Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada met June 26--the morning after General Synod ended--to discuss the ramifications of their slim vote against allowing dioceses to offer church blessing rites to gay couples.
"It will be perceived that the house of bishops scuttled the ideal and there will be wide expectation that we have to work it out. 'You break it, you pay for it,'" said Bishop Patrick Yu, suffragan (assistant) in the diocese of Toronto. Bishop David Ashdown, of Keewatin, said he has heard people express "a deep sense of betrayal by the house of bishops." Bishop Gordon Light of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (of British Columbia) said he heard "anger" and "disdained laughter."
Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan, referring to differing conservative and liberal attitudes toward the decision, said, "bishops are feeling as though they are trying to hold opposites together."
On June 24, synod lay delegates voted yes, 78 to 59, and clergy also said yes, 63 to 53, but the bishops voted no, 21 to 19. The bishops concurred, though, also by a 21 to 19 vote, with a motion that said same-sex blessings are not in conflict with the church's core doctrine. Until.the next General Synod in 2010, the issue is now in the hands of dioceses, where bishops have the power to set policy and discipline clergy.
In talking about his "no" vote, Bishop Percy Coffin of Western Newfoundland said that "on a personal level, I have no problem with this issue, but I had to take other things under consideration." In Western Newfoundland, "a relatively shy culture, most of our gay people have moved to urban centres. The first-ever discussion in the diocese was in 2005. It is a bit tough to get a wholesome dialogue going where Western Newfoundlanders are," he said.
More than one bishop noted that in the vastness of Canada, dioceses have widely varying degrees of comfort with the issue of homosexuality. On the last day of synod, clergy and lay delegates voted, 129 to 99 and bishops voted, 19 to 17, to study the issue further.
"We are all going to go back with different scenarios and we will need the wisdom of Solomon to move forward," said Bishop Claude Miller of the diocese of Fredericton.
Archbishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee wondered aloud, "What will the reaction be at parishes, among the clergy? We are going into clergy conferences, diocesan synods, will they be bringing this to their own vote?"
The situation in the diocese of Niagara was also discussed. "We will go back to our synod in the fall and our perception is that 70 per cent are in favour (of same-sex blessings). …