Rights principles approved

Published September 1, 2001

Waterloo, Ont.

AFTER more than 20 years of debate, a new declaration of principles on how the church treats parishioners and employees won General Synod approval.

The principles, contained in a document entitled A Call to Human Dignity, call for protection for “all persons seeking spiritual care and nurture .. and those people employed by our church.” It bans discrimination on the basis of “age, sex, sexual orientation, family or marital status, race, colour, ethnic (or place of) origin, ancestry, disability, creed or social-economic status.”

Each diocese is expected to implement the principles and report back to General Synod in 2004.

Committee members who drafted the document pleaded with synod delegates to view it as a “process tool” and not as a legalistic human rights document designed to strong-arm people into hiring those they do not want.

Although the principles were adopted by synod, it was still a bitter pill for some to swallow.

After the motion was introduced by committee member Rev. Patrick Yu of Toronto, Bishop Terrence Buckle of the diocese of the Yukon came to the microphone to explain why the attempted statement of principles was defeated narrowly in the order of bishops at the 1998 General Synod.

“There was one phrase that caused the trouble, and it’s still here,” he said. “It’s ‘sexual orientation.’ The practice of homosexuality is not acceptable to bishops in priests and deacons. If an employed deacon or priest is a practicing homosexual we have no recourse.”

Past incarnations of the document “repeated a pattern over and over,” committee member Sherry Coman said in an interview.

“The motions kept getting defeated because some people feared the inclusion of some, and the exclusion of others,” she said.

Committee members included chair Rev. Allen Box of the diocese of Ottawa, Ms. Coman of the diocese of Toronto, Donna Ball, of Rupert’s Land, Dorothy Davies-Flindall, of Ontario, Archbishop Tom Morgan, of Saskatoon, and Mr. Yu, of Toronto.

In all, four amendments were proposed and defeated, all attempts to remove reference to either employment or sexual orientation.

When he first proposed the motion, Mr. Yu said, “The wording of the statement makes it clear that we are not creating an Anglican Charter of Rights which supersedes the canons of the church. We are not making law at all.”

Bishop Ron Ferris of the diocese of Algoma, who was bitterly opposed to the declaration over the issue of sexual orientation, called for, and won, a vote by orders and by dioceses.

The motion passed with 24 dioceses voting in favour, one tied and five against. Tied was the diocese of Saskatoon. Those opposed were Brandon, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Arctic and Athabasca.

Bishop Ferris’s diocese of Algoma voted for the motion.

Bishop Ferris condemned the document as “a long-term strategy for those who want to celebrate and promote gay and bisexual love.”


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