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Anglican dioceses sidestep marriage

The Anglican dioceses in Montreal and Ottawa have both taken significant steps toward blessing same-sex marriages. On Oct 12 the Ottawa synod passed a motion in favour of allowing priests to bless same-sex marriages that have already been performed outside the church. A week later delegates to the Montreal synod followed suit.

“This isn’t about holy matrimony, it’s something that the church can move forward on,” says Ron Chaplin, a lay member of Ottawa’s Church of St John the Evangelist. “If it’s good enough for the Prince of Wales then it’s good enough for me. This is exactly what happened when Charles married Camilla.”

Chaplin says these motions refer to the blessing of civil marriage, not performing the marriage itself.

These controversial motions will add to the attention currently focused on the Canadian and US churches of the worldwide communion of the Anglican Church, which is hesitant and in some cases outright hostile to taking further steps on this potentially divisive issue.

The triennial general synod voted in June on two motions concerning same-sex blessings. In one it was found that “the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the core doctrine” of the Anglican Church, but in the second motion a vote was defeated by the bishops that would have affirmed the right of diocesan synods, like the ones in Montreal and Ottawa, to authorize same-sex blessings.

Ottawa bishop John Chapman and Montreal bishop Barry Clarke, who are now considering what to do about the motions passed by their dioceses, voted in favour of both motions at the general synod.

“The defeat of the motion means that general synod has not stated who, if anyone, does or does not have the authority to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions,” wrote canon law expert Rev Alan Perry in the September issue of Montreal’s Anglican newspaper. “It has not said that the dioceses do, but it hasn’t said that they don’t either. Neither has the general synod claimed the authority for itself. So it’s left unclear who has the authority.”

“From my point of view, this is a step along the way,” says Chris Ambidge, coconvenor of Integrity Toronto, a group for queers within the church. “Ultimately I’m hoping for marriage of same-sex couples in the church, but that will take six years,” assuming that two successive general synods approve the change.