New West synod to revisit blessing same-sex unions

Published June 1, 2001

The diocese of New Westminster’s annual synod this month will again consider whether to ask Bishop Michael Ingham to allow the blessing in church of committed homosexual relationships.

Supporters see it as a legitimate response to the needs of gay and lesbian Anglicans and an important sign that homosexuals are respected and included in the church. Opponents, citing biblical restrictions against homosexuality, see it as a dangerous move away from traditional Anglicanism and orthodox Christianity.

Bishop Ingham, who supports the idea of blessing same-sex unions, said the issue “touches people’s feelings at a deep level, a level not altogether rational.” He added, “It’s kind of a visceral issue and you can’t reason people out of positions you haven’t reasoned them into. It challenges a traditional Christian understanding of sexual ethics.”

The diocese, which covers about one-third of the British Columbia coastline from the U.S. border to Powell River and includes the city of Vancouver, is revisiting the issue after voting, 179-170, at its 1998 synod in favor of allowing the blessings.

At the time, Bishop Ingham witheld his consent, saying that he wanted to consult with the wider church. He began a dialogue process among all the parishes.

“Our dialogue has prepared people very well and we will make the best decision we can,” said Bishop Ingham. However, a task force from the Vancouver chapter of Essentials, a conservative Anglican group, criticized the process as “a manifestly unfair exercise in persuasion.”

Gay Anglicans say they believe they have the right to celebrate committed relationships at their church and before God.

“There is a desire for it among gay and lesbian Christians. Many view it as right for our time. A blessing of a union is an opportunity for parents, the community, family and friends to thank God for what He has done in their lives,” noted Steve Schuh, leader of the Vancouver chapter of Integrity, an organization of gay and lesbian Anglicans.

The bishop also appointed several commissions to research the theological, liturgical and legal issues surrounding the issue.

The liturgical commission prepared a proposed rite for same-sex blessings. In April, the three-person “legal and canonical commission” announced it could find nothing in civil or canon law that would prohibit Bishop Ingham from authorizing such blessings, but that the blessing would be a rite and not a sacrament.

If the controversial motion is approved, Bishop Ingham said he will present the decision in July to General Synod 2001, for consultation.

(For news of the synod’s decision check or after June 3)


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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