Synod set to re-examine same-sex blessings: conservative group lobbies delegates.
The 300 delegates to the weeklong meeting, to be held June 19 to 25 in Winnipeg, will take up a resolution deferred from the last synod, held in 2004, that would allow dioceses to decide on an individual basis whether to offer blessing ceremonies for gay couples.
As it considers this, it will take into account the opinion of the Primate's Theological Commission that such ceremonies are a matter of doctrine, since they touch on the doctrine of marriage, but not such core doctrine as the divinity of Christ.
The governing convention will also consider its response to another document, the Windsor Report, produced by an international commission in 2004, which in the course of examining 'how the worldwide Anglican Communion might stay together, urged bishops not to approve public rites of same-sex blessing until a "new consensus" emerges among Anglicans. In Canada, one diocese, Vancouver-based New Westminster, allows such rites.
Two Canadian Anglican groups on opposite sides of the issue, Integrity (a group for gay Anglicans and their supporters) and Essentials (a group that upholds the traditional view that Scripture says homosexuality is sinful) will be present at General Synod.
Both have planned events leading up to Synod to gather support.
Integrity has scheduled an Ottawa conference to be held April 13 and 14 called The Whole Message, featuring an address by Archbishop Michael Peers, former primate of the Canadian church. According to the conference Web site, participants will "discuss means of ensuring that the Anglican Church of Canada reaffirm its commitment to the via media, the traditional broad path, to be an inclusive church."
Ron Chaplin, conference organizer, said Anglicans "need to think about how a change in ecclesiology (the study of doctrine) will affect the way we do theology in the Anglican church."
On March 7, at a pre-conference speech in Ottawa, Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster said the church needs "a better theology of sexuality" that would involve a "better understanding of the complex role sexuality plays in our human nature."
As for the synod meeting itself, Integrity will be present "as it has been since 1983," according to Chris Ambidge, a member of Integrity's Toronto chapter. A display booth will be staffed by Integrity members and supporters, he said. Some delegates to General Synod are also Integrity members, said Mr. Ambidge, adding, "We will not be without a voice on the (convention) floor."
Integrity is also collecting signatures on an open letter to Synod delegates in support of same-sex blessings. The letter and the ability to sign it appears on a Web site called Living God's Blessing (www.gods-blessing.ca). As of early March, it had collected about 250 signatures.
Essentials, meanwhile, has mailed a letter to synod delegates (which it said it compiled from public-sources), inviting them to various events during the Winnipeg meeting. The letter, from Rev. Brett Cane of Winnipeg, chair of the Essentials initiative at the convention, noted that the group's vision is "to be the theological and spiritual rallying point for historic orthodoxy in the Anglican Church of Canada."
The letter informed delegates that the Essentials presence at Synod is intended to assist delegates sympathetic with Essentials to bring that perspective to current issues and to help all dele gates "in clarifying the issues and in developing a consensus that is faithful to Scripture."
The letter was accompanied by a booklet from the Zacchaeus Fellowship that "contains testimonies of those who have experienced same-gender attraction yet do not commend its practice."
In an interview, Mr. Cane noted that Essentials will host a pre-Synod event in Winnipeg June 18 and 19 called Encouragement 2007 that will feature an address and Bible study led by Rev. Andrew Goddard, tutor in ethics at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University.
"He will be focusing on the worldwide church and the ethics behind the issue and the Windsor Report. There will also be a public meeting (on June 18) at Holy Trinity Church (Winnipeg) focused on the Windsor Report and the international situation," said Mr. Cane.
"There is concern for our spiritual life if we (at General Synod) authorize something that God does not," he said. (Please see related stories, p. 12.)
Essentials has reserved a conference room at one of the synod hotels and will host updates and addresses each evening during the meeting. "In addition, we will be producing a daily news sheet, hosting a display booth with a 'book of the day' for sale at a nominal cost, providing e-mail accessibility as a service to delegates and prayer support," according to Mr. Cane's letter.
Two sub-groups of Essentials, the Essentials Federation and the Anglican Network in Canada, will also be represented, Mr. Cane said. "The Federation is trying to steer the church away from the rocks; the Network is looking for a lifeboat," he said. The Network's mission statement says it intends to "provide a national ecclesial structure" in the event that the Anglican Church of Canada or any of its dioceses "walk apart" from the worldwide Anglican Communion.
However, said Mr. Cane, Essentials "is not a separatist group; we really are committed to the Anglican Church of Canada."
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