The Church of Canada meeting in Synod this past weekend agreed with the St Michael Report that blessing sex same unions does not conflict with fundamental Christian doctrines, so allowing them would be appropriate pastoral responses to unions striving to live in holiness. But then, in a 21-19 vote, the Canadian House of Bishops blocked letting dioceses allow blessings.
(In Canada, in order to go into effect, Synod proposals must pass each order of the Church--lay, clergy, and bishop. The issue of same sex blessings was divided into two resolutions--one stating that blessing them did not conflict with the essentials of Christian faith as outlined in the Creeds, the second authorizing the bishops of the Canadian Church to allow blessings. The second was voted down only by the bishops.)
The effect of this outcome is to demonstrate quite clearly, that the people and clergy of the Anglican Church in Canada, a country where same sex marriage is established everywhere, already view same sex unions as normative paths to holy lives.
The bishops do not share this view, at least not enough to act on it positively as a body.
Their position has no doubt been partly arrived at, by the regular and intense lobbying of the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, who have also urged the House of Bishops in the United States, to act in a similar way. The Episcopal bishops have indicated that they are not inclined to block blessings absent a clear directive from the General Convention, which will not meet again until 2009. And the General Convention, at least so far, is not inclined to issue such direction.
The Canadian bishops had already indicated in their May "pastoral statement to the delegates of Synod," that they would not approve blessings.
Some bishops, speaking to the Anglican Journal after the weekend's vote, indicated that this was because the "theological work" had not been done on blessings, or that it has been done "somewhat improperly," using the wrong words. Thankfully, the new Canadian presiding bishop, Bishop Hiltz of Halifax, does not share this view.
This sort of criticism against the Report, is certainly not credible. The Report, chaired by Bishop Matthews of Edmonton and representing views from across the Church, provides strong and clear theology. It is a model of synodical processes and discernment. Going forward, it is certainly a strong and persuasive model for any Church throughout the Communion.
The real issue, as the pastoral directive indicated, is the intense pressure the Canadian Church, especially the bishops preparing for Lambeth, are under to not make further waves.
It is the same pressure that has been brought to bear against the Episcopal Church for years, the same pressure that has exposed the fractures, divisions, and biases that too commonly make up our shared humanity and which, regrettably, we sometimes presume does not exist within the Body of Christ. Alas, our Churches are hospitals for sinners.
But they are more than this. Established by God Himself, they are the regular vehicles for the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the shaping of lives and communities of wholeness. They are the places where the oneness of all Creation because it has been brought into being by Him, is regularly affirmed. It is where we go to remember and celebrate that we have been brought into being specifically in order to share in His image and likeness, to acknowledge and bless the Lord because He came to remind us that we are not saved alone, but with each other.
This is the plain truth of His life and Resurrection. It cannot be contained or suspended. The fact of the matter is that this truth bursts forth from Him at all times everywhere. We regularly fail to grasp this truth, much less act on it.
In the end, the Synod was a clear victory for the authors of the St. Michael Report and for the findings of the Report itself. This is quite simply, because the Report attests to the truth of our natures, our oneness, and our Church, and calls us to reaffirm it in our lives and churches.
The Synod shows, once again, the clear disconnect not only with our discernment and actions, but with our people and bishops. Bishops are supposed to be symbols for and real keepers of, unity in the Church. This unity, however, cannot be had at the price of deception or by ignoring the beating of the Holy Spirit's wings. This type of unity is not real.
What is real, is that the people and clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada, like other true and faithful Christians around the world, hear the beating. They are already there. For this we can all offer our prayers and thanks.
But we are a Church where this is not enough. It is not enough to have the people and clergy do one thing, while the bishops do another. The impulse against this sort of dis-union helps to define us as Episcopalians and Anglicans.
The bishops of the Church must do better at listening--not only to each other, which they never seem to tire of doing, but to their flocks and to the Holy Spirit, which is guiding the Church in communicating to the bishops something that keeps surprising them.
We can only guess that this sort of surprise is always to be expected, for even the Apostles themselves had trouble believing who and what was before their very eyes.
But that is not where they stopped. They were surprised, then they believed again, and then they lifted high the Cross.
The bishops of our Church need to lift high the Cross. If they find themselves somewhat surprised at precisely what prompts them to lift it, they will be in good company. Who has not been surprised, to hear and live through, the beating of those wings calling us forward and helping us on?
For support, the bishops need only look to the people and clergy who are already lifting high the Cross and living in truth every day, sometimes at great personal cost.
God will find them there.
Grace and peace in the Name of the Lord.
On the WebThe Anglican Journal of Canada reports on Synod
The Daily Episcopalian reports on Synod