Canon Phil Ashey: Canadian Bishops on Same Sex Marriage Rites
posted March 3, 2012
So where does that leave the Anglican Church of Canada on the possibility of changing its doctrine of marriage, along the same lines as TEC?
1. The Bishops left the door open to changing the doctrine of marriage piecemeal, by dioceses exercising “local option” to provide Church blessings for same-sex couples. “We continue to wonder whether a legislative procedure is the most helpful way of dealing with these matters,” they wrote, keeping the door open for the status quo to continue, for dioceses to establish “facts on the ground.”
2.They committed the Anglican Church of Canada to further study of the matter: “In our deliberations, we affirmed a commitment to continuing conversations and engagement with the Report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, and to achieving the greatest pastoral generosity possible.” We call this “kicking the can down the road.” It doesn’t address the problem—it merely postpones a decision that may already have been made. Are they waiting, perhaps, until the three years have passed for relational consequences on TEC? There are echoes here of the same language TEC used along the way—“generous pastoral provision”-that hint at an already projected outcome.
3.The Bishops allowed other leaders within the Church to challenge their special responsibility to guard the faith, order and doctrine of the Church, without any reply to date. Bishops throughout the Communion of Anglican Churches have a well-recognized responsibility to teach, uphold and safeguard the faith and doctrine of the Church, and to order its worship and liturgical practices accordingly (see Principles of Canon law in the Churches of the Anglican Communion (2008), Principles 37.4, 48.3, 56.7-18 and 60.1). In the same way that the Archbishop of Canterbury has been slow, if not silent, to defend this responsibility of the Primates gathering in January, so the Canadian bishops have been silent in response to the challenge by the co-Chair of the Planning Team for the General Synod. This weakens the authority of bishops, in synod and out. Their silence raises the question “if bishops have not the authority to guard the faith, doctrine and order of the Church, who does?”
4.Finally, by their own admission, these Canadian bishops are “unable to come to a common mind about what the Spirit is saying to the Church.” Really? From which “Spirit” are they seeking discernment? The Spirit of Jesus Christ, whose mind is undivided, as Paul so powerfully expounds in Philippians 2:5-11? The Spirit who inspired God’s revelation from creation, in Holy Scripture, that God created humanity “male and female” (Genesis 1:27) and that marriage is a holy estate between a man “who shall leave his father and mother” to be united to his wife so that “the two will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)? Were they seeking discernment from the same Spirit who inspired Jesus to cite this ordinance in Matthew 19:5, and in the very next verse to emphasize its holiness and permanence by declaring “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matt. 19:6)?
Or were they seeking discernment from some other Spirit, or the Spirit of the age?...
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