At a special synod at St. James Cathedral on Saturday, November 27, 2004, the Anglican diocese of Toronto voted to defer a decision on approving the blessing of same-sex unions until 2006. It agreed to wait until the Primate’s Theological Commission delivers its report on whether the blessing is a matter of church doctrine. The vote came five months after the Anglican Church of Canada affirmed the “integrity and sanctity” of same-sex relationships at a national meeting, but stopped short of authorizing blessing ceremonies for gay couples. The same meeting also decided to delay any national go-ahead on church blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples until at least 2007.
The motion to defer, brought forward by Rev. Andy Leroux, won by a vote of 320 to 296. Leroux said the majority of Anglicans around the world remain opposed to the concept of same-sex marriage, adding the Toronto congregation needs more time to thoroughly understand the various implications. “What this motion does clearly, is pave the way for us to remain as a communion and to remain as one body instead of divided, with one part saying this and the other part saying something else,” he said.
But Anglicans supporting same-sex marriage did walk away from Saturday’s meeting with some hope: a motion affirming the “integrity and sanctity of committed, adult, same sex relationships” was passed.
Bobbie Collins, whose daughter is in a five-year relationship with another woman, voted against deferral. She said, “I think it’s just going to take a bit more time and people will come around to the understanding that people of gay and lesbian persuasion have to be accepted fully.”
If the blessing is deemed a matter of doctrine, then the Anglican Church of Canada and its local dioceses will have jurisdiction over it, the diocese said. Two Canadian dioceses have already voted to approve blessings for same-sex couples. The Niagara diocese voted 213-106 in favour Nov. 17, but Bishop Ralph Spence withheld his required endorsement for the measure to take effect.
Canada’s ruling Liberal government has pledged to legalize gay marriage nationwide. It is awaiting Supreme Court of Canada vetting of potential legislation. So far, seven Canadian provinces and territories of 13 have legalized the unions. On Friday, Ontario’s highest court ruled that survivors of same-sex unions are eligible for a national pension if their partner paid into it. It’s retroactive to 1985 when the equal rights of gays were enshrined in Canada’s constitution.