop Jim Cowan, diocese of British Columbia
I think there are people who know that I’m in favour of same-sex unions, but that I’ve been asking for the theological rationale for it to be an issue of justice. Justice is a theological issue, let’s name that and get that all on the table and bring along as many people as possible in this and I think in 2010 we can do that and we can also take it to Lambeth and see how many in the Communion can bring it along as well.

Gordon Youngman, Diocese of BC
I’m disappointed. I was pleased to see at least that the debate was more civil and respectful than three years ago. The House of Bishops has been sent a very strong message that the clergy and laity want to move ahead. The Anglican Church of Canada is effectively paralyzed for the next three years.

Bishop John Privett, Kootenay
It was a vote to continue the (worldwide Anglican) Communion conversation and it was a vote of support for those bishops who said they face difficulty in their dioceses. It puts us in a position of being asked to wait.

Archbishop John Clarke, Athabasca
It was a recognition that the effect is not only in our diocese, but in the worldwide Anglican Communion. It should have been addressed as a matter of canon law, not a justice issue. Every time we try to do things that are not part of the process, we get in trouble.

Ron Chaplin, an observer who is a member of the Ottawa branch of Integrity, a gay Anglican support group
My only real surprise is that the bishops’ margin was as narrow as it was. I hope now the bishops will be able to go to Lambeth and speak with their colleagues and say this is where our church stands. I am not upset. The tide is moving (toward approval). The first motion (concerning doctrine) makes a theological space for gay and lesbian people in the church. We now have that doctrinal space. What we have seen is the leadership of the laity. We know our church is changing.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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