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B.C. Anglicans back same-sex marriages

http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=bee58b96-eeb9-4fbf-9b11-d17e0ec6e019&k=66592

B.C. Anglicans back same-sex marriages

Kim Westad
Victoria Times Colonist

The majority of the Anglican Diocese of B.C. representatives are in favour of the church blessing same-sex marriages, and have urged their delegates to the national conference that will decide the issue to approve the controversial topic which is splitting the church.

A survey of delegates yesterday at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria comes at a sensitive time in the Anglican church worldwide. Schisms have developed between countries with large Anglican populations over whether the church should bless same-sex marriages.

One hundred and two delegates at a special session for representatives from Vancouver Island and Gulf Island churches said they are in favour of same-sex unions being blessed. They want the issue dealt with in Winnipeg June 19-25 at the national synod, an assembly of church leaders or delegates that discusses and decides upon church affairs.

“It’s clear the church is moving forward,” said the Very Rev. Peter Elliott, a keynote speaker at the meeting here and the highest-ranking openly gay cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada. “The Anglican Church is a big tent. We love and celebrate diversity, and people have the freedom of expressing their convictions.”

The 102 people who voted in favour of same-sex marriages being blessed and wanted the issue dealt with at the synod represented 51.7 per cent of the delegates.

Another 27 people voted in favour of same-sex unions being blessed, but thought the issue should wait.

A total of 45 people said they  should never be blessed, and 19 delegates were unsure.

The survey was taken so that the 10 delegates representing the area at the national conference would know local thought on the issue.

“It is useful for us to know the mindset of the synod delegates as a whole,” said Martin Henry, one of the delegates.

Same-sex blessings came to the forefront of Anglican debate in 2003, when the diocese of New Westminster on the Lower Mainland gave parishes the option of blessing same-sex marriages. (The couple is married, and then receives a church liturgy.)

Elliott is the dean and rector of Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral, in the diocese of New Westminster, the only church in Canada to give same-sex blessings to already legally married couples.

Several other parishes took exception. Eight conservative Vancouver-area parishes quit the diocese. Four of those joined the anti-gay Anglican Church of Rwanda.

The issue also caused a stir in the church worldwide, particularly in more conservative countries, such as parts of Africa where it is still a crime to be gay, even punishable by death.

Worldwide, the church is grappling with how to move forward with such strongly held disparate views. Some fear the church will split, or that there will be full membership and associate membership, depending on the stance on same-sex blessings.

© Victoria Times Colonist 2007

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