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Anglican diocese of Montreal votes to bless same-sex marriage

October 24, 2007:

The annual synod (meeting) of the Anglican diocese of Montreal, Canada, has voted 103-57 in favor of a motion that would allow its parishes to bless same-sex marriages previously solemnized under civil laws.

Within the clergy, there were 44 votes in favor and 25 against, while among the laity, 59 voted for and 32 voted against the motion.

It was a key topic at synod, where participants debated the issue for over two hours prior to the decision.

The resolution requests that the bishop grant permission for clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized. It also asks that the bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.

The recommendation of the Montreal synod on October 19, 2007, came a week after the Anglican diocese of Ottawa voted 177-97 in favor of a similar motion.

The motion by the Montreal diocese synod will now considered by Bishop Barry Clarke, head of the Montreal diocese. If he endorses his congregation’s recommendation, each priest and its parish would still have the choice whether to bless a gay union or not.

Bishop Barry Clarke, who himself concurred in the October 19 vote, told reporters after the vote that he is “glad we came to a place where we made a decision.”

He added: “Some Anglicans in the diocese may not he happy with the decision, but at least we can say we are out there and we can say that’s where we stand.”

Bishop Barry Clarke told delegates at the close of the debate that, “I want to say how impressed I am with all of you. I will consider seriously what I have heard today. I will take it into serious and prayerful consideration. I am a pastor at heart.”

However, Bishop Barry Clarke said in a statement that the decision makes no immediate change in the policies and practice of the diocese of Montreal. He would bring the results of the vote to a meeting of the Canadian house of bishops on October 25-30, 2007, to be held in London.

He said he needed “some time” to reflect on the synod’s discussions, to consult further with the other Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada and to “consider the concerns of our partners in the wider Anglican Communion. Until a decision is made, there is no change in our current policy and practice; I expect our clergy to refrain from blessing same-sex couples.”

Anglican parishes, however, would not have the powers to conduct marriages of same-sex couples.

The question of same-sex marriage has grown into an issue, almost threatening to create a schism in the Anglican Church of Canada. In June 2007, the national church made seemingly contradictory decisions when it ruled that blessing of same-sex marriage does not breach core doctrine, but refused to allow local dioceses to decide how to handle the issue of gay marriages.

The issue is also likely to be debated by the diocese of Niagara, which had, in 2004 voted to allow same-sex blessings. Bishop Ralph Spence, who was the diocesan bishop then, had withheld his consent until the General Synod.




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