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Canadian churches reject same-sex blessings


Canada’s Anglican and Lutheran churches have each turned down proposals to approve ceremonies of blessing for same-sex unions.

The general synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, meeting in Winnipeg, on 24 June narrowly defeated a resolution that would have allowed dioceses to decide for themselves whether or not to bless same-sex unions.

"There is disappointment – a lot of pain.  Some people will be saying, ‘How long, O Lord, how long?’" said Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, who was elected during the 19-25 June synod to be the denomination’s new primate, or national archbishop.

Anglican lay delegates voted 78 to 59 in favour of the motion, which clergy also supported by 63 votes to 53.  However, the denomination’s House of Bishops voted 21-19 against the proposal.  As a result the motion was defeated, since it required approval by each of the three groups.

"A majority of people voted in favour.  I think everyone’s a loser.  Traditional Christians can’t take comfort in the vote and those who want to move on are held back by a small number of bishops," said Bishop Michael Ingham, who in 2002 approved a same-sex blessing ceremony for his Vancouver-headquartered Diocese of New Westminster.

Meeting separately in Winnipeg, delegates to the convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada defeated a proposal to introduce same-gender blessings by a vote of 200 to 181. The Lutheran convention in 2005 defeated a similar proposal.

The issue of same-gender blessings came before the churches, in part, as a result of Canada’s parliament making civil marriages for gay couples legal.

The two churches held the meetings of their highest governing bodies simultaneously in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they celebrated together the sixth anniversary of the 2001 Waterloo Declaration, which brought the two denominations into full communion.

In advance of the Anglican vote on same-sex blessings, six retired Canadian archbishops said that a vote in favour of the rite would show "justice, compassion and hope for all God’s people".

The bishops wrote that continued discussion on the matter would detract from other issues facing the church, such as "child poverty, racism, global warming, economic injustice, concern for our aboriginal brothers and sisters, and the growing disparity between the rich and the poor".

If delegates at the Anglican meeting had voted in favour of the proposal, it would have put the Canadian church at odds with most of the 77 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

Before the vote on whether to allow same-sex blessing ceremonies, all three sections of the Anglican synod approved a separate statement that such blessings are not in conflict with the church’s core doctrine.

The Anglican Church of Canada has 800 000 members in 30 dioceses. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has 175 000 members.

(c) Ecumenical News International