TORONTO (May 3, 1996) -- Anglican bishops have sent a message to the House of Commons expressing their support for human rights amendments banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"This is based on the church's belief that all persons are created in the image of God and that Christ died for all," the bishops said in a statement.
They added: "This statement is consistent with the existing policy of the Canadian House of Bishops since 1979, reaffirmed by the General Synod in 1995, that condemns bigotry, violence and hatred directed towards anyone due to their sexual orientation.
"We wish to make it clear to the church that this action does not change the current status of the 1979 statement with respect to the ordination of homosexual persons. This continues to be a matter of discussion and theological reflection within the House as within the church at large. No change of doctrine and discipline is being implied. Rather the Gospel imperative of love, compassion and justice is being upheld which continues to be the call of every Christian."
The House of Bishops is an assembly of all active Canadian Anglican bishops. It normally meets twice a year.
Earlier this week, a similar statement of support for the legislation was released on behalf of the church's governing body by Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary of General Synod.
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Contact Rev. Gordon Light, principal secretary to the Primate, (416) 924-9199 ext. 277; Doug Tindal, Director of Communications (416) 924-9199 ext. 286; 905-335-8349 (residence)
The national House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada has placed the issue of homosexuality on the agenda of its meeting in Mississauga, Ontario from November 4-10.
The purpose of the discussion will be:
"To identify issues that need to be examined about the 1979 Statements on Human Sexuality and to set out a process for doing this, with appropriate timelines."
The statements of the bishops in 1979 act as guidelines affecting the ordination of homosexuals to the diaconate and priesthood of the Anglican Church of Canada. The guidelines require persons of homosexual orientation, as a condition for ordination, to make a commitment to the bishop to abstain from sexual acts with persons of the same sex.
The discussion will take place in the context of a wider debate within the church on issues of human rights and human sexuality. In recent years, the bishops have been asked to review their policy by members of the gay and lesbian community within the Anglican church. Also, questions have been raised by bishops themselves about the status of the guidelines if a proposed document on "Human Rights Principles for the Anglican Church of Canada" drafted by the church's own Human Rights Unit should be adopted by the General Synod next year. The document seeks to prohibit discrimination in the church on several grounds, including sexual orientation.
Ordination in the Anglican Church of Canada is solely within the jurisdiction of the bishops. This is different from the United Church of Canada which has another process of selection and approval of candidates.
The discussion at the meeting in November will be held "in camera". The resource person will be the Reverend Professor James Read, Director of the Toronto School of Theology and editor of a series of theological, biblical and ethical reflections on human sexuality published by the Anglican Church in 1986 ["A Study Resource on Human Sexuality: Approaches to Sexuality and Christian Theology."]
It is expected that a news release will be issued following the November meeting.
For more information contact: The Reverend Michael Ingham, Principal Secretary to the Primate, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 2J6, (416) 924-9192; Mr. Doug Tindal, Director of Communications, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4Y 2J6, (416) 924-9192.
See 1979 House of Bishops Statements on Human Sexuality Draft Human Rights Principles.
The Rev. Warren Ealing [sic i.e. Eling], priest of the Church of St. James the Apostle, was violently murdered in his home in Montreal on 9 November 1993. Fr. Eling was widely rumoured to have been gay.
TORONTO, April 28, 1997 -- Two-thirds of Canadian Anglican bishops surveyed recently favour some change to their 1979 guidelines on the ordination of homosexual persons, but they have continued to uphold the guidelines "in principle".
The 1979 guideleines say all people are equal before God, but "our acceptance of persons with homosexual orientation is not an acceptance of homosexual activity." The guidelines also say the bishops "do not accept the blessing of homosexual unions." They say a gay or lesbian person may be ordained "if there has been a commitment to the bishop to abstain from sexual acts with persons of the same sex ....".
The survey was conducted by a task group of bishops to determine whether there is a will among the bishops as a whole that the guidelines should be changed and if so, how.
The survey results offer the first public glimpse into the bishops' deliberations on a topic that has engaged them privately for some portion of most of their meetings since 1991. At that time they reaffirmed the 1979 guidelines but pledged further study. Until now, all of that study has been conducted in private sessions.
Of 34 bishops completing the survey, 10 wish to retain the guidelines without change. Six wanted the guidelines to remain in force only until they can be replaced by new ones. The largest number, 18, want to revise the guidelines to retain their "original intention" but they say a revision is needed to express the guidelines in "a wider context of theological understanding and pastoral sensitivity."
The survey hints at some issues of pastoral sensitivity by asking bishops to indicate their acceptance of various options including:
- apologising to the gay and lesbian community for insensitivity and hostility originating in the church;
- calling on the church to welcome and celebrate the presence of gays and lesbians in its midst;
- considering ways of recognizing committed same-sex relationships.
Among the survey results (total number of votes varies because not all bishops answered every question):
- 19 bishops favour an apology to gays and lesbians for the church's insensitivity and hostility; 12 oppose the move;
- 21 say the church should "intentionally welcome and celebrate the presence of its gay and lesbian members"; 10 oppose
- 23 say the church should be "more accepting and affirming of models of family other than the nuclear family"; 7 oppose
- Two questions about same-sex relationships produced a complex response. In one, 16 bishops oppose considering recognition of same-sex relationships, while 14 are in favour. But 19 bishops want to "keep open the discussion concerning possible ways to affirm relationships formed by same-sex partners", while 10 oppose
- If the 1979 guidelines were to be replaced, 28 bishops, the largest majority on any of the questions favour retaining its assertion that "all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are equal before God". But 3 bishops oppose retaining the statement.
- 17 bishops favour a declaration that "sexual orientation is seldom a matter of personal choice", while 10 oppose
- two questions, both rejected by a majority of bishops, test whether dioceses should make their own decisions. In one, 17 bishops oppose allowing a diocese to affirm same-sex unions, with 11 bishops in favour. In the other, 22 bishops oppose allowing the "ordination of homosexual persons who are in, or hope to be in, monogamous faithful relationships", five bishops would favour the move.
The survey results will provide guidance to the bishops' task force, which is now charged to prepare a draft message to the church, for the bishops to review in their fall 1997 meeting.
Task force members include the Most Rev. Percy O'Driscoll, archbishop of Huron (chair); the Rt. Rev. Tom Morgan, bishop of Saskatoon; the Most Rev. David Crawley, archbishop of Kootenay; and the Rt. Rev. Russell Hatton, bishop ordinary to the Canadian Forces.
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Contact: Doug Tindal, Director of Communications 416-924-9199 ext. 286; 905-335-8349 (residence) or Sam Carriere, Media Relations: 416-924-9199 ext. 256
Anglican bishops say they will continue to uphold the 1979 guidelines which allow homosexuals to be ordained only if they promise to remain celibate, and, at the same time, they will take the next year to lean more about homosexuality, and about human sexuality generally.
The more than 40 bishops from across Canada, concluding their week-long meeting here today, say they also need to do more study of biblical interpretation. A task group has been named to collect more materials for study, and the bishops will take two days or more at their Novembers 1992 meeting to work with professional theologians and authorities in other disciplines.
In the meantime, the bishops are each asked to "consider appropriate dialogue in some form with members of the homosexual community."
The bishops had been asked to update their 1979 guidelines by the church's National Executive Council. The guidelines draw a distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity. They say all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are equal before God; "our acceptance of persons with homosexual orientation is not an acceptance of homosexual activity".
In the Anglican Church, ordination to the priesthood is solely within the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. The guidelines say: "We will not call into question the ordination of a person who has shared with the bishop his or her homosexual orientation if there has been a commitment to the bishop to abstain from sexual acts with persons of the same sex as a part of the requirements for ordination."
The task group will bring a preliminary report to the bishops' next meeting in June.