The diocese of New Westminster’s annual synod, or general meeting, voted on May 14 to limit the blessing of gay relationships at Anglican churches within the Vancouver-based area.
Meeting in North Vancouver May 13-14, about 300 delegates decided that the eight parishes that have received permission to offer the ceremony may continue to do so but none of the other 70 parishes in the diocese may until General Synod (the national church’s governing body) again considers the issue at its next meeting in 2007.
Synod rejected a call for a complete halt to the same-sex blessing rites and also turned down a plea that it not impose any limit.
Diocesan bishop Michael Ingham, who chaired the synod, said in an opening sermon that “now it is time to pay attention to relationships and the strain our actions have caused.” He added that there are “levels of deeply-felt anxiety among the parishes and people of our diocese that will not go away … We must now put the same effort into re-building broken relationships that we put into ending the discrimination against some people in our church.”
The synod had been charged with finding a way to respond to the Windsor Report, a document produced last October by an international committee that addressed ways of keeping the worldwide Anglican Communion together despite differences relating to homosexuality. The report called for a moratorium on all same-sex blessings.
“I believe we have taken the Anglican Communion very seriously,” said Bishop Ingham. At the same time, by allowing blessings to continue in some parishes, the synod continued to affirm gay and lesbian Christians, he said.
The delegates worked from a report prepared jointly by Rev. John Oakes, rector of Holy Trinity, Vancouver, who represented a conservative viewpoint, and Rev. Richard Leggett, professor at Vancouver School of Theology, representing a more-liberal interpretation of theology.
Before the vote, seven parishes were known to have asked to be designated a place of blessing. After the vote, Bishop Ingham announced that an eighth parish had voted on April 3 to offer the ceremony and he approved, but he had not announced it previously so as not to be seen as influencing the vote.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, also attended the synod and praised the group for struggling “openly and honestly” with the issue.
With files from Topic