Montreal to press ahead with same-sex blessing services: CEN 11.07.08 p 7. November 6, 2008Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Hymnody/Liturgy.
The Diocese of Montreal will press on with the creation of rites for blessing gay civil marriages, Bishop Barry Clarke announced last week. The decision puts Montreal at odds with the majority of the Canadian House of Bishops which last week issued a call for its members to honour the Lambeth Conference season of “gracious restraint” and refrain from authorizing the rites.
On Oct 31 the Canadian bishops released a statement acknowledging they were divided over the implementation of the Lambeth Conference call for a temporary ban on gay bishops and blessings. Archbishop Fred Hiltz had urged the bishops to back his “call for respect for due process” and not take action until after the 2010 General Synod had addressed the issue..
The 2007 Synod had asked the Primate’s Theological Commission to “determine if this matter of blessings is a Spirit-led development of doctrine,” he said. Acting now to authorize same-sex blessings would “have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.”
In their closing statement the bishops said that a “large majority” had affirmed “to the greatest extent possible” the ban on “the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships and on cross-border interventions — until General Synod 2010.”
The full House of Bishops had further affirmed their “commitment to establishing diocesan commissions to discuss the matter of same-sex blessings” in the run up to the 2010 General Synod.
However, Bishop Clarke told the Montreal Gazette on Oct 31 he would go ahead with plans for creating a diocesan “protocol and a liturgy implementing the blessing of same-sex unions.” At the Oct 24 meeting of the Montreal Synod, Bishop Clarke said the diocese had been “called by God to speak with a prophetic voice,” on gay blessings, for “it is our voice that is called to affirm that all people are loved, valued and precious before God and the Church.”
Niagara Bishop Michael Bird wrote his diocese on Nov 2 that he too had had been profoundly disappointed by the House of Bishops’ statement. The statement failed to honour the “faithfulness that the Diocese of Niagara has brought to this particular issue,” he said.
“I do not believe it honours the faithfulness we have offered to the Anglican Church of Canada. I do not believe that it honours God’s Mission for the Diocese of Niagara as we have discerned it,” Bishop Bird said.
He added that he would be making a “more formal statement on this subject and the direction I believe the Diocese is now called to undertake in a few days time.”
Ottawa Bishop John Chapman also told his diocese synod on Oct 23 that he would also seek permission from the House of Bishops to authorize same-sex blessings. “I hope to proceed, but slowly and cautiously” with gay blessings the bishop said, following consultation with the Canadian bishops at their Oct 27-31 meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham told The Church of England Newspaper there had been “little discussion” at the House of Bishops meeting of the situation in his diocese, which authorized eight parishes to perform same-sex blessings in 2002. “More attention was given to the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara which are now more front and centre in the matter.”
The Oct 31 bishops’ statement was not a roll back on gay blessings for the Canadian Church, Bishop Ingham said, as the House of Bishops does “not have authority in our church to ‘roll back’ anything, except its own decisions and statements.”
The House of Bishops was not a juridical or legislative body, but a “fellowship, and meets for consultation and mutual prayer. Much of the discussion this week – as for many years – has been on how the House should exercise leadership while at the same time respecting the authority of synods and the decisions that have already been made by them,” he explained.
New Westminster’s synod does not meet until May, he added. “By then the Windsor Continuation Group will have had opportunity for further reflection on the feedback at Lambeth and may issue a further report; there will also be another edition of the Anglican Covenant; the Primates will have met in Egypt, and the ACC in Jamaica. Our diocese will be in a better position after all that to consider deeply what the Communion is saying, and what the mission of Christ here in our local context demands.”