Two priests of the diocese - who differ in their thinking regarding same-sex unions - presented Diocesan Council with their initial suggestions as to how the diocese should respond to the St. Michael Report at the Council’s November meeting.

The Rev. Richard Leggett of the Vancouver School of Theology, who favours the blessing, and the Rev. John Oakes of Holy Trinity, Vancouver, who opposes it, submitted proposed “memorials” – expressions of official diocesan positions - for General Synod.


John Oakes and Richard Leggett

The two men agreed that the first memorial should state, as does the St. Michael Report, that the blessing of same-sex unions – which the report said was doctrine but not “core” doctrine - should not be “a Communion breaking issue.”

And they agreed there should be continuing dialogue in which participants pay careful attention to the “whole witness of Holy Scripture and its claim upon the Church.”

On his own Leggett suggested that the diocese send a second proposed memorial asking that the General Synod authorize dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada to “facilitate the blessing of committed, life long unions of adult gay and lesbian Christians” – with safeguards for those who in conscience oppose such blessings.

Oakes said he could not in conscience support this second proposed memorial.

The two memorials will be discussed on December 2 at an all day session primarily for lay people of the diocese to be held at Christ Church Cathedral beginning at 9:30 am. Professor Walter Deller of the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad seminary in Saskatoon, a member of the Primate's Theological Commission, will be present to explain the report.

The St. Michael Report was produced by the Primate’s Theological Commission which consisted of a dozen theologians of argues that same-sex blessings have to do with doctrine.

Same-sex blessings in the Diocese of New Westminster, approved in 2002, were approved only after three experts in canon law experts gave their opinion that the blessing was a pastoral, not doctrinal measure, and hence properly under the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop.

Generally, according to the canons (Church laws) of the Anglican Church of Canada, doctrinal matters fall under the jurisdiction of the national Church, and can only be changed by the agreement of two-thirds of the bishops, the clergy delegates, and the lay delegates, at two successive General Synods.

A pastoral measure is under the jurisdiction of a diocesan bishop. In the case of same-sex blessings, the bishop was asked to provide a rite. Before doing so, Bishop Michael Ingham asked Diocesan Synod to vote on the matter, which it did three times.

General Synod, which meets in Winnipeg next year, will have to decide whether to accept the St. Michael Report and its opinion that the issue of same-sex blessings is doctrinal, and, if it does, how voting rules might apply to “non-core” doctrine.

Following Leggett and Oakes’ report, Diocesan Council agreed to have a committee of six lay or clergy members review the proposed memorials, attend the December 2 meeting, and report back to the Council in January and February.

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meets once every three years. Its meeting next year takes place from June 19 through 26.



The proposed memorials are available here.

The St. Michael Report is available here.

A parking pass for the session at Christ Church Cathedral on December 2 is available here.

For an article, “Reflections on why the St. Michael Report matters,” by a member of the national Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee, go here.