Mississauga , Ont.
One of the significant issues that the meeting of General Synod is expected to handle in 2004 is the question of whether the church should permit the blessing of gay relationships. Canon Eric Beresford, a national church consultant for ethics and inter-faith relations, and facilitators from a private consulting firm told the house of bishops and Council of General Synod that focus groups considering this issue are expressing “honesty, passion and a certain amount of tension” but not divisive tension.
There are many people in “middle positions,” said Canon Beresford, ?not all bunched at either end.? Some wonder whether the time is right for such a decision, others desire a General Synod process that is non-manipulative, others say the real issue is “what sort of church we are,” said Canon Beresford.
“We wanted to know where are the points of possible conversation? Where are the flexibilities” Where are people not flexible?” he said. Participants also said they wanted space for prayer and reflection at General Synod, to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to delegates. Many wanted a process of small-group discussion at synod in addition to plenary debate.
The focus groups have been held across the country, with the 100-odd participants asked such questions as: “given what you have said you value in discussions thus far, what do you think would be the most helpful question to put to General Synod?” and “If the General Synod were to take the decision you would like it to take, how could this community of faith invite people who profoundly disagreed with you to continue to see themselves as part of this church?” Canon Beresford said Anglicans are expressing strongly that “we need to find some way of coming out of this together.”
The consulting firm of Linda Graff and Associates Inc. has been facilitating the groups.
At the house of bishops meeting, Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton said the question “is taking every conversation hostage” and that people “should feel progress has been made?” after General Synod. “Whatever else we do at synod, we must make a decision,” said Archbishop David Crawley of Kootenay.
Bishop Ron Ferris of Algoma maintained that any decision on same-sex blessings would affect the canon (church law) on marriage, which restricts religious marriage to a male-female couple. He said a change of canon would require a two-thirds majority vote of two successive General Synods.
Canon Beresford said the faith, worship and ministry committee still needs to consult with aboriginal parishes and other parishes with a particular ethnicity.