DIOCESE OF KOOTENAY The Anglican Church of Canada
#201 – 380 Leathead Road Kelowna, BC V1X 2H8
The Rt. Rev. Lynne E. McNaughton, Bishop
July 21, 2019
Dear People of God in the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay,
As you will know, last week General Synod failed to ratify proposed changes to the national marriage canon that would have explicitly expanded the meaning of marriage to include same-sex couples.
In order to change a canon, a 2/3 vote (what some have called a supermajority) is required over two consecutive General Synods in each of the three Houses: Bishops, Clergy and Laity. The marriage canon passed narrowly in 2016. This year, the second reading, the Houses of Laity and Clergy voted overwhelmingly in favour, 81% and 73% respectively. However, in House of Bishops 62% voted in favour, short of the 67% required.
I am profoundly sorry for the deep hurt that this vote has caused, especially to LGBTQ2S+ members of our church and also to others of us who have longed for this canonical change. To all our LGBTQ2S+ members, I want to say I stand with you and I weep with you. I am grateful for and hold in high regard the person God created and calls each of you to be, and I value the gifts you bring to our Church. I recognize that your prophetic witness has been long, arduous, and sacrificial and I give thanks for your faithfulness.
I acknowledge that publicity around this vote has also harmed our witness to the wider world that the church is a welcoming place proclaiming God’s love for all.
It is important to remind ourselves that General Synod voted overwhelmingly for a series of affirmations which included recognition of the prayerful integrity of the diverse understandings and teachings about marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada. I encourage you to read the document A Word to the Church (Appendix 3 attached) and the affirmations General Synod made.
My own understanding, and that of many bishops in our Province and across Canada, is that the existing canon as it still stands does not preclude the marriage of same-sex couples. The statement of the National House of Bishops at General Synod affirmed the idea of “local option,” each diocese offering equal marriage where it discerns this is appropriate. I have reviewed the conversations and decisions from previous synods of the Diocese of Kootenay. At the recent Diocesan clergy conference in June, we had further extensive discussion. From all of this, I discern a strong commitment within the Diocese of Kootenay to allow same-sex marriages.
As your Bishop and chief liturgical officer, I will authorize clergy to marry same-sex couples, beginning August 1, 2019, when I have been formally notified that this is both the will of the incumbent and the congregation, and when the couple satisfies the normal requirements for marriage (see Appendix 6 below). The process for this is outlined in an appendix to this letter. Two incumbents and their wardens and parishes have already asked me for this authorization with the appropriate parish consultation.
Authorized liturgies for same-sex marriages are in the appendix to this letter.
Please note that no clergy are ever required to officiate at a same-sex marriage, and no congregation need host a same sex marriage in their church, if that is against their consciences.
No doubt as this unfolds there will be further conversation and clarification. Some clergy and congregations will want to move quickly on this, others to proceed with caution, while others may decide not to proceed.
Please keep me and our Church in your prayers as we take this step to equal marriage. May God bless us and the Holy Spirit give us guidance, wisdom, discernment and courage.
Yours in Christ,
Appendix 1: Process for authorization of Same-sex marriages within a congregation:
(this is adapted from the process that has been in place in Kootenay diocese since 2011 regarding same-sex blessings, Bishop’s policy 2.1.4)
The marriage of same sex couples requires pastoral sensitivity in discerning the ministry of the whole congregation(s). Marriages are authorized for any licensed priest after requesting and receiving permission from the Bishop after due consultation with the congregation.
Due consultation process will include the following:
1. a. Individual parishes will determine for themselves the appropriate way of engaging with this issue, which also means leaving parishes free to decide not to engage in it. (“All parishes may; no parish must.”)
b. Parish conversations could include past statements such as This Holy Estate and General Synod 2019 A Word to the Church. (see Appendix 3 below)
c. Following the process used in the parish, the parish reports the results to the Bishop. The report will outline the process, and make a formal request to the Bishop for permission to offer same-sex marriage.
d. It is strongly recommended that this NOT be put to a congregational vote.
2. Our Diocese will honour the diversity represented in our congregations. All clergy and people are called upon to exercise pastoral generosity toward one another.
3. No priest or congregation will be required to participate in services of blessing, and if either priest or congregation do not concur, permission will not be given.
4. If a couple wishes to seek a marriage in their home congregation, and their priest or congregation has decided not to participate, alternative pastoral arrangements should be made.
5. When a change of clergy occurs in a parish which has chosen to proceed with this pastoral ministry, then the process of consultation will need to be revisited with the new clergy.
Appendix 2: Results of the vote
The results of the vote can be seen at: https://gs2019.anglican.ca/wp- content/uploads/A052-R2-vote-results.pdf
Appendix 3. A Word to the Church: https://gs2019.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/A- Word-to-the-Church-Considering-the-proposed-amendment-of-Marriage-Canon-XXI.pdf
It may help people in Kootenay to know that I chaired the Marriage Canon working group of Council of General Synod (CoGS) 2016-2019 that facilitated this document. CoGS, even with its representative diversity, approved it unanimously. The affirmations were passed at General Synod with an overwhelming majority.
Appendix 4: Statement of the National House of Bishops
Appendix 5: Liturgies
For marriages, as well as the BAS with appropriate adaptation, I authorize two rites of The Episcopal Church, The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage and The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage 2.
Clergy who plan to use another rite are required to consult with me at least a month in advance of the ceremony. Over time I will gather other appropriate resources.
Appendix 6: Qualifications for Marriage
Couples must be duly qualified to be married, with a provincial marriage license. At least one member of the couple must be a baptized Christian. There must be appropriate pastoral preparation for the wedding and for marriage.