The Kootenay Diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada has voted to allow the blessing of same-gender marriages following a controversial vote at the July 12 General Synod where a national vote to amend the marriage canon did not pass.
The proposal was rejected by a narrow margin at the General Synod which is held every three years.
The vote required a two-thirds majority in all three ‘houses’ to pass. The House of Laity voted 81 per cent in favour, the House of Priests voted 72 per cent in favour, but the House of Bishops voted just 62 per cent. Thus, although the majority of Bishops were in favour of it passing, it failed nonetheless as it failed to meet the two-thirds majority requirement in every party.
However, approval for local option was passed, handing the decision to the Elected Diocesan Bishop.
“The apology that came out of the general synod was that we (bishops) weren’t of one mind,” said Anglican Diocese of Kootenay Bishop, Lynne McNaughton.
“The Anglican church council’s are important, democracy, laypeople and clergy having a voice is very important, so it’s hard when we’re not in agreement. But we agreed that we would continue to stay working together, but we would each make our own decisions around equal marriage.”
If all orders had been counted together, McNaughton explained that they would have far-surpassed a two-thirds majority. But since each house was counted separately, the vote failed as the Bishop’s failed to receive a two-thirds vote.
“It was agonizing to see how hard that was for many of the youth and for many of the people who had been working for this for ages; it’s hard,” she said.
Ever since McNaughton was ordained nearly 40 years ago, she has been working to promote same-gender marriages. She watched Vancouver couples who had been lifelong gay partners face barriers, and some even live in hiding, as the church at that time did not support or affirm those relationships. For decades, she had been working to change this.
McNaughton is the current elected Bishop to the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay, and voiced her approval in authorizing same-gender marriages within the Diocese of the Kootenay. She explained that long before she came to the Kootenay region months ago, many local congregations have wanted this.
“So in a sense, me coming into the Kootenays, I knew that there was the desire here,” said McNaughton. “And as General Synod said, it was okay to have local option, I decided we needed to proceed.”
“At this point I believe out of 30 diocese across the country there’s something like 18 or 19 that are moving towards this, with the consent of their people,” said McNaughton.
That being said, the approval by McNaughton isn’t forced. Each congregation will have the option to decide. However, McNaughton explained that when a congregation and clergy express to her that they are in favour of same-gender marriages, she will authorize it.
The failure to nationally approve same-gender marriages in the church resulted in much hurt, both in elected members of the church as well as church congregations and their youth. It made national headlines with some even saying the church was aligning itself with the “wrong” side of history.
But, McNaughton explained, the general synod was much more than this, and several other decisions were made that didn’t make headlines, but will positively impact communities around the country.
Self-determination within Indigenous Anglican churches around the country was approved, meaning that they will not be held by the same boundaries that other churches are.
This is part of the Anglican Church of Canada and their movement to align themselves with the Truth And Reconciliation’s 94 ‘calls to action’.
“… They need to make their own decisions about worship, about how they organize themselves to fit with their practices, reclaiming Indigenous practices as well as keeping Anglican ones, all of those things,” she explained.
The resolutions around Indigenous self-governance were passed with a 99-per-cent vote.
McNaughton said that the Anglican Church of Canada signed onto this a long time ago, and for some time they have been shifting their structures internally to allow for these changes. This recent change in legislation will allow this initiative to be completed more fully.
“It was very moving to see that,” she said.
In addition to this, the General Synod youth delegates from around Canada brought forward resolutions surrounding climate change, which included initiatives to rid themselves of single-use plastics.
There were presentations and resolutions brought forward on fair labour practices for migrant workers, something that McNaughton said is a concern in the Kootenays because of the heavy farming economy here.
A new primate was elected, a national leader for the Anglican church. This time, for the first time ever, it was a woman; Linda Nicholls of Huron.
Prior to this, 18 years of conversations took place before the vote to ordain women was passed in the late 1960’s.
“I was very excited that for the first time, it is a woman, and she’s a good leader for a controversial time,” said McNaughton.