Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Canadian Anglicans reject blessing same-sex unions

Canadian Anglicans reject blessing same-sex unions
Sun Jun 24, 2007 7:32 PM EDT

By Roberta Rampton

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly overruled clergy and laypeople on Sunday to defeat a proposal to give churches the option of blessing same-sex unions.

The issue has threatened to split both the Canadian church and the 77-million member Worldwide Anglican Communion, a loose federation of national churches around the world whose members do not agree on how the 450-year-old church should minister to homosexuals.

The Canadian bishops voted 21 opposed to 19 in favor of giving churches the option of blessing same-sex unions. Clergy and laity voted in favor by larger margins, but the proposal had to pass in all three orders to be implemented.

The blessing is not a marriage ceremony but rather a ritual by a priest recognizing the relationship. It is sometimes performed for heterosexuals as well and offers prayers for the couple's future.

"There will probably be some measure of pleasure (in the Anglican Communion) in that we have not moved ahead," said Bishop Fred Hiltz, who will be installed as the new primate or leader of the 640,000-member Canadian church on Monday.


Earlier on Sunday, the church's general synod, its highest decision-making body, agreed that blessing same-sex unions is not in conflict with core doctrine -- a result that disturbed the conservative wing of the church.

Orthodox Anglicans believe sex outside of heterosexual marriage is contrary to Biblical teachings. But liberal Anglicans believe in a broader reading of scripture.

"There's no question there will be considerable disappointment on the part of many, and a lot of pain, and there will be some people who will be saying, 'How long, oh Lord, how long must this conversation continue?"' said Hiltz, 53, who voted in favor of same-sex blessings.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has legalized gay marriage, although churches are not compelled to perform the ceremonies.

One British Columbia diocese has allowed blessings of same-sex unions, and it will argue on Monday that it should be allowed to continue. Same-sex unions include civilly married gays or lesbians, or those in a lifelong committed monogamous relationship.

A Toronto parish has said it will continue to bless same-sex couples, no matter what the synod's decision.

The Anglican Communion, which is dominated by the more conservative "Global South" of Africa, Asia and Latin America, gave the U.S. Episcopal Church a September deadline to stop blessing same-sex unions and to declare a moratorium on consecrating openly gay bishops.

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