Homosexuality and the Anglican Church of Canada

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Changes in Canadian law[edit]

In the secular context, Canadian law has undergone a profound change in regards to homosexuality. The last homosexual to be 'sent to prison indefinitely as a "dangerous sex offender" was in 1967.[1] In 1969, the Canadian parliament passed amendments into the Criminal Code decriminalizing homosexuality in Canada.[1] On 20 July 1971, the last homosexual criminally convicted on his sexual orientation was released from prison.[1] On 20 July 2005, the Canadian government legalised same-sex marriage.[1] Currently nine dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada permit the blessing of same-sex unions: the Vancouver-based Diocese of New Westminster, the Diocese of Edmonton, the Diocese of Ottawa, the Diocese of Toronto, the diocese of Quebec, the Diocese of Rupert's Land, the Hamilton-based Diocese of Niagara, the Diocese of Montreal, and the Victoria-based Diocese of British Columbia. The Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (formerly the Diocese of Cariboo) also permit such rites.[2]

Similar debate in the United Church of Canada[edit]

The Anglican Church of Canada is the third largest church in Canada, after the Roman Catholic Church and the United Church of Canada. The United Church of Canada had a lengthy and conflictual debate on homosexuality. On 24 August 1988 it "officially consider[ed] gays and lesbians for ordination as ministers."[3] The United Church's debate was divisive and acrimonious. The United Church is a congregational church which allowed a compromise solution. In the summer of 1992, a group of congregations welcoming to homosexuals called themselves the 'Affirming Congregations'. Thus, "same-sex marriage and/or covenanting services are available through some United Churches."[4] In Canada, legal same-sex marriages performed by a major Christian denomination are possible. In Vancouver, the first legally sanctioned same-sex marriage—which became legal two years earlier in British Columbia—was performed by a minister of the United Church of Canada on 8 July 2003.[5]

1992 ecclesiastical trial[edit]

In 1992 an Anglican priest, James Ferry, was brought before a Bishops' Court for being in a same-sex relationship. Ferry was stripped of his licence and "inhibited" from functioning as a priest. Ferry left the ACC and joined the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto but, in 1998, was partially reinstated. In 2006 Archbishop Terence Finlay, who had launched the proceedings against Ferry, was himself disciplined by his successor as Bishop of Toronto for assisting in a same-sex wedding in a Toronto United Church, saying, "I think our church has waited a long time and has discussed this issue over and over and in this particular situation, time just run out for me."[6] P89 (v12n4)(June 8, 1994): 20 (26cm.)

1994 Human Rights Commission[edit]

James Rawson partner of the late Rev. James McCue took the Anglican Diocese of Toronto to Ontario Human Rights Commission for denial of survivor pension benefits.

Canadian census on same-sex couples[edit]

In 2001, for the first time, the Canadian census enumerated same-sex couples. The 2006 census counted same-sex married couples following the legalization of same-sex marriages for all of Canada. Thus, concrete numbers are available to put some aspects of the same-sex blessing debate into secular context:

In total, the census enumerated 45,345 same-sex couples, of which 7,465, or 16.5%, were married couples. In 2006, same-sex couples represented 0.6% of all couples in Canada. This is comparable to data from New Zealand (0.7%) and Australia (0.6%). Over half (53.7%) of same-sex married spouses were men in 2006, compared with 46.3% who were women. About 9.0% of persons in same-sex couples had children aged 24 years and under living in the home in 2006. This was more common for females (16.3%) than for males (2.9%) in same-sex couples.[7]

Blessing of same-sex unions in dioceses around the country[edit]

The debate in the Anglican Church of Canada became passionate when one Canadian diocese, the Diocese of New Westminster, authorized a rite for the blessing of same-sex unions at its 2002 Diocesan Synod. The use of the rite by individual parishes was incumbent upon a specific request of the parish made through its annual vestry meeting or resolution of its parochial church council.

In May 2003, six of the diocese's 76 parishes received authorization to use the rite.[8] On 28 May 2003, the first same-sex union sanctioned by the Diocese of New Westminster occurred in Vancouver in the church basement of St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage Church.[9] Bishop Michael Ingham said of the rite, "This is not a marriage ceremony, but a blessing of permanent and faithful commitments between persons of the same sex."[9] Since then ten other dioceses (Edmonton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Winnipeg-based Rupert’s Land, Ottawa, Toronto, London-based Huron, Quebec, Hamilton-based Niagara, Montreal and Victoria-based British Columbia) have followed suit. The Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (formerly the Kamloops-based Diocese of Cariboo and now known as the Territory of the People[10]) also permit such rites.[2]

Ordination of LGBT clergy[edit]

In 2012, the Diocese of Montreal ordained two openly gay and partnered men to the diaconate and priesthood.[11] Also in that year, the Diocese of Saskatoon ordained an openly lesbian and married deacon.[12] In 2016, the Diocese of Toronto became the first to elect an openly gay and partnered bishop.[13]

2003 letter by Archbishop Peers[edit]

In an October 2003 letter by then-primate Archbishop Michael Peers said, "Canadian gays and lesbians will continue to be welcomed and received in our churches and to have their contributions to our common life honoured."[14]

2004 synod resolution[edit]

In May 2004, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada passed a resolution on homosexuality, urging the church to continue dialogue and to:

affirm the crucial value of continued respectful dialogue and study of biblical, theological, liturgical, pastoral, scientific, psychological and social aspects of human sexuality; and call upon all bishops, clergy and lay leaders to be instrumental in seeing that dialogue and study continue, intentionally involving gay and lesbian persons...to prepare resources for the church to use in addressing issues relating to human sexuality including the blessing of same sex unions and the changing definition of marriage in society.[15]

The resolution concluded that the Synod:

Affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships."[15]

Windsor Report[edit]

On 19 October 2004, the Windsor Report of the Lambeth Commission criticised both The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of New Westminster.[16]

Following the submission of the Windsor Report's recommendations, Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster agreed "neither to encourage nor to initiate" same-sex blessings in additional parishes, but stopped short of declaring a moratorium on those occurring in parishes already licensed to perform them.[17]

Interpretations of the marriage canon[edit]

Although the Anglican Church of Canada has an authorized rite for the blessing of civil marriages, its Marriage Canon is used for interpreting the rite. Since it presumes (but does not prescribe) opposite-sex partners, the Anglican Church of Canada disallows clergy to use the rite in all dioceses of the church including New Westminster. The Very Rev. Peter Wall, Dean of Niagara and the Most Rev. Terence Finlay, retired Archbishop of Toronto and Metropolitan of Ontario have each been disciplined for celebrating lesbian weddings, Wall at Christ's Church Cathedral (Hamilton) and Finlay in a United Church.[18][19]

St. Michael Report[edit]

In 2005, at the request of the primate, Andrew Hutchison, a theological commission produced the St. Michael Report. It recommended, among other things, that the national church treat the blessing of same-sex unions as analogous to marriage, and hence a matter touching on doctrine (although not what it called "core doctrine").[20]

It did conclude that the issue is fundamentally related to the doctrines of salvation (soteriology), incarnation, the work of the Holy Spirit (pneumatology), our creation in the image of God (theological anthropology), sanctification, and holy matrimony. It was not within the mandate of the commission to understand how the issue relates to these doctrines, but further study of the issue was recommended.

It also noted that blessing a same-sex union that had been performed by a civil authority was really no different than actually performing such a marriage.

106th Diocesan Synod of New Westminster[edit]

In May 2007, the 106th Diocesan Synod of New Westminster passed a motion that "no person will be denied Baptism, Communion, or Confirmation because of their own or their parents’ sexual orientation."[21]

Backlash from conservative Anglicans in Africa[edit]

This decision was condemned by some Canadian Anglicans and some provinces of the Communion. Several conservative national Anglican churches, notably those of Uganda and Nigeria, have declared themselves out of communion with the ACC as a result of their disquiet with the ACC's perceived excessive inclusivity with respect to female and gay clergy and laity and in particular over the blessing of same-sex unions in New Westminster.

2007 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada[edit]

Meeting in June, 2007, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada voted to affirm that the blessing of same-sex unions was not a matter of core doctrine; but a motion to authorize dioceses to permit the blessing of such unions was narrowly defeated by the order of bishops (it was passed by the orders of clergy and laity).[22] A subsequent motion passed by General Synod called for the Primate's Theological Commission to make proposals regarding the revision of the marriage canon, to allow for the marriage of all legally qualified individuals (which, in Canada, would include gays and lesbians). The Diocese of New Westminster construed the actions of Synod as permitting it to continue its blessings of same-sex unions.

Episcopal requests to bless same-sex marriages[edit]

Delegates to the synods of the dioceses of Montreal and Ottawa proceeded to bring forward motions requesting episcopal authorisation of the blessing of same-sex unions later in 2007. The resolutions passed, prompting the two diocesan bishops to announce that they would consult with the national House of Bishops, the diocese, and Anglicans both nationally and internationally before acting on the motions.[23][24] Currently, by virtue of the pastoral letter on the subject by the House of Bishops, priests may offer a service of the Eucharist (i.e. a Nuptial Mass) with intercessions for a civilly-married couple provided that neither vows are exchanged nor a blessing given.[25]

Resolution of the Diocese of Niagara[edit]

The Diocese of Niagara passed a resolution to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in 2004, but Bishop Ralph Spence withheld assent. In 2007, he gave assent to a motion quite similar to that passed by the synods of Montreal and Ottawa, and indicated further consultations will take place before permission is given to clergy to conduct same-sex blessings.[26][27]

Unresolved questions[edit]

To date, the ACC as a whole has resolved neither the question of ordaining non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy nor the question of blessing same-sex unions. Yet as a local option at diocesan level so far the blessing of same-sex unions is practised in eleven dioceses,[2] and on September 30, 2012, the Bishop of Saskatoon ordained as deacon an individual who is civilly married to a person of the same sex.[28]

Divisions and separations[edit]

In February 2008, St. John's (Shaughnessy) Anglican church in Vancouver voted overwhelmingly (97.7%) to break fellowship with the Anglican Church of Canada and their diocesan bishop, Michael Ingham, over the issue of homosexuality. The parish accepted an invitation to receive oversight from the conservative Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (South America).[29] Following this, fifteen other parishes in Canada have made a similar move, prompting legal action from dioceses.[30][31]

Recent events[edit]

At the General Synod on July 6, 2013, the Anglican Church of Canada made the decision to vote on the issue of same sex marriage at the following synod in 2016. The vote that was slated to take place at the 2016 synod would decide whether or not to change the church's canon on marriage and "to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples." If the vote at the 2016 synod was in favour of changing the marriage canon, it would then require a second vote at the following synod in 2019 in order for the canon to be changed to allow for same sex marriage. The General Synod of the Anglican Church Of Canada normally meets every three years. In 2011, the Diocese of Ottawa allowed a local option for parishes to perform same-sex marriages with the permission of the bishop.

In 2013, the dioceses of Ontario, Huron and British Columbia joined several others in allowing blessings for gay and lesbian marriages.

2016 vote in favour of same-sex marriage=== At the General Synod in 2016, the vote to include same-sex marriage in the marriage canon received the necessary two-thirds in each of the three houses (liaty, clergy and bishops) and was approved. It was to receive the Second Reading in 2019.[32] However, due to technical malfunctions in the voting process, it was thought at first that the resolution to include same-sex marriage in the marriage canon had failed to attain the necessary two-thirds majority by just one vote. Therefore the Dioceses of Niagara and Ottawa, both of which already allowed blessing rites, announced that they would immediately allow same-sex marriages.[33][34] Following the revised result of the vote, the Bishop of Niagara stated "I am committed to my promise to our diocese and local LGBTQ2 community to continue to walk along the path of full inclusion and to immediately proceed with equal marriage".[35] Also in 2016, the Diocese of Toronto elected Kevin Robertson, for the first time, an openly gay and partnered person to be a bishop.[36]

On July 12, 2019, at the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod in Vancouver, Canada, the motion to amend the marriage canon failed to pass its second reading. It received the required two-thirds majority among the laity (80.9%: 89 Yes, 21 No) and the Clergy (73.2%: 60 Yes, 22 No), but fell short of two-thirds in the House of Bishops (62.2%: 23 Yes, 14 No).[37] Director of Communications Meghan Kilty said that many dioceses have been performing same-sex marriages, such as that of Toronto bishop Kevin Robertson in 2018 at St. James Cathedral. Kilty added that many dioceses would continue to perform such services since the Church had not specifically prohibited the practice.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d In Depth Same-sex rights Canada timeline
  2. ^ a b c Quebec becomes 11th diocese to offer same-sex blessings[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ United Church allows gay ministers
  4. ^ Affirming Congregations and Ministries of the United Church of Canada Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ B.C. ends wait for same-sex marriages
  6. ^ Archbishop disciplined for performing same-sex marriage
  7. ^ Statistics Canada:2006 Census: Families, marital status, households and dwelling characteristics
  8. ^ Diocese of New Westminster, Information on Same-Sex Blessings Chronology of Actions taken by the Anglican Church Of Canada & the Diocese of New Westminster in regard to the Issue of Same Sex Unions Archived 2007-05-18 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 22 July 2007.
  9. ^ a b Same-sex couple exchange vows in Anglican church
  10. ^ http://www.anglican.ca/news/apci-enters-new-territory-name-change/30016311/
  11. ^ Shepherd, Harvey. "Anglican Montreal" (PDF). static.1.squarespace.com. Diocese of Montreal. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  12. ^ Mattern, Ashleigh. "Despite struggle, Anglican Church shines a beacon of acceptance". outwords.ca. Outwards Canada. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved April 16, 2016.
  13. ^ "Diocese elects three new suffragan bishops". The Diocese of Toronto. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  14. ^ Anglican Church of Canada News, 21 October 2003. Church’s acceptance of gays and lesbians has not changed, Anglican Primate says Archived 2009-06-19 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 18 July 2007.
  15. ^ a b Resolutions concerning the blessing of same sex unions Anglican Church of Canada General Synod 2004.. Accessed 18 July 2007.
  16. ^ B.C. bishop backs same-sex unions despite Anglican report
  17. ^ "Bishop Michael comments on House of Bishops statement". Archived from the original on 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  18. ^ Solange de Santis, Anglican Journal, 1 December 2003, Dean who married same-sex couple prayed he could "Welcome all people" Archived 2009-06-20 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 22 March 2007.
  19. ^ Marites N. Sison, Anglican Journal, 1 October 2006, Archbishop disciplined for performing same-sex marriage. Accessed 22 March 2007.
  20. ^ Anglican Church of Canada, 2005. The St. Michael Report. Accessed 22 July 2007.
  21. ^ "Diocesan Synod affirms House of Bishops' stand against discrimination". Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  22. ^ Solange de Santis, Anglican Journal, 28 June 2007. "Bishops discuss fallout from same-sex vote at General Synod". Accessed 22 July 2007.
  23. ^ "Ottawa votes yes to same-sex blessings". Anglican Journal. 13 October 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-05-17. Retrieved 2007-10-18.
  24. ^ "Synod 2007 Diocese of Montreal" (PDF). Diocese of Montreal. Retrieved 2007-09-30.[dead link]
  25. ^ "Bishops' pastoral statement to go to General Synod". Anglican Church of Canada. 1 May 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
  26. ^ Anglican Journal: Niagara diocese approves blessings for gay couples; bishop assents
  27. ^ "Diocese of Niagara Synod 2007". Archived from the original on 2009-12-28. Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  28. ^ statement from the Rupert's Land Province house of bishops on the ordination of a gay man Archived 2014-01-19 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Bishop Harvey welcome's St. John's[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ Anglican churches opt for distant leadership, Globeandmail.com, 18 February 2008
  31. ^ PATRICK BRETHOUR (25 February 2008), Anglican rift deepens as two sides go to court, The Globe and Mail
  32. ^ "Anglicans pass same-sex marriage resolution after vote error discovered". Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  33. ^ Niagara, Anglican Diocese of. "Statement After General Synod Vote on the Marriage Canon | News in the Diocese". Archived from the original on 2017-03-09. Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  34. ^ "Bishop John's letter in response to General Synod's vote to amend Marriage Canon XXI". Retrieved 2016-07-12.
  35. ^ Niagara, Anglican Diocese of. "Statement by the Bishop of Niagara | News in the Diocese". Retrieved 2016-07-21.
  36. ^ "Diocese elects three new suffragan bishops". The Diocese of Toronto. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  37. ^ https://www.anglicanjournal.com/marriage-canon-amendment-fails-to-pass/
  38. ^ "Anglican Church rejects same-sex marriage approvals in vote". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 July 2019. Retrieved 14 July 2019. The support for change in the houses of laity and clergy was very strong. And yet the motion was defeated in the House of Bishops by a very narrow margin