In common with many other Christian denominations, Canadian Anglicans have been engaged in programmes of serious study and dialogue, on appropriate responses to LGBT inclusion in church, including access to marriage. In 2013, the General Synod approved a motion “directing the drafting of a motion “to change Canon XXI on marriage to allow the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples”. There followed the appointment of a commission to investigate and consult widely, and to prepare a report and suitable motion to present to General Synod. That commission has now published its report.
This report does not in any way promote, or oppose, the introduction of marriage equality in the Church. Its mandate was to prepare a suitable motion on which General Synod will vote, and either approve or reject. What is important in the report for now, not only for Canadian Anglicans but for all queer people of faith and their allies, is that a major part of the report includes an analysis of the biblical and theological understanding of marriage – and concludes that from both perspectives, a case can be made in favour of same – sex marriage, in church.
The full report may be accessed at http://www.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/Marriage_Canon_REPORT_15Sept22.pdf
Here follows the last two sections, the conclusion to the section on the Biblical and Theological case in favour, and the concluding chapter to the full report.
5.4 A Biblical and Theological Rationale for Same-Sex Marriage: Conclusion
The above discussion attempts to show how it is theologically possible to extend the marriage canon to include same-sex couples, without thereby diminishing, damaging, or curtailing the rich theological implications of marriage as traditionally understood. We have attempted to identify the dangers of overly simplistic solutions, and propose a model that is consistent with Christian thought as understood in 5.1.1. To say that it is theologically possible to make this change is not to say that the change is theologically desirable. We have attempted to show how it might be done—not why or even whether it should be done. These questions require more than theological argumentation: they require an act of corporate discernment. Abstract principles of equality are not sufficient ground in themselves, nor are pastoral considerations alone, as important as these are. In fact the analogy to the inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant suggests that the church would want to discern a specific act of grace. There are reasons to believe that this might be the case. The expansion of the definition of marriage in the New Testament as a discipline of Christian love has prepared the way. The logic of the inclusion of the marginalized that runs through Scripture should alert us always to this possibility. The growth in our understanding of human sexuality, both scientifically and interpersonally, helps us to lay aside prejudices and misconceptions. The pastoral need of those rejected by society and church, particularly gay youth, should drive us to seek reconciliation. Finally, the experience of same-sex committed partnerships in our midst, clearly manifesting God’s blessing and the fruit of the Spirit, are a powerful indication that God’s view of marriage may be more inclusive than ours. However, it is finally a decision that the church will have to reach, not by arguments alone, but by prayerful discernment of the movement of the Spirit in our midst.
6 Conclusion The Commission on the Marriage Canon commends this report to the Council of General Synod, confident in having fulfilled the “daunting” task it was handed to the best of our abilities. We carried out a broad consultation, both within and outside the membership of our church; we considered implications for the Solemn Declaration; we sought a legal opinion on the inclusion of a conscience clause; and we have provided a biblical and theological rationale for same-sex marriage that we believe to be faithful, consistent, and coherent with the Anglican tradition. We have also, as directed by the commission’s terms of reference, provided for the consideration of the Council of General Synod the wording of a motion for the revision of Canon XXI to make provision for the inclusion of same-sex marriage in the church. We each came to this task from different parts and traditions of the church, but with open minds and a sincere willingness to hear each other and the various other voices who have been a part of this process. We hope those various voices hear something of themselves reflected back in the content of this report. We are grateful to all those individuals and organizations who responded to our request to offer their reflections on the matter before us. The members of the commission have, throughout this process, been acutely aware of the responsibility placed before them, and are thankful for the support they received from the General Synod throughout their deliberations. Having been supported through these months by the prayers of so many across this church, we now offer our prayers for those now charged with discerning the next steps.