As four churches voted in February to leave the Vancouver-based Diocese of New Westminster and the Anglican Church of Canada over changing attitudes toward homosexuality, two churches asked to be able to join eight other parishes in offering blessing ceremonies to same-gender couples.
Church of the Holy Spirit in Whonnock and St. Mary Kerrisdale, British Columbia, passed motions at their vestries (annual meetings) that asked for permission to perform the ceremonies if and when diocesan Bishop Michael Ingham lifts a moratorium limiting permission to the eight parishes.
Both churches followed the vote with motions, passed unanimously, that expressed loyalty and support for Ingham and gave thanks for his leadership.
"St. Mary's has taken a stand on a number of different issues. It is a parish that is supportive of social change," said the Rev. Kevin Dixon in a phone interview. He is prepared to bless a same-gender couple who are civilly married where one member of the couple is baptized.
"We feel a responsibility to ensure that what has been begun in the diocese is completed. We made a decision in 2002 to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships and we need to be sure it is enacted where appropriate," he said, noting that he had seconded the motion six years ago that came before the diocesan synod.
The debate at St. Mary's was characterized by "real respect and a kind of prayerfulness," he said. Of 186 votes cast, 160 were in favor, or 86 percent. The church wanted to be on record that "there are parishes waiting for the moratorium to be lifted so the blessing of same-sex relationships (in those churches) can proceed," he said.
The Rev. David Findley-Price, priest-in-charge at Holy Spirit church, wrote to a local newspaper that "as an Anglican Christian I am prepared to ask God to bless the union of people who love each other as a part of the natural order of creation...I personally feel blessed to be a part of the diocese that is courageous and willing to look at the revealed evidence of science in how we approach life and our relationship with God."
Two years ago, New Westminster's synod agreed to limit same-gender blessings to the eight parishes that had requested them up to that point, in response to concerns from other Anglican churches in Canada and abroad that believe homosexuality is contrary to Scripture. Last December, Ingham informed diocesan council that he had decided to continue the moratorium for the time being "in the current climate and with the Lambeth Conference (of all Anglican bishops) coming next summer," according to an article in Topic, the diocesan newspaper.
This article first appeared on the website of the Anglican Journal here.