The diocese of Toronto synod has approved two motions on human sexuality, none of which changes its current experimental guidelines limiting same-gender blessings to about 10 parishes with permission from the diocesan bishop.
At its meeting on Nov. 25 to 26, the synod approved-by a narrow vote of 257 in favour, 229 opposed – a motion to send a memorial to General Synod asking that the marriage canon be amended “to allow marriage of all persons legally qualified to marry each other.” The church’s law governing marriage, Canon 21, defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
The Toronto synod also approved a motion requesting the Canadian House of Bishops to “withdraw the February 1979 statement on human sexuality which prevents the ordination of persons in committed same-gender relationships.”
Archbishop Colin Johnson, bishop of the diocese and Metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, described the motion to send a memorial as “an expression of opinion, in this case, clearly, quite a divided opinion” on same-gender blessings.
A memorial “doesn’t have any effect other than, in a sense, a straw vote and so there’s no legislative component,” Archbishop Johnson told Anglican Journal.
“It actually means no change,” to the pastoral guidelines which he issued in November 2010, said Archbishop Johnson. There are currently five parishes that have received formal permission from Archbishop Johnson to offer same-gender blessings: St. John, West Toronto, Christ Church, Bolton, Holy Trinity, Guildwood, Holy Trinity, Trinity Square and All Saints, Peterborough.
The guidelines were issued after the 2009 Toronto synod decided that the issue of same-gender blessings was better addressed with a pastoral response than a legislative decision.
The diocese of Toronto has 254 congregations in 210 parishes and covers a geographical area of more than 26,000 square km.
At its synod, the Toronto diocese also reaffirmed plans and priorities to invest in fresh expressions of ministry and renewal of mission.
“The term ‘fresh expressions’ actually comes from the Prayer Book of the 1500s, (that) the gospel needs to be proclaimed in every age,” said Archbishop Johnson.
“This is a way of us engaging actively in reaching out with good news to the people who don’t hear it and need it,” he added. “We’re in a world that desperately needs hope and a sense of direction and I think the Christian faith provides that.”
The diocese also received an update that its two-year fundraising campaign, Our Faith-Our Hope, Re-imagine Church, has raised about $30 million of its overall goal of $50 million.
Archbishop Johnson said he is confident that the goal would be met. “People are responding very generously, they have a real sense of participating in a vision that is compelling. And, they want to be engaged in a church that is active and engaged in the world,” he said.