The Anglican Church in Canada is gearing up to a possible change in its canon which would allow both heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage, but is mindful of what has happened to the Episcopal Church at the recent Primates meeting at Canterbury. The Episcopal Church was suspended for three years for changing its canon to include marriage for same-sex couples.
In relation to same-sex marriage, the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod 2013 Resolution 003 asked that:
“.. Council of General Synod [..] prepare and present a motion at General Synod 2016 to change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience”.
The Canadian Anglican Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, released a statement after the recent Primates meeting, and said:
“We struggled with the fragility of our relations in response to the actions taken by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in changing its canon on marriage, making provision for the blessing of same sex marriages. We talked, prayed and wrestled with the consequences considered by the meeting. Some of us wept.
Through this whole conversation I was deeply mindful that our church will deal with the first reading of a proposed change of a similar kind in our canon on marriage at General Synod in July 2016. There is no doubt in my mind that the action of the Primates’ meeting will weigh into our deliberations”.
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, would not commit himself on what consequences would ensue if the Canadian Anglican Church changed their canon to include same-sex marriage. He said it had been discussed at the meeting, but that they would cross that bridge when they came to it. He also said that another two or three provinces were looking at a possible change to include gay marriage.
In a summary of the Marriage Commission Report called for by General Synod 2013, it stated:
“It is clear that a change to the marriage canon would cause concern for our Anglican Communion partners as it would for our ecumenical partnership with the Roman Catholic Church. The nature of the change to these relationships has not been named specifically. It would not change our relationship with other full communion or ecumenical dialogue partners, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada or the United Church of Canada, who already offer same-sex marriage”.
The Marriage Commission did not think that a change to the canon would change the definition of marriage:
“The Marriage Canon defines marriage as a lifelong union between two qualified persons, established by God’s grace when couples declare their intent for such a union and exchange vows. This union is in faithful love, to the exclusion of all others, and for better or for worse. This definition would not change. What would change is the understanding of “qualified persons” to now include persons of the same gender. What would also change is the understanding of one of the three purposes of marriage: procreation (if it may be)”.
It also stated that the sanctity of same-sex relationships were no longer in question.