The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) experienced a shock at its General Synod meeting on Friday night. Despite majority approval from laity and clergy, a measure that would effectively approve of same-sex marriage within the denomination failed to pass.
“There’s a lot of grief right now among the delegates,” church communication director Meghan Kilty told CBC news.
The Vote at the General Synod: Bishops Drag Feet
According to the rules of the ACC, new measures must be approved by a two-thirds majority from three groups of delegates to the synod: laity, clergy, and bishops. While the laity and clergy were largely for the new measure which would have removed language from its canon referring to marriage as being between a man and woman, the bishops did not reach a two-thirds vote in favor of the change. The vote went as follows: Laity 80.9 percent “yes”; clergy 73.2 percent “yes”; bishops 62.2 percent “yes”.
This is not the first time the denomination has voted on the proposed change, either. In 2016, delegates voted to pass the change—including the majority of bishops at the time. However, the ACC’s rules also stipulate a measure must be voted on twice before it is formally recognized by the denomination. Hence, the vote commenced this year in addition to the 2016 vote.
Since 2016, many ACC churches have gone by their own convictions and performed same-sex marriage, while others have refrained from doing so. The denomination even includes clergy that are in a same-sex marriage.
While the measure to expand the definition of marriage did not pass, a document called A Word to the Church was adopted. This document officially allows diocese within the ACC to perform same-sex weddings. The Bishop of Ottawa, the Rt. Rev. John Chapman, calls the adoption of the document “no small achievement”, although he expresses his dismay that the proposal to amend the canon on marriage did not garner the necessary two-thirds approval.
According to the Anglican Journal, following Friday’s vote, which didn’t occur until nearly 10 pm local time, a scream was heard when the results were announced. One delegate even left the room in tears. Several people flocked to the microphone to address the bishops and ask if the measure could be revisited. Archbishop Fred Hiltz cut the discussion short, acknowledging that many people were in shock and experiencing grief, particularly younger delegates.
“Our children are crying. And many of you are crying, for a variety of reasons. So I think it’s time to adjourn. It’s time to leave this hall in silence. It’s time for you to go and do what you need to do—to cry, or to gather with delegates from your own diocese; to gather with friends, to gather in circles of prayer, just to try and be attentive to one another,” he said as he dismissed the meeting.
Several clergy members and bishops in the ACC are posting their comments about the vote on social media.
The Anglican Church in Canada Compared to Other Anglican Denominations
The Anglican Church of Canada is a member of the Anglican Communion, along with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Church of England has not formally approved of same-sex marriage, although it has taken steps to “welcome and affirm” transgender people. The Episcopal Church in the U.S. affirmed same-sex marriage in 2018. It should be noted that the Anglican Church in America (based in the United States) is not a member of the Anglican Communion.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005.
The ACC’s General Synod is being held in Vancouver, British Columbia, and will conclude on Tuesday, July 16th. Discussion around the measure will likely continue even after the Synod concludes.