As the halfway point between the last and the next General Synod approaches, issues around same-sex marriage continue to be an important cause of concern among the church’s bishops, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
“My sense is that there’s a lingering kind of anxiety within the church about how we have a decent conversation about this matter at General Synod 2019,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal Monday, October 30.
A resolution to allow same-sex marriages in the church passed its first reading at General Synod in July 2016; a required second reading will go before General Synod in 2019.
Hiltz made the comments during an interview about the meeting October 23-27 of the House of Bishops in Niagara Falls, Ont.
A number of bishops expressed concerns, he said, about how same-sex conversations at the next General Synod could take place “in a way that doesn’t leave people feeling marginalized, isolated, pushed out—on either side.”
Many feel that the traditional legislative process that the synod follows encourages contention, he said. “You basically either speak in favour or against. So immediately…you get some sense of the—in some respects—division in the house.”
Among the bishops, he said, there’s “a whole range of hopes and scenarios” about how conversation at synod might be guided.
Some bishops raised questions about the time limits imposed on General Synod members when debating, given the great importance many place on the issue of marriage.
There’s also anxiety among some in the church, Hiltz said, that the resolution, despite its conscience clause, doesn’t offer enough protection to those who oppose same-sex marriages—that if the resolution passes its second reading, would-be priests who are opposed will find it harder to get ordained or appointed.
A widespread concern, the primate said, has to do more generally with how those in favour and those opposed would be able to live together harmoniously afterward, whether the vote passes or fails.
Same-sex marriage, Hiltz said, was just one of a number of topics the House of Bishops meeting addressed. One highlight of the meeting, he said, was a presentation by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, primate of the Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, with whom the Anglican Church of Canada and a number of Canadian dioceses have ties. Dawani talked about the ministries of the diocese of Jerusalem, Hiltz said, and the need for the church there to be a “moderating and mediating influence” amid the strife that besets the Holy Land. Dawani finished his presentation, Hiltz said, with an invitation to the House of Bishops to meet in Jerusalem.
The bishops also heard from four speakers, including Ian Douglas, bishop of The Episcopal Church’s diocese of Connecticut, on renewal in the life of the church and its relation to issues such as migrant workers, human trafficking and the growing number of elderly. Another highlight, Hiltz said, was an evening devoted to the national consultation session on Indigenous Anglican self-determination held in Pinawa, Man., September 15-17. There was a limit to the depth in which bishops felt they could comment on the session, he said, since the final report was not yet available. The report, however, is expected to be complete and presented to Council of General Synod (CoGS) when it meets this November 10-12.
The house also heard presentations from the Rev. Laura Marie Piotrowicz, representative of the Anglican Church of Canada at a meeting this March of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women; Ryan Weston, the national church’s lead animator, public witness for social and ecological justice, who spoke about the church’s efforts against human trafficking; and Meghan Kilty, the church’s director of communications and information resources, who gave a talk on how the House of Bishops communicates with the rest of the church.
Another highlight, Hiltz said, was a talk by Jane Alexander, bishop of Edmonton and a member of the standing committee, or executive arm, of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Alexander spoke with “passion and enthusiasm” of the work being done by the Anglican Consultative Council, on issues such as family life, health care, youth, Indigenous people, the environment and the work of the Anglican Alliance, the Anglican Communion’s network of humanitarian organizations. Hiltz said he suggested to the house, given the importance of this work, that Alexander give an update to the bishops every time they meet.