“The Anglican communion is not a single, monolithic structure”

Published November 1, 2002

The following is adapted from a column by Archbishop David Crawley, published in the Kootenay diocesan newspaper The High Way.

It is important to understand the structure of both the Anglican Communion and the Anglican Church of Canada. The Anglican Communion is a world community of some 40 national or regional churches that trace their roots back to the Church of England. The communion is not a single monolithic structure. It has no distinctive body of doctrine nor has it a central magisterium, which could establish one. It has common roots and many common traditions, but it also has many differing structures, customs, traditions and teachings.

… (When General Synod was created) the powers of the General Synod and the provincial synods were defined, and all residual powers stayed in the dioceses. That means that if an issue arises which is not clearly designated to either the General Synod or the provincial synods, it falls to the individual dioceses to decide it unless ?the mind of the church? deems otherwise.

… The General Synod is clearly responsible for matters of doctrine, and worship.

… Four years ago, the synod of New Westminster considered and passed a motion put forward by three parishes, requesting the bishop to authorize the blessing of monogamous, life-long, same-sex unions. The bishop did not concur. A diocesan study program was organized and three commissions were established to consider the legal, theological, and liturgical issues.

The legal commission was asked to consider whether the diocese could proceed. The answer was that the synod was asking the bishop to authorize the use of an occasional service, and the diocese could therefore proceed. A year ago, the synod again voted in favour of the motion but the bishop still did not concur because the vote was less than 60 per cent, and he felt the diocese needed time to consider the pastoral needs of those opposed. This past June, the bishop presented a proposal to synod that would provide a visiting bishop, acceptable to those parishes opposed, who would provide pastoral and episcopal care for them; guarantee that no one, lay or clergy, would have to act against his or her conscience; ensure no clergy would lose his or her job or opportunity for advancement; lay out the terms by which parishes could ask for permission to bless same-sex unions. The synod accepted the bishop?s proposal and the bishop then concurred.

This is not the first time that a diocese has approved the blessing of faithful, monogamous, same-sex unions. … It is also important to understand that this issue is not about same-sex marriage. Marriage is governed by the civil province. Clergy officiate at weddings as agents of the state and can marry persons only within the bounds of civil law.

It is sad that disharmony and potential disunity have accompanied the synod?s decision, but, in fact, there has been for many years in New Westminster a profound difference between perceptions of what the Christian faith is, how it should be lived and how the Bible is to be understood. This decision has brought that difference to the forefront.



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