The blessing of civil marriages between same-gender couples can now take place in diocese of Rupert’s Land parishes that wish to offer them.
Approximately a third of the Anglican Church of Canada’s 30 dioceses now have moved forward with same-sex blessings, an issue that has deeply divided Anglicans in Canada and worldwide.
The 2010 meeting of General Synod, the church’s governing body, did not approve the so-called local option allowing dioceses to grant same-sex blessings. But it recognized that the local option has been exercised by some dioceses and may be used in the future without the approval of the national church.
Bishop Donald Phillips of the diocese of Rupert’s Land initially withheld his consent when the synod passed a resolution allowing same-sex blessings on October 20. But after a 12-day period that included consultations with both the national and provincial houses of bishops, Phillips consented. “I am now settled that it is pastorally appropriate to proceed with concurring with this resolution,” he said in a memorandum.
Phillips explained that his initial decision not to endorse the resolution is not an uncommon practice. He noted how in the diocese of New Westminster, which first initiated same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Michael Ingham withheld his consent twice, at the 1998 and 2000 synods, even though the resolutions were passed with a majority. Ingham gave his consent in 2002.
Parishes will need to pass a formal resolution expressing their desire to have such blessings before they can be offered. To be eligible to receive the blessing, same-sex couples must have their marriage “duly solemnized and civilly registered,” said Phillips. The requirements and form the blessing take would require his authorization, he added, pointing out that only clergy “whose conscience permits” will be expected to offer same-sex blessings. The blessing is “a pastoral act, not a wedding rite,” he said.
Other Canadian Anglican dioceses that have approved same-sex blessings include: New Westminster, Edmonton, Niagara, Huron, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) also passed a motion asking its bishop to allow clergy “whose conscience permits” to bless same-sex unions.