In July the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) voted to allow its clergy to solemnise same sex marriage. The vote secured a two-thirds majority among the bishops and laity, but initially failed to secure a two-thirds majority among the clergy by one vote. After a recount, the General Secretary was found to have been counted as non-voting. He had been registered as nonvoting throughout the Synod, but was now found to have a vote. The required majority was thus secured.
Six diocesan bishops of the ACoC (out of 32) and one suffragan have written to the Anglican Communion as follows:
‘The entire process, beginning with the hasty vote in 2013 and concluding with the vote and miscount this past week, has been flawed and has inflicted terrible hurt and damage on all involved. We absolutely condemn homophobic prejudice and violence wherever it occurs, offer pastoral care and loving service to all irrespective of sexual orientation, and reject criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.
‘Though the change to the Marriage Canon would require a second vote in 2019 in order to come into effect, some bishops have vowed to proceed with same sex marriages immediately, contrary to the explicit doctrine and discipline set out in our constitution, canons and liturgies.
‘In passing resolution A051 R2 the General Synod has taken a further step in ordaining something contrary to God’s Word written and imperils our full communion within the Anglican Church of Canada and with Anglicans throughout the world. We believe that our General Synod has erred grievously and we publicly dissent from this decision. Resolution A051 R2 represents a change to the sacrament of marriage inconsistent with the Scriptures and Apostolic Tradition of the Church Catholic and the Book of Common Prayer. This would be a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of the Anglican Communion on the doctrine of marriage. Sadly, this complicates relationships within the Anglican Church of Canada and as a Province with the Anglican Communion.
‘We unambiguously reaffirm our commitment to Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all, his body, the Church Catholic, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Communion, the scriptural, traditional and catholic definition of marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman as set out in both the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services, and the pastoral care of all within our jurisdictions and the communion.
‘The Resolution as carried does not provide adequate protection for the consciences of dioceses, clergy and congregations. We are concerned for all those of a traditional conscience on marriage within the Anglican Church of Canada. We call on our Primate and the Archbishop of Canterbury to seek ways to guarantee our place within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.”
Secular Western values imposed
The statement is a model of its kind. David Virtue points out the internal contradiction the vote represents for the Anglican Church of Canada. It has long advocated the rights of Canada’s First Nation people. David Virtue writes: ‘Native Americans oppose same sex marriage as a Western behaviour not approved by them, their understanding of the faith or their culture.’ Some bishops who signed this dissenting statement have many such people in their dioceses in the North of Canada who regard this as an imposition of secular Western culture on their land and churches. No conscience clause has been allowed.
Vinay Samuel points out that this contradiction is embraced under the ideology of social progressivism by which same sex marriage is the inevitable direction in which history and culture is moving and those who resist, however poor, marginalised and vulnerable, are bigots whose views must be steamrollered by the march of progressivism.
In June the Scottish Episcopal Church voted that a change to its Canon Law governing marriage should be sent for discussion to the Church’s seven dioceses ahead of a vote at the 2017 synod.
Some of the largest churches in the Episcopal Church of Scotland are evangelical. But ‘evangelical’ now no longer necessarily entails being biblically orthodox on marriage, or regarding biblical teaching on marriage as fundamental Christian teaching. Before the Shared Conversations at the York Synod of the Church of England in July, in Journeys in Grace and Truth – Revisiting Scripture and Sexuality edited by Jayne Ozanne, Bishop Colin Fletcher (Area Bishop of Dorchester in the Diocese of Oxford) and Bishop Bayes of Liverpool, both ‘evangelicals’, explain why they have moved towards an ‘affirming view’ of same sex relationships.
GAFCON UK wrote to the Scottish Anglican Network in the light of the vote: ‘the GAFCON UK Panel of Bishops offers to provide alternative episcopal oversight, and thereby your recognition as faithful Anglicans by the worldwide GAFCON movement, which represents the majority of Anglicans worldwide.’
Bishop Tom Wright points out in Good Disagreement, Grace and Truth in a Divided Church, edited by Atherstone and Goddard, that biblical teaching and practice on marriage was one requirement of the Jerusalem Council when the Gentiles were welcomed into the church. The Revd Dr Rollin Grams, a New Testament scholar and priest of the Church of Uganda working in the United States and South Africa, has collaborated with Donald Fortson to publish Unchanging Witness, The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition. They liken many arguments brought forward by the advocates of gay marriage to substitutes brought on to the field of play when earlier players get worn out.
And they do get worn out against the unchanging witness, both of the Bible and the Christian community throughout history, that views which bless behaviour which God calls sinful, are in fact claiming to be superior to the teaching of Jesus.