The Primate indicated that he will write to Roy Bonisteel of the "Man Alive" program, expressing concern regarding some of the emphases of the program "The Gay Christian."
"That we receive the report." CARRIED
"A Statement by the Anglican Bishops of Canada" was circulated by Bishop Garnsworthy, and the Rev. Richard Berryman presented a proposed press release. The House agreed to function as a Committee of the whole for purposes of discussion.
A suggestion was made by Bishop Clarke and Archbishop Somerville that the statement conclude with the words "heterosexual marriages" at the end of the last paragraph.
Bishop Hollis and Bishop Snowden proposed this addition to the final paragraph: "and we cannot authorize our clergy to bless homosexual unions". This met with the approval of the House.
Bishop Hollis and Bishop Snowden suggested a further addition to the final paragraph as follows: "nor can we permit our church buildings to be used for that purpose". The House did not concur. The amended document is as follows:
"Questions of human sexuality are a matter of great concern to the Church of our day. Prominent amongst these concerns is the attitude of the Church towards homosexual persons. While homosexuality is a very complex and involved issue, nevertheless, in response to specific questions directed to the Anglican Church of Canada, we have decided that a statement is needed at this time.
We believe as Christians that homosexual persons as children of God, have a full and equal claim, with all other persons, upon the love, acceptance, concern and pastoral care of the Church. The gospel of Jesus Christ compels Christians to guard against all forms of human injustice and to affirm that all persons are brothers and sisters for whom Christ died. We affirm that homosexual persons are entitled to equal protection under the law with all other Canadian citizens.
It is clear from Holy Scripture that only the sexual union of male and female can find expression within the covenant of Holy Matrimony. In the heart of biblical teaching about creation we discover insights into the nature and purpose of sexuality. Rooted in God's creative purpose is the fulfillment and completion of male and female in each other, together with the procreative function of sexuality. Thus the Church confines its nuptial blessing to heterosexual marriages, and we cannot authorize our Clergy to bless homosexual unions. We are aware that some homosexuals develop for themselves relationships of mutual support, help and comfort, about which the Church must show an appropriate concern. Such relationships, though, must not be confused with Holy Matrimony, and the Church must do nothing which appears to support any such suggestion."
An announcement was made that the Rev. Richard Berryman, in revising a statement which he had prepared, will indicate that there will be on-going study of this subject by the Bishops.
Discussion then centred around two matters:
1. The preparation of a Study Document for general use throughout the Church;
2. Provision for continuing study of this matter on the part of the House of Bishops.
It was agreed that the Agenda Committee be instructed to provide for further consideration of the subject at a future meeting.
Archbishop Somerville and Archbishop Watton proposed that we recommend to the National Executive Council that a Study Guide be prepared. The House concurred.
A proposal was made that Bishops Hatfield, Parke-Taylor and Hill be a Committee of the House to provide both background material and co-operative assistance to the National Executive Council in this matter.
It was agreed to have included in the press release the fact that plans are being made for the preparation of study material.
Press Release - The Primate's Commission on Human Sexuality (Incorporating "A Statement by the Anglican Bishops of Canada") [pp. 44-48]
The Press Release was placed before the House. The release was carefully scrutinized and some minor changes in wording were made. The following addition was proposed by Bishops Valentine and Goodings:
"We are aware that some homosexuals develop for themselves relationships of mutual support, help and comfort about which the church must show and appropriate concern. Such relationships, though, must not be confused with Holy Matrimony and the Church must do nothing which appears to support any such suggestion."
In its original form it contained the words "need and" between "homosexuals" and "develop" in the first line. With this change, the addition received the approval of the House, and the statement as amended was approved. It is as follows:
"Open discussion and debate, often highly emotional, on the life and rights of homosexual persons in society, have become commonplace and divisive in recent years.
The members of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, as chief pastors of the Church are obligated to exercise faithful witness to that office, and at the same time, to wrestle with the human and pastoral problems which homosexuality presents to the Church at all levels as it attempts to minister to all people. Realizing the complexity of this area of human relationships and the wide divergence of both popular and informed opinion, the Bishops, in the summer of 1976, asked for help and advice in facing the problems raised by homosexuality in contemporary society. They commissioned a Task Force of eleven persons, from a variety of backgrounds, to present an advisory report to them to assist in their deliberations.
The Task Force presented the first draft of its report in 1977 and was asked to do further work in some areas and report back to the meeting of the Bishops early in 1978. The House of Bishops has been meeting this past week in Mississauga and has received the second draft of the report. The lengthy draft is still considered confidential as it was prepared as an advisory paper to the Bishops, not a position paper for the whole Church. The Bishops have committed themselves to continuing study of this vital issue and specifically of the report's 15 recommendations. They will continue their deliberations at future meetings of the House. They have asked that a study paper be prepared in the near future for study and discussion at all levels of the Church, and by other interested groups. In the meantime, the Bishops have issued the following specific statement:
Questions of human sexuality are a matter of great concern to the Church of our day. Prominent amongst these concerns is the attitude of the Church towards homosexual persons. While homosexuality is a very complex and involved issue, nevertheless, in response to specific questions directed to the Anglican Church of Canada, we have decided that a statement is needed at this time.
It is clear from Holy Scripture that only the sexual union of male and female can find expression within the covenant of Holy Matrimony.
In the heart of biblical teaching about creation we discover insights into the nature and purpose of sexuality. Rooted in God's creative purpose is the fulfillment and completion of male and female in each other, together with the procreative function of sexuality. Thus the Church confines its nuptial blessing to heterosexual marriages, and we cannot authorize our Clergy to bless homosexual unions. We are aware that some homosexuals develop for themselves relationships of mutual support, help and comfort, about which the Church must show an appropriate concern. Such relationships, though, must not be confused with Holy Matrimony, and the Church must do nothing which appears to support any such suggestion."
On the suggestion of Archbishop Davis and Bishop Short, it was agreed that the Rev. Richard Berryman should be the contact person for press purposes.
That the House give approval to this statement. CARRIED #13-2-84
A STATEMENT OF THE HOUSE OF BISHOPS
On January 19, 1984, the Minister of Justice tabled in the House of Commons a Bill to revise Canada's divorce law. The proposed legislation departs from the provisions of the existing Divorce Act in that it abolishes matrimonial offence as grounds for divorce, and proposes that marriage breakdown should be the sole basis for the legal dissolution of a marriage.
The proposed legislation states that:
"in a petition for divorce, a breakdown of the marriage is established if, and only if (a) the husband and wife assert, in the manner prescribed....that the marriage has broken down; or (b) the husband and wife have lived separate and apart for a period of one year or more that immediately precedes, includes or immediately follows the date of presentation of the petition."
Questions about the acceptability of the proposed legislation to the Anglican Church of Canada have been addressed to various leaders of our Church, by the media as well as by members of the public -- including those of our Communion. In response, it must be stated that neither the General Synod of our Church, nor its National Executive Council, has specifically addressed the subject of Canadian legislation concerning divorce. In that sense, there is no "official" national policy of the Anglican Church of Canada relative to proposed changes in the law advocated by the Minister of Justice.
However, there is a Brief which was presented to the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on Divorce (February 23rd, 1967) by a committee appointed by the Primate (Archbishop Howard Clark) at the request of the House of Bishops. That Brief states that any change in the law concerning marriage and divorce should (a) continue to uphold the ideal intent of marriage as a life-long union (b) respect the integrity of human personality (c) help to strengthen family life (d) provide for custody and care of children and the protection of any other defenceless victims of divorce. A major part of the Brief is devoted to supporting the principle "that marriage breakdown should be substituted for matrimonial offence as the basis for divorce in any new legislation." The brief continues:
"It is our opinion that this concept provides a better basis for dealing effectively with the needs of people whose marriages have failed because it requires that a marriage be dealt with in its total social and moral context. We therefore recommend that in dealing with divorce petitions the breakdown of marriage should be recognized as a question of fact and that no rules of law defining marriage breakdown should be established, lest the present recriminatory attitudes and procedures continue to be fostered. Our conclusion is that the principle of marriage breakdown and the methods necessary to determine it as a matter of fact are basically incompatible with the principle of the matrimonial offence, and that marriage breakdown should replace the existing grounds rather than be added as a further ground for divorce."
The Committee on Marriage and Related Matters is charged with the task of suggesting policy to the Church in relation to contemporary marriage. That Committee was advised early in 1983 of the intention of the Minister of Justice to introduce amendments to the Divorce Act, and in subsequent meetings has given its attention to the matter. The Committee has recorded its opinion that in any responses the Church may wish to make to the proposed changes, it must affirm marriage and also the reality of forgiveness and the possibility of change in the individuals involved. This Committee also affirms the need to secure justice for dependent spouses and children when marriages have broken down.
While the Anglican Church of Canada has no "official" policy on divorce law reform, the following statements are consistent with our general approach to the matter:
(a) we reaffirm the principle enunciated by the 1967 Committee of the House of Bishops: viz. that marriage breakdown should be the sole basis for the legal dissolution of a marriage.
(b) the "waiting period" between breakdown and petition for divorce must not, under any circumstances, be less than one year. A longer period would be preferable.
(c) legislation should contain adequate provisions for maintenance and child support which apply uniformly in all parts of the country, and efficient enforcement of maintenance orders through the initiative of state agencies, thus relieving the dependent party of the exhausting task of seeking enforcement.
(d) The provision of divorce based on "no fault" and the reduction of the waiting period will put added pressure on the ideal of the permanence of marriage. Major increased emphasis on marriage preparation and the provision of counselling services by both the churches and community agencies will be even more essential if the proposed legislation is enacted.
The 1967 Brief asserts that:
"before proceeding with hearing for divorce on the grounds of marriage breakdown the court should be assured that every effort has been made to achieve reconciliation and that further attempts would be in vain. This would require exploration concerning the availability and use of professional services and the provision of the same when they do not at present exist."
In this connection we welcome the assurance of the Minister of Justice that "the new divorce law would promote mediation and counselling services at any stage of the divorce proceedings, to help prevent impetuous divorces where there is hope of saving the marriage."
(e) while stressing the importance of provision for counselling services, we do not advocate that mediation procedures be compulsory before court proceedings are initiated. We continue to support a report presented to the General Synod in 1969, which stated that "counselling, by its nature, cannot be made mandatory." On the other hand we commend counselling and negotiation with a view to arranging property settlements and making agreements for maintenance and custody before presenting the petition.
We appreciate the reasons for the changes in the legislation as proposed by the Minister of Justice -- namely a less adversarial, more humane and conciliatory process for dealing with marriages which have ceased to exist in any meaningful way. At the same time, we wish to state as emphatically as we can that the well being of the family as a basic institution in society continues to be a matter of profound concern for the Church. We trust that the new legislation, if enacted, will not convey the impression that the laws of this land treat lightly the seriousness, and the sacredness, of the marriage bond.