Members express views on marriage canon report

Council of General Synod members and observers during a special session at Cody Hall, St. Paul's Bloor, Toronto. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Council of General Synod members and observers during a special session at Cody Hall, St. Paul's Bloor, Toronto. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Published September 24, 2015

What do you think about the marriage canon report? Was there anything that stood out for you? Council of General Synod (CoGS) members and partners to weigh in.

Cynthia Haines-Turner, General Synod deputy prolocutor

[The report was] extremely well-done, well-presented, clear, balanced, reflective of a lot of care and attention. I found a lot of the reflection quite helpful [in clarifying] the issue. The commissioners were given a particular task, but the theological reflection, the Biblical understanding are some fairly key elements. What they presented was actually quite accessible and I think that people taking the time to go through the sections will find it very helpful.

Canon Terry Leer, clergy, ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land

[What stood out was] the integrity and earnestness of the commissioners. It was very clear that they worked hard. It was very clear that they were given an almost impossible task and yet sought to remain faithful to [it]. [The proceedings were] very respectful, but then this group knows each other. We’re coming towards the end of our term together. I think it will all feel much more civil and caring and supportive than the actual experience at [General] Synod. Both Winnipeg 2010 and Ottawa 2013 were not pleasant, warm, fuzzy experiences. So I do have some fears and some anxieties. Once we get there and we’re in Toronto 2016, it won’t feel at all like this.

Our discussions at Toronto 2016 will have to be focussed on relationships. I’m deeply involved in discipleship formation and development, and everybody in this field knows that whether we’re talking about stewardship or discipleship or mission, it’s all in terms of relationship, and that will have to happen at General Synod 2016. The planning group will have to potentially create systems and processes that will enable people to say things face to face. It is very much harder to be angry with a person than it is to be angry about a position. Toronto 2016 will be tough-I think processes can be designed that will ameliorate some of the pain… that will help increase the sense of belonging and responding to God’s call to love one another.

Amanda Lucien, youth, ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land

What stood out for me was probably the explanation that we got from the Commission-the complexity of it, and the good wording. I felt, as a youth, that I got a better understanding from listening to them rather than reading through the report itself. The sections were really easy. It made it easier to find certain questions.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald

I think it’s careful and well-done and I would commend them for it. I still think that the cultural perspective of First Nations people was not a part of it. It’s still very much a report from the larger church, which is Western in its orientation. It will be a challenge for Indigenous people to work through it, analyze it and do a careful response to it. There will be some long, challenging and intense discussions about how we relate to it as we lead up to General Synod. Of course, there will be quite a bit of variation, but I think, as well, even for people who might be supportive of the goal, the perspective is still very much that of the dominant culture.

In the submission we gave (to the commission) we said this, and they listened very carefully. We said, ‘This is very much a Western discussion and doesn’t really take into enough that there are other ways of dealing with issues that are problematic.’

There are two issues of translation – one is the issue of language, the other, the cultural perspective. It will be a (challenge) the way in which law and social sciences from a Western perspective have been kind of introduced in these discussions -without anybody really thinking about it. Everything is careful, measured… This is a different perspective. Post-colonial theorists call it “the aloof white gaze.” In Western societies, it works very well, but in other cultural contexts it’s dealt with very differently, maybe in a spiritual context, which views things in a holistic sense.

We’ll certainly try to work with it and we’ll try to interpret best as we can to our elders what it means and wait for their wisdom.

Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton, clergy, ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon

I’m from New Westminster, so this is a lively issue in my diocese and has been for years. I was very impressed with the work of the commission. I can heartily commend the report [and] say, “Please read it, please read all the footnotes, please look at the resolution,” as we prepare for General Synod 2016 to be able to have that kind of depth. I think the report was so well done. They did their work extremely well. The kind of calm voices they had going into that much depth has prepared us at CoGS. We know what our work is to prepare for 2016 and I’m actually looking forward to going back to my diocese, having heard people’s anxieties about 2016 and about this resolution. I think our work is well-prepared.

[The] concise, fresh, biblical theological rationale that goes into depth is a refreshing thing; 65 pages is doable for people to read. I’m frustrated with people who are for or against, but haven’t actually read it. They [commissioners] drilled into the task very clearly, they were very careful to do what General Synod 2013 told them to do. [They] didn’t get us back into the kind of debates we were having in 2002, in New Westminster, about same-sex blessings – where people were already polarized so that there wasn’t real, careful listening.

Jennifer Warren, lay, ecclesiastical province of Canada

I think what stood out for me in the report was the care that was given to listening to all of the voices, and the respect of people with very diverse opinions. Some submissions were short and concise, and others were lengthy and detailed. But, every voice was heard, everyone who put forward their voice was heard. They did a very good job of reflecting that, particularly in the margins along the side. I enjoyed seeing the comments directly from the submissions as opposed to just the opinion of the commissioners.

I feel like the spirit is moving people to be open to other ideas. I feel like there is great care being taken to respect what was asked of us by General synod 2013, that the instructions were quite clear and direct. And though there might be some people who disagree in principle, and in their personal beliefs, with the changes, there is still a commitment to honour what was asked of CoGS by General Synod, and then to leave it to the will of General Synod 2016.

The Rev. Norm Wesley, diocese of Moosonee, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) representative to CoGS

The proceedings went lighter than expected. I was expecting them to be very complex, difficult to understand, and hard to grasp. It wasn’t so. The way it was presented was just genius, how the members of the commission came up and said their parts and highlighted [sections of the report] for us. Then we actually got to read the document, so I was able to grasp it a lot easier in terms of what the content was.

I was expecting to carry a big binder home, but it wasn’t, it was only 65 pages. And to be able to condense that down, we have to commend the commission for doing that, because it is a very difficult issue. A lot of prayer went into that, I’m sure.

The last couple of days have been really revealing for me, and it gives us plenty to think about in terms of where we go as a church.

What stood out to me was the motion, in terms of what needed to be done within the canon, and how little had to be changed within the canon, because we’re not really changing the definition of marriage, we’re just making it more inclusive. The other, of course, was the opting out on the part of the diocesan synod, the bishop, and also the congregations.

Don Wilson, lay, ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon

I think there was a tremendous amount of work that went into it. It has satisfied all the parameters of the resolution that was demanded of CoGS by General Synod in 2013 to produce a motion [to amend Canon 21 to allow the marriage of same-gendered couples]. …It had a sound theological basis for that.


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