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What's Next in Our Cluster Churches Regarding Marriage of Same Sex Couples


The blog of Parish of Washago-Price’s Corners

What's Next in Our Cluster Churches Regarding Marriage of Same Sex Couples


The documents shared here and on Facebook and by email to members can be a bit overwhelming to digest. Here's the “highlight reel” and what we might expect to happen here in our own churches:

National church has passed the first reading of a motion to change the rule to allow for same sex marriage for any couple legally qualified to marry (which includes same sex couples).

Since it is a matter of doctrine it needs to pass at two successive meetings of synod by a 2/3 majority in each of laity, clergy and bishops groups. So, it has to come to the next meeting which is 2019. If it passes then, on Jan 1, 2020, it will become new church law. As currently written it will require the explicit approval of the diocesan bishop for a cleric to officiate at such a marriage. Traditional marriages also need episcopal approval under some circumstances, but not many. So this would be a bit more restrictive than traditional marriages. I think, in time, this clause might be discontinued but for now it's a way for dioceses who are against to permit the vote to pass since their bishops can choose not to opt in.

++Colin in Toronto diocese has responded to this interim period, prior to the next meeting and vote, in a way that won't prohibit SSM while we wait for church law to catch up. There is enormous pressure in some places to move ahead immediately, LGBTQ people feeling they've been shut out of marriage in the church for too long already. Some diocesan bishops have already published that their priests can officiate at these weddings immediately with no impediments. Others who are strongly opposed are saying no change can proceed until and unless the next vote passes; strongly  holding the traditional line. Our bishop is saying that he anticipates allowing this to proceed in a similar way to what he permitted when blessing of same sex unions was instituted (before SSM became legal in Ontario). That was, if a cleric and a congregation agree (by vestry vote) to become a church where SSM is offered, then this would be presented to the bishop by the priest for his consideration. If he decides that this option will be of benefit to the community and not create undue strife because of local convictions against, then he would approve SSM in that place. This way, if a cleric is opposed or if a congregation is opposed they would remain with the traditional, and currently legal by canon law, stance.++Colin has not yet given this direction, but this is the process he referred to in his pastoral letter dated July 15, 2016, which is posted on this site.

In the churches of Huronia Cluster my plan at the moment (if ++Colin does proceed with the above approach) is to include the question at our annual vestry meetings in February. If it passes there, then I would ask the bishop for permission to become an affirming congregation regarding SSM. If the need were to arise before February I would call a special vestry to vote on the question. At this time I have received no such requests. Each church in the cluster would be independent through their vestries to decide what is best in that church.

In the meantime, until Archbishop Johnson provides us with new direction, no SSM are yet authorized in the diocese of Toronto. As this situation develops I will post new information here, under Latest News on the website.