A step toward healing and moving forward within the Anglican Church took place in Corner Brook Sept. 3 when the Diocese of Western Newfoundland voted to allow same-sex marriage.
The motion to allow same sex-marriage by consenting clergy, and including protection for non-consenting clergy, was accepted by 93.4 per cent of the 79 delegates.
Bishop John Organ said the result was both positive and affirming.
“It doesn’t matter what particular issue it is in any organization or community, not everybody is of the same mind. But this is a way that we can walk together in unity and respect our differences,” he said.
He said the synod delegates expressed courage and a genuine concern and pastoral concern for all people and the vote sends a positive message that all people are included. “That God’s love is for everyone, no matter the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation.”
Organ said the group of 30 clergy and 49 lay delegates met for five and half hours to discuss the issue and the conversation was a good one.
“Because in many ways it protects both sides. It offers support to those who feel they can’t do a same-sex marriage and then for those that can — it opens the door for them to do so.”
The synod was held in response to what happened during the Anglican Church of Canada’s general synod in July. There a vote to allow same-sex marriages failed to get the majority it needed to pass.
Some 76 per cent of the people in the house of clergy, the house of laity and the house of bishops were in favour of allowing same-sex marriage, but Organ said the decision had to have a two-thirds majority in each of the houses in order to pass.
“It got that and more in the house of clergy. It got that and more in the house of laity. But in the house of bishops it just, by the slimmest margin, missed it.”
A motion fails if it is not passed in all three houses.
The decision was an upsetting one for the synod and a lot of young people were devastated by the outcome.
Organ said the house of bishops realized it caused a lot of hurt and suffering for the LGBT community, its families, friends and allies, and so it continued to meet and wrestle with the issue.
“The majority of us were already in favour, but it wasn’t a super majority.”
The house of bishops later issued a statement to express regret and sorrow for causing the pain and suffering and formed a word to the church, a document that identifies that everyone has different views on marriage.
In the end, they came to the decision that same sex-marriage has dignity, integrity and sanctity.
And in the statement the bishops offered a local option so dioceses were free to conduct same-sex marriages.
Some went ahead and allowed same-sex marriage and others, like the Diocese of Western Newfoundland, opted to hold a special synod on the issue.
Under the motion accepted by the diocese a clergy member who in good conscience and faith can’t offer same-sex marriage will, without bias and with respect, refer those seeking the sacrament to a local regional dean or diocesan arch deacon who will find a priest to perform that wedding.
The diocese’s decision may prove to be groundbreaking in the province as the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland is set to hold its special synod on the issue on Sept. 28, and Organ suspects it will also be approving of allowing same-sex marriage.
The Diocese of Central Newfoundland meets in October, and while Organ is not sure if same-sex marriage is on the agenda, he said it may very well be the start of their conversation.
Diocese of Western Newfoundland
Covers an area from Francois on the south coast to Port aux Basques, all along the west coast, up the Northern Peninsula to St. Anthony, and across to southern Labrador. It extends from Deer Lake out to Howley, the Baie Verte Peninsula, White Bay and as far east as Springdale
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