Bishop John Chapman of the diocese of Ottawa
Bishop John Chapman has given one church in the diocese of Ottawa permission to begin offering a rite of blessing to same-sex couples who are civilly married. The Church of St. John the Evangelist could offer its first blessing as soon as a married couple, at least one of whom is baptized, asks.
“Same-sex couples who are civilly married and seek the Church’s blessing of their marriage must be welcomed with the same care and solicitude that the church would extend to any other of its members;” Bishop Chapman wrote in his charge to the recent diocesan synod. “When the church blesses the marriage of anyone civilly married it does so recognizing that the couple is already married and that the blessing celebrates and deepens a reality that already exists,” he added.
Unlike the diocese of Niagara, which, as of Sept. 1, decided to allow its clergy to bless same-gender couples who have been civilly married, the diocese of Ottawa chose just one church and did not develop a whole new rite. At the Church of St. John the Evangelist, the blessing that will be used is an existing one from the book Occasional Celebrations of the Anglican Church of Canada, which was published by the Anglican Book Centre in 1992. That blessing is designed for couples who have been civilly married.
In his charge, Bishop Chapman explained that he decided not to ask for entirely new rite to be developed because his intention is “to embrace a liturgical process that will not discriminate between members of the Church on the basis of sexual orientation. This will be Ottawa’s offering to the ongoing discernment that is happening throughout the Anglican Church of Canada.”
When asked if this decision breaks the moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions that a large majority of the members of the house of bishops voted to affirm last fall, Bishop Chapman emphasized that he considers this move a part of the discernment process. “We have not made a decision. I think I say in the charge, this isn’t carved in stone. Evaluations will be done, further discussions will be had once we’ve had some experience of this,” he told the Anglican Journal. “So I’m feeling faithful to the direction of our 2007 Synod and I’m also feeling that we have faithfully embraced gracious restraint.” He noted that, based on the motion at the 2007 synod, he thinks they diocese would have preferred to go further than this decision.
“I have been struggling to be consistent in our desire to embrace experiential discernment because I believe the process of discernment needs to continue,” he said. ” In this diocese, we’ve talked about the blessing of same-sex couples since 1976 in one form or another and it’s time that we begin to discover what it feels like, as another step in discernment.”