Friday, October 31, 2008

Canadian Bishops Act (so to speak)

Anyone else tired of waiting? Show of hands -- how many can put our lives on hold until 2010 (at least). I'm too old.

a c c w e b n e w s
The Anglican Church of Canada

A Statement from the House of Bishops

October 31, 2008 -- The following statement was released by the House
of Bishops at the conclusion of its meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.

A Statement from the House of Bishops
We being many are one body for we all share in one bread. (1 Cor 10:17)

The meeting of the Canadian House of Bishops which concluded today was
our first time together since we were in England at the Lambeth
Conference last summer. We spent considerable time -- more than two
days -- sharing impressions of the conference, discussing events in
the Canadian Church since Lambeth, and seeking agreement among
ourselves on a way forward for our Church and its dioceses in the
context of the proceedings at Lambeth.
During this extended discussion, the Conference of Bishops of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, our partner in Full Communion,
accompanied us in conversation, bible study, prayer and mutual
support. We are grateful for their presence and contributions.

We acknowledged with gratitude the key role played by the Archbishop
of Canterbury in leading us at Lambeth. In particular we noted with
thanksgiving the retreat addresses and the three presidential
addresses. We share with him the understanding that the Anglican
Communion is a gift from God and commit ourselves to working together.
We also rejoiced in the clear sense from the bishops gathered at
Lambeth that we wished to continue to walk together while addressing
the theological issues arising from discussions about same-sex unions.

One of our main topics of conversation was the agreement by many
bishops at Lambeth on three moratoria: on the blessing of same-sex
unions, on the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex
relationships and on cross-border interventions. This discussion was
in the context of decisions made recently by several diocesan synods
in the Canadian Church that asked their bishop to prepare and
authorize rites for the blessing of same-sex couples.

Our discussion initially comprised two parts. The first consisted of
reports to the House from several bishops of whom such requests have
been made -- Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, Huron, and the Anglican
Parishes of the Central Interior -- as well as bishops from other
dioceses who anticipate such requests in the not-too-distant future
and bishops whose dioceses have received unnecessary and unwelcomed
"cross-border interventions."

For the second part, we formed an indaba group to reflect on what we
had heard in the previous session. (Indaba -- a model for discussion
used at Lambeth -- is an African word meaning "a gathering for
purposeful conversation among equals.") Several themes emerged in this

* Some dioceses have not yet engaged in the listening and
discernment process and some are just beginning;
* Some have been listening and discerning for many years and have
reached differing conclusions;
* Even in the face of difference, there was a desire expressed to
"stay at the family table."
It became clear during this process that many individual bishops
wanted something from the House as a whole "to take home" with them to
share with members of the church.

In response to that request, we added to our agenda a third session on
this vitally important topic. In April, 2005 at its meeting in Windsor
Ontario, this House responded to a number of requests made in the
Windsor Report including a commitment to the moratoria proposed in
that document until General Synod makes a decision.

In this third session, the House heard from the Primate who set out
for us his understanding of what was being requested of us by Lambeth
and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He noted the Pastoral letter from
the House of Bishops to General Synod in 2007 which asked for the
greatest pastoral generosity possible to gays and lesbians, consistent
with the current teaching of the church. He also reminded us of our
agreement in 2004 for a process of Shared Episcopal Ministry (SEM) and
indicated to us his desire for "gracious restraint," to use the
language of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the matter of same-sex

The Primate said to us:

"I come to this meeting of the House of Bishops mindful of our
Canadian context and the call for authorization of public rites for
the blessings of same sex-unions in a number of our dioceses. I am
also mindful of the place of the Anglican Church of Canada in our
worldwide Communion.

"I trust the House of Bishops will support my call for respect for due
process through the General Synod in this matter. In 2007, General
Synod concurred with the opinion of the St. Michael Report (produced
by the Primate's Theological Commission) that the blessing of same-sex
unions is a matter of doctrine. It is not creedal in nature but
nonetheless it is doctrine. The same General Synod called for further
work by the Primate's Theological Commission in assisting the Church
to determine if this matter of blessings is a Spirit-led development
of doctrine. I believe that these deliberations across the church will
have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and
on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process
to proceed with blessings.

"Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in
several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part
of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must
call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for
'gracious restraint.' I remain committed to addressing this issue
within the Communion. "

We spent several hours in conversation on the implications of the
appeal from the Primate.

As a result of these conversations a large majority of the House can
affirm the following:

A continued commitment to the greatest extent possible to the three
moratoria -- on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination to
the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships and on cross-border
interventions -- until General Synod 2010. Members of this House,
while recognizing the difficulty that this commitment represents for
dioceses that in conscience have made decisions on these matters,
commit themselves to continue walking together and to hold each other
in prayer.

The House also affirms:

A commitment to establishing diocesan commissions to discuss the
matter of same-sex blessings in preparation for conversations at
General Synod 2010.

Continued commitment to exercise the greatest level of pastoral
generosity in keeping with provisions approved by this House in
Spring, 2007 and continued commitment to the Shared Episcopal Ministry
document approved in Fall, 2004.

We ask for your continuing prayers as we steadfastly seek to discern
the mind and heart of Christ for the wholesome care of all members of
his Body, the Church. We share a deep hope that though we may never
come to consensus over this matter of the blessing of same-sex unions,
we will live with differences in a manner that is marked by grace and
generosity of spirit, one toward another.

October 31, 2008


* This document in PDF format
* Shared Episcopal Ministry


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