Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, released a statement Jan. 20 affirming the dignity of LGBTQ+ people and their place in the church after a controversial recommendation by Church of England bishops on same-sex marriage.
The bishops’ recommendation, released Jan. 20 but leaked to the media two days earlier, is part of a study into human sexuality called Living in Love and Faith that took several years. It proposes that Church of England clergy begin blessing unions of same-sex couples who are legally married or joined in a civil union or covenanted friendship, but stops short of endorsing marriage services for same-sex couples. As this story was going to print in late January, the Church of England’s General Synod was set to consider the recommendation at their meeting Feb. 6-9. “We affirm the presence, dignity and gifts of 2SLGBTQI+ members of our churches,” Nicholls said. “We oppose homophobia, transphobia and discriminatory practices based on sexual identity or orientation. We continue to listen together for the voice of the Holy Spirit in discernment about committed relationships.”
She added that while the bishops indicated there must be further discussion, many people found their recommendations difficult to receive.
“Some are deeply disappointed that the bishops have not supported marriage,” Nicholls said. “Others are upset that any change is being proposed to affirm same-sex relationships.”
The latter group includes the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which claims to represent 75 per cent of Anglicans around the world. In a Jan. 24 news release, the GSFA said that if the General Synod of the Church of England affirmed the bishops’ recommendations, it would be violating the “clear and canonical teaching of the Bible,” and that this would lead to “impaired communion with many provinces of the Anglican Communion.”
The discernment process over same-sex relationships, Nicholls said, “is one very familiar to the Anglican Church of Canada and equally painful … We have had painful, divisive debates on the matter of same-sex blessings and marriage and have been unable to find agreement.”
A vote to amend the marriage canon to allow blessing of same-sex marriages did not pass at the 2019 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. But Nicholls noted some dioceses have made pastoral provisions to bless same-sex committed relationships or marriage.
The Canadian primate described the Anglican Communion as a family where decisions of one part affect the others and asked people to pray “for our Anglican family.”
“The news from the Church of England will open painful wounds for many about our discussion and our inability to discern a way forward together,” Nicholls said.