Canada: ‘Civil disobedience’ may arise if gay marriage rejected 

By Tali Folkins
Posted Apr 13, 2016
“We’re mindful of our need to reach out to those who are going to be hurt or offended by a decision of General Synod,” says Archbishop Fred Hiltz. Photo: Tali Folkins

“We’re mindful of our need to reach out to those who are going to be hurt or offended by a decision of General Synod,” says Archbishop Fred Hiltz. Photo: Tali Folkins

[Anglican Journal] Some bishops have expressed concern about the possibility that some priests may go ahead and marry gay couples in the event that a resolution changing the marriage canon to allow same-gender marriages is rejected at General Synod this summer, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

“If it’s not approved, then, as we sometimes, say…there could be some ‘civil disobedience’ on the part of clergy and parishes, and the bishops are going to have to handle that, because all of us that are ordained make a solemn promise to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Anglican Church of Canada,” Hiltz told the Anglican Journal April 12. Hiltz made the comments during an interview on the House of Bishops meeting last week, April 4–8.

Asked to clarify if by “civil disobedience” he meant same-gender marriages in defiance of a “no” vote, Hiltz replied, “That’s a possibility. Bishops are aware of that. We’re mindful of our need to reach out to those who are going to be hurt or offended by a decision of General Synod.”

Whatever the outcome of the vote at the meeting July 7–12, Hiltz said, the bishops need to be aware that the church risks losing members who may be incensed to the point of leaving. Bishops may decide to hold “post-General Synod” gatherings, which would enable people to “express what they need to express and consider how we continue to walk together,” he said.

“We have to be mindful that if it gets approved on first reading, there may be some clergy and parishes that may say, ‘That’s it—we don’t think we can be part of this church anymore.’ That’s a possibility,” he said.

“If it’s not approved, there could be people that will say that, too. I’ve had some correspondence of that nature lately.

“We’re all going into this synod knowing there will be pastoral implications no matter which way this vote goes, and every single bishop in our church has to deal with those pastoral implications,” he said.

“I know it’s difficult for people to hear me say this, but…if it doesn’t pass, the LGBT community is going to be deeply upset—if not, in fact, deeply offended,” Hiltz added. “And we will have to seize that as a challenge and an opportunity as a church to be, I think, much more deeply engaged with them in terms of their lived experience of their lived covenantal love one for another.”

To pass its first reading at General Synod this July, the resolution to allow same-sex marriages needs a two-thirds majority from all three orders—bishops, clergy and laity. On February 29, the House of Bishops announced that they were unlikely to get the needed two-thirds majority. Hiltz later told the Journal that he believed roughly a third of the church’s bishops were in favour, a third were opposed and another third were struggling with the issue.

Today, with about three months before General Synod, Hiltz suggested this still seemed to be the case.

“My own read…is that notwithstanding all the work that we’ve done in this triennium around the same-sex marriage issue and this resolution—I don’t actually see that very many of the bishops have kind of moved in their position,” he said. “Overall, a lot of the positions of the bishops for or against same-sex marriage in our church haven’t really changed.”

Although some bishops have suggested the possibility of other options beyond a vote simply in favour or opposed to changing the marriage canon, Hiltz said no clear consensus on any such option emerged out of last week’s House of Bishops meeting.

“There’s an appetite for saying, ‘Well, if we don’t amend the canon, how do we pastorally care for gay and lesbian people in our church?’ Hiltz said. “So that’s a conversation, I think, that’s continuing—it’s not one that can be rushed” in the form of a proposal, for example, for General Synod to consider this July from the House of Bishops, he said.

“We’re not anywhere near that. But my sense is that conversation is probably going to continue past General Synod.”

The Anglican Journal also spoke with Bishop Larry Robertson, of the diocese of Yukon, who said he found the opportunity to talk about the “pastoral implications” of the marriage canon vote during the bishops’ meeting.

“Regardless of what happens, people are going to be affected—whether there is a ‘no’ vote, or a ‘yes’ vote, or a delay vote or whatever it is,” he said. “We spent some time on just how do we then deal with the hurt and the pain of a result that people weren’t expecting or didn’t want.”

Many of the bishops, he explained, plan on sending out pastoral letters regardless of the vote’s outcome, and he plans on holding a day for diocesan lay and ordained leaders to sit down and talk about what happened.

The marriage canon was only one of several topics to which bishops devoted themselves at last week’s meeting. One highlight of the week, Hiltz said, was a session on dialogue with Islam that included a presentation by David Goa, director of the Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life at the University of Alberta. Among other things, Hiltz said, Goa spoke about the importance of Jesus and Mary in the Muslim tradition, and told them that religiously motivated violence was “a tragedy, a betrayal of the way they understand Allah.”

Another was a talk on the global refugee situation by Ian McBride, executive director of AURA, an alliance between the Anglican diocese of Toronto and the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada, aimed at helping with the settlement of refugees. Among other things, McBride informed them that there are now an estimated 60 million refugees worldwide, about four million of whom are Syrians, Hiltz said.

Robertson said he found the presentation on Islam “very interesting,” and noted that while the Yukon doesn’t have thousands of Muslims, there are “more than you would think,” due to the influx of immigrants from countries in the Middle East.

“In Whitehorse…there is a regular group of Muslims that meet on a regular basis,” he said. “The big cities have pockets and groups of Muslims.”


Comments (6)

  1. Frank Riggio-Preston says:

    Hill is a smart cleric. The church will lose on both sides;however, the hurt will be felt worse on the lgbt more due to the years of harsh discrimination. In the end, you will lose their souls to churches with open souls and hearts following Jesus’ words and commands of full acceptance and love of all

    1. MaryLou Scherer says:

      The United Church of Canada has had its doors wide-open for the LGBT community

  2. McKinley Walker says:

    Shame on the Canadian church.

    1. MaryLou Scherer says:

      Shame on the bishops, they are the ones obstructing the change in the marriage canon, the lay members of synod are supporting the change and the full inclusion of the LGBT community

    2. MaryLou Scherer says:

      Ordained people are also subject to the baptismal vows..
      “Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all
      people, and respect the dignity of every human
      People I will, with God’s help. “

  3. John Horne says:

    An amendment to the canon is just the start of full inclusion of LGBT people. As a gay member of TEC, my Diocese has yet to fully accept or implement the amended canons of TEC. I can say from experience that until every Bishop of TEC fully accepts LGBT people full inclusion will not be achieved. My very modest advice to the Church in Canada would be to take the first step of inclusion. Unfortunately, this isn’t end of the struggle. To say that rejection would alienate or hurt LGBT people is an understatement. It may well be another twenty years before TEC is in a position of full inclusion. The Bishops that disagree or have concerns regarding full inclusion will not be moved to change anything in their Diocese. I know this from experience. Bishops in disagreement with the modified canon or proposed modified canon as with the Church Of Canada are more respected than by the structure of the Church than the oppressed community. It seems we have more compassion for Bishops in disagreement with the Church than the very people the national Church is trying to help. From my perspective, I can only hope and pray our next Bishop wants to embrace the national Church and the LGBT community. The struggle continues parish by parish and diocese by diocese.

    My hopes and prayers go out to the Church Of Canada for full inclusion of LGBT people as well as for improved acceptance in TEC by all Bishops.

    Isn’t it simple that we are all gifts from God and loved by God.

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