Anglicans on all sides of the same-sex blessings issue are quietly gathering forces before General Synod, where the debate concerning the church’s view of homosexual relationships promises to be one of the more dramatic events of the governing convention.
The motion that synod will consider when it meets in St. Catharines, Ont., from May 28 to June 4 would permit dioceses to decide for themselves whether to allow churches to hold blessing ceremonies for gay couples – a so-called “local option.” Two years ago, the synod of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster voted to allow such ceremonies.
Last fall, a group called Claiming the Blessing Canada, named after a similar group in the United States, began collecting on its Web site (www.geocities.com/claimblesscanada) names of supporters of same-sex blessings. Co-ordinator Joanne Davies, a lay person and hospital chaplain in Toronto, said that as of early April, more than 600 Anglicans – bishops, clergy and laity – had signed, including Archbishop Edward Scott, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Meanwhile, Integrity, a support group for gay Anglicans, will have a booth in the display room at General Synod, said Toronto co-ordinator Chris Ambidge. “We will have information for delegates, rainbow pins (as a symbol of support for diversity) and we will be putting our case for the support of the blessing of same-sex unions,” he said.
Conservative Anglicans, who say the Bible prohibits homosexual behaviour, also intend to “have a strong presence at General Synod,” according to Canon Charles Masters, national director of Essentials, a traditionalist organization.
In March, Essentials, via its Web site (www.anglicanessentials.org), announced an “urgent prayer request” for General Synod, saying that a vote in favour of same-sex unions “has enormous implications concerning the place of the Bible to speak with authority about our belief and conduct in current society.”
Essentials will also have a display booth and has reserved space at Concordia College at Brock University, site of the General Synod meeting, and is planning a “day of encouragement,” said Mr. Masters. Essentials leaders were scheduled to have a planning meeting at the end of April. Mr. Masters said the group is considering having prayer sessions and meals at its site. They may gather outside the General Synod plenary hall as delegates arrive, he said.
Members of Integrity and Essentials have been involved in recent months in various diocesan dialogue groups around the same-sex blessings issue. The diocese of Niagara held four workshops in February. Toronto is also holding consultations through the spring and has scheduled a special synod for Nov. 13 to consider the issue. The diocese of British Columbia’s synod voted to table a motion expressing concern that General Synod “remain faithful to the historic Anglican position on the primacy of the authority of Scripture.” It was referred to a diocesan commission on sexuality. The diocese of Ontario scheduled a “day of listening” for May 8 on the issue of same-gender relationships.