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The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and homosexuality

2011: St. Alban's Church, leaves Diocese of Ottawa.
2011-2013: More dioceses bless same-sex couples.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay.

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2011-JUN-27: St Alban's Anglican Church formally splits from the Diocese of Ottawa, ON, and from the Anglican Church of Canada:

St. Alban's was the oldest surviving church building in the Nation's capital, Ottawa, ON. The majority of parishioners could not accept the Anglican Church's decision to allow dioceses to bless loving, committed same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages solemnized elsewhere. On 2008-FEB-16, the congregation voted 79 to 1 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada. By a vote of 77 to 1, with one abstention, they voted to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). They sought oversight from the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.

In 2010, the Diocese of Ottawa sued the rector and church wardens for possession of the building and all its assets.

The ANiC reported on 2011-FEB-13:

"After months of negotiation, two Ottawa parishes of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) -– St Alban’s the Martyr and [its sister church] St George’s – have reached a negotiated settlement with the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Ottawa.

The settlement will be effective 1 July 2011 and will entail:
•  both congregations changing their church names.
•  the people of St George’s retaining their church building in the heart of Ottawa.
•  the people of St Alban’s relinquishing their building.
•  a further undisclosed division of assets between the parishes and the diocese. 1

“We are deeply grateful to God for this settlement,” said the Rev George Sinclair, long-time rector of St Alban’s. “When the Diocese of Ottawa sued our two parishes and personally sued the rectors and elected leaders of the parishes, it seemed the matter would inevitably be decided by the courts. We are looking forward to not having to deal with this issue any longer. We see ourselves as giving up the building for the cause of Christ."

On the afternoon of JUN-27, the congregation walked in a procession down King Edward Avenue to relocate temporarily in the nearby Ottawa Little Theatre where they will be known as Church of the Messiah.

Long-time member of St. Alban's, Diane Scarff, said:

"It's very painful to be walking out. We love St. Alban's, but we're trusting God and we want to be biblically faithful and we believe it's the right thing. ... We're staying together as a family completely united." 2

As of mid-2013 the Church of the Messiah remains without a church building. 3

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2012-OCT-13: Diocese of Edmonton approves blessing of same-sex couples:

At the Diocesan Synod on OCT-12 and 13, a motion was passed that allows clergy to bless the relationships of same-gender couples and bless the marriages of same-sex couples who were previously solemnized in a civil ceremony outside the Anglican Church. The motion would make it possible for:

"... clergy members ... to ask the bishop for permission to ... bless the unions of same-sex couples."

Eligibility will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The motion was introduced by Neil Gordon who is rector of All Saints’ Cathedral in Edmonton and dean of that diocese. The arrangement in Edmonton diocese differs from those in other dioceses such as New Westminster and Toronto where individual parishes are given blanket permission to offer blessings. In Edmonton, the bishop must give prior approval for each blessing. The motion passed with a vote of 70% to 30%.

A second resolution asked clergy to cooperate in determining just how the blessings will be performed. Gordon said: "We have to work out how we are going to do this in a way that builds up and retains unity.

Clergy plan to meet in mid-November to determine which prayers and liturgy would be use to bless same-sex relationships.

Until now, the diocese had only offered same-gender couples the chance to attend a family eucharist service, as set out in guidelines developed by the House of Bishops. There had been no formal acknowledgement of the marriage in the service, however. 4

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2012-NOV-01: Diocese of Rupert's Land approved blessings of same-sex relationships & civil marriages:

On OCT-20, the Synod passed a resolution allowing same-sex blessings of same-sex couples' relationships or marriages. However, Bishop Donald Phillips initially vetoed the decision of the synod until he could consult with the national and provincial houses of bishops. He consented to the resolution on NOV-01. He said in a statement:

"I am now settled that it is pastorally appropriate to proceed with concurring with this resolution."

With this decision, almost one third of the dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada now allow clergy to bless same-sex relationships and prior marriages. 5

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2012-DEC-06: Diocese of Quebec moving toward blessing same-sex relationships & civil marriages:

The synod of the Diocese of Quebec met on 2012-NOV-02 to 04. More than 60 of the 70 synod members voted in favor of a motion supporting Bishop Dennis Drainville's request to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships and civil marriages solemnized elsewhere. Bishop Drainville said that no cleric or congregation will be required to perform such blessings. Once the details have been worked out, it will:

"... simply be an option ... which is being offered in an increasing number of parts of the Anglican Church of Canada. 6

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2013-JAN-04: Diocese of British Columbia becomes 11th diocese to approve blessings of same-sex relationships & civil marriages:

The diocesan synod had passed a resolution in 2010-MAR to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions with a vote of about 95% in favor. It requested that the bishop:

"... grant permission for clergy whose conscience permits to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where [a minimum of] one party is baptized. ..."

After waiting for almost three years, British Columbia Bishop James Cowan finally authorized the resolution as of JAN-01. He urged respect for clergy that wanted to continue to discriminate against loving, committed same-sex couples:

"... who in conscience cannot participate in the blessing of same-sex unions. ... permission to bless same-sex unions between persons who have been participants in duly ‘solemnized and registered civil marriages,’ is not at this time an ecclesiastical recognition of those civil marriages, nor is the blessing given to people in these circumstances a ‘nuptial’ blessing." 7

With this decision of the Diocese of British Columbia, 11 of the 33 dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada -- exactly one third -- either have blessings available, or are arranging to make blessings available in the near future.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Ottawa parishes reach settlement with Diocese," Anglican Network in Canada, 2011-FEB-13, at: http://www.anglicannetwork.ca/
  2. "St. Alban's church walks from Ottawa Diocese," CBC News, 2011-JUN-27, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  3. "Wise Questions," The Church of the Messiah, undated, at: http://messiahchurch.ca/
  4. Leigh Anne Williams, "Edmonton votes to allow same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal, 2012-OCT-16, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  5. Marites N. Sison, "Same-sex blessings available in Rupert’s Land," Anglican Journal, 2012-NOV-02, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  6. "Quebec becomes 10th diocese to offer same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal, 2012-DEC-06, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  7. Marites N. Sison, "Bishop of B.C. authorizes same-sex blessings," Anglican Journal, 2013-JAN-04, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/

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Copyright © 2011 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Initial posting: 2011-JUN
Latest update: 2013-SEP-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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