By the Rt. Rev. Bruce Myers OGS
For one week in July, hundreds of people from across the country assembled in Vancouver for the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
National church gatherings like the General Synod have been described as “part legislative assembly, part revival, part marketplace, and part family reunion”—and all of those aspects were in evidence during our long and jam-packed days together in Vancouver.
Some important milestones were reached. Our church offered a formal apology for spiritual harm inflicted on First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples during the era of colonial expansion, particularly through the Indian residential school system. New structures were approved to help advance Indigenous self-determination within our church. We chose a fine new primate, Archbishop Linda Nicholls. Our commitment to the church’s unity was reaffirmed, particularly in our relationships with Lutherans and with the United Church of Canada. Important interreligious bonds were strengthened with Jews and Muslims.
The General Synod also continued its conversations about whether to change our church’s canon law on marriage to include same-sex couples. Although the proposal to approve same-sex marriage in our church received the support of more than 70 per cent of the members of the General Synod—including all of the members from the Diocese of Quebec—it failed to receive the required number of votes among the bishops, and so the motion was defeated.
This decision was heartbreaking for many people in our church, particularly the significant number of LGBTQ2S+ Christians who have been faithful members and leaders in every expression of the Anglican Church of Canada, including the Diocese of Quebec.
Following the General Synod’s decision, my fellow bishops and I offered a statement acknowledging that while we are not of one mind on the specific matter of same-sex marriage, we are nevertheless “walking together in a way which leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions, sometimes described as ‘local option.’”
The Diocese of Quebec will have an opportunity to discuss the implications of the General Synod’s deliberations about same-sex marriage when we gather for our own Synod in November. This won’t be the first time we’ve talked about these matters as a diocesan church. In 2007 the Quebec Diocesan Task Force on Human Sexuality held a wide consultation touching specifically on same-sex marriage, and in 2012 our diocesan Synod authorized the blessing of same-sex unions.
In the midst of these discussions, the General Synod overwhelmingly agreed on some important affirmations. One accepts that there currently exists “a diversity of understandings and teachings about marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada, and we affirm the prayerful integrity with which those understandings and teachings are held.” At the same time, we affirm “our commitment to presume good faith among those who hold diverse understandings and teachings, and hold dear their continued presence in this church.”
My prayer is that these affirmations might guide us in whatever conversations our diocesan Synod may have about same-sex marriage, such that we will treat one another “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).