Saturday, June 23, 2007

Anglican Church of Canada

This afternoon I've been watching the "open discussion" about the resolutions before the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod (analogous to our General Convention) regarding same-sex unions.

They'll resume tonight, and you can watch the Webcast on their site.

Father Jake (among others) provides a description about the action the Canadians took this morning. As he reported, the Canadian church this morning voted that "the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine, but is not core doctrine in the sense of being credal."

I think they were wrong to term it a "doctrinal" matter, as I continue to believe it's a matter of adiaphora, but never mind. That's the action they took, and so that's how the discussion will proceed.

I tuned into the Webcast this afternoon.

These are the resolutions they were discussing, and on which they will vote tonight:
Resolution Number: A185 (Voting Requirement for Resolutions A186 and A187)
That resolutions A186 and A187 be deemed to have been carried only if they receive the affirmative votes of sixty percent of the members of each Order present and voting, and if a vote by dioceses is requested, only if they receive the affirmative votes of sixty percent of the dioceses whose votes are counted.

Resolution Number: A186 (Blessing of Same Sex Unions - Core Doctrine of ACC)
That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of The Anglican Church of Canada.

Resolution Number: A187 (Blessing of Same Sex Unions)
That this General Synod affirm the authority and jurisdiction of any diocesan synod, with the concurrence of its bishop, to authorize the blessing of committed same sex unions.

Resolution Number: A189 (Revision of Canon 21 on Marriage)
That this General Synod request the Council of General Synod to consider a revision of Canon 21 (On Marriage) including theological rationale to allow marriage of all legally qualified persons and to report back to General Synod 2010.
The open discussion this afternoon was on these resolutions. Here are my observations, in no particular order.

This was the Anglican Canadian Church General Synod (analogous to our General Convention) acting as a "committee of the whole," in which there was open discussion with no votes, no motions, no amendments. I gather they just wanted to give folks a chance to comment openly. I think that's a good thing. Tonight's session is where the action will happen.

Unlike us in 2003, the Canadians don't have a "do or die" issue before them. They don't have to vote a gay bishop's consecration up or down. But a number of resolutions are before them regarding the issue of same-sex blessings (SSBs), about which they must decide. The background on all this is more than I can (or want to) tackle here.

The statements were overwhelmingly against SSBs. I didn't tally the statements, but my impression was they were something like 80% against. It was difficult to watch/hear so many people stand up and give their (to me) narrow understandings of Scripture. Person after person denied the godliness and Spirtual gifts that I have seen in gay/lesbian relationships.

What made it all the more difficult is that the conservatives seemed so kind and heartfelt in their statements. There was no lambasting. They seemed to be genuinely pained and genuinely to be seeking the Spirit's guidance.

It was good to be able to view the discussion live. I hope that the Episcopal Church will have similar live Webcasting technology available when General Convention meets in 2009. It was good to see and hear the statements -- not just to read the "spin." I remember how desperate I was to hear reports from GC06 and how grateful I was to read the bloggers who reported promptly about what happened. The Canadians have gone one, very good step further in Webcasting their Synod. Good on them!

Here are some pedestrian observations from my watching this open discussion:
  • The Canadians don't seem to wear "symbols" of their order as we Episcopalians do. I couldn't tell from their dress whether they were laity, clergy, or bishops. They dressed pretty casually -- almost no collars or purple shirts -- and it was only through an occasional comment that I could discern whether any were priests or bishops in the church. From the photos I saw of our General Convention, priests and deacons wear collars, and bishops wear their purple shirts. I wonder how come the culture in the Canadian church is so different.
  • It seemed to me that the speakers were overwhelmingly male and white. To me, our General Convention seems much more "colorful" and diverse. My impression was that there are many more women who speak in our General Convention. I wonder what's the difference.
  • In two hours of statements, with speakers limited to 3 minutes each, I must have heard nearly 60 speakers. But I don't think I heard more than two people self-identify as gay or lesbian. My impression is that the Episcopal Church had many more gay and lesbian speakers at our General Convention. Are there just no gay men and lesbians in the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod? or are they afraid to speak? or are they waiting 'til tonight to speak?
Those are my pedestrian observations. Here are the ones that I think are more substantive, as I listened to and watched Canada's General Synod.

The Canadians are aware -- surely more than we were in 2006 -- that their votes may bring upon them the same kind of ire that we have suffered from the Global South. Similarly, they are more aware that they may be subject to the kind of primatial boundary-crossings that we have witnessed in the Episcopal Church.

I was impressed by the people who expressed strong love for their brothers and sisters in the Canadian church. Maybe the same level of passion was expressed in our General Convention, but having the Canadian sessions Webcast let me see their fervor and passion. In their statements, several acknowledged that there may be deep divisions as a result of their votes tonight -- the acknowledgement that some people may leave the church, depending on the outcome. I was impressed by the folks who passionately wished for a way to heal the divisions before they adjourn their General Synod meeting.

I've babbled on here for too long without making too much sense of all this.

I encourage you to log on and watch tonight, as I will.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


I'm a gay-positive Canadian Anglican -- not at General Synod but watching it closely -- and I think that the reason for the overwhelmingly white, male, anti-gay character of speakers this afternoon is that the affirming/inclusive voices were being strategically silent. Almost certainly nothing that is said at this juncture is going to change anyone's mind, and it is just not useful for the inclusive voices to be drawn into a shouting match, which the discussion could have become.

I do fear that we will not manage to pass the motions -- 60% is a high bar, as things stand now, particularly in the house of bishops. I still do believe that the majority is for inclusivity, but sadly far too many in that majority may be ready to deny what they know to be right in order to buy what they hope might be some peace and quiet. I'm not hopeful about the votes this evening, although you can't ever discount the movement of the Spirit ... But this issue will not go away. Eventually, someday, justice will prevail.

-- m

6/23/2007 7:33 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Thanks for commenting, "m." I'm watching your General Synod, and pleased just now to see that the motion to require a "two-thirds vote at two consecutive Synods" has failed. So now we're back to the original motion to require a 60% vote.

I hope you're right, "m."

6/23/2007 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh, by the way, lest I seem evasive, my name's Maggie & I'm from Toronto. I'm just used to signing myself "m".

Just watching the vote count on 185 right now ... this could tell us a lot.

6/23/2007 7:55 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Now the Canadian Synod has voted on resolution A185 -- "That resolutions A186 and A187 be deemed to have been carried only if they receive the affirmative votes of sixty percent of the members of each Order present and voting, and if a vote by dioceses is requested, only if they receive the affirmative votes of sixty percent of the dioceses whose votes are counted" -- determining whether the subsequent resolutions will require a 60% vote.

Synod has already rejected requiring a 2/3 majority. This amendment would have required a 60% majority on Resolutions 186 & 187.

Just in: The motion failed.

6/23/2007 8:08 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

I found it sort of addicting - I must have needed a convention "fix" --- have to be on the road all day tomorrow (Sunday) so it will most likely be all voted by the time I log on. Thanks Maggie for some insight. The defeat of the 60% solution as I called it on Episcopal Cafe seemed a good sign.

6/23/2007 9:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I understand, Ann. I watched gavel-to-gavel today. And, like you, I have obligations Sunday that will keep me from watching. Darn it! I'll have to rely on others to tell me what happened.

6/23/2007 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Alison said...

We just threw a dinner party with the webcast running through dessert and afterwards.

Everyone haated it when they shut down. It was pretty clear that ++Andy was too tired to keep going, though.

Let's hope the night doesn't bring fear to the delegates, but hope.

6/23/2007 10:24 PM  
Blogger BabyBlue said...

Hi Lisa,

I know I'm on "the other side" as it were, but I wanted to say I appreciate your commentary here. I too was struck by the kindness of all the speakers and the respect and warmth they sincerely seemed to feel and express, despite different views. Wish we could be more that way.

I had no idea there was a Diocese of the Arctic and when I looked it up online I saw that their Cathedral looks like a cross between an igloo and Luke Skywalker's boyhood home. ;-)


6/23/2007 11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Strong indications at this point that the clergy and laity will vote to approve same-sex blessings. But will the bishops defeat it? If it doesn't pass in both houses, it can't pass.

Still, even if it falls in the bishops. having the clery and laity vote in favour would be a big thing, and pretty much guarantee that it will come back next Synod.

Ironically, I will be heading to the Toronto Pride Day march right after church, so that's why I won't be able to watch ...

-- maggie

6/24/2007 6:41 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Amen, BB, regarding the tone of the discussion. And thanks for dropping in.

Thanks for your insights from Canada, Maggie. I'll be marching today too.

Let's all pray for a good outcome in Winnipeg. It's hard to know what can possibly be "good" for all, but I know the Spirit will be there speaking and ministering.

6/24/2007 6:48 AM  
Anonymous AC said...

In terms of visible diversity, Canada and the US are different: ACC demographics are not the same as in ECUSA. The Canadian church has a fairly high Aboriginal component (4 of the 40 bishops, and 8 of the 30 dioceses are First Peoples majority or predominant--- the Inuit are 80% Anglican) and Aboriginal Canadians are not always identifiable at first glance. Among Black and African Canadians, and most are Baptist or Pentecostal; only Barbadians are predominantly Anglican. Almost all South Asian Canadians are 1st & 2d generation and generally do not profess Christianity. As visible minority immigration is an urban phenomenon and (pace Michael Ingham) Canadian Anglicanism is still very much small town and rural, your typical Canadian Anglican is still fairly melanin-challenged.

A second factor is a feeling of closer connection with the mother churches of England and Ireland and an attachment to other Commonwealth countries, and no secular history of a decisive divide from Britain, a factor which we still behind some ECUSA discourse.

6/24/2007 9:24 PM  

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