Canadian bishop looking for consensus on decision to bless same-sex unions

January 27, 1999

When the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly approved (179 to 170) a resolution calling for the blessing of same-sex unions last spring, Bishop Michael Ingham decided to withhold his consent until after the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops meeting in England last summer. Now he has decided to delay any action until 2001, looking for "substantial consensus" before moving ahead. His decision has drawn strong support in the diocese but some angry disappointment from Vancouver's large gay and lesbian community.

"What we saw at Lambeth was the fear and animosity that continues to be directed at gay and lesbian people by the church and I think justice delayed is justice denied," Ingham said in a statement. "Nevertheless, bishops do have the responsibility to guard the unity of the church and try and take people along together; and that's what I am seeking to do." Parishes in the diocese will continue their discussions on the issue and a Bishop's Commission on Gay and Lesbian Voices will seek to broaden the understanding of life and experiences of gay church members. Another commission will provide study materials on the theological issues while another will investigate any legal impediments. At the same time, a proposed liturgical rite is being prepared for use if approval is given.

"The church here is actually at odds with a society that cannot understand our discriminatory attitude," Ingham said. He even suggested that the church might be violating Canadian law which opposes discrimination against homosexuals by public institutions. In the Province of British Columbia, for example, they are guaranteed equality before the law. The day may be coming "when we could find ourselves compelled by law to end our discriminatory practices," the bishop said.

Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, expressed his support for Ingham's decision, calling it consistent with the policy of the church and faithful to Anglican tradition. "The establishment of a commission to enable biblical and historic church teaching to be explored and shared embodies a faithfulness to the Anglican commitment to scripture, tradition and reason," he said. But the decision is also consistent with the mind of the church's General Synod, Peers said, which "affirms the presence and contribution of gay men and lesbians in the life of the church."

--based on reports from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church Times of London.