Delegate Matthew Kett speaks at the diocese of Toronto’s synod on the subject of same-sex blessings. The diocese deferred a vote on the blessings but it affirmed the “integrity and sanctity” of same-sex unions.
The diocese of Toronto voted by a narrow margin to defer a decision on the issue of same-sex blessings until a national theological commission rules whether it is a matter of doctrine, that is, essential to the Christian faith as interpreted by the Anglican church.
But it later followed the lead of the church’s national governing body and voted to affirm the “integrity and sanctity” of same-sex unions.
Meeting Nov. 27 at St. James Cathedral at a special synod to consider the blessings, 320 delegates voted in favor of deferral, while 296 voted against and seven abstained, for a margin of 51.4 per cent to 47.5 per cent, not counting abstentions.
The mover and seconder of the motion to defer, Rev. Andy Leroux and Mary Walsh, noted that General Synod last June voted to refer the question to the Primate’s Theological Commission, which considers questions relevant to Anglican theology and authority. If the commission decides that offering blessing ceremonies to gay couples is a matter of doctrine, then General Synod (the national governing body) must decide the question, not individual dioceses, Mr. Leroux and Ms. Walsh said.
The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster has offered such blessing ceremonies since 2002 and the diocese of Niagara voted in November to allow blessings, but its bishop, Ralph Spence, declined to give his consent, saying the diocese needed more time for discussion.
Supporters of the deferral at the Toronto synod also argued that more discussion was needed and that the diocese should not pre-empt the work of the theological commission nor ignore the recently-released Windsor Report, a report of an Anglican Communion-wide commission which called for a moratorium on public same-sex blessings. They also said that if the diocese moved to offer the blessings, it would be out of step with churches in Africa, Asia and South America, which are more conservative concerning homosexuality.
During the debate, synod delegate David Colpitts, saying that as a gay man he can “live, love, get married, have children,” added that he doesn’t see the issue as a question of human rights or of justice and “we have to wait for the Primate’s Theological Commission.”
Opponents argued that the diocese – and the wider church – has been discussing the question of human sexuality and the Bible for many years and that now is the time to act. “(Deciding) in no way violates the process. It is an opinion to be given to the bishop. It is giving the bishop a very clear understanding of where this diocese stands,” said Douglas Stoute, dean of St. James Cathedral.
After the vote, Chris Ambidge, Toronto leader of Integrity, an association of gay and lesbian Anglicans, said he was extremely disappointed. “It feels like justice delayed is justice denied,” he commented in an interview.
After the vote to defer, synod approved overwhelmingly a motion affirming the “integrity and sanctity” of same-sex unions. The motion to “affirm” mirrored one passed by General Synod after it voted last June to refer the question of doctrine to the theological commission.
The Primate’s Theological Commission will produce its report by spring 2006 (see related story p. 8) and the matter is scheduled to come before the next meeting of General Synod in 2007.
Colin Johnson, diocesan bishop of Toronto, who chaired the synod, said he has established a committee for pastoral care of gays and lesbians and those who are disappointed by the vote.