As the Anglican Church of Canada braces itself for the General Synod vote this July on whether or not to change church law to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples, Bishop Donald Phillips of the diocese of Rupert’s Land has said that, “The time has come for the provision of same-sex marriages in our diocese to become reality.”
“I am committed to working toward making that happen both as soon as responsibly possible, and in a grace-filled manner that minimizes the impact for those who struggle with this issue – both within and beyond our Diocese,” Phillips said in a pastoral statement published May 26 by Rupert’s Land News, the newspaper of the diocese.
Phillips said that it is “yet to be determined” how this takes place. He stressed that he, members of the diocese and diocesan delegates to General Synod-who will be voting on marriage canon during the July 7-12 synod meeting in Richmond Hill, Ont.-should “remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in discerning that path.”
When asked by the Anglican Journal to clarify what he meant by “as soon as responsibly possible,” and whether or not this meant the diocese would perform same-sex marriages even if General Synod does not vote to change the law, the bishop’s office responded with an email saying that there wasn’t “anything more he could add to the statement” because it “pretty much contains everything he could say at this point.”
In his statement, Phillips said his position came as a result of “continued prayer, listening to many voices, studying the [Commission on the Marriage Canon], This Holy Estate, and much conversation.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Canadian church, noted in an interview earlier this year that if same-sex marriage is not adopted at this General Synod, “civil disobedience” could arise, with parishes or clergy going ahead with marriage ceremonies involving same-sex couples regardless.
Hiltz’ comments came following a statement from the House of Bishops that the vote was unlikely to pass with the required two-thirds majority in the Order of Bishops. Because the law governing marriage is a matter of doctrine, a two-thirds majority is required in all three orders-lay, clergy and bishops-in two consecutive meetings of General Synod.
Hiltz said that roughly a third of the bishops are in favour, a third are opposed and a third are struggling with the issue.
Even if the vote passes at this year’s synod, it will need to be ratified when General Synod meets again in 2019.