The blessing of same-gender unions in the Anglican Church of Canada was the focus of its June 21 presentation to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).
"We're here to let you know we value our place in the Anglican Communion," said Bishop Suffragan Sue Moxley of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. "The decision was made to come to ACC. We agreed to make this presentation ... We wanted to be here."
The Church of Canada's elected members of the ACC are attending this meeting as observers as voted by its Council of General Synod in response to the request of the international Anglican Primates' Meeting.
In 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster authorized the blessings of same-gender unions. This action prompted the Anglican Primates' Meeting to invite the Canadians to provide a presentation at ACC-13 as recommended by the Windsor Report.
The Canadians' presentation followed a similar session offered by U.S. Episcopalians explaining the reasoning around the ordination of a bishop living in a committed same-gender union. Like the Canadians, the Episcopal Church's elected ACC members are attending as observers.
Addressing an audience of ACC members, guests, visitors and media, the Canadian presentation team was introduced by Moxley. Presenters were the Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews, president and vice chancellor Thornloe University, member of General Synod and the Primates Theological Commission; the Very Rev. Peter Elliott, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver; Maria Jane Highway, Indigenous Partner to General Synod and member of the Faith Worship and Ministry Committee of General Synod; Archbishop Andrew S. Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; and Canon Robert Palby, chancellor and lay canon in the diocese of Toronto and member of General Synod.
"We're here listening," Moxley said. "We're learning, and outside the meeting floor, we're talking to people individually to hear what you have to say to us."
Andrews provided a biblical and theological groundwork for the actions of the Anglican Church in Canada. He noted, "This issue should not be church dividing."
He also offered a personal glimpse to his feelings about the process. "I regret my passivity," he shared. "It is my hope that in spite of my sinfulness what I have to say will help to reform and unite our communion."
Highway opened her portion with prayer in her native tongue. "I'm not a person with very high language," she explained. "I'm just a person who speaks her own way."
She recalled when she started to think about people living in same-gender relationships, "and there are quite a few. I have to look at this in order to accept people as they are."
She also addressed the diversity of the Canadian people. "Being an aboriginal person, being part of this presentation, is what makes Canada so unique," she said.
Highway placed the issue of same-gender blessings into the perspective of her people. "Alcohol, drugs, suicide are very important," she added. "These issues are more important to our elders than what is being talked about right now."
Falby provided the legal background in terms of same-sex marriage in Canada. "Same-sex marriages are part of Canadian society and form part of the context of what the Anglican Church of Canada administers," he explained. "The Church is not bound by, but is influenced by, public debate."
"I am a man, who is gay," Elliot stated, "and I am not the first gay man to be present at a meeting of the ACC and I won't be the last. The difference is that because of the courage of our church, I can be honest with you about who I am."
Elliott presented a portrait of the diocese of New Westminster: one of 30 in Anglican Church of Canada with 85 churches; 175 years old; 145,000 Anglicans in the region; Vancouver is the major city.
"Since 2003 in our diocese there have been 14 liturgies of the celebrating of commitments of lesbian and gay people," Elliot said.
Hutchison affirmed the commitment of the Anglican Church in Canada. "I hope what does come shining through is a profound Canadian commitment to the Communion and to its instruments and to its partnerships around the globe."
He added: "The bishops in Canada unanimously received the Windsor Report with thanksgiving and recognized its importance and committed it to the life of the church."
The Canadians presented a packet to ACC members consisting of materials supporting the information in their presentation, including the 36-page "Report of the Primate's Theological Commission on the Blessing of Same-Sex Unions." For these materials and other information, www.anglican.ca.