Magazine article Anglican Journal

Bishops Duck Controversy, Moderator Chooses It

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Bishops Duck Controversy, Moderator Chooses It

Article excerpt

DAVID HARRIS

IT WAS A LOVING "NO", but a no nevertheless. Canada's bishops produced a new statement on homosexuality, ordination of homosexuals and blessings of same-sex unions. If this document is any indication, Anglicans will proceed cautiously into the next millennium in marked contrast to our United Church friends whose moderator, at least, is signalling controversy and reform.

This is the first time the bishops' guidelines on homosexuality have been made public. The last set, written in 1979, were secret, at least in principle. Everyone knew essentially what they said. Bishops couldn't - or wouldn't - ordain homosexuals who weren't celibate. And already-ordained people who weren't married had to remain celibate. (Married clergy have always been required to be chaste - i.e. no sex outside marriage.)

The new guidelines come after several years of study and consultation in the church about homosexuality and a concerted effort by many bishops to talk to people on both sides of the issue in their dioceses and communities.

In the end, however, the new guidelines are pretty much the same as the old. True, it's not insignificant that gays and lesbians are acknowledged as real people in our midst. But as far as what people can and can't do, the rules are unchanged.

What's perhaps more interesting than adopting friendlier but conservative guidelines is that a motion to permit dioceses to opt out of the guidelines failed by a margin of 2-1.

In essence, the bishops said collegiality outweighs other considerations. That's not a critical remark. It's just an observation. Canada's bishops are still very concerned not to split on this contentious issue in any way. Predictably, the motion was supported by the major urban bishops: Vancouver's Michael Ingham and Montreal's Andrew Hutchison, who moved and seconded the proposal, and Toronto's Terry Finlay, ironically still unjustly maligned and dogged by the Jim Ferry fiasco.

Rural and Native dioceses, especially the Arctic and Keewatin, are death on homosexuality. (Although Keewatin's bishop, Gordon Beardy, said he is personally fairly open on the issue.)

Although the outcome of the vote wasn't ultimately surprising because of the intense desire for collegiality, one might have expected something closer than 2-1 against. After all, it wouldn't have exactly thrown the doors open to ordained gays or lesbians already in or desiring a relationship. The proposal would have required a diocese to ask its bishop to ask the House of Bishops if it could opt out of the guidelines. …

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