Greetings to you all
At General Synod 2016 a 2/3 majority of delegates in each house (laity, clergy and bishops) voted to amend the marriage canon to make marriage available to “all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage.” The resolution that passed also specified that the potential change “shall come into effect on the first day of January after being passed by General Synod at Second Reading.”
Different dioceses have chosen different approaches as to what to do during this three-year period before a second reading of and vote on the change at General Synod 2019. I am writing to you to clarify our approach, an approach that comes after my own soul-searching and prayer and after a broad consultation with many both within and outside our diocese. I ask that you listen carefully to this approach in that it is not simple but instead reflects the diversity of people and perspectives in our diocese and in the Anglican Church of Canada.
First, during this three-year period we will strengthen what we offer all couples who seek marriage or the blessing of their marriage in the church. I will convene a group to create standards and develop or refine materials to assist all couples in preparing for their making monogamous, lifelong commitments of fidelity to each other.
Second, we will abide by what General Synod decided, that is, during this three-year period we will hold off on our clergy officiating at the marriage of same-sex couples, preserving this period as a time to study, reflect, discern and pray for General Synod 2019 and its decisions. I, myself, did vote for the change in the Marriage Canon and do believe that offering marriage to same-sex couples within the Church is an expression of the Gospel. At the same time, as your bishop I feel I should respect and abide by the full resolution as passed at General Synod 2016.
Third, building on the work already done in this diocese, I will authorize new liturgies for the blessing of marriages that enhance and maximize what we as church do and keep to a minimum what marriage commissioners do. These liturgies will be available for the use of clergy and parishes who would find them helpful and for all couples who are duly qualified to enter into civil marriage.
Fourth, I will continue to emphasize that in our diocese we have a wide range of perspectives on the issue of marriage both in our parishes and among our clergy. Thus, while many clergy and parishes in our diocese will desire to move forward in offering new blessing liturgies in this three-year period and later in officiating at marriage liturgies of same-sex couples (should the change in the Marriage Canon pass in 2019), other clergy and parishes will choose not to do this. As bishop of all our parishes, I want to assure you that our diocese will stand by both of these choices. I also want to assure you that where a parish or its clergy is on this question will not serve as a kind of “litmus test” of inclusion in the life of our diocese.
And, finally, I will continue to emphasize that all denigration of LGBTQ2 people, no matter where it occurs, is contrary to who we are as Christian people. This denigration includes prejudice against, violence directed towards, and any criminal sanctions related to LGBTQ2 people.
These are the main elements of our approach as a diocese to the next three years. I will be sending out a more detailed communique to the clergy of the diocese that I hope will address the many questions they raised during my conversations with them earlier this fall.
In closing, I want to thank all who offered their perspective and experiences to me on the question of what we would be doing over the next three years. Please continue to pray for all the people of our diocese, all the people of the Anglican Church of Canada and all the people of the broader Anglican Communion as we all discern our way forward.