Partners note difficult process

By on June 1, 2004

St. Catharines, Ont.

The issue of same-sex blessings was like an elephant in the room at General Synod – not even the Canadian ecumenical and overseas partners of the Anglican Church of Canada who attended the gathering could ignore the issue in their reports.

“We sympathize with what you’re struggling with. As the saying goes ‘been there, done that,'” said Rev. Robert Mills of the United Church of Canada, which has supported the civil recognition of same-sex relationships and allows its clergy to bless such unions. “It’s an unavoidable struggle in today’s world.”

Mr. Mills talked about how the United Church of Canada dealt with the issue, saying “There’s a great need for patience and a willingness to listen to views different from ours, especially on sexual orientation. It has to go both ways.” He said that after a decision had been made in his church, “there was a remarkable change of attitude and acceptance that seemed impossible.”

General Synod typically invites ecumenical observers and Anglican partners from the United States and overseas to participate – without vote – in its triennial meetings.

Richard Schneider, president of the Canadian Council of Churches, asked delegates to “be fully accountable to your fellow Christians” and to “recognize that as long as you are in ecumenical dialogue the decisions you make are not in a vacuum.” He added that “whatever you decide (on the issue of same-sex blessings) will be interpreted as representing Anglican understanding of Scripture … It will cause seismic movements in your dialogues, whichever way you decide.”

National bishop Raymond Schultz of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), a full communion partner of the Anglican Church of Canada, said his church was praying for General Synod as it debated the issue.

He also said that while the ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada were still experiencing “some tension around the implementation of existing agreements” things for the most part have been “going well.”

Canon Stephen Lane, of the Episcopal Church of the United States of America, spoke of the effects of the ordination of a gay bishop in the diocese of New Hampshire. “I think we’re doing pretty well. It’s a time of discovery for our church,” he said. “No diocese has escaped pain.”

He noted how synod dealt with the motion that would have affirmed that it was up to dioceses to decide whether to bless same-sex unions. “Some of you were more ready to move than others and we sensed that the question had already been answered by you,” he said.

In an interview with Anglican Journal, Bishop Duleep de Chickera of the diocese of Colombo, Sri Lanka, said the youth made a difference when most of them stood up to voice their views on a motion regarding same-sex relationships. “There was a touch of disappointment (from an earlier defeated motion) so that made them even more determined to work for the inclusion of Clause 6” which affirmed the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships, he said.

Bishop de Chickera said he was impressed with the way General Synod prepared for tasks at hand. “The emphasis on small group discussions, prayer, worship and home groups have prepared people for business.”

Francisco de Arazoza of the Episcopal Church of Cuba said he considered the election of a new primate the highlight of the gathering. “It’s an important synod mostly because of the election of the primate, which has something to do with us because he will also be the president of the Metropolitan Council of Cuba.”

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