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Christ Church Anglican permitted to conduct same-gender marriages

Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook has officially received permission from Bishop of Kootenay Lynne McNaughton to perform same-gender marriages.

Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook has officially received permission from Bishop of Kootenay Lynne McNaughton to perform same-gender marriages.

“It’s quite wonderful,” said Rev. Yme Woensdregt of Christ Church, “and our congregation is — as I say, three or four years ago it was almost unanimous [in support of same-gender marriage] and that has not changed. For most of us, we don’t see why that ought to be a problem.”

Woensdregt explained that in 2016 they received permission from previous Bishop of the Diocese of Kootenay, John Pivett, to bless a civil marriage of same-gender people.

“That would be a blessing of a marriage that had already taken place,” Woensdregt explained. “And so before that time, the congregation had undertaken a pretty extensive process of consultation and discernment to take us to that position. And when it came time to make a decision we were almost, almost unanimously in favour of moving in that direction.”

Then, in the General Synod meeting of July, 2019, the Anglican Church of Canada, by an extremely narrow margin, voted down a same-gender marriage amendment, preventing the policy from being added to national laws.

READ MORE: Anglican bishops, priests grapple with same-sex marriage vote

The vote needed a two-thirds majority in each of the three “houses” or levels of the church in order to pass. The House of Laity voted 81 per cent in favour of its passing and the House of Priests voted 72 per cent in favour, but the House of Bishops came down to just 62 per cent in favour. This meant that despite the majority of Bishops being in favour, it failed as it didn’t meet the overall two-thirds majority required.

READ MORE: Anglican Church to review governance structure after same-sex marriage change fails

However, Anglican bishops were permitted the right of “local option,” meaning each bishop has the ability to decide for their diocese whether to permit same-gender marriage or not.

“After the General Synod meeting this past July, our Bishop Lynne McNaughton indicated that she would be prepared to authorize parishes who requested it to perform same-gender marriages,” Woensdregt said. “So, no longer just a blessing of a civil marriage, but to actually offer the sacrament of marriage to same-gender couples.”

READ MORE: Kootenay Anglican bishop voices favour for same-gender marriages

In September of last year, the Christ Church council penned a letter to Rev. McNaughton, based on the consultation they’d done four years previous, to seek her permission. In November they received a certificate from her, essentially giving Christ Church permission to marry same-gender couples in the exact same way they perform the sacrament of marriage between a man and a woman.

Woensdregt pointed out that since 2016 his congregation has gained a few new members, some of whom have expressed concern about this issue, but he said that the congregation is still unanimously in favour of the decision.

“Instead of 99 per cent it’s 95 per cent now,” he said, adding that one of the main concerns people have is that the vote at General Synod failed, despite the overall outcome of the vote between the three houses equating to about 72 per cent in favour.

“Just before that vote was held the church almost unanimously approved a document called A Word to the Church around this whole subject, which contained a number of different affirmations,” Woensdregt explained. “And the relevant ones are that we understand that there are different understandings of what it means to be married.”

Woensdregt recognized that there will be some churches, priests, bishops and church goers, who still consider the sacrament of marriage to only apply to those conducted between men and women, but the Word to the Church document makes a commitment to stand together on the journey.

“Each diocese, in effect, has the right to make their own decision on how we move forward with this particular issue,” he said. “And we presume good faith on the part of all people, that we’re not just doing this to stick our tongue out at somebody else, or to thumb the nose.

“But it’s a matter of good faith and we all are seeking the way forward based on an understanding of scripture and theology. And so it’s not just a matter of going our way come hell or high water.”

Woensdregt said that though he knows several gay and lesbian people within his parish, he hasn’t had anyone ask about performing a marriage yet, noting that, “the reality of marriage is that there are fewer and fewer marriages [of any kind] happening in the church.”

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About the Author: Paul Rodgers

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