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On Wednesday evening, January 27, approximately 40 clergy and lay of the diocese gathered with three of the four lay and two of the three clergy delegates to General Synod 2016 from the diocese of New Westminster. They met in the Conference Room of the Synod offices for an open discussion on the proposed changes to the Marriage Canon of the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishop Skelton and General Synod clergy delegate, (who is also an elected representative to the Council of General Synod {CoGS}) Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton facilitated the two hour session.

The promotional material for the sessions (another session will take place February 11at St. John’s, Sardis) requested that those attending make themselves familiar with The Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon of the Anglican Church of Canada titled “This Holy Estate” and the study guide that was prepared to accompany the report available on the General Synod website:
The purpose of the discussion was to clarify questions that people might have, and perhaps offer some answers. And to listen to one another’s perspectives, keeping in mind that this discussion is not about convincing others of our own points of view, or of our predictions concerning the outcome at General Synod. Bishop Skelton stressed that “we are here to listen to one another.”

Archdeacon McNaughton presented an overview of the Respectful Communications Guidelines of:
• Taking responsibility
• Empathetic listening
• Sensitivity to differences
• Pondering before speaking
• Examining your assumptions
• Keeping confidentiality
• Trusting ambiguity

Currently at the National House of Bishops, Bishop Skelton takes a facilitation role when this topic is discussed. She informed the group that these are the same guidelines used there for this discussion.

The design of the session was very simple. It began with listing questions for clarification submitted by the group, and then splitting into two listening circles of 20+ to respond to three questions.

There were approximately ten questions for clarification submitted and they ranged from: “whatever happened to same-sex blessings in the Anglican Church of Canada?” to “Marriage as a sacrament? Yes? No? If yes, Why?” to “What are the ecumenical consequences of changing the Marriage Canon to include the marriage of same sex couples?” The questions were discussed briefly in plenary with Bishop Skelton, Archdeacon McNaughton and others in attendance experienced in this issue offering answers.

Some mechanical information about the process of canonical change was discussed during the answer portion of this section of the session. For a canonical change to take place it must be approved by a two thirds majority of each of the three houses (bishops, clergy and lay) at two consecutive Generals Synods.

Then the group split into two, with half remaining in the Conference Room and the other half forming a circle of chairs in another meeting space.

Each group would be asked to share their thoughts on three questions:
1. What do you value about the report or what in the report resonates with you?
2. What are your concerns about the report and the future of the report?
3. What are your hopes for the outcome of the discussions at General Synod this summer?

The questions were asked one at a time and each person present was asked to respond briefly (if they wished to respond) to each of the questions going around the circle. Bishop Skelton and Archdeacon McNaughton listened very carefully, taking copious notes. This section of the evening took almost an hour and then the two groups gathered again in the Conference Room to briefly talk about “what’s next?” join hands and say “The Grace”.

The responses from both this meeting and the February 11 meeting will be studied and considered as Bishop Skelton and the General Synod delegates from our diocese gather to familiarize themselves with the content that will discussed this summer at the meeting in Ontario. As Archdeacon McNaughton and Bishop Skelton were keen to point out about their role as members of General Synod and the responsibility that entails, “we don’t go with our minds made up.”


  • Bishop Skelton welcomes the group
  • Listening as questions are discussed
  • Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton presents the first question for the speaking and listening circle response
  • Bishop Skelton and Archdeacon McNaughton thank the group for their participation