On Friday the General Synod considered second reading of a motion to amend Canon XXI, on Marriage in the Church. The rules for amending canons having to do with doctrine, discipline or worship (including Canon XXI) require that any amendment be adopted by a 2/3 majority in each of the three Orders (laity, clergy and bishops) at two successive sessions of the General Synod. The proposed amendment was adopted by the requisite majorities in 2016, and came back for second reading in 2019. This time it was defeated in the Order of Bishops.
There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
But what happened and what didn't happen?
This process started in 2013 with a motion requesting that amendments be brought to the 2016 General Synod to permit solemnization of marriage for same-sex couples. The underlying assumption was that, since we weren’t doing same-sex weddings at the time (at least not openly) then there must be something in the canon that prevented such weddings and those who brought forward the 2013 resolution wanted that changed. But the assumption was wrong.
As I noted in a previous post, I realized in 2005 that the Canon does not define marriage or prohibit same-sex marriage. No canon in the Anglican Church of Canada ever has. So what would the defeated motion have accomplished if not to give permission to solemnize same-sex marriages?
The resolution would have done three things:
- it would have declared that the canon applies to same-sex marriage as well as opposite-sex marriage;
- it would have replaced a couple of incidental gendered references to the couple with gender-neutral language;
- it would have added a provision prohibiting solemnizing a marriage between a same-sex couple except where the bishop grants permission.
So what does the (narrow) defeat of this resolution mean?
It’s important to understand that defeating a motion is not the same as passing its opposite. So when we did not declare that the canon applies to same-sex marriages, it does not mean that we declared that the canon does not apply to same-sex marriages. Synod said no such thing.
It’s true that we didn’t change the couple of gendered references to the couple into gender-neutral references, but the vast majority of references are, and always have been, gender-neutral, using phrases such as “the parties to the marriage” and the word “persons”. And the gendered references do not imply any restrictions or a definition of marriage. They are completely incidental.
And, crucially, we did not add a prohibition on same-sex marriage. No such prohibition exists, and it has not been added.
Read that again: there never has been a prohibition on same-sex marriage in our canon and the Synod in defeating the resolution failed to introduce such a prohibition (and an exception where the bishop gives permission.)
Many thought that by defeating the motion they were defeating a mechanism to give permission for something was previously banned. In fact, they failed to introduce a mechanism to ban something that was not previously prohibited.
The three quarters who voted for this resolution were surely voting for equal marriage. Yes, three quarters of the members of General Synod were saying they support equal marriage. They were prepared to accept a local option to prohibit equal marriage in some dioceses to send the message to LGBTQ+ persons that they can marry in church if they so desire. That was the deal: say yes officially to equal marriage overall, in return for individual bishops having the authority to opt out in their own dioceses. By not adopting the motion due to the vagaries of our procedure, we have also not adopted that ability to say “no” locally.
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Help me understand this Alan because I’m genuinely having trouble.ReplyDelete
The motion itself reads in part:
“1. Declare that Canon XXI (On Marriage in the Church) applies to all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage.”
Everyone plainly knew that this is what we were voting on. The clear implication of the motion failing is that Canon XXI—governing marriage in the church—does not apply to all who can be civilly married but only to male-female unions. I don’t see how any amount of logical gymnastics make this argument from silence convincing.
It’s curious to me that you (and others?) purport to have known this since 2005 (!!) but said nothing until the motion was defeated.
The declaration in section 1 is not a change to the Canon.
My views were published in 2005, and I have never hidden them. And the same views were expressed openly an dpublished by the Chancellor in 2016. I don't understand your curiosity.
@any commentary, please note my comments guidelines below.
I can attest that Alan has been saying this for a decade plus. We had extensive conversations about this in 2007 and 2008 when we were each prolocutors of our respective Provincial Synods (me Ontario, Alan Prov of Canada). He was not quiet about this opinion and it was well known he had it.Delete
So under the current canons no Bishop has the ability to refuse to allow willing clergy to preside at a same sex marriage?ReplyDelete
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Commenters please note the blog comments policy:ReplyDelete
Comments are welcome, but moderated. Please use a name, any name or alias, or your comment will be deleted. I welcome constructive criticisms, profusive praise, and intelligent interjections. Abusive, nasty or libellous comments will be ruthlessly deleted. Hey, it's my blog and I get to be as arbitrary as I want!
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Trying to understand. Do bishops have the power to prohibit clergy they license from solemnizing same sex marriages?ReplyDelete
Not under the Canon as it stands.Delete
There is no nationally authorized liturgy (in the BCP or BAS) for the marriage of two people of the same sex. How can a bishop not prevent same-sex marriage within the diocese when they are not required to authorize liturgies that would permit it?ReplyDelete
Making the BAS marriage liturgy gender neutral would be easy. You don't need a different rite.Delete
It would require every Diocesan authorizing it, though, wouldn't it? I don't see how what has happened allows for same-sex marriage automatically in every Diocese. The rubrics of the currently authorized rites don't permit it. What would the procedure be for making the marriage rite in the BAS (and BCP) gender neutral? Wouldn't it require multiple acts of Synod in votes by order?ReplyDelete
Rubrics in Canada are generally are permissive, not prescriptive. One may, for example, change "men" to "us" in the Creed to make it gender neutral. Given that the vows in the BAS are identical, having two spouses of the same sex take the vows shouldn't be a problem. Changing "this man and this woman" to " this couple, or these persons or some such formula would be fine. And changing the BAS would not take multiple Synods with complicated voting. We just authorized rites by simple majority.Delete
At Synod, which means this is not automatic. Every bishop so far that has announced they will be exercising local option has done so with a notice of authorizing a new liturgy (one assumes based off the American liturgy). As for the permissive rubrics, that is a new one for me: is there some documentation on that in the BAS or elsewhere? Perhaps I should bring this to my bishop? I was unaware we were permitted to change the language when we desired.Delete
Many places in the BAS say "in these or similar words". And the BAS is in general more inclusive than the BCP in language. There are a couple of places where there is no freedom to change wording, including the baptismal formula and the eucharistic prayers. I'll have to look for the directive that rubrics are permissive.Delete
Thank you for those thoughts. Have you found the other directives on the rubrics? I am familiar with the "these or similar words" rubrics as I've used them before, but I don't believe that is applicable in the case of the BAS marriage service apart from the blessing of the ring. So apart from that section, I'm not seeing rubrical permission to change the text of the service in the ways that would be needed to accommodate a same-sex couple.Delete
Thanks very much for your writing Alan. If I'm understanding the current situation correctly, it appears that there is now no canonical or liturgical impediment for any clergyperson in the Anglican Church who desires to conduct a same sex marriage service. Is that correct? Or, is there still a requirement for clergy to obtain the consent of their bishop before conducting a SSM service? Also, is it now correct to say that the motions passed by GS2019 have effectively moved SSM into the accepted/approved doctrine and practice of the Anglican Church of Canada?ReplyDelete
Hi Alan. Not sure if you get a duplicate of this, as I was cut off mid-way of my previous message. Anyways I was saying that the outcome of the latest Synod and this Canon, add more confusion. Its no wonder people can't agree. You are obviously what I would call an expert in the Canon, and perhaps you and loads of others get it. This is far to complicated for my little head. For me the bible is clear on the topic of mariage between and man and a woman, and I understand that the bible was written years and years ago, but it was written by people inspired by God, for whom the bible says God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. I think these scholars and religious people have tried so hard to take the bible apart, that they are adding more confusion, and as a result create division amongst God's people. The scholars dont even agree amongst themselves. If we cannot believe the bible for what is then what are going to believe? Anyways this is my 5 cents worth, as pennies were taken out of the market. Peace. JacquesReplyDelete
Not sure why the above is listed as "unknown", as I clearly stated my name in full.Delete
No worries, Jacques. I suspect it's the way identity is gathered by the blog site. But your name did appear in your post, as you say, so that's fine.Delete
I think the Word to the Church expressed it best, as a Church, we are not of one mind on marriage. The key question is how we move forward together, living with the ambiguity of our differences. But that is a question that can't be answered in the canons.Delete