"On Jan. 3 , British Columbia Bishop James Cowan announced he has authorized the blessing of same-sex unions in response to a request made by diocesan synod in March 2010". "Blessings will be subject to guidelines -- among these, that they will be granted only in parishes 'where a majority decision of Vestry requests such a status from the bishop'. The parish must also make its request to the bishop in writing, and such a request must be renewed each time a new incumbent is appointed and takes office. In his guidelines, Cowan emphasized that a blessing should not be construed as a solemnization of matrimony in the church. 'The Anglican Church of Canada does not recognize as marriage civil contracts between persons of the same gender', he wrote. Only incumbents of parishes where permission for blessings is granted will be permitted to bless. Cowan has authorized the blessing rite of the diocese of New Westminster for use in his diocese. No member of the diocese, lay or ordained, shall be required to act against their conscience on the matter of same-sex blessings".